Lesson 19 – Inasmuch as Parents Have Children in Zion
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
“Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3–5).
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “‘Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion . . . that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents’ [D&C 68:25; italics added]. “That commandment places responsibility and accountability for the teaching of children squarely upon the shoulders of the parents. The proclamation to the world regarding the family warns that individuals ‘who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God’ [“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102]. Today I solemnly reaffirm that reality. “In discharging these duties, we need both the Church and the family. They work hand in hand to strengthen each other. The Church exists to exalt the family. And the family is the fundamental unit of the Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 70).
“‘God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 1:28), a commandment that has never been rescinded” (M. Russell Ballard, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 28; or Ensign, May 1995, 22).
Dallin H Oaks: “To the first man and woman on earth, the Lord said, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’ (Moses 2:28; Genesis 1:28; see also Abraham 4:28). This commandment was first in sequence and first in importance. It was essential that God’s spirit children have mortal birth and an opportunity to progress toward eternal life. Consequently, all things related to procreation are prime targets for the adversary’s efforts to thwart the plan of God. . . .”
Q – What are some methods or philosophies used by Satan “to thwart the plan of God” in bringing children into the world?
“THE GREAT PLAN OF HAPPINESS” Dallin H. Oaks – October 1993
Bear and Nurture Children
Knowledge of the great plan of happiness also gives Latter-day Saints a distinctive attitude toward the bearing and nurturing of children. In some times and places, children have been regarded as no more than laborers in a family economic enterprise or as insurers of support for their parents. Though repelled by these repressions, some persons in our day have no compunctions against similar attitudes that subordinate the welfare of a spirit child of God to the comfort or convenience of parents.
The Savior taught that we should not lay up treasures on earth but should lay up treasures in heaven (see Matthew 6:19–21). In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.
Q – In what ways can children be considered our “ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven”?
President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 6; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.” Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices.
Q – What are examples of values or priorities a married couple might put ahead of having children?
How many children should a couple have? All they can care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed, clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good parents themselves. Exercising faith in God’s promises to bless them when they are keeping his commandments, many LDS parents have large families. Others seek but are not blessed with children or with the number of children they desire. In a matter as intimate as this, we should not judge one another.
Q – What factors might we consider in pondering how many we can care for? Why is it important that we not judge one another by the size of our families?
President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this inspired counsel to an audience of young Latter-day Saints: “I like to think of the positive side of the equation, of the meaning and sanctity of life, of the purpose of this estate in our eternal journey, of the need for the experiences of mortal life under the great plan of God our Father, of the joy that is to be found only where there are children in the home, of the blessings that come of good posterity. When I think of these values and see them taught and observed, then I am willing to leave the question of numbers to the man and the woman and the Lord” (“If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches [Provo: University Publications, 1984], p. 11).
No Blessing Will Be Denied
Some who are listening to this message are probably saying, “But what about me?” We know that many worthy and wonderful Latter-day Saints currently lack the ideal opportunities and essential requirements for their progress. Singleness, childlessness, death, and divorce frustrate ideals and postpone the fulfillment of promised blessings. In addition, some women who desire to be full-time mothers and homemakers have been literally compelled to enter the full-time workforce. But these frustrations are only temporary. The Lord has promised that in the eternities no blessing will be denied his sons and daughters who keep the commandments, are true to their covenants, and desire what is right. Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father’s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.”
Q – What do you want most for your children?
Q – What can we do to help our children be righteous and faithful?
Teaching Children the Gospel
President N. Eldon Tanner
“Parents also should teach their children early in life the glorious concept and fact that they are spirit children of God, and that choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ is the only way to enjoy success and happiness here and eternal life hereafter. They must be taught that Satan is real and that he will use all agencies at his disposal to tempt them to do wrong, to lead them astray, make them his captives, and keep them from the supreme happiness and exaltation they could otherwise enjoy” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 58; or Ensign, July 1973, 8).
Elder James E. Faust
“A principal purpose for discipline is to teach obedience. President David O. McKay stated: ‘Parents who fail to teach obedience to their children, if [their] homes do not develop obedience society will demand it and get it. It is therefore better for the home, with its kindliness, sympathy and understanding, to train the child in obedience rather than callously to leave him to the brutal and unsympathetic discipline that society will impose if the home has not already fulfilled its obligation’ (The Responsibility of Parents to Their Children, p. 3)” (in Conference Report, Oct 1990, 41–42; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 34).
Elder David B. Haight
“We are to teach and train our children in the ways of the Lord. Children should not be left to their own devices in learning character and family values, or in listening to and watching unsupervised music or television or movies as a means of gaining knowledge and understanding as to how to live their lives!
