The Noble Calling of Parents (David O. McKay Lesson 16)

I was at a reunion some years ago, and after the reunion, someone sent me a definition of family, titled "What Is a Family?" This is what it said: "A family is the greatest security and the dearest possession. A family is living together and praying together; understanding one another; sharing tears, toothpaste, and small change; swapping sweaters, chores, jokes; borrowing records, talents, wisdom; keeping snapshots, letters, homemade gifts, and memories; giving first aid, parties, and lots of advice; and taking part in everything and in every member of the family. A family is living together and loving one another, and being loyal to each other.

Successful families have love and respect for each family member. Family members know they are loved and appreciated. Children feel they are loved by their parents. Thus, they are secure and self-assured. 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. Every family has problems and challenges. But successful families try to work together toward solutions instead of resorting to criticism and contention. They pray for each other, discuss, and give encouragement. Occasionally these families fast together in support of one of the family members. Strong families support each other. Successful families do things together: family projects, work, vacations, recreation, and reunions.

Remember, the family is one of God's greatest fortresses against the evils of our day. Help keep your family strong and close and worthy of our Father in Heaven's blessings. As you do, you will receive faith and strength which will bless your lives forever.

Because of our confidence in the perpetuity of the home and family into the eternities, we build our most elaborate and expensive structures-temples of God-so that man, woman, and their children may be bound together by covenant in an everlasting union that will transcend all the limitations of this mortal sphere. It is because of this belief that the Church decries divorce, and that we are actively engaged in teaching fathers that their most important duty is within the walls of their own homes, and mothers that they should be full-time mothers in the home. It is why we encourage parents to teach their children fundamental spiritual principles that will instill faith in God, faith in the family, and faith in their country. There is no other institution that can take the place of the family or fulfill its essential function.

Thank God for the joys of family life. I have often said there can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from a good home. The sweetest influences and associations of life are there. Life cannot be fully successful, no matter what goals we attain in the material world, no matter what honors of men come to us in our lives, if we fail as fathers, mothers, and children.

Responsibilities of Family Members

The family is the basis for the righteous life. Divinely prescribed roles for father, mother, and children were given from the very beginning. God established that fathers were to preside in the home. Fathers are to procreate, provide, love, teach, and direct. A mother's role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are the helpmates and counselors to their husbands.

Children are likewise counseled in holy writ in their duty to parents (see Ephesians 6:1-3). When parents, in companionship, love, and unity, fulfill their heaven-imposed responsibility, and children respond with love and obedience, great joy is the result.

For young people to be in the world but not of the world has never been more difficult than today. But this burden must be shared by the parents. The family home evening is an important barrier to the works of Satan. Our Church youth program must protect our youth against every evil influence and should fill a vacuum left by rejecting worldly enticements. Setting your home in order is keeping the commandments of God. This brings harmony and love in the home between you and your companion and between you and your children. It is daily family prayer. It is teaching your family to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is each family member keeping the commandments of God. It is you and your companion being worthy to receive a temple recommend, all family members receiving the ordinances of exaltation, and your family being sealed together for eternity. It is being free from excessive debt, with family members paying honest tithes and offerings.

Above all else, children need to know and feel they are loved, wanted, and appreciated. They need to be assured of that often. Obviously, this is a role parents should fill, and most often the mother can do it best. Rearing happy, peaceful children is no easy challenge in today's world, but it can be done, and it is being done. I know that the Lord is sending to the earth some of His very choicest spirits in this day when wickedness is most intense, when the temptations are the greatest that we have ever known, when the gospel is upon the earth in all its fulness. I am sure He is sending to earth some of His very choicest spirits to help build up the kingdom to prove to those in the world that they should live the gospel, keep the commandments of God, and to be in the world and not partake of the sins of the world. Those kinds of young men and women are coming into our homes. Many of them are our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. It is a great time to be alive-the greatest age in all the world.

Responsibilities of Parents

Knowing in part the hopes and aspirations of my earthly as well as my divine parents, I am dedicated to passing on, if possible, as noble a heritage as I have received, and a name as unsullied and honorable as it was when it was given to me. To do so is to bequeath to my children and my children's children a legacy most precious above all earthly possessions. It is to give them an eternal heritage which leads to eternal life.

