- No matter how evil the world becomes, our families can be at peace. If we do what’s right, we will be guided and protected. The hymn often sung by our pioneer ancestors tells us what to do: “Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. / Our God will never us forsake.” That courage and faith is what we need as parents and families in these latter days.
Children have their agency and can take courses in their life that cause us to worry and wonder what we could have done differently to help them make better choices. When these times happen, we need to make sure our faith is not weakened and that we are strong in our faith. Our children need to see us as a steady example of how happiness comes to our lives.
- We too must have the faith to teach our children and bid them to keep the commandments. We should not let their choices weaken our faith. Our worthiness will not be measured according to their righteousness.
- Sometimes as parents we feel we have failed when our children make mistakes or stray. Parents are never failures when they do their best to love, teach, pray, and care for their children. Their faith, prayers, and efforts will be consecrated to the good of their children.
He shares that no family is perfect. We all have issues that are part of mortality. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the greatest hope for those challenges and if we live the gospel, we have the greatest chance at happiness in this life and the next.
- I want to remind all of us today that no family has reached perfection. All families are subject to the conditions of mortality. All of us are given the gift of agency—to choose for ourselves and to learn from the consequences of our choices.
- Any of us may experience a spouse, a child, a parent, or a member of our extended family suffering in one way or another—mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually—and we may experience these tribulations ourselves at times. In short, mortality is not easy.
- Each family has its own special circumstances. But the gospel of Jesus Christ addresses every challenge—which is why we must teach it to our children.
Elder Hales shares with us 5 things we can do as parents to strengthen our families.
HOLD FAMILY COUNCILS
- Hold family councils. Sometimes we are afraid of our children—afraid to counsel with them for fear of offending them. There are priceless blessings to be obtained from counseling together with our families, showing a genuine interest in the lives of our family members. Occasionally, family councils may involve all family members as part of a family home evening or other special gatherings. But we should regularly counsel with each of our children individually.
- Without this one-on-one counseling together with our children, they are prone to believe that Dad and Mom, or Grandpa and Grandma, don’t understand or care about the challenges they are facing.
- As we listen with love and refrain from interrupting, the Spirit will help us learn how we can be of help to our children and teach them.
LEAVE THE DOOR TO OUR HEARTS OPEN
- Sometimes when our teachings aren’t heeded and when our expectations are not met, we need to remind ourselves to leave the door to our hearts open.
- In the parable of the prodigal son, we find a powerful lesson for families and especially parents. After the younger son “came to himself,” he decided to go home.
- How did he know his father wouldn’t reject him? Because he knew his father. Through the inevitable misunderstandings, conflicts, and follies of the son’s youth, I can visualize his father being there with an understanding and compassionate heart, a soft answer, a listening ear, and a forgiving embrace. I can also imagine his son knowing he could come home because he knew the kind of home that was awaiting him. For the scriptures say, “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
- I testify that our Heavenly Father leaves the door open. I also testify that it is never too late to open the door between us and our children with simple words such as “I love you,” “I am sorry,” and “Please forgive me.” We can begin now to create a home they will want to return to—not only now but in the eternities.
LIKEN THE SCRIPTURES TO OUR LIVES
- With the door to our hearts open, we should learn how to liken the scriptures to our lives. As parents, we have the responsibility to help our children to “liken all scriptures [indeed, every part of the gospel of Jesus Christ] unto us [and unto our children], … for [the] profit and learning [of our families].”
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERYDAY TEACHING MOMENTS
- Are we likening all of our children’s gospel experiences to the real needs in their lives? Are we teaching them about the gift of the Holy Ghost, repentance, the Atonement, the sacrament, and the blessing of sacrament meeting as they meet the challenges in their lives? There is not enough time in formal meetings to teach our children everything they need to know. Therefore, we must take advantage of everyday teaching moments.
- These moments are priceless. They come when we are working, playing, and struggling together. When they come, the Spirit of the Lord can help us know what to say and help our children accept our teaching.
TRUST THE GOOD SHEPHERD
- What a joy and blessing to have the Spirit in our homes! And what a blessing it is to invite it through prayer, studying the scriptures, speaking kindly, and showing appreciation to one another! Let us prepare our teaching moments by praying as Alma prayed for his son, “with much faith” and all the energy of our souls; by fasting, searching the scriptures, repenting of our sins, and allowing the Holy Ghost to fill our hearts with love, forgiveness, and compassion. And then it will fill our homes. Then, let us trust the Good Shepherd.
When our children make unwise decisions, remember the Savior does not turn away from them and that these experiences can be a strength to them in the future.
- Through it all, we will sorrow to see our family members suffer the slings and arrows of mortality. But we will stand all amazed at the love our Savior offers them. Because of Him, the buffetings need not defeat and destroy them but can soften, strengthen, and sanctify them.
Finally, Elder Hales shares with us the words of Orson F. Whitney telling us about some of the teachings of Joseph Smith. These words bring hope, faith, and encouragement to us as we realize the promises of the temple are real and eternal families are a reality in this and the next life.
- Parents can take great comfort in the words of Elder Orson F. Whitney relating the teachings of Joseph Smith:
- “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay 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 father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”
These words are so encouraging to me at this point in my life. I have lots of struggles being a good parent. I make big mistakes, I fail at being the ideal parent, my family is far from the perfect Mormon family that we all think everyone else is. But I have hope that the challenges that are part of our lives will bring us to a better place. My children know of my testimony of the gospel. They know that true happiness only comes from living the principles that the gospel teaches. They know that they have an anchor of the gospel in my life and that they can rely on that anchor in their storms of life. We all have shortcomings, but it is my hope that where I fall short, the Savior and the Atonement will make up for my weaknesses. I know this happens, I know the Atonement not only forgives sin but makes all things right. I have seen it in my life, the life of my family, and the lives of those that follow the right path.