Strengthening Families: Our Sacred
Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Ensign, May 1999, pp. 32-34
Strengthening families is our
sacred duty as parents, children, extended
family members, leaders, teachers, and individual members of the
The importance of spiritually
strengthening families is taught clearly
in the scriptures. Father Adam and Mother Eve taught their sons and
the gospel. The sacrifices of Abel were accepted by the Lord, whom he
Cain, on the other hand, "loved Satan more than God" and committed
sins. Adam and Eve "mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his
but they never ceased to teach their children the gospel (see Moses
18, 20, 27; Moses 6:1, 58).
We must understand that each
of our children comes with varying gifts
and talents. Some, like Abel, seem to be given gifts of faith at birth.
Others struggle with every decision they make. As parents, we should
let the searching and struggling of our children make us waver or lose
our faith in the Lord.
Alma the Younger, when "racked
with torment … [and] harrowed up by the
memory of [his] many sins," remembered hearing his father teach about
coming of "Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the
(Alma 36:17). His father's words led to his conversion. In like manner,
our teaching and testimony will be remembered by our children.
The 2,000 stripling warriors
in the army of Helaman testified that their
righteous mothers had powerfully taught gospel principles to them (see
At a time of great spiritual
searching, Enos said, "The words which
I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life … sunk deep
my heart" (Enos 1:3).
In the Doctrine and Covenants
the Lord says that parents are to teach
their children "to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in
the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy
by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old. …
"And they shall also teach
their children to pray, and to walk uprightly
before the Lord" (D&C 68:25, 28).
As we teach our children the
gospel through word and example, our families
are spiritually strengthened and fortified.
The words of living prophets
are clear regarding our sacred duty to
strengthen our families spiritually. In 1995 the First Presidency and
Council of the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation to the world,
that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal
of His children. … Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to
and care for each other and for their children. … Parents have a sacred
duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for
physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one
[and] to observe the commandments of God" ("The Family: A Proclamation
to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; Liahona, June
In February of this year, the
First Presidency issued a call to all
parents "to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of
children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church.
The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality
can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying
this God-given responsibility."
In the February letter, the
First Presidency taught that by teaching
and rearing children in gospel principles, parents can protect their
from corrosive elements. They further counseled parents and children
give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel
and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and
other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to
the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can
perform" (First Presidency letter, 11 Feb. 1999; cited in Church
27 Feb. 1999, 3).
With the help of the Lord and
His doctrine, all the hurtful effects
from challenges a family may meet can be understood and overcome.
the needs of family members may be, we can strengthen our families as
follow the counsel given by prophets.
The key to strengthening our
families is having the Spirit of the Lord
come into our homes. The
goal of our families is to be on the strait and
Countless things can be done
within the walls of our homes to strengthen
the family. May I share a few ideas that may help identify the areas
need strengthening in our own families. I offer them in a spirit of
knowing that each family--and each family member--is unique.
- Make our homes a safe place
where each family member feels love and
a sense of belonging. Realize that each child has varying gifts and
each is an individual requiring special love and care.
- Remember, "a soft answer
turneth away wrath" (Prov. 15:1). When my
sweetheart and I were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, Elder Harold B.
gave us wise counsel: "When you raise your voice in anger, the Spirit
from your home." We must never, out of anger, lock the door of our home
or our heart to our children. Like the prodigal son, our children need
to know that when they come to themselves they can turn to us for love
- Spend individual time with
our children, letting them choose the activity
and the subject of conversation. Block out distractions.
- Encourage our
private religious behavior, such as personal
prayer, personal scripture study, and fasting for specific needs.
their spiritual growth by observing their demeanor, language, and
- Pray daily with our
- Read the scriptures
together. I remember my own mother and father
reading the scriptures as we children sat on the floor and listened.
they would ask, "What does that scripture mean to you?" or "How does it
make you feel?" Then they would listen to us as we responded in our own
- Read the words of the living
prophets and other inspiring articles
for children, youth, and adults in Church magazines.
- We can fill our homes with
the sound of worthy music as we sing together
from the hymnbook and the Children's Songbook.
- Hold family home evening
every week. As parents, we are sometimes
too intimidated to teach or testify to our children. I have been guilty
of that in my own life. Our children need to have us share spiritual
with them and to teach and bear testimony to them.
- Hold family councils to
discuss family plans and concerns. Some of
the most effective family councils are one on one with each family
Help our children know their ideas are important. Listen to them and
- Invite missionaries to teach
less-active or nonmember friends in our
- Show that we sustain and
support Church leaders.
- Eat together when possible,
and have meaningful mealtime discussions.
- Work together as a family,
even if it may be faster and easier to
do the job ourselves. Talk with our sons and daughters as we work
I had that opportunity every Saturday with my father.
- Help our children learn how
to build good friendships and make their
friends feel welcome in our homes. Get to know the parents of the
of our children.
- Teach our children by
example how to budget time and resources. Help
them learn self-reliance and the importance of preparing for the
- Teach our children the
history of our ancestors and of our own family
- Build family traditions.