I call your attention to the revelations given by the Lord with reference to the responsibility of parents to train their children, to teach them the fundamental principles of the gospel, to teach them to pray, and that parents who fail to accept and discharge this obligation will have the sin rest upon them (see D&C 68:25-28). In the very early days of the Church, the Lord saw fit to chastise some of the leading brethren of the Church for their failure to train their children, to teach them correct principles, to teach them to pray, and they were admonished to put their own houses in order. (See D&C 93:40-50.)

We encourage parents to teach their children fundamental spiritual principles that will instill faith in God, faith in their family, and faith in their country. We plead with parents to spend time with their children, both in teaching them and in building positive relationships. These are the things that create and foster strong family units and a stable society.

It seems easier for many mothers and fathers to express and show their love to their children when they are young, but more difficult when they are older. Work at this prayerfully. There need be no generation gap. And the key is love. Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence. They need empathy and understanding, not indifference, from mothers and fathers. They need the parents' time. A mother's kindly teachings and her love for and confidence in a teenage son or daughter can literally save them from a wicked world. Every boy and girl needs the safeguard which an intimate association with mother or father will provide. The failure of parents and children to understand each other weakens the framework of the home. This relationship must be built upon love and mutual confidence. Then when the problems of life arise, father and mother will be the first sought for counsel. Herein is safety.

Praise your children more than you correct them. Praise them for even their smallest achievement. Encourage your children to come to you for counsel with their problems and questions by listening to them every day. Discuss with them such important matters as dating, sex, and other matters affecting their growth and development, and do it early enough so they will not obtain information from questionable sources.

Treat your children with respect and kindness-just as you would when guests are present. They are, after all, more meaningful to you than guests. Teach your children never to speak unkindly to others regarding members of the family. Be loyal to one another. Implant within children a desire to serve others. Teach them to be thoughtful to the aged, the sick, and the lonely. Help them to plan early for a mission so they can bless others who do not have the gospel.

"I appeal to you parents, take nothing for granted about your children," said President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. "The great bulk of them, of course, are good, but some of us do not know when they begin to go away from the path of truth and righteousness. Be watchful every day and hour. Never relax your care, your solicitude. Rule kindly in the spirit of the gospel and the spirit of the priesthood, but rule, if you wish your children to follow the right path." Permissive parents are part of the problem.

Parents, stay close to your children; you cannot delegate your responsibility to the educators, no matter how competent they may be. Parents have a duty to train their children, to talk over their problems with them, to discuss what they are learning at school. And it is neither wise nor safe to leave the determination of our educational system and policies exclusively to the professional educators.

Today, because some parents have refused to become informed and then stand up and inform their children, they are witnessing the gradual physical and spiritual destruction of their posterity. If we would become like God, knowing good and evil, then we had best find out what is undermining us, how to avoid it, and what we can do about it. (See Alma 12:31; Genesis 3:22.)

There are many people today in the Christian world, and possibly even among Latter-day Saints, who feel that they have done their duty when they have provided food, shelter, clothing, secular education, and accumulated wealth which their children will inherit later. However, this is not enough. According to the revelations which the Lord has given, it is not sufficient to provide all of these and even to send our children to Sunday School, to Primary, and to the Mutual Improvement Association. There is still much to be done. One of the greatest needs is more time of parents in the home. Youth of the Church and of the nation need more than physical comforts. We will need to leave them more than lands and stocks. They need more than a modern automobile and a lovely modern building to live in.

Live close to your children, that you have their love and confidence, that you are not harsh, that you are not cross, that you are understanding. Be firm in the right-yes, in a kindly, sweet way. I pray that the time will never come when your children will go to others for counsel and advice which you should be giving them. If you have a kindly spirit in your homes it is not going to be difficult for you to live the gospel, and it is not going to be difficult for your children to grow up to be true Latter-day Saints as you would have them become.

In an eternal sense, salvation is a family affair. God holds parents responsible for their stewardship in rearing their family. It is a most sacred responsibility.

Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children of all nations everywhere. Because He loves us so much, He has given us loving parents who care for us and teach us. Our mothers and fathers are our first and best teachers, and what they teach us can help us to grow up to be good and useful men and women. The tremendous influence for good of responsible parents throughout history is impossible to measure.

Responsibilities of Fathers

The sacred title of "father" is shared with the Almighty. In the Church men are called and released. Did you ever hear of a mortal father being released? Each father in the Church is establishing, or should be establishing, his patriarchal order-an order that will extend into the eternities.

