The videos on the churches website are both under two minutes. The first, a talk by Elder L. Tom Perry, is timely in that it is the second to last conference talk by Elder Perry. I find it even more interesting in that in our most recent conference, Elder Perry spoke again on the importance of Family and Marriage (Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World). This talk is well worth reviewing in prepartion for this lesson. I particularly liked his quote, near the end, where Elder Perry said: “Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.” Curiosity got the better of me, so I looked up his last 5 talks. In 4 of his last 5 talks, he including sections on the importance of families (the only talk where families were not prominently mentioned was a talk on the Articles of Faith for the Priesthood session in 2012). He knew his earthly mission was nearing an end, and, I believe, his focus and message became more and more centered on the Family.
This talk is a great resource for showing that the message from our leaders hasn’t changed from the message ETB gave us. The second video is M. Russell Ballard discussing a quote on families that was made by Joseph F. Smith: ” There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home, and every effort made to sanctify and preserve its influence is uplifting to those who toil and sacrifice for its establishment… There is no happiness without service, and there is no greater service than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life.” I will use this quote at some point during the lesson.
I will spend more of the discussion time on sections 2 and 4 this week, which is roughly how the lesson is structured anyway, Sections 1 and 5 are very short and section 3 is fairly straightforward.
This seems like an easy lesson, however, it reminds me of all the mistakes I’ve made as a husband and father, to a point I hardly feel qualified to teach it. I am sure I am not the only one that feels this way, so I will keep the focus on what we should be doing, instead of what mistakes we have made. The questions will be directed towards what works for the members of the quorum, and when the discussion wanders towards the mistakes, I will make a point of cutting those comments short and trying to keep them focused on what can we do now to make our Marriage and Family stronger. As always, the italicized sections below are directly from the manual.
From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson
From the beginning of their marriage, Ezra and Flora Benson made their home and family their top priority. When their children were young, they began emphasizing that they wanted their family to have no “empty chairs” in the eternities.1 President Benson emphasized this same message during his service as a Church leader. He said:
“God intended the family to be eternal. With all my soul, I testify to the truth of that declaration. May He bless us to strengthen our homes and the lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there—father, mother, sister, brother, all who hold each other dear. Each chair is filled. We are all back home.
I think this concept is most notable at any family gathering when most of the family is all together, except for one (or two in large families). While it is good to see everyone, there is that feeling that something is missing. I will ask if anyone has felt this way and follow-up with the question, “Can you imagine feeling that way for eternity?”
The standard of behavior the Bensons expected, as well as the priority they gave to the family, centered in the gospel. They worked to create a home where love prevailed, where children learned and developed, and where they had fun. The Bensons wanted their home to be a sanctuary from the world. “That doesn’t mean we didn’t have struggles,” son Reed said. “We didn’t always get along. We didn’t always do our chores. We tested Mother’s patience to the limit at times. But, undergirding it all, was a sense of family unity that we were trying to pull together.” Sister Benson acknowledged: “No one is perfect. In our family it is not our objective to magnify each other’s shortcomings, but to encourage one another to improve.”
This is always tricky, how can we encourage family members to improve without sounding critical?
I will paraphrase the story of ETB’s travel and the joy he felt when Beth ran to him, with tears in her eyes. He described this moment as the best part of the trip, despite all the wonderful sights they have seen. I will share a personal story that is similar.
1 – The family is the most important organization in time and in eternity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views the family as the most important organization in time and all eternity. The Church teaches that everything should center in and around the family. It stresses that the preservation of family life in time and eternity takes precedence above all other interests.
There can be no satisfactory substitute for the home. Its foundation is as ancient as the world. Its mission has been God-ordained.
No nation ever rises above its homes. This Church will never rise above its homes. We are no better as a people than are our firesides, our homes. … The good home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. It must be preserved. It must be strengthened.
2 – In happy marriages, husbands and wives love and serve God and each other.
Marriage, the home, and family are more than mere social institutions. They are divine, not man-made. God ordained marriage from the very beginning. In the record of that first marriage recorded in Genesis, the Lord makes four significant pronouncements: first, that it is not good for man to be alone; second, that woman was created to be a helpmeet for man; third, that they twain should be one flesh; and fourth, that man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. (See Genesis 2:18, 24.)
Marriage itself must be regarded as a sacred covenant before God. A married couple have an obligation not only to each other, but to God. He has promised blessings to those who honor that covenant.
How many of us treat marriage as an afterthought? Something to worry about after our professional development and recreational pursuits are finished? ETB gives us some good advice regarding how we can strengthen our marriages:
Restraint and self-control must be ruling principles in the marriage relationship. Couples must learn to bridle their tongues as well as their passions.
