General Conference talk given by Hartman Rector Jr., ‘Turning the Hearts’, April 1981:1

Note: Bolded are the parts of the talk given in the original address, not appearing in written format on the official LDS church website.

I consider it a great honor and a privilege to greet you this afternoon in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am sure the Lord is much concerned about the families of the earth today.

The family is the basic unit of society, and more importantly it is the basic unit of exaltation. It seems that nothing is more important to the Lord than a family. He has designed the greatest blessings for His children to be received through families, and the temple, of course, is the means of creating these eternal, exalted families.

I believe that families are under a more serious attack today than at any time since the beginning of the world, with the possible exception of the days of Noah. It must have been bad then too. Maybe we today are not quite as bad as they were. Moses recorded in the Book of Genesis: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5.) I don’t believe I have ever known anyone quite that bad, whose “every thought was evil continually.”

The Lord further indicated that all flesh was corrupt in those days, and so he brought forth the flood and destroyed all flesh except Noah and his family. Therefore, we are all descendants of righteous Noah. But the family concept is under very serious attack today all over the world.

In many countries of the world today birth control is practiced. In some countries only one child per family is permitted. This is controlled through birth control, abortion and sterilization. If a second child is born the government takes it to rear. Since the real strength of a nation is in her families, I fear that such restrictions will literally destroy these nations. A documentary for TV was produced recently where it was shown that old people are dying for lack of love and attention. It seem s that children no longer care enough for their aged parents to visit them. Well, why should they anyway. The government takes care of them so why should the children bother with that chore. Today some governments pay full time employees to do nothing but visit their old people. It appears that this is one of the hidden evils which destroy families. Children no longer have to worry about their parents in their old age, so they completely neglect them.

The Lord said from Mt. Sinai, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Ex. 20:12.) There’s precious little honor shown as children not even visit their parents. Of course we’re not lily white in this area here in the United States either. In 1980 was the year of the family here in the US of A. There were White House conferences held on the family in Maryland, Minnesota, and California, with delegates chosen from each state. In most states there was an attempt to get a resolution passed by the state convention, defining the family as any group of people living together. Not the traditional father, mother, children relationship but any group of people living together. And whom do you supposed would sponsor such a resolution. Is those who represent the so-called alternate lifestyle. Birth control is rampant. Sterilization, vasectomies increase annually. The statistics on abortion in the United States are mind boggling. For example, abortions will kill over 2 million babies in the next 12 months. Which amounts to three abortions every 60 seconds. Abortions kill more Americans in one year than all the wars did from Valley Forge to Vietnam. 8 Million American babies have been slaughtered since January the 22nd 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. Over 3 million dollars of American tax payers money will be used to pay for government funded abortions this year. How frightening.

As I mentioned earlier we seem to have conditions today similar to those Noah faced; and the Lord speaks of smiting the earth with a curse, as happened at the time of the flood, and this will happen if there is not a turning of “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Mal. 4:6.)

There are those who feel that this turning of the hearts is strictly Elijah’s job, but in Doctrine and Covenants 98:16 [D&C 98:16] the Lord seems to give us that assignment. He said, “Seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.”
Elijah came and delivered the keys, but the Lord looks to us to do the work. In a little plainer translation of the Malachi scripture, the Lord said:
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (D&C 2:1–3; see also JS—H 1:38–39.)

We, then, are in the very serious business of attempting to save the earth or to keep it from being “wasted” when the Lord comes. I have often wondered how or why the earth would be wasted if Children’s hearts did not turn to their fathers. Today is very clear for all to see. When the Lord comes if he finds nothing but birth control, abortion, sterilization, homosexuals the earth is wasted. What was the purpose of his creation anyway. The Lord said “we would go down for there is space there, and we will take of these materials and make an earth, whereon theses” meaning all of us “may dwell.” This earth was created so God the Father would have a place to send His children to receive bodies of flesh and bones and prove themselves. If we will no longer permit the Lord to send his children to this earth, then the earth is wasted, and as in the days of the flood He will surely destroy it.
So what must we do? We must follow the living prophet, for herein is our only safety. He says, among other things:

1. Complete four-generation family records and as far beyond as you can go.

2. Write a personal and family history.

3. Perform a reasonable number of temple ordinances by attending the temple as often as is practical.

I personally believe that the writing of personal and family histories will do more to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to children than almost anything we can do. I am sure you will never turn your own children’s hearts more to you than you will by keeping a journal and writing your personal history. They will ultimately love to find out about your successes and your failures and your peculiarities. It will tell them a lot about themselves, too. They will get a great desire to raise a family of their own when they see what a great blessing they were to you.

