One of the great dangers of our present society is the adoption of the belief that all things in life are optional. Life, and the way we live life can be based, and indeed should be based on personal opinion and convenience.
We seek for instant gratification—instant food, instant heat, instant cold, shortcuts to success, and plentiful praise in everything we do, even if our efforts to earn that praise were mediocre. Social media is based on instant and constant praise.
Yet heaven is based and lived around very different principles. In heaven, we live for the happiness of others, not ourselves. Self-promotion and self-gratification produce unhappiness. That self-promotion and self-gratification produce real happiness is one of the great lies of our current global society.
In heaven, we lived as families. In the heaven we will be returning to we will again live as families. To be able to have a family is the great goal of this life and of the life to come. To be able to have a family is why we make and keep sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven. Has it every occurred to you that all our covenants lead to the creation and sustaining of families, both here and in eternity?
To be worthy of an eternal family is the reason we obey commandments and get baptized, and the reason we go to the temple. The entire gospel of Christ, the whole plan of salvation is centered on the family unit and the relationships we form in families.
It is true that there are important relationships outside the family, but any relationship outside the bonds of the family do not have the same power to produce celestial traits that those within the family possess. Both are important, but the center of all our greatest concerns in life are focused on those relationships we form to create and sustain family life. These are the most intimate of all relationships. It is their very intimacy that gives them the power to change us in such powerful ways.
Just as those who are closest to us have the power to lift us up and change us for the better, so too do those who are closest to us have the power to hurt us and cause us emotional pain. So it is the most intimate of relationships that help us to learn the most powerful virtues, like patience, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, forbearance, and charity. These are all Christlike and godly virtues. Home is the place where they are most easily learned.
The family is divine. It was instituted by our Heavenly Father. It encompasses the most sacred of all relationships. Only through its organization can the purposes of the Lord be fulfilled.
The core of the family is the mother and father. A husband and wife is the center of every family. They are a family, even before they have children. The marriage relationship is like the seed, the nucleus of what creates the multi-generational family unit. Their love for each other is what begins the process of creating new life.
This makes the role of parents a sacred responsibility. Once they have created life and brought a child into their home to join their family, they become answerable to God for how that child is raised. The Lord expects those who become parents to teach their children to be obedient to the commandments, to learn the importance of the family unit and about the power that resides in these most intimate of relationships.
The child must learn to respect God, parents, order, others, them self, and must gain experience in practicing all the godly virtues that will help them return to their heavenly home again one day. If a parent doesn’t teach their children these things, God holds them personally responsible for the sins of that child.
Parents who bring children into the world have a responsibility to love those children, to nurture them and care for them, to teach them those values which would bless their lives so that they will grow to become good citizens. … I want to emphasize that which is already familiar to you, and that is the importance of binding our families together with love and kindness, with appreciation and respect, and with teaching the ways of the Lord so that your children will grow in righteousness and avoid the tragedies which are overcoming so many families across the world.
The privilege of caring for our children
The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.
One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves early on in the rearing of our families is that the children are still too young and you really can’t do anything with them at this age. You tell yourself that you will get more involved when they can talk better or are better behaved in public.
Part of the problem is that when we begin our family at an early age we don’t yet have an appreciation for how fast time goes by. By the time we begin to realize how quickly our children have grown, we have already lost almost half of their childhood. Remember that each child is only yours for about 18 years before they fly the coop. The older you get the better you realize just how little time this is to have a child in your home. Every day is special when you have a child to raise. All too soon they are off with their friends, and the key time to make the all-important impressions on their lives has begun to pass from within your grasp. These impressions need to be made at precisely the time when many parents are saying they will wait until the children are older to begin to teach them.
When children are small their parents can do no wrong. The parents are all powerful and wise. Think what a potent influence it is on your child when you, the all-wise and powerful parent show them how important it is for all of you to get on your knees and pray for guidance from your Heavenly Father. This builds the faith of your child in that power that will sustain them in their trials and adversities for the rest of their life.
