Creating an Ideal Family
One of my favorite lines in my patriarchal blessing says something to the effect that "you will always have peace, love, and harmony in your home." As a teenager I turned to that time and time again, and studied and pondered what it would take to realize that blessing, understanding that for each blessing there's an underlying commandment to be kept. I didn't have The Family: A Proclamation to the World to turn to, since it wasn't given until after all our children were born; however, I did have plenty of guidance. And since the truths taught in the Family Proclamation are eternal, I really did have the same guidelines.
First I knew that I would need to start my family in the correct way, through marriage in the temple. Then my husband and I would need to teach our children correct principles, and those are best taught through example. It would take hard work and diligent effort to realize that blessing of peace and love and harmony. Yet we were willing to put forth that effort, and the blessings were realized. It really is the little things that make the difference. And, of course, we totally recognize that we were sent spirits that made our job much easier.
During those crazy years of a filled house, one of my favorite talks was one given by Elder Richard G. Scott called "First Things First." Here are some of the lines that provided encouragement and help:
Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family. It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them. With a mother in the home in an environment of love and service, the parents teach their children, through example and precept, the ways of the Lord and His truths. They fulfill their divinely appointed roles mentioned in the family proclamation. Their children mature by living teachings instilled from birth. They develop characteristics of obedience, integrity, love of God, and faith in His holy plan. In due course, each of those children seeks a companion with similar ideals and aspirations. They are sealed in the temple, bear children, and the eternal plan continues, with generation strengthening generation.
Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family. To help you do that, ponder and apply the principles in the proclamation on the family.
Satan and his hosts will do all in their power to keep you from obtaining the ordinances required for the ideal family. He will attempt to distract you from centering your mind and heart on raising a strong family by nurturing your children as the Lord requires.
Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do or so many challenges pressing down upon you that it is hard to keep focused on that which is essential? When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill life with “good things” so there is no room for the essential ones. Have you unconsciously been caught in that trap?
Each of us needs to periodically check our bearings and confirm that we are on course. Sometime soon you may benefit from taking this personal inventory: What are my highest priorities to be accomplished while on earth? How do I use my discretionary time? Is some of it consistently applied to my highest priorities? Is there anything I know I should not be doing? If so, I will repent and stop it now. In a quiet moment write down your responses. Analyze them. Make any necessary adjustments. Put first things first.
Now that half of our children have started their own families, and the other half have left home to pursue their education, my role has changed. I'm still figuring it out! But I know that families are important and families are eternal. I will always be my children's mother. Now I'm a grandmother, too. What can I do to help these sweet, precious pre-schoolers gain an understanding of the importance of families?
Sister Beck gave some wonderful advice to parents. I'm grateful that I can say we did our best to follow this counsel when our children were young, and we'll continue to follow it in our "empty nest," and in addition we'll encourage our grown children to live what they've been taught. (So far, they're doing an admirable job!) She said:
Parents, teachers, and leaders: live in your homes, in your families, in your marriages so that youth will develop hope for eternal life from watching you. Live and teach with so much clarity that what you teach will cut through all the noise youth are hearing and so that it will pierce their hearts and touch them.
Live in your home so that you’re brilliant in the basics, so that you’re intentional about your roles and responsibilities in the family. Think in terms of precision not perfection. If you have your goals and you are precise in how you go about them in your homes, youth will learn from you. They will learn that you pray, study the scriptures together, have family home evening, make a priority of mealtimes, and speak respectfully of your marriage partner. Then from your example the rising generation will gain great hope.
This generation will be called upon to defend the doctrine of the family as never before. If they don’t know the doctrine, they can’t defend it.
Recently I was introduced to a book by Catherine Steiner-Adair talking about the challenges that technology brings into raising strong families. It was quite interesting and eye-opening. We had to come up with rules and regulations concerning television and computers and electronic games while raising children, but we didn't have to deal with the internet and cell phones until the very end. Today's parents do.
Here's just one of her thoughts that resonated with me:
Closeness counts. There is no substitute for genuine felt connection. We cannot control the culture outside our homes, but as parents we can create the culture we choose inside our families and communities. Our children need us to step into that role, reclaim our parental authority to "know what's best," dig deep for resolve, and tap the resources available to help us do it. Especially in today's tech-oriented environment, it is in the humanizing qualities of family and empathy, of a protected childhood rich in play, with sheltered time for reflection and conversation that closeness grows.
I also appreciated this quote which goes along with the principle to plan ahead, to be aware of natural consequences, to keep the big picture in mind, and to be conscious and deliberate in all phases of life, but particularly in parenting:
Strategic thinking sounds complicated, but it is not, and it is a lot simpler than crisis intervention.
I'm grateful we have living prophets to guide and direct us. Family is important. Family is eternal. The ideal family is possible, and the greatest joy imaginable comes into our lives through family.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Elder Richard G. Scott - First Things First
Sister Julie B. Beck - Teaching the Doctrine of the Family
Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD -The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age
This post is part of the annual "Celebrate the Family Proclamation" blog event. For more articles on the proclamation and the importance of families visit Chocolate on my Cranium, Mormon Mommy Blogs, and A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman. I've enjoyed participating for the past few years; it's a great forum for strengthening our testimonies of the importance of families.