I am not a family therapist, so what I express on families in this lesson is based on what President Benson has said, and on my own experience. The family, the single most important unit in eternity, is where we live our lives, and where we raise the next generation. The future of every country is played out first in the home. If the homes of a country are teaching moral conduct, loyalty, and reverence, so too will the citizens of tomorrow be moral, loyal, and reverent people. The reverse is also true.
Here is a quote from a commentary on these lessons:
“The culture within the home is designed and built, and perpetuated by the mother and the father. Whatever the children are raised to expect to be normal is spelled out by the behavior of the parents. If family prayer, loyalty, Church attendance and service are as common place as brushing our teeth and making our beds then that is what is normal to the child. Our children will carry what is “normal” into their own families.”
President Benson’s son, Mark, said that “Our parents instilled deep feelings of loyalty and love among us children. I don’t think that kind of atmosphere is generated naturally in a home, but is encouraged and promoted by a concerned and loving mother and father.”
Parents who don’t decide ahead of time what they will teach their children, or what kind of example they will show their children, in large measure leave the parenting examples to the world to teach their children. As an example, if we want our children to grow up thinking prayer and fasting for each other is normal, we must demonstrate it as being “normal” in our homes.
Importance of the Family
In today’s society it is more difficult than ever to see how important the family unit is. In past generations it was understood that the family was the basis of all society. Now society has decided that family is whatever we want to call it. It is loose in definition, and loose in cohesiveness. The Lord did not ordain such a definition. He had his prophet issue the Proclamation on the Family for this very reason. Everything in the gospel should center “in and around the family.”
“No nation ever rises above its homes. This Church will never rise above its homes. We are no better as a people than are our firesides, our homes. … The good home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. It must be preserved. It must be strengthened.”
All the larger issues of society can be fixed, but only once the families of that society are fixed. Larger societal issues are just reflections of family issues.
Marriage is more than a Social Contract
“Marriage, the home, and family are more than mere social institutions. They are divine, not man-made. God ordained marriage from the very beginning. In the record of that first marriage recorded in Genesis, the Lord makes four significant pronouncements: first, that it is not good for man to be alone; second, that woman was created to be a helpmeet for man; third, that they twain should be one flesh; and fourth, that man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. (See Genesis 2:18, 24.)”
The key to a fruitful marriage is fidelity in all aspects of our relationships. Faithfulness, loyalty, patience, commitment, and love are the keys to happy life in a family. “Couples must learn to bridle their tongues as well as their passions.”
How often do we pray with our spouse? As we pray together our feelings begin to merge so that we become one in our thoughts and actions. This is especially important when there is disagreement and problems that need to be overcome. We need to rely on the teachings of the prophets, the scriptures, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. This effort on the part of a companionship will bring us closer together, uniting our efforts and our love in a common goal and cause. Sounds difficult, yes? Of course it is, but that is what marriage is here for; it is to teach us how to live outside of ourselves and to live for someone else. Not easy, and sometimes not pleasant, but it is the most rewarding experience we will ever have.
“The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.”
This service extends to the children as well. One of the greatest challenges we will ever have as a married couple is to remain united as we raise our children. Children, and all their problems, introduce a myriad of opportunities to divide us as a couple. It takes constant effort and constant petitioning to the Lord to help us remain united as we deal with the challenges of raising our children to be God-fearing people.
“One great thing the Lord requires of each of us is to provide a home where a happy, positive influence for good exists. In future years the costliness of home furnishings or the number of bathrooms will not matter much, but what will matter significantly is whether our children felt love and acceptance in the home. It will greatly matter whether there was happiness and laughter, or bickering and contention.”
Bickering and contention begin and end with mom and dad. If they are not allowed in the marriage relationship they will not be allowed among the children either. The difficulty is to find ways to instill a love for each other that makes fighting with each other distasteful to all. Service to each other, scripture study, and family prayer, and praying for each other are good ways to instill a universal sense of love in the home.
“Strong families cultivate an attribute of effective communication. They talk out their problems, make plans together, and cooperate toward common objectives. Family home evening and family councils are practiced and used as effective tools toward this end.”
Good communication cannot be overemphasized in the family setting. Many of today’s evils encourage secrecy. We need to cultivate in our marriages and in our homes an open and inviting atmosphere where people are not afraid or ashamed to ask questions, express opinions, or to express fears and anxieties. Our homes have to become bastions of safety in the minds of our children. The world is an unsafe place to be. Our homes need to be the one place we can retreat to and feel safe from the world’s influences and problems. This takes work and constant vigilance to create. But what a joy it is to live in a home where you feel loved, welcomed, and wanted!
Home is the Best Place
Our homes are the best place for our children to see the gospel of Christ in action. We have more opportunities to forgive slights, mistakes in others, and outright offenses, in our homes than in any other place. It is easier to be hurt by those who are supposed to love you than by those who don’t care anything about you. Home is where we learn to have charity, to serve, to pray, to forgive, to be, in short, Christians.
Here are the activities President Benson outlines in the lesson that should be taking place in the home for the sake of our children (and ourselves).
1. Moral principles are taught.
2. Good books are made available and read.
3. Television watching is controlled.
4. Good and uplifting music is provided.
5. Scriptures are read and discussed to develop spiritual-mindedness.
6. Parents teach the children about faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
7. Family prayer is a consistent practice to teach gratitude for blessings and to teach humility before God.
8. Children are taught to rely on Heavenly Father and are taught the plan of salvation.
9. Children are taught the commandments and the importance of living them.
10. Children are taught to work at home. This teaches self reliance, dignity, and self-respect.
11. Family Home Evening instills gospel values and principles through the lessons and activities experienced as a family.
There are, of course other things that can be added to such a list, but these are the basics. These are not checklists, but a way of life. As a married couple we have to learn to live this way, not try to live some other way, but check off these activities as we do them. That method will not work and it will not last. To find success in raising our families, and in building a marriage that will last the eternities, we need to become the kind of people that do these things as a matter of course, because it is just who we are.
I leave you this week with the closing quote from President Benson in this lesson:
“Home and family. What sweet memories surge up in our breasts at the mere mention of these cherished words! May I wish for you prayerfully, and with all the fervor of my soul, that you may know the unspeakable joy and satisfaction of honorable parenthood. You will miss one of the deepest joys of this life and eternity if you willfully avoid the responsibilities of parenthood and home-building. As revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the glorious concept of home and the enduring family relationship lies at the very basis of our happiness here and hereafter.”
Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.