Prayer in the home and prayer with each other will strengthen [a couple’s] union. Gradually thoughts, aspirations, and ideas will merge into a oneness until you are seeking the same purposes and goals.
Rely on the Lord, the teachings of the prophets, and the scriptures for guidance and help, particularly when there may be disagreements and problems.
Spiritual growth comes by solving problems together—not by running from them. Today’s inordinate emphasis on individualism brings egotism and separation. Two individuals becoming “one flesh” is still the Lord’s standard. (See Gen. 2:24.)
The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.
In latter-day revelation the Lord speaks again of this obligation. He said, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). To my knowledge there is only one other thing in all scripture that we are commanded to love with all our hearts, and that is God Himself. Think what that means! (emphasis mine).
Nothing should take priority over our wives, not work, not recreation, not hobbies. ETB asks two questions and gives us the answer at this point in the manual, I will ask the questions and get some responses before reading the rest of the answers:
What does it mean to love someone with all your heart?
It means to love with all your emotional feelings and with all your devotion. Surely when you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, or abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions.
What does it mean to “cleave unto her”?
It means to stay close to her, to be loyal and faithful to her, to communicate with her, and to express your love for her
3 – Strong families cultivate love, respect, and support for each family member.
Let us strengthen the family. Family and individual prayers morning and evening can invite the blessings of the Lord on our households. Mealtime provides a wonderful time to review the activities of the day and to not only feed the body but to feed the spirit as well, with members of the family taking turns reading the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon. Nighttime is a great time for the busy father to go to the bedside of each of his children, to talk with them, answer their questions, and tell them how much they are loved.
How can we do this if our kids are no longer living at home and have children of their own?
Successful families have love and respect for each family member. Family members know they are loved and appreciated. Children feel they are loved by their parents. Thus, they are secure and self-assured.
Strong families cultivate an attribute of effective communication. They talk out their problems, make plans together, and cooperate toward common objectives. Family home evening and family councils are practiced and used as effective tools toward this end.
Every family has problems and challenges. But successful families try to work together toward solutions instead of resorting to criticism and contention. They pray for each other, discuss, and give encouragement. Occasionally these families fast together in support of one of the family members.
Strong families support each other.
4 – The home is the best place for children to learn the principles and practices of the gospel.
This section is full of advice for parents. I will ask the quorum how they did some of these things in their own families.
The family is the most effective place to instill lasting values in its members. Where family life is strong and based on principles and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ, … problems do not as readily appear.
Notice, it does not say that there will never be problems in families that do this, That Free Agency that we fought so hard for can cause heartache as well.
I will paraphrase the advice contained in order to allow for some discussion on how to do these things in our own homes.
- Create and uplifting, clean environment. TV, Music, (the internet), should be monitored for appropriateness.
- Scriptures – Not just read, but discussed as well
- Teach Gospel Principals – 4th Article of Faith
- Daily Family Prayer – Encourage Personal Prayers
- Teach the Commandments, the difference between right and wrong
- Children should be taught to work
- Leisure time should be directed towards wholesome activities
- Family Home Evening
- Debt Free – Full Tithe payers
- Temple Recommends
I will ask at the end of this discussion, when does our obligation to teach our children end? (It doesn’t, in my opinion, and this takes use to the last section…)
5 – God has revealed that the family may endure beyond the grave.
The love we know here is not a fleeting shadow, but the very substance that binds families together for time and eternity.
The closing paragraph sums this lesson up well:
Home and family. What sweet memories surge up in our breasts at the mere mention of these cherished words! May I wish for you prayerfully, and with all the fervor of my soul, that you may know the unspeakable joy and satisfaction of honorable parenthood. You will miss one of the deepest joys of this life and eternity if you wilfully avoid the responsibilities of parenthood and home-building. As revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the glorious concept of home and the enduring family relationship lies at the very basis of our happiness here and hereafter.
(See Elder Perry’s talk mentioned at the beginning of this lesson for something from a recent conference).
LeadingLDS is a site I’ve referenced in the past. This week they called my attention to a talk by F. Burton Howard (Eternal Marriage). Near the end of the talk he tells the story of how his wife treated the silverware. It is well worth the time to read this talk and know the story in preparing this lesson. There are always some good discussion questions on LeadingLDS, this week is no exception, it is suggested to ask, “What does Help Meet (helpmeet) mean? I know the standard answer, but I was curious and found this discussion on this term on the website, Women in the Scriptures, and in an article entitled : The Real Meaning of the Term “Help Meet”. Truly a fascinating explanation that should be required reading in most Priesthood Quorums.