Plan and carry out meaningful vacations together,
considering our children's needs, talents, and abilities. Help them
happy memories, improve their talents, and build their feelings of
- By word and example, teach
moral values and a commitment to obeying
- After my baptism and
confirmation, my mother drew me aside and asked,
"What do you feel?" I described as best I could the warm feeling of
comfort, and happiness I had. Mother explained that what I was feeling
was the gift I had just received, the gift of the Holy Ghost. She told
me that if I lived worthy of it, I would have that gift with me
That was a teaching moment that has lived with me all my life.
Teach our children the
significance of baptism and confirmation, receiving
the gift of the Holy Ghost, partaking of the sacrament, honoring the
and making and keeping temple covenants. They need to know the
of living worthy of a temple recommend and preparing for a temple
- If you have not yet been
sealed in the temple to your spouse or children,
work as a family to receive temple blessings. Set temple goals as a
- Be worthy of the priesthood
which you hold, brethren, and use it to
bless the lives of your family.
- Through the power of the
Melchizedek Priesthood, dedicate our homes.
Resources are available
outside the home. Wise use of them will strengthen
- Encourage our children to
serve in the Church and community.
- Talk to our children's
teachers, coaches, counselors, advisers, and
Church leaders about our concerns and the needs of our children.
- Know what our children are
doing in their spare time. Influence their
choice of movies, television programs, and videos. If they are on the
know what they are doing. Help them see the importance of wholesome
- Encourage worthwhile school
activities. Know what our children are
studying. Help them with their homework. Help them realize the
of education and of preparing for employment and self-sufficiency.
- Young women: Attend Relief
Society when you reach your 18th birthday.
Some of you may be reluctant to make that transition. You may fear that
you won't fit in. My young sisters, this is not the case. There is much
in Relief Society for you. It can be a blessing to you throughout your
- Young men: Honor the
Priesthood. It is the preparatory priesthood,
preparing you for the Melchizedek Priesthood. Become fully active in
elders quorum when you are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The
brotherhood, the quorum instruction, and the opportunities to serve
will bless you and your family throughout your life.
Every family can be
strengthened in one way or another if the Spirit
of the Lord is brought into our homes and we teach by His example.
- Act with faith; don't react
with fear. When our teenagers begin testing
family values, parents need to go to the Lord for guidance on the
needs of each family member. This is the time for added love and
and to reinforce your teachings on how to make choices. It is
to allow our children to learn from the mistakes they may make, but
willingness to choose the Lord's way and family values is greater when
the choice comes from within than when we attempt to force those values
upon them. The Lord's way of love and acceptance is better than Satan's
way of force and coercion, especially in rearing teenagers.
- Remember the Prophet Joseph
Smith's words: "Nothing is so much calculated
to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch
them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love
to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has
a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding
- While we may despair when,
after all we can do, some of our children
stray from the path of righteousness, the words of Orson F. Whitney can
comfort us: "Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the
is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of
Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold.
in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to
their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a
thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal,
to a loving and forgiving [mother's and] father's heart and home, the
experience will not have been in vain. Pray for [our] careless and
children; hold on to them with [our] faith. Hope on, trust on, till you
see the salvation of God" (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr.
- What if you are single or
have not been blessed with children? Do
you need to be concerned about the counsel regarding families? Yes. It
is something we all need to learn in earth life. Unmarried adult
can often lend a special kind of strength to the family, becoming a
source of support, acceptance, and love to their families and the
of those around them.
- Many adult members of
extended family do much parenting in their
own right. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nieces
and nephews, cousins, and other family members can have great impact on
the family. I want to express my appreciation for those in my own
family who have guided me by their example and testimony. Sometimes
family members can say things parents cannot say without starting an
After a long heart-to-heart discussion with her mother, one young woman
said: "It would be awful to tell you and Dad I had done something
But it would be worse to tell Aunt Susan. I just couldn't let her
Knowing that we are in
mortality to learn and to develop our faith,
we should understand that there must be opposition in all things.
a family council in my own home, my wife said, "When you may think that
someone has a perfect family, you just do not know them well enough."
Brothers and sisters, as
parents let us heed the admonition, even the
rebuke, given by the Lord to Joseph Smith and the leaders of the Church
in 1833 to "set in order [our] own house" (D&C 93:43). "I have
you to bring up your children in light and truth" (D&C 93:40). "Set
in order [our] family, and see that they are more diligent and
at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place"
The prophets of our day have
given a similar admonition and warning
to parents to set in order our families. May we be blessed with the
and love to meet opposition with faith within our families. We will
know that our trials are to draw us closer to the Lord and to one
May we listen to a prophet's voice and set in order our own homes (see
D&C 93:41-49). The family is strengthened as we draw near to the
and each member of the family is strengthened as we lift and strengthen
and love and care for one another. "Thee lift me and I'll lift thee,
we'll ascend together" (Quaker proverb).
May we be able to
welcome and maintain the Spirit of the Lord in our
homes to strengthen our families. That each of our family members can
on the "strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life" (2 Ne.
I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.