First Presidency Message: “Therefore I Was Taught”
By President Spencer W. Kimball
Spencer W. Kimball, “Therefore I Was Taught,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 3.
The Lord has inspired his Church to place great emphasis on building family unity and faith in God. In a day when the sanctity of the home is being invaded and the care of children has been regarded lightly, we continue to stress the urgent need for couples, for parents and children, and for single adult individuals living alone to study and live the principles of truth, with special attention to nurturing love and harmony within their family circles. Such love will successfully withstand the heavy onslaughts of Satan’s efforts in these last days.
It is the divine role of parents to teach the truths of the gospel to their children. Consequently, we recently asked that this statement be read in all our sacrament meetings:
“The First Presidency frequently emphasizes the importance of weekly family home evenings as a prime opportunity for parents to teach and strengthen their families. In addition to family gospel study on Sundays, Monday nights are reserved for family home evening, which may include instruction in gospel principles, love, and harmony, and may include other family activities.”
We ask that parents and leaders give this theme powerful emphasis, for closeness to our Father in Heaven and a constant spirituality in our lives is our greatest need as individuals and as a people. A true Latter-day Saint (or Mormon) home is a haven against the storms and struggles of life. Spirituality is born and nurtured by daily prayer, scripture study, home gospel discussions and related activities, home evenings, family councils, working and playing together, serving each other, and sharing the gospel with those around us. Spirituality is also nurtured in our actions of patience, kindness, and forgiveness toward each other and in our applying gospel principles in the family circle. Home is where we become experts and scholars in gospel righteousness, learning and living gospel truths together.
As a youth, and with my wife and children in our own home, I remember our beloved family activities. Heaven was in our home. When each person did something, whether it was sing a song, lead a game, recite an article of faith, tell a story, share a talent, or perform an assignment, there was growth and good feeling.
We encourage a thoughtful and prayerful review of the suggestions the Brethren have felt to approve for your consideration in planning Sabbath, home evening, and other weekday activities in our homes:
“As we plan our Sunday activities, we may want to set aside time for our family to be together, for personal study and meditation, and for service to others. We might want to read the scriptures, conference reports, and Church publications; study the lives and teachings of the prophets; prepare church lessons and other church assignments; write in journals; pray and meditate; write to or visit relatives and friends; write to missionaries; enjoy uplifting music; have family gospel instruction; hold family council meetings; build husband-wife relationships; read with a child; do genealogical research, including the four-generation program and family or personal histories; sing Church hymns; read uplifting literature; develop our appreciation for the cultural arts; plan family home evening study and activities; plan other family activities; friendship nonmembers; fellowship neighbors; visit the sick, the aged, and the lonely; hold interviews with family members. …
“Monday evening activities might include any of the activities suggested for Sundays; lessons from family home evening manuals; family games; cultural events; family service projects; sharing talents with family members; home beautification projects; gardening; inventory of year’s supply; other food storage projects; home production projects; planning for vacations and special activities; family council meetings; planning or participating in a physical fitness program; fellowshipping nonmember friends; recreational activities.” (“Our Family,” Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, pp. 2–3.)
With prayerful attention to these suggestions, family leaders can make wise and inspired decisions. We hope that single adult individuals, couples, parents, and children are using the added time that has come from the Sunday consolidated schedule to achieve these purposes. We must remember that it is of fundamental importance to teach children and each other the truths of the gospel as they apply to a righteous way of life. What a powerful influence can be this period each week—worshipping, learning, discussing, and fulfilling righteous purposes and activities on Sunday, and being together Monday evening for family activity, discussion, or whatever is righteously needed.
We encourage you to be guided by the Spirit in managing these precious days and hours, indeed in managing with flexibility all of the precious hours and days of your lives.
We can see that not all activities we could engage in are of equal weight, even though they may appropriately be a part of a spiritually balanced family unity development program. Some concerns have higher priorities. We remember the words of Nephi as he counseled: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look.” (2 Nephi 25:26.) What inner strength would be in every person if he knew that the Master and His teachings were indeed his great source of guidance, his great source of correct example, his great source of help! That is our prime goal in all our teaching in the home.
Our Father in Heaven has given us the blessing of prayer to help us succeed in our all-important activities of home and life. I know that if we pray fervently and righteously, individually and as a family, when we arise in the morning and when we retire at night, and around our tables at mealtime, we will not only knit together as loved ones but we will grow spiritually. We have so much need for our Heavenly Father’s help as we seek to learn gospel truths and then live them, and as we seek his help in the decisions of our lives. It is especially in our family circles where our children can learn how to talk to Heavenly Father by listening to their parents. They can learn about heartfelt and honest prayer from such experiences.