If children have a happy family experience they will not want to be homosexuals, which I am sure is an acquired addiction just as drugs, alcohol and pornography are. The promoters of homosexuality say they were born that way. But I do not believe this is true. There are no female spirits trapped in male bodies and vice versa. He who made them, made them male and female. Every form of homosexuality is sin said the living prophet Spencer W. Kimball.

Also, I seriously doubt that you will ever turn your own heart more to your own fathers than by writing your family history. You must know a lot about them before you can write it. This will lead you to much in-depth research. I promise you will love them when you become acquainted with them. They were noble people, and they sacrificed much to give you the heritage you have today. They deserve the best you can give them, which of course is membership in the Church and the kingdom of God and the sealing of their loved ones to them.

I am convinced that these records we are commanded to write are absolutely vital, not only to the salvation of our ancestors but also to ours, for are we not to be judged out of the books which John saw were to be opened, as recorded in Revelation 20:12 [Rev. 20:12]?

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

After quoting this verse from Revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 128:7–8 [D&C 128:7–8]:
“You will discover in this quotation that the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; but the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; consequently, the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. …

“Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Or, in other words, taking a different view of the translation, whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.)
Sometimes we feel we just don’t have time to write in our journals. I wonder. President Kimball stood before the World Conference on Records last August and said: “By now, in my own personal history, I have managed to fill seventy-eight large volumes, which are my personal journal. There have been times when I have been so tired at the end of a day that the effort could hardly be managed, but I am so grateful that I have not let slip away from me and my posterity those things which needed to be recorded.” (Ensign, Oct. 1980, p. 72.)

I am convinced that it is not what we have done here upon the earth that will condemn us at the last day; it is what we have not done that will ultimately stand to judge us. Why? Well the bad things we have done we can repent of and because the Lord Jesus Christ paid for these sins they will be blotted out. So they obviously won’t hurt us. The good things we have done we should record in our journals and personal history and the good things surely won’t hurt us. But the things we have not done, how do we repent of them. It’s what we should have done, and didn’t do, that will constitute our judgment.

Is there any wonder the prophet Joseph said, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. Those saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation.” (Teachings of the Prophet, p. 193.)

To become a savior on Mount Zion, then, goes far beyond the performance of the temple ordinance. It encompasses the personal and family history as well as the four-generation-and-beyond research—plus participation in the extraction program.

Of course, none of this would mean very much if we did not have a holy house in which to perform this work. In this sense, temple building then becomes the most important work of this dispensation. How glorious to live upon the earth at this time and have part in the grand work of rearing the Lord’s house in nations around the world so the saving ordinances of the gospel and the ties that bind eternal families may be made available to all the children of the earth! Surely we are the most blessed people who have ever lived, to which I bear witness in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, amen.

Gary Bergera wrote to Elder Rector inquiring about the difference between the published version of his talk and the version reported in the Deseret News, Church News, and Salt Lake Tribune. Elder Rector replied in a hand-written note: 2

“Sometimes it is not expedient to make people angry by telling them in too plain terms what their problems are. … Also the church [is] hoping to gain entrance into communist China so didn’t want to make waves,” according to an article in Dialogue A Journal of Mormon Thought. “I presume a combination of things made the First Presidency decide to eliminate certain portions of my remarks even tho’ they had received and cleared the talk before it was given. It is OK. They know best. However, what was said is still true.”

(Gary J. Bergera, Letter to Hartman Rector, 11 May 1981; undated response handwritten on the bottom of the letter by Hartman Rector.)


1 Turning the Hearts, Hartman Rector Jr, April 1981 General Conference – https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1981/04/turning-the-hearts?lang=eng
2 The LDS conference sermon you read online may not match the words spoken from the pulpit — a look at why speeches are sometimes ‘corrected’, The Salt Lake Tribune – https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2018/12/17/lds-conference-sermon/