Lessons from Abraham on “Honoring Parents” YW Lesson 9, Manual 1
Posted by Karen on March 21, 2012
(These notes were originally posted at Beginnings New March 15, 2012)
I think that I don’t need to bring up the concern that not every YW has parents that should be fully obeyed and honored in the many ways we would hope they should be. But what then does this lesson teach to someone who doesn’t have the “ideal” parents – and, by looking at that, what does this lesson teach to all of us about what it actually means to honor our parents? I would like to look at Abraham’s story, but first, I want to quote from Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk “Faith of Our Father” from 2008:
What, then, is the faith of our fathers? Is it the religion of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents?
But what of the faith of the ancient ones before them? What of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Are they not our fathers? Are we not of the house of Israel? What of Noah and Enoch and our first parents, Adam and Eve?
What of the Savior and those disciples who followed Him?
The faith of our Father in Heaven has been consistent since the beginning of time, even from before the foundation of this world. John the Revelator described a great war in heaven. The issue was moral agency, as it is today. All who have ever lived on this earth were among those who fought against Satan and stood with the Son and the Father. Therefore, do we not owe our allegiance to God, our Heavenly Father?
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, “we believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” And “we believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” We believe in the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, the plan of salvation, whereby God’s children may experience mortality and return to the presence of the Father—a merciful plan established from before the foundation of this earth.
This is the plan and the faith of our Father!
I think he does something quite interesting to connect faith of our “fathers” to our “Father.” But for now, I want to catch up with him half way through the quotation and run along with that for a few minutes. What of the “ancient ones”? And especially, what of Abraham? How does he relate to this lesson – not only in a general, symbolic way, but actually in a very concrete way?
First, let’s remember Abraham’s story. Looking at the Book of Abraham, we find out that Abraham was also not in one of those picture-perfect families. His father was in the line to receive the full blessings of the priesthood, direct in line from Adam himself, but he didn’t honor that line. Abraham says: ”My fathers, having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen….” Remember this went so far that Abraham’s fathers tried to use him as their sacrifice!
What was Abraham to do? Did “honor” here mean strict obedience, never disappointing his father? I think that question can be answered in several stages. First, he did try to talk to them, to teach them; Abr. 1:5 says that they ”utterly refused to hearken to my voice.” Second, I think he recognized that his fathers meant more than his immediate biological father; it meant a whole line of people strung all the way back to Adam and Eve themselves. (That closeness to the original father and mother is something I envy; sometimes we seem so removed from them.) Third, he says he ”sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same” (Abr 1:2). Even if his own fathers didn’t hold on to that priesthood responsibility, Abraham found a way to receive it and a way to pass it on to others after him. He wanted to honor fatherhood (and this is a strong sense of fatherhood here) by being able to become that kind of father.
Fourth, what Abraham ends up receiving in Abraham 2:9-11 is a promise that not only his family will be blessed, but that through his line (still a very real part of the promise) ”all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.” When Abraham sought to have the blessings of the fathers, he not only received what he needed for him or for his future posterity, but for the whole world. By seeking the rights of the fathers, he could reach out to teach and “win souls” (Abr 2:5) back to God: he could reach out and help to save any father. Any mother. All parents.
It seems to me that Abraham provides a very real example for how to honor our parents too. First, remember to love them even in their weaknesses. Whether they are great examples or not-so-great examples, pray for them and talk to them. Second, we can honor our ancient fathers and mothers. We hold some of the same blessings and powers that they do. We are of important lineages. Perhaps this would be a good time to talk about patriarchal blessings? Perhaps we could spent some time studying the Abrahamic covenant. Third, we can focus on what it means for the young women to be a mother of the covenant someday. (Sis. Beck would be a great resource for that.) What does it mean to be like Sarah? Like Rebecca? Like Rachel? And like Eve? How can we be a valiant mother, in whatever stronger sense they were mothers? What could we learn from Abraham about that covenant – one which belongs specifically to mothers and fathers?
Fourth and finally, what can the youth (and all of us) do to draw in any and all mothers and fathers? What happens when we do family history work? Or missionary work? What do the YW do that influences families for good? How are we saving souls? How are we, like and literally as Abraham’s family, blessing ”all the families of the earth … even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal”? How does blessing a mother or a father bless a whole family?
I think Abraham has a lot to teach us here. And all of these questions seem to me to be invaluable for thinking what it might mean to be one who fully “honors parents.”