“The Lord has clearly commanded that parents are to teach their children to do good (see Alma 39:12) and to teach them ‘the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, [or] the sin [shall] be upon the heads of the parents. . . .’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 105; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 75–76).
Elder L. Tom Perry
“At the time I was a new parent, President David O. McKay presided over the Church. His counsel was clear and direct regarding our responsibilities to our children. He taught us the most precious gift a man and woman can receive is a child of God, and that the raising of a child is basically, fundamentally, and most exclusively a spiritual process.
“He directed us to basic principles we need to teach our children. The first and most important inner quality you can instill in a child is faith in God. The first and most important action a child can learn is obedience. And the most powerful tool you have with which to teach a child is love. (See Instructor, Dec. 1949, p. 620)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 106; or Ensign, May 1983, 78).
President Marion G. Romney
“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 88, 90; or Ensign, May 1980, 66–67).
Teaching Children to Work
President Gordon B. Hinckley
“Work together. I do not know how many generations or centuries ago someone first said, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ Children need to work with their parents, to wash dishes with them, to mop floors with them, to mow lawns, to prune trees” (“Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 7).
Elder James E. Faust
“An essential part of teaching children to be disciplined and responsible is to have them learn to work. As we grow up, many of us are like the man who said, ‘I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours’ (Jerome Klapka Jerome, in The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. John P. Bradley, Leo F. Daniels, and Thomas C. Jones [Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1969], p. 782). Again, the best teachers of the principle of work are the parents themselves. For me, work became a joy when I first worked alongside my father, grandfather, uncles, and brothers. I am sure that I was often more of an aggravation than a help, but the memories are sweet and the lessons learned are valuable. Children need to learn responsibility and independence. Are the parents personally taking the time to show and demonstrate and explain so that children can, as Lehi taught, ‘act for themselves and not . . . be acted upon’? (2 Nephi 2:26)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 42; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 34).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
“The remarks of President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., given fifty-six years ago, are instructive today. He said: ‘It is the eternal, inescapable law that growth comes only from work and preparation, whether the growth be material, mental, or spiritual. Work has no substitute’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1933, p. 103).
More recently, Elder Howard W. Hunter counseled: ‘The first recorded instruction given to Adam after the Fall dealt with the eternal principle of work. The Lord said: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” (Gen. 3:19.) Our Heavenly Father loves us so completely that he has given us a commandment to work. This is one of the keys to eternal life. He knows that we will learn more, grow more, achieve more, serve more, and benefit more from a life of industry than from a life of ease’ (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 122)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 9; or Ensign, May 1989, 8).
Elder Marvin J. Ashton
“‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ is not outdated counsel. It is basic to personal welfare. One of the greatest favors parents can do for their children is to teach them to work. Much has been said over the years about children and monthly allowances, and opinions and recommendations vary greatly. I’m from the ‘old school.’ I believe children should earn their money needs through service and appropriate chores. Some financial rewards to children may also be tied to educational effort and the accomplishment of other worthwhile goals. I think it is unfortunate for a child to grow up in a home where the seed is planted in the child’s mind that there is a family money tree that automatically drops ‘green stuff’ once a week or once a month” (One for the Money, 8).
While we cannot guarantee that our children will be faithful, there are things we can do to encourage them to be faithful. How can we make teaching the gospel to our children more effective?
“Family Home Evening” (pp. 243–44)
First Presidency—Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H.
Lund, Charles W. Penrose
“To this end we advise and urge the inauguration of a ‘Home Evening’ throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord. . . . “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” (“Home Evening,” Improvement Era, June 1915, 733–34).
Elder Joe J. Christensen
“Hold family home evenings every week without fail. This is a wonderful time to share your testimony with your children. Give them an opportunity to share their feelings about the gospel. Help them learn to recognize when they feel the presence of the Spirit. Family home evenings will help create an island of refuge and security within your own home” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 14; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 12).
“Family Council Processes” (pp. 244–45)
President Ezra Taft Benson
“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. “Successful parents have found that it is not easy to rear children in an environment polluted with evil. Therefore, they take deliberate steps to provide the best of wholesome influences. Moral principles are taught. Good books are made available and read. Television watching is controlled. Good and uplifting music is provided. But most importantly, the scriptures are read and discussed as a means to help develop spiritual-mindedness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 6–7; or Ensign, May 1984, 6).
“I mention family councils because of our persistent emphasis on family unity and family solidarity. By encouraging parents to hold family councils, we imitate in our homes a heavenly pattern” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1979, 124; or Ensign, May 1979, 88).
