The creation of life is a great responsibility for a married couple, said President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, in his Saturday morning conference address.
"It is the challenge of mortality to be a worthy and responsible parent," he said. "Neither man nor woman can bear children alone. It was meant that children have two parents — both a father and a mother. No other pattern or process can replace this one."
President Packer began his talk by sharing several touching, chance encounters he has had with impoverished, desperate children in different parts of the world — from Osaka, Japan, to Cuzco, Peru, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Each child represents all of Heavenly Father's children.
He quoted Psalm 127:3, 5: "'Children are an heritage of the Lord: and ... happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.'"
President Packer spoke of an unmarried couple who decided to abort their child. In due time, the couple married and had several other children. The mother was left tormented by the one child who was missing from their family on earth.
"If this couple understands and applies the Atonement, they will know that those experiences and the pain connected with them can be erased. No pain will last forever. It is not easy, but life was never meant to be either easy or fair. Repentance and the lasting hope that forgiveness brings will always be worth the effort," he said.
He noted that some people remain unmarried and childless. Others, due to circumstances beyond their control, are raising children as single mothers or single fathers. These are temporary states, said President Packer. In the eternities, righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled, he promised.
"The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling — from which they will never be released — is to one another and then to their children."
President Packer noted that one of the great discoveries of parenthood "is that we learn far more about what really matters from our children than we ever did from our parents. We come to recognize the truth in Isaiah's prophesy that 'a little child shall lead them.' "
It was the Savior Who taught His followers to pray for, bless and teach the little ones, President Packer said.
He spoke of being the 10th in a family of 11 children. Neither his father nor mother served in a prominent Church calling.
"Our parents served faithfully in their most important calling as parents," he said. "Our father led our home in righteousness, never with anger or fear. And the powerful example of our father was magnified by the tender counsel of our mother. The gospel is a powerful influence in the life of every one of us in the Packer family and to the next generation and the next and the next, as far as we have seen."
President Packer said he hoped to be judged as good a man as his father: "Before I hear those words 'well done' from my Heavenly Father, I hope to first hear them from my mortal father."
He concluded by declaring that "family time" is a sacred time that should be protected and respected. Priesthood leaders must be careful to make the Church family friendly, he said.
"Fathers and mothers, next time you cradle a newborn child in your arms you can have an inner vision of the mysteries and purposes of life. You will better understand why the Church is as it is and why the family is the basic organization in time and all eternity."