Their view of their God will be shaped and formed by how you address your Heavenly Father in prayer. The reverence you exhibit and display for Him, for Christ and his atonement, and for the power of the Holy Ghost in your own life will either retard or enhance their own faith in God. This is best shown in family prayer and when we pray individually with our children.
I know of one woman who taught her children of the power of prayer. One day her 6-year-old daughter came to her and told her she had lost something that was important to her. Her mother asked her what she thought she should do to find it. The daughter told her she should probably pray to Heavenly Father for help finding it. Her mother agreed and told her to go and ask Him for help. A while later she saw her daughter playing with the item she had lost. She asked her how she found it. Her daughter replied that Heavenly Father showed her where it was.
How many parents of 6-year-olds are still saying the children are too young to understand the process? We often underestimate how powerful our personal example and deliberate teaching is in our relationships in the home. Even if we don’t think others are listening or paying attention, the example is still there. It is still being observed. And as long as those two things are happening (the example is there and being observed), they are learning something.
The power of Family Home Evening
Family Home Evening is a powerful program. It is not always easy to maintain and do right, but the more we persist, the more we will be blessed as parents for holding it each week. The key in many instances is to not get stuck in a rut of always doing the same thing. Remember the purpose of the program is to spend precious time together as a family doing things related to the gospel of Christ.
A typical Family Home Evening can be a lesson, a special outing, games, a family council, a vacation, a service project, and much more. What is central to all of these activities? Time together. We cannot learn to love those we do not serve. We need the combined power of family prayer for each individual in the family. Every child deserves to know that they have a family who not just loves them, but will supplicate God on their behalf when things are rough in their life. They need to know that when they have needs someone has their back and will speak truth to them and help them in any way they need the support.
If you have ever been a single parent, you know how much more difficult life is without that extra person to take up the slack. That same power is manifest in the combined love and participation of all the members of the family. If a couple can work wonders together, just think what a united family can do! This is the kind of unity we are seeking through the Family Home Evening program.
I recognize that there are parents who, notwithstanding an outpouring of love and a diligent and faithful effort to teach them, see their children grow in a contrary manner and weep while their wayward sons and daughters willfully pursue courses of tragic consequence. For such I have great sympathy, and to them I am wont to quote the words of Ezekiel: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).
When we have done all we can do and a child or more than one child departs from what we taught, we are not automatically bad parents. We raise our children to make their own choices. Not all children will make choices that bring them happiness. Their choices do not reflect poorly on us unless we were truly negligent when they were young.
Remember all the prophets in the scriptures who had wayward children. They were prophets and still had children who chose to be disobedient to the commandments they had been taught. Even our Father in Heaven lost one-third of his children. And you know you can’t find a better parent than our Father in Heaven. It is that age-old issue of agency. Even God will not interfere with our agency until it is time for judgment.
So until that time, our only course of action for the wayward child is to continue to love them, set a good example, encourage them to seek the laws of happiness (the commandments), and pray, pray, pray for them. The Lord loves His children and will do all in his power to lead them back home to the gospel of Christ. In the meantime we cannot give up on them or show them we are faithless about their ability to repent and return.
What is considered “normal” in our children’s lives will be defined by the home life we define for them. Do we want them to go out into the world thinking daily family prayer is as natural and normal as eating breakfast? Do we want them to believe that fasting for, praying for, and serving others is something every family does? Do we want our children to believe that regular church attendance and responsible fulfillment of callings is normal and expected? Do we want our children to believe they can do anything if they are willing to work hard and have the patience to wait for the rewards?
These things are what we are instilling in our children a little at a time with every conversation we have, every activity we engage in, and in every example, we set for them. We create the reality our children grow up thinking is normal. If we give them a lopsided view of reality then that is what they will think is normal.
Parenting is difficult. It is all-consuming. Once we start parenting we accept a 20-year initial commitment for each child to be there for them and teach them, and especially to love them no matter what happens. (And that is just the first 20 years!) Parenting is the greatest of life’s responsibilities, and the most rewarding venture we can possibly undertake. It surpasses anything the world has to offer, no matter what the world claims to the contrary. If we learn to do it well the blessings of our efforts will extend into the eternities.