Our pattern, or model, for fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. How does He work with His children? Well, in order to know that, of course, this head of the family will need to know something about the gospel, the great plan of the Lord.

The worthy priesthood holder who magnifies both his priesthood and his fatherhood, who is a true patriarch in his family, may inherit great blessings, for the Lord has said:

Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths . . . and if ye abide in my covenant . . . it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (D&C 132:19.)

What did the righteous fathers of the Book of Mormon teach their sons? They taught them many things, but the overreaching message was "the great plan of the Eternal God"-the Fall, rebirth, Atonement, Resurrection, judgment, and eternal life (see Alma 34:9). Enos said he knew his father was a just man, "for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord-and blessed be the name of my God for it" (Enos 1:1). Those in the Book of Mormon who were taught nothing concerning the Lord but only concerning worldly knowledge became a cunning and wicked people (see Mosiah 24:5, 7). All truths are not of the same value. The saving truths of salvation are of greatest worth. These truths the fathers taught plainly, frequently, and fervently. Are we fathers doing likewise? Devoted Book of Mormon fathers constantly reminded their sons of saving truths. "O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people," said Helaman. "Yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ." (Helaman 5:9.) "My sons, remember, remember," Helaman continued, "that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the son of God, that ye must build your foundation" (Helaman 5:12).

In the Book of Mormon, loving fathers commended their sons when they deserved it. Alma complimented Shiblon, saying, "You have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord" (Alma 38:2). Mormon told his son Moroni, "I recommend thee unto God" (Moroni 9:22). Our sons need to be encouraged in their righteous endeavors.

Early in the history of the restored Church, the Lord specifically charged men with the obligation to provide for their wives and family. In January of 1832 He said, "Verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown" (D&C 75:28). Three months later the Lord said again, "Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken" (D&C 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. While she cares for and nourishes her children at home, her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible.

Fathers, another vital aspect of providing for the material needs of your family is the provision you should be making for your family in case of an emergency. Family preparedness has been a long-established welfare principle. It is even more urgent today.

I ask you earnestly, have you provided for your family a year's supply of food, clothing, and where possible, fuel? The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.

Also, are you living within your income and saving a little? Are you honest with the Lord in the payment of your tithes? Living this divine law will bring both spiritual and material blessings. Yes, brethren, as a father in Israel you have a great responsibility to provide for the material needs of your family and to have the necessary provisions in case of emergency.

You have a sacred responsibility to provide spiritual leadership in your family. In a pamphlet published some years ago by the Council of Twelve, we said the following: "Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so . . . it will always be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home."

However, along with that presiding position, comes important obligations. We sometimes hear accounts of men, even in the Church, who think that being head of the home somehow puts them in a superior role and allows them to dictate and make demands upon their family.

The Apostle Paul points out that the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church (see Eph. 5:23). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home. We do not find the Savior leading the Church with a harsh or unkind hand. We do not find the Savior treating His Church with disrespect or neglect. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church. Brethren, I say to you with all soberness, His is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families.

In latter-day revelation the Lord speaks again of this obligation. He said, "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else." To my knowledge there is only one other thing in all scripture that we are commanded to love with all our hearts, and that is God Himself. Think what that means!

This kind of love can be shown for your wives in so many ways. First and foremost, nothing except God Himself takes priority over your wife in your life- not work, not recreation, not hobbies. Your wife is your most precious eternal helpmate-your companion.

What does it mean to love someone with all your heart? It means with all our emotional feelings and with all our devotion. Surely when you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, nor abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions.

What does it mean to "cleave unto her"? It means to stay close to her, to be loyal and faithful to her, to communicate with her, and to express your love for her.

Love means being sensitive to her feelings and needs. She wants to be noticed and treasured. She wants to be told that you view her as lovely and attractive and important to you. Love means putting her welfare and self-esteem as a high priority in your life.

You should be grateful that she is the mother of your children and the queen of your home-grateful that she has chosen homemaking and motherhood-to bear, to nourish, to love, and to train your children-as the noblest calling of all.

Husbands, recognize your wife's intelligence and her ability to counsel with you as a real partner regarding family plans, family activities, and family budgeting. Don't be stingy with your time or with your means. Give her the opportunity to grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially as well as spiritually.

