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RS/MP Chapter 4: Strengthening and Preserving the Family (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by kirkcaudle on February 13, 2014

The first line of this lesson quotes Joseph Fielding Smith saying, “The family is the most important organization in time or in eternity.” For my notes this month I will provide some thoughts on three scriptures pertaining to the importance of the family and how we might strengthen our own. Find the entire lesson here.

 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6)

Often this is verse is taken to mean something like, “if you raise your child in the church then they will never leave the church.” Of course, we have all seen cases where this just hasn’t been true. There are many parents who have been great parents and members of the church, yet, their children leave.

When I read this verse I think about principles and morals. If parents instill good morals and principles within their children when they are young then they will very likely carry those things with them throughout their lives.  We are very influenced by the things that they we learn when we are young. You can be the best parent in the world and your child might still very well leave the church. However, if you teach your children to love others and to be charitable they have a high chance of carrying those traits into adulthood regardless of their religious decisions in life.

“And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off; yea, my father did preach unto them” (1 Ne. 8:37)

Lehi is an example of a good parent who had children who disagreed with his faith. It is instructive to consider how Lehi handled these children. He did not yell at them, tell them that they were stupid, or demean them. Rather, he talked to them “with all the feeling of a tender parent” in hopes that “the Lord would be merciful to them.”

I often feel like my own children feel my words more than they hear my words. In other words, they might not be hearing what I tell them when I am upset, but I can tell by their body language if they think that I am talking to them as a “tender parent” or as an “angry parent.” No matter what my actual words are, the message will be missed if the tenderness is not felt on some level. Even when we are upset, speaking with tenderness will keep a loving relationship alive, while anger will most often result in hurt feelings and rebellion.

Another lesson that we can learn from Lehi here is how important it is to keep a family together despite our differences. It is easy to stop associating with a family member because he or she has chosen a different path than your own (religious, political, social, etc.). No matter what choices his sons made, Lehi always stood by their sides and continued to invite them to be part of the family.  Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The gospel is family centered; it must be lived in the family.” It seems to me that Lehi had a similar attitude. Regardless of the choices that his sons made, Lehi refused to oust them from the family.

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119)

An organized house is a happy house. I am not necessarily speaking about organization as in cleanliness here, but more in terms of predictableness. In my experience, children work best when they know what to expect. My kids like to know what time dinner is, when they can use the computer, what time we are going to church, what time we say our prayers, etc.

I believe that organization in the household brings unity because everyone knows what to expect from one another. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Family unity and family commitment to the gospel are so important that the adversary has turned much of his attention to the destruction of families in our society. On every side there is an attack on the basic integrity of the family as the foundation of what is good and noble in life. “An organized family can guard against these things by scheduling worthwhile activities together during the week.

6 Responses to “RS/MP Chapter 4: Strengthening and Preserving the Family (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)”

  1. DavidH said

    Interesting that an alternative reading of the English translation of the “train up a child” passage is that the promise of the child’s not departing is for when the child “is old.” That squares with LDS sociological data (and that of other faiths) that most people disengage or stop believing in the faith of their childhood for a period of time as adults, but most of those actually return before they are “old” (in their 50s or 60s). (Albrecht, Stan, Marie Cornwall, and Perry H. Cunningham. 1988. Religious Leave-Taking, Disengagement and Disaffiliation among Mormons. In Falling From the Faith, Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy, edited by D. G. Bromley. Newbury Park, Bevery Hills, London, New Dehli: Sage Publications.)

  2. JKC said

    Yeah, Nephi says that Lehi spoke to Laman and Lemuel “with all the feeling of a tender parent.” I’m sure that Laman and Lemuel might have a different description. I’m not sure that telling your sons they they need to be more like their brother and constantly praising Nephi’s righteousness (even if it is true) is really all that tender. I think some of his statements could be read as demeaning. All this is to say that I agree with the principle of speaking with tenderness, but I think Lehi, while he shows some moments of greatness, should not be taken, in all his dealings with his sons, as the gold standard.

  3. kirkcaudle said

    JCK, fair enough. This is also written from Nephi’s point of view, so we have to take that into account for sure. Nevertheless, I still believe that Laman and Lemuel felt loved by Lehi. If they didn’t, it seems like they would have bolted.

  4. kirkcaudle said

    David, I was going to put something about that, but I didn’t want to without a good reference. So thank you!

  5. JKC said

    That’s a good point, Kirk. The fact that they waited until Lehi’s death to strike out on their own may have something to say about the relationship between Lehi and his older sons.

  6. Kathleen McNaughton said

    There were a lot of things going on a far as family dynamics when Lehi was told to take his family and travel to an unknown destination leaving everything else behind. Communication between fathers and sons may well have been spoken differently; say, in terms they were familiar with and understood. Lehi’s oldest sons grew up during his prosperity and did not understand Lehi’s sudden prophet status. Nor were they willing to leave the prosperity and comfort completely behind and believe that all of Jerusalem was wicked. It was a big change. But they respected him as their father and head of the household and allowed him to lead them away “because we would harken unto his words.” After that they just couldn’t get over the loss and all the tender feelings of a parent were not penetrating the darkness they surrounded themselves with because they would not understand, because they didn’t want to. They wanted to be in Jerusalem.
    Likewise for myself, after reading the descriptions given by the wife and children of Joseph F Smith about his behavior at home towards them I was enlightened and amazed. He had always seemed strict, straight laced, and hard core to me, and I thought this years study was going to be difficult for me to stay interested in. But every time I read a new lesson I see his tenderness, kindness and great love for all and I feel apologetic for not recognizing what a great man he was. I can see Lehi standing in the wilderness resting his hands on the shoulders of his sons and saying “I wish my sons would be good.” That is what he said, you know.

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