Scripture study as individuals and as a family is most fundamental to learning the gospel. Daily reading of the scriptures and discussing them together has long been suggested as a powerful tool against ignorance and the temptations of Satan. This practice will produce great happiness and will help family members love the Lord and his goodness.
Concerning the governing of our families, we have been correctly taught that the family council is the most basic council of the Church. Under the direction of the father and mother, who should also counsel together, family councils may discuss family matters, discuss family finances, make plans, and support and strengthen family members. The Brethren have stated that “an atmosphere of listening, honest communication, and respect for the opinions and feelings of others is vital to the success of these meetings.” (“Our Family,” p. 6.)
We renew our appeal for the keeping of individual histories and accounts of sacred experiences in our lives—answered prayers, inspiration from the Lord, administrations in our behalf, a record of the special times and events of our lives. From these records you can also appropriately draw as you relay faith-promoting stories in your family circles and discussions. Stories of inspiration from our own lives and those of our forebears as well as stories from our scriptures and our history are powerful teaching tools. I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to you, each other, your children, your grandchildren, and others throughout the generations.
We encourage fathers and mothers to take up in their family meetings and councils the major family activities of missionary work, genealogical work, and welfare work. Fathers and mothers should train their sons to want to be missionaries, and later, if health and other conditions permit, parents can look to the day when they, too, may serve a mission. The Lord has told us many times the great worth of this activity: “And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me.” (Doctrine and Covenants 15:6.)
We must continue to pray in our homes for the opportunity to introduce the gospel to those around us, and to pray that the Lord will open the way for the gospel to go forward with greater power and strength and to go into more lands and into more hearts of people who are ready to receive it.
If we follow the program of the Church for our homes, the prophets before have promised and we now promise that great blessings will come to all who prayerfully and conscientiously apply these practices in their home life. We remember the Prophet Moses’ wise instructions, which, had Israel followed them, would have led them to a far different end than to where their rebellious actions took them: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7.)
But sometimes we hear excuses such as these: “Time is too short,” “We have other things to do on Monday nights,” “We are too old to enjoy the lessons,” “Our children are too young to understand,” “Our children must get their school lessons,” “We can’t get them all together,” “We don’t like to tie ourselves down,” “I’m all alone and don’t need it,” “There are special TV shows that night.”
Why do we contend with the Almighty when he is so strong and we so weak, when he is omniscient and we can see such a little way? We remember the scripture: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
“They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.” (Psalms 20:7–8.)
God is our Father, and we are his children. He has given us instructions. We are to follow the path. Righteous home life and activities, inspired teaching of gospel truths in the home, wise parental guidance, father presiding, and father and mother in counsel together—that’s the cure for the problems of our time, a remedy for ills in our families.
But where there are special challenges, we fail only if we fail to keep trying. Let our love of each member of our family be unconditional. The Apostle Paul counseled parents well when he said, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21.)
To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord revealed the keys of how all parents, leaders, and teachers influence those over whom they preside: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–42.)
It is in our family circles where we must first learn and apply these truths. On this matter President Joseph F. Smith said: “Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! And prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your [children]—however wayward they might be, or one or the other might be, when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger; do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get down and weep with them if necessary. … Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence. … Approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned. With these means, if you cannot gain your boys and your girls … there will be no means left in the world by which you can win them.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., p. 316.)
Our Lord and Savior has taught us the way: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34.)
With such a spirit of charity guiding our motives and actions, the blessing described by Peter shall be upon the parents: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8.)
Our children, knowing of our great love for them, will be guided to overlook our own shortcomings as parents, knowing from their own experience that our faithfulness to them “is stronger than the cords of death.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:44.)
In such homes, where we are “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32), where we are holding our family meetings, discussions, and councils, where we are praying, working, and playing with love as our chief motive, where we are trying to share the gospel with others and fulfill the other purposes of the Lord—in those homes there will dwell a powerful spirituality and unity that will be a lifelong strength to all family members.
We earnestly encourage all individuals and all family units throughout the Church to evaluate anew their progress in living these truths. Their application will be your shield and protection against the evils of our time and will bring you individually and collectively great and abundant joy now and hereafter.