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Passing On a Legacy of Faith
By Darla Isackson

If my mother and father were still alive, both of them would have turned 100 recently; they were born just six days apart in November of 1909. In honor of this centennial event, my four siblings and I decided to host a 100-year birthday party and reunion for our parents’ posterity.

Every family situation is different, and should you decide to host your own celebration it might be very different from ours. But I want to tell you what we did because it helped us feel more strongly the importance of family and how a small effort to pass on a heritage of faith can make a big difference. Hopefully our ideas will jump-start ideas of your own.

For the event we were able to reserve the cultural hall of the ward building where Dad’s funeral was held, near the condo that was the last home our parents shared. We planned the program together and all of us contributed memorabilia for displays. That evening when we gathered to set up displays our feeling of anticipation grew. It was so good to see Mom’s quilts, and other handwork again. We displayed framed pictures, memorabilia from Dad’s mission in Sweden, journals in their own handwriting, picture history books, certificates, and more. We labeled each item so that the young people would know exactly what it was.

80 relatives of all ages soon filled the hall with greetings, hugs, and chatter. We have a large family and were all so happy to so each other. The evening began with a feast of delicious finger foods. (Each family brought something, so preparation time was minimal.)

We sang Happy Birthday to Grandma and Grandpa and started the program we had planned to help us all remember the legacy passed on by Arland and Fern Larsen–and to help the young ones get acquainted with them because they didn’t have the chance to know them personally. On the big screen on the stage we projected an interview with our mother, Fern, video-taped when she was about 80. What a thrill! It was like having a personal visit with our Mom! Next, we viewed short segments of the long family history video we had put together for Mom’s 85th family reunion birthday party fifteen years ago. The complete video, transferred to DVD, was  given to each family to take home. I encouraged them to show and discuss it in segments for family home evenings.

In our presentations we remembered Mom’s love of dancing during the roaring twenties and two relatives did the Charleston while we sang “Five foot two, eyes of blue.” We mentioned Arland and Fern’s faithful missionary and genealogy work and their constant dedication to the church. We told faith-promoting stories, such as their profound influence on a neighbor when they were stake missionaries. Laura Woodhouse was a lonely widow who had never been interested in religion of any kind. Yet because of their untiring efforts she eventually joined the church and was “adopted” into our family-and was forever after known as “Grandma Woodhouse.”

My sister Arlene read from a talk Mom had written in her own handwriting on the importance of studying the scriptures. To make the message more vivid to the children, we called the 20 Primary-aged children up to sing the song Scripture Power. They all knew it well and sung enthusiastically, and that impromptu song turned out to be a highlight of the program! Arlene also told about Mom’s special dresses that we had on display. (The picture shows a picture of Mom as a baby in the foreground with the dresses displayed in the back) She had saved her only best dress–an exquisite black silk from the early 30s that is still a wonder. We also had most of the dresses she wore at her children’s wedding receptions and the outfit she wore for her own 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

At the end of the program two of the grandchildren sang the song they had sung for Mom and Dad’s senior mission farewell, “How Great Thou Art” which set the stage so beautifully for what I wanted to say to end the program. I told of the Lord’s tender mercies to all of us in the last year of Mom’s life, including the story of Mom’s visitation by angels three weeks before she died. The angels told Fern they would come and get her in three weeks. Her countenance was radiant from that moment, the Spirit filled the house, and she died peacefully three weeks later–to the hour. After her death I had an amazing experience where I communicated with her and was shown the great nobility of her soul. I bore testimony of Mom and Dad’s love for their posterity, of how much families matter and how much they are counting on us to support and love each other through the hard times that are coming. I testified that we can all trust God no matter what and that my most difficult experiences in life have proved that.

To summarize the message of the program in a way we hoped every family would remember we gave each family a mission statement to take home. We hope it would be a good reminder of the beautiful guidelines of the gospel. Here it is:

A Heavenly Guide for the Posterity of Arland A. & Fern J. Larsen
To Lead Us Back to our Father in Heaven Together

*We will rely wholly on the merits of Him Who Is Mighty to Save.
*We will make the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
*We will follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, regardless of the inconvenience.
*We will feast upon the words of Christ, talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, that we may all know to what source we may look for a remission of our sins.
*In all relationships, we will remember that Christ said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these . . . ye have done it unto me.”
*We will eagerly heed the counsel of the living prophet of God.
*We will strive to make our homes a place where all who enter may feel peace, love, harmony, and the Spirit of Christ, and move toward a perfect brightness of hope.
*We will retain a remission of our sins by sharing our worldly goods, and forgiving all offenses that we too may be forgiven.
*We will attend the temple as often as we can, feeling love of God and others.
*When we stumble and fall, the Lord will help us up, and we will help each other, as we walk together towards our Heavenly Home.

The event was memorable in every way. So many family members thanked us for our efforts and we felt so happy and satisfied that our small efforts had resulted in such an outpouring of the Spirit and an outpouring of love for our parents and for each other.

The legacy of faith so many of us have been blessed with is so worth celebrating! I encourage each of you to think of ways you could bring your own family closer by celebrating the legacy of goodly parents and grandparents. No one has perfect parents; ours certainly were not. But no matter their shortcomings, if our parents pointed us toward the gospel of Christ, we are blessed indeed. Reminding each other and our posterity of these blessings is a worthy endeavor.

Writer, Christine Davidson, said, “Voices of our heritage may be buried somewhere in the dust of our neglect.” We can choose to raise those voices from the dust and find ways to let them ring loud and clear. Surely the Lord will show each of us small, do-able ways to keep the voices of heritage ringing out in our own family.

Note:  Visit Darla at her web site and read her Easter blog.

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