Remember, brethren, love can be nurtured and nourished by little tokens. Flowers on special occasions are wonderful, but so is your willingness to help with the dishes, change diapers, get up with a crying child in the night, leave the television or the newspaper to help with dinner. Those are the quiet ways we say "I love you" with our actions. They bring rich dividends for such little effort. This kind of loving priesthood leadership applies to your children as well as your wives.

As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline.

Our homes should be havens of peace and joy for our families. Surely no child should fear his own father-especially a priesthood father. A father's duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children.

Once you determine that a high priority in your life is to see that your wife and your children are happy, you will do all in your power to do so. I am not just speaking of satisfying material desires, but of filling other vital needs such as appreciation, compliments, comforting, encouraging, listening, and giving love and affection.

The father must hunger and thirst and yearn to bless his family, go to the Lord, ponder the words of God, and live by the Spirit to know the mind and will of the Lord and what he must do to lead his family.

With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:

1. Give father's blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.

2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.

3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children's spiritual welfare.

4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and fathers and sons outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, and to school programs. Having Dad there makes all the difference.

5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.

6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.

7. Teach your children to work and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers important.

8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of children forever.

9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.

10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they too will want to serve in the Church and love the kingdom.

Oh, husbands and fathers in Israel, you can do so much for the salvation and exaltation of your families. Your responsibilities are so important. Remember your sacred calling as a father in Israel-your most important calling in time and eternity-a calling from which you are never released.

Responsibilities of Mothers

President David O. McKay declared: "Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world."

President McKay continues: "Motherhood consists of three principal attributes or qualities: namely, (1) the power to bear, (2) the ability to rear, (3) the gift to love.... This ability and willingness properly to rear children, the gift of love, and eagerness, yes, longing to express it in soul development, makes motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world. She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, . . . deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God." (Gospel Ideals, pp. 453-54.) With all my heart I endorse the words of President McKay.

The Lord states that the opportunity and responsibility of wives is "to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified" (D&C 132:62). With this divine injunction, husbands and wives, as co-creators, should eagerly and prayerfully invite children into their homes. Then, as each child joins their family circle, they can gratefully exclaim, as did Hannah, "For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him; therefore also I have lent him to the Lord: as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:27-28). Isn't that beautiful? A mother praying to bear a child and then giving him to the Lord.

It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to baby-sitters. We become enamored with men's theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother's influence. Too often the pressure for popularity, on children and teens, places an economic burden on the income of the father, so mother feels she must go to work to satisfy her children's needs. That decision can be most shortsighted. Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all.

With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would like to suggest ten specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children.

1. Take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going-when they leave and return from dates-when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. Among the greatest concerns in our society are the millions of latchkey children who come home daily to empty houses unsupervised by working parents.

2. Mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children. Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them. Yes, regularly spend unrushed one-on-one time with each child. Be a real friend to your children.

3. Mothers, take time to read to your children. Starting from the cradle, read to your sons and daughters. Remember what the poet said, "You may have tangible wealth untold;/Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold./Richer than I you can never be-/I had a mother who read to me." (Strickland Gillilan, "The Reading Mother.") You will plant a love for good literature and a real love for the scriptures if you will read to your children regularly.

4. Take time to pray with your children. Family prayers, under the direction of the father, should be held morning and night. Have your children feel of your faith as you call down the blessings of heaven upon them. Have your children participate in family and personal prayers and rejoice in their sweet utterances to their Father in Heaven.

5. Take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening. With your husband presiding, participate in a spiritual and an uplifting home evening each week. Have your children actively involved. Teach them correct principles. Make this one of your great family traditions. Remember the marvelous promise made by President Joseph F. Smith when home evenings were first introduced to the Church: "If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them." This wonderful promise is still in effect today.

6. Take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible. This is a challenge as the children get older and lives get busier. But happy conversation, sharing of the day's plans and activities, and special teaching moments occur at mealtime because mothers and fathers and children work at it.

7. Take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family. Individual scripture reading is important, but family scripture reading is vital. Reading the Book of Mormon together as a family will especially bring increased spirituality into your home and will give both parents and children the power to resist temptation and to have the Holy Ghost as their constant companion. I promise you that the Book of Mormon will change the lives of your family.

8. Take time to do things as a family. Make family outings and picnics and birthday celebrations and trips special times and memory builders. Whenever possible attend as a family events where one of the family members is involved, such as a school play, a ball game, a talk, a recital. Attend Church meetings together and sit together as a family when you can.

