Sunday, August 10, 2014

Strengthening Home and Family

A three weeks ago a few members of my family were asked to speak in church with the topic, "Ways we can strengthen home and family". Here is my talk. I hope some of the ideas will help inspire you and your family!

My talk today is on “Strengthening Home and Family”. This topic is so important that it has its own section dedicated to it in the Church Handbook of Instructions. We are taught in the Family Proclamation that all of our endeavors in this life are “designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” The Proclamation also says, “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children”.

 In the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, we are taught that “being part of a family is a great blessing. … Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan”. 

At the same time, we need to remember that eternal families are made up of individuals. So it is up to us as parents to establish and adapt “patterns of righteousness” in our families. The Lord is depending on us to assist Him in the exaltation of our eternal families. 

In a General Conference talk given in April, 1991, Sister Janette C. Hales (then 2nd Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency) taught about these “patterns of righteousness”: 
Patterns are meant to be repeated. A pattern of righteousness is worthy of duplication… When we establish a pattern of righteousness in our lives, we commit to our Heavenly Father to do all in our power to help others reproduce this pattern in their lives. This can happen over and over until, as it says in Isaiah, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9.) 

So how are we going to do this as parents? I am going to focus on a few “patterns of righteousness” that I have found important in our personal family’s progression. And my husband, Scott, will talk about a few others during his talk. 

The first “pattern of righteousness” that I would like to discuss is prayer. Seeking the help of the Lord daily through prayer will bring great blessings to your family. Families need different things at different times. Staying close to the Lord, through personal and family prayers, allows the Spirit to direct us in our efforts to parent these spirit children of our Father in Heaven. 

To help my boys learn this pattern of righteousness, we have them offer prayers whenever and wherever we can. Of course, there are the normal opportunities to give prayers at mealtimes; and in our family, no one is exempt from the opportunity to pray regardless of age. Often, the older boys assist the younger brothers with their prayers whenever they get to a sticking point. While standard phrases will often creep into these prayers, it is important to understand that our children are attempting to “model” the prayers that they are hearing offered by others. As they spiritually mature, they will seek to avoid the vain repetitions and will attempt to put greater thought into the words that are being offered in their prayers. 

Another important thing to remember in our attempt to teach our children about prayers is to never be critical of the things that our children offer during their prayers. As we are taught in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord looketh upon the heart” and so he already understands the intent behind the prayer; even if the words do not match. If we were to criticize the prayers that our children offer, it may cause them to no longer develop this pattern of righteousness and their progress in the gospel could be stifled. Prayer is such a great pattern of righteousness!! 

The second “pattern of righteousness” that I would like to discuss is scripture study. As you personally study the scriptures, you will come to know the Savior and His teachings. Consider how you as parents can share your understanding of the scriptures with your family during family study. 

Elder Richard G. Scott, in a General Conference Address in October 2011, said, “Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high.” 

Proverbs 3: 5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” 

Doctrine and Covenants 11: 21 says: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men”. 

For this reason, we have found this to be a very important “pattern of righteousness” to instill in our children; a love of scripture study. We further invite them to memorize the Articles of Faith and Scripture Mastery scriptures as a crucial start to the building of a collection of the “packets of light” that Elder Scott spoke of in his talk. By having these pearls memorized, our children can refer and reflect upon them at various points in their lives without having the Standard Works right in front of them. 


The third “pattern of righteousness” is love and service. One thing that I hope that every one of my children understands is how much I love them. It is not a mistake that love and service is a “pattern of righteousness” that directly follows scripture study. Once we learn about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, it is natural to want to learn how to love and serve the members of our families. 

For this reason, it is important for us as parents to teach our children that their actions are a manifestation of their knowledge and beliefs. As they learn to show their love for others, they can demonstrate that love through service. The Lord taught this principle to us throughout his daily life because he was constantly serving those that he loved… his brothers and sisters. 

 In our family, as you heard Jackson discuss in his talk, we have a family mantra: “BROTHERS FIRST!” It was important to us to them to learn to put the needs of their brothers BEFORE the needs and wants of their friends. To help reinforce this concept, we have implemented the use of Mason jars and fuzzy balls. Each time that Scott or I see the boys performing an act of service for a family member, they can earn a fuzzy ball that goes in the jar that is labeled with their name. When their jar is full, they earn a reward that they have previously selected. This jar is then emptied and the “pattern of righteousness” begins again. Some of the boys are better at this principle than others, and so they earn fuzzy balls faster. But everyone is afforded the same opportunity.

The last “pattern of righteousness” that I would like to discuss is testimony. We are taught by the Apostle John in Revelations that our testimonies were one of two weapons that we used in the pre-existence to fend off Lucifer and his angels.

Revelations 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” 

 So we can see from this scripture that our testimonies were a vital resource to us in the War in Heaven. And I think that it is no different in the war that we wage in this life against Satan and his angels. Our children need to be given the opportunity to develop their testimonies and share them with us on a regular basis. 

In our family, the way that we do this is on Sundays. We hold mini Family Home Evenings. We set aside time after church in the evening to come together as a family to feel the spirit and to learn more about gospel principals. The children are asked to give mini-talks and bear their testimonies. They do not know the topics ahead of time, and when the time comes, I have little slips of paper that are cut up in a bowl. Each child comes forward and draws a slip of paper with a gospel topic written on it. They then go to the front and talk for 2-3 minutes about the topic that they have been given. At the end, they conclude by bearing their testimonies. The younger kids can singing a primary song by heart or recite an article of Faith. 

This practice in our family has not only allowed them to become more confident in presenting their ideas and knowledge about various gospel topics, but it has also helped their testimonies to grow. I know that this “pattern of righteousness” is one that will greatly serve them when they leave to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Brothers and Sisters, it is my prayer that we can teach our children the importance of developing “patterns of righteousness” in their lives. I hope that you will go home and explore the specific patterns that you hope to teach your children. Realize that our Heavenly Father has promised us his blessings as we teach our children the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He will support us in our endeavors, but we must persevere despite the adversities that may arise in our parenting attempts. 

I would like to conclude by bearing my testimony. [BEARING OF TESTIMONY] 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.