Elder L. Tom Perry
“I would make the family home evening times on Monday night a family council meeting where children were taught by parents how to prepare for their roles as family members and prospective parents. Family home evening would begin with a family dinner together, followed by a council meeting, where such topics as the following would be discussed and training would be given: temple preparation, missionary preparation, home management, family finances, career development, education, community involvement, cultural improvement, acquisition and care of real and personal property, family planning calendars, use of leisure time, and work assignments. The evening could then be climaxed with a special dessert and time for parents to have individual meetings with each child” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 8–9; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, 9).
“Each family organization should include a family council comprised of all members of the family unit. Here the basic responsibilities of the family organization can be taught to the children. They can learn how to make decisions and act upon those decisions. Too many are growing to marriageable age unprepared for this responsibility. Work ethics and self-preparedness can be taught in a most effective way in a family council. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., has paraphrased an old statement. ‘“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,”’ he would say. ‘But all play and no work makes Jack a useless boy.’ (As quoted by Harold B. Lee, ‘Administering True Charity,’ address delivered at the welfare agricultural meeting, 5 Oct. 1968)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 119; or Ensign, May 1981, 88).
“Good Marriages Bless Children” (pp. 245–46)
President Howard W. Hunter
“You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50).
Elder Delbert L. Stapley
“If parents are immature and cannot settle their differences without anger, fighting, and name-calling, a child becomes most insecure, and as he grows older he is apt to take up with the wrong type of friends just to get away from an unhappy home environment” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 45).
Elder Marvin J. Ashton
“Often parents communicate most effectively with their children by the way they listen to and address each other. Their conversations showing gentleness and love are heard by our ever-alert, impressionable children” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 81; or Ensign, May 1976, 53).
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis
“Perhaps the best gift parents can give their children is to love each other, to enjoy each other, and even to hold hands and demonstrate their love by the manner in which they talk to each other” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 13; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 12).
Bishop Robert D. Hales
“It helps children to see that good parents can have differing opinions and that these differences can be worked out without striking, yelling, or throwing things. They need to see and feel calm communication with respect for each other’s viewpoints so they themselves will know how to work through differences in their own lives” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 10; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 9).
Think of people who you think are exemplary parents. What are their attributes?
Q- Can parents be considered successful if some of their children go astray?
Q- What are the dangers of judging parents by their children’s actions?
Q-Why might parents measure their own success or failure by the behavior of their children?
President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, cautioned: “It is very unfair and unkind to judge conscientious and faithful parents because some of their children rebel or stray from the teachings and love of their parents. Fortunate are the couples who have children and grandchildren who bring them comfort and satisfaction. We should be considerate of those worthy, righteous parents who struggle and suffer with disobedient children. “One of my friends used to say, ‘If you have never had any problems with your children, just wait awhile.’ No one can say with any degree of certainty what their children will do under certain circumstances. When my wise mother-in-law saw other children misbehaving, she used to say, ‘I never say my children would not do that because they might be out doing it right while I am speaking!’ When parents mourn for disobedient and wayward children, we must, with compassion, ‘forbid the casting of the first stone’ [Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 58]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 69–70; or Ensign, May 2003, 67).
Elder Howard W. Hunter
“A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent. Perhaps there are children who have come into the world that would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances. Likewise, perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 94; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 65).
Elder Richard G. Scott
“Some of you have children who do not respond to you, choosing entirely different paths. Father in Heaven has repeatedly had that same experience. While some of His children have used His gift of agency to make choices against His counsel, He continues to love them. Yet, I am sure, He has never blamed Himself for their unwise choices” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).
Q – What insights do these readings provide as to what makes a successful parent?
Q – Why do you think children sometimes choose a path different from that of their righteous parents?
In his vision of the tree of life, Lehi saw that Laman and Lemuel refused to eat the fruit. Lehi spoke these words to his rebellious sons (see 1 Nephi 8:36–38).
- How would you describe Lehi’s teaching approach to his sons in verse 37?
- What impresses you most about what he said and how he said it?
Near the end of his life Lehi spoke again to his wayward sons: 2 Nephi 1:21–23.
- Why would a parent continue to reach out to a disobedient child in spite of years of evidence that the child might not repent?
- What do you think keeps parents from giving up on their children?
- How would you assess Lehi’s effectiveness as a parent?
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a member of the Seventy, said: “May I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . . “The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . . “Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refuses to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process. Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves. . . . “. . . We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 14–15; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 12–14).
Q – How might this counsel help you measure your own success as a parent?
Q – How does this contribute to your understanding of your parents?
Q – How might it help you as you interact with other parents?
President Ezra Taft Benson: “Husbands and wives who love each other will find that love and loyalty are reciprocated. This love will provide a nurturing atmosphere for the emotional growth of children. Family life should be a time of happiness and joy that children can look back on with fond memories and associations” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 59).