9. Mothers, take time to teach your children. Catch the teaching moments. This can be done anytime during the day-at mealtime, in casual settings or at special sit-down times together, at the foot of the bed at the end of the day, or during an early-morning walk together. Mothers, you are your children's best teacher. Don't shift this precious responsibility to day-care centers or baby- sitters. A mother's love and prayerful concern for her children are her most important ingredients in teaching her own.

Teach children gospel principles. Teach them it pays to be good. Teach them there is no safety in sin. Teach them a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a testimony of its divinity. Teach your sons and daughters modesty and teach them to respect manhood and womanhood. Teach your children sexual purity, proper dating standards, temple marriage, missionary service, and the importance of accepting and magnifying Church callings. Teach them a love for work and the value of a good education. Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate movies, videos, music, books, and magazines. Discuss the evils of pornography and drugs and teach them the value of living the clean life.

Yes, mothers, teach your children the gospel in your home, at your own fireside. This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive. This is the Lord's way of teaching. The Church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain you. Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them. They will call you blessed-their truly angel mother. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time-lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.

10. Finally, mothers, take the time to truly love your children. A mother's unqualified love approaches Christlike love.

As mothers and future mothers, you will influence the course of the Church in this great country, and the destiny of its coming leaders. If you are to provide the training for these future generations, you must stand firm in the faith, unwavering in the face of evil, and as Paul said, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).

Mothers, stay close to your daughters. Earn and deserve their love and respect. Be united with their father in the rearing of your children. Do nothing in your life to cause your daughters to stumble because of your example. Teach your daughters to prepare for life's greatest career-that of homemaker, wife, and mother. Teach them to love home because you love home. Teach them the importance of being a full-time mother in the home.

My eternal companion has wisely counseled mothers: "Radiate a spirit of contentment and joy with homemaking. You teach by example your attitude toward homemaking. Your attitude will say to your daughters, 'I am only a housewife.' Or it will convey, 'Homemaking is the highest, most noble profession to which a woman might aspire.'"

God bless our wonderful mothers. We pray for you. We sustain you. We honor you as you bear, nourish, train, teach, and love for eternity. I promise you the blessings of heaven and "all that [the] Father hath" (see D&C 84:38) as you magnify the noblest calling of all-a mother in Zion.

Responsibilities of Children

Children need to know who they are in the eternal sense of their identity. They need to know that they have an eternal Heavenly Father on whom they can rely, to whom they can pray, and from whom they can receive guidance. They need to know from whence they came so that their lives will have meaning and purpose.

Children are born innocent, not evil. They are not sent to earth, however, to neutral environments. They are sent to homes that, for good or evil, influence their ideas, emotions, thoughts, and standards, by which future choices will be made.

Children are counseled in holy writ in their duty to parents. Paul the Apostle wrote: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (Ephesians 6:1-3; see Colossians 3:20.) When parents, in companionship, love, and unity, fulfill their heaven-imposed responsibility, and children respond with love and obedience, great joy is the result.

We need a closer parent-child relationship. One of the greatest needs of our young people is a closer, more frequent companionship with father and mother. There is no satisfactory substitute.

Your most important friendships should be with your own brothers and sisters and with your father and mother. Be loyal to them. Have a genuine concern for your brothers and sisters. Help carry their load so you can say, like the lyrics of that song, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

My young sisters, I counsel each of you to draw close to your own mother. Love her. Respect her. Honor her. Receive your mother's counsel as she loves and instructs you in righteousness. Honor and obey your father as he stands as the head of the home by emulating his spiritual qualities.

Young men, in the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today's sons of Helaman. Remember well the Book of Mormon account of Helaman's two thousand stripling warriors and how the teachings of their mothers gave them strength and faith. These marvelous mothers taught them to put on the whole armor of God, to place their trust in the Lord, and to doubt not. By so doing not one of these young men was lost. (See Alma 53:10-23; 56:41-56.) My young brethren, I counsel each of you to draw close to your own mother. Respect her. Honor her. Receive your mother's counsel as she loves and instructs you in righteousness. And honor and obey your father as he stands as the head of the home, emulating his manly qualities.

Now, there are some things that come only with age, and one of those is wisdom. Father and mother may be bent over, in part because of the responsibility of bearing you and caring for you. Just remember you need them, you need their counsel.

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