Chapter 11: Home—the Basis of a Righteous Life

During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley

Family relationships are the most sacred of all relationships.

The family is divine. It was instituted by our Heavenly Father. It encompasses the most sacred of all relationships. Only through its organization can the purposes of the Lord be fulfilled.

At the risk of sounding like I am against families, let me step out and say that Christianity has never taught that “family is divine.” In Mormonism, the family can proceed into eternity. However, as Bill McKeever and I have written about before, this is impossible. (Check out a chapter from our book Answering Mormons’ Questions.) The only family that can be forever is the Body of Christ, or those who belong to the Church. Those have had their sins forgiven.

We are a church which bears testimony of the importance of the family—the father, the mother, the children—and of the fact that we are all children of God our Eternal Father.

The LDS doctrine of preexistence  is assumed to claim that “we are all children of God.”  This is not a biblical teaching.

Parents who bring children into the world have a responsibility to love those children, to nurture them and care for them, to teach them those values which would bless their lives so that they will grow to become good citizens. … I want to emphasize that which is already familiar to you, and that is the importance of binding our families together with love and kindness, with appreciation and respect, and with teaching the ways of the Lord so that your children will grow in righteousness and avoid the tragedies which are overcoming so many families across the world. It is imperative that you not neglect your families. Nothing you have is more precious.

Christians who follow the Bible also believe in loving and nurturing children. The Bible is replete with references to train up our children, including:

  • Deuteronomy 6:7: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
  • Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (This verse is cited later in chapter 11.)
  • Proverbs 29:17: “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort, He will also delight your soul.”
  • Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Fathers and mothers have the privilege of caring for their children and teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.

I am satisfied that nothing will assure greater success in the hazardous undertaking of parenthood than a program of family life that comes from the marvelous teaching of the gospel: that the father of the home may be clothed with the priesthood of God; that it is his privilege and obligation as a steward of our Heavenly Father’s children to provide for their needs; that he is to govern in the home in the spirit of the priesthood “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41–42); that the mother in the home is a daughter of God, a soul of intelligence, devotion, and love who may be clothed with the Spirit of God; that it is her privilege and obligation as a steward of our Heavenly Father’s children to nurture those children in their daily needs; that she, in companionship with her husband, is also to teach her children to “understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands … [and] to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:25, 28.)

In such a home, parents are loved and not dreaded; they are appreciated and not feared. And children are regarded as gifts of the Lord, to be cared for, nurtured, encouraged, and directed.

There may be an occasional disagreement; there may be small quarrels. But if there is prayer in the family, and love, and consideration, there will be a residue of affection that will bind forever and a loyalty that will always guide.

When it comes to teaching spiritual principles in the home, I fully agree with President Hinckley. Being successful with this endeavor is not easy, as families are busy and it’s hard to give our children spiritual principles without forcing our beliefs on them. It takes full effort, and even then, it’s possible kids will walk away from the faith as soon as they leave their homes. The church also needs to have a role in giving Christian kids ammunition to ward off secular humanism (and the many other “isms”) and false religions.

Now a word to the single parents. … [You] carry exhausting burdens in fighting the daily battles that go with rearing children and seeing that their needs are met. This is a lonely duty. But you need not be entirely alone. There are many, ever so many in this Church who would reach out to you with sensitivity and understanding. They do not wish to intrude where they are not wanted. But their interest is genuine and sincere, and they bless their own lives as they bless your lives and those of your children. Welcome their help. They need to give it for their own sakes as well as for your sake.

Too often single parents in Christian churches  are neglected. This is a good reminder for Christians to watch out for the needs single parents have.

The more surely you rear your children in the ways of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with love and high expectation, the more likely that there will be peace in their lives.

I would probably say that raising your children with intention will help them better own their own faith. It is vital to guide them in learning the Bible and, when they are old enough, pray that they will learn how to own their own faith instead of borrowing their parents’ faith.

Through family prayer, children grow with faith in the living God.

Behold your little ones. Pray with them. Pray for them and bless them. The world into which they are moving is a complex and difficult world. They will run into heavy seas of adversity. They will need all the strength and all the faith you can give them while they are yet near you. And they also will need a greater strength which comes of a higher power. They must do more than go along with what they find. They must lift the world, and the only levers they will have are the example of their own lives and the powers of persuasion that will come of their testimonies and their knowledge of the things of God. They will need the help of the Lord. While they are young, pray with them that they may come to know that source of strength which shall then always be available in every hour of need.

Again, I believe in praying for our children. I do this every day with my own.

Family home evening can draw parents and children together in learning the ways of the Lord.

I am grateful that we as a Church have as a basic part of our program the practice of a weekly family home evening. It is a significant thing that in these busy days thousands of families across the world are making an earnest effort to consecrate one evening a week to sing together, to instruct one another in the ways of the Lord, to kneel together in prayer, there to thank the Lord for his mercies and to invoke his blessings upon our lives, our homes, our labors, our land. I think we little estimate the vast good that will come of this program.

If you have any doubt about the virtue of family home evening, try it. Gather your children about you, teach them, bear testimony to them, read the scriptures together and have a good time together.

I think encouraging families to do things together is great. Christian families ought to do more of this. In addition, many Christian churches have excellent Bible-training programs during the mid-week, including AWANAs.

Parents should begin to teach their children when the children are very young.

Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. Said the writer of Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” [Proverbs 22:6]. That training finds its roots in the home.

So lead your sons and daughters, so guide and direct them from the time they are very small, so teach them in the ways of the Lord, that peace will be their companion throughout life.

Once more, I have no problem in the principle of training children about spiritual roots.

If children rebel, parents should continue to pray for them, love them, and reach out to them.

I recognize that there are parents who, notwithstanding an outpouring of love and a diligent and faithful effort to teach them, see their children grow in a contrary manner and weep while their wayward sons and daughters willfully pursue courses of tragic consequence. For such I have great sympathy, and to them I am wont to quote the words of Ezekiel: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).

Once in a while, notwithstanding all the things you try to do, there is a rebellious child. But keep at it. Do not ever give up. You have never lost as long as you try. Keep at it.

If any of you have a child or loved one in that condition [of rebelliousness], do not give up. Pray for them and love them and reach out to them and help them.

Sometimes it may seem too late. … Yet, remember my thornless locust tree [see pages 171–72]. Surgery and suffering brought about something beautiful, whose later life has provided welcome shade from the heat of the day.

Amen, prayer for our children is not overrated. It’s crucial to raising up godly children.

We strengthen our families as we seek heaven’s help and nurture a spirit of love and respect for each other.

[Raising a family] may not be easy. It may be fraught with disappointment and challenge. It will require courage and patience. … Love can make the difference—love generously given in childhood and reaching through the awkward years of youth. It will do what money lavished on children will never do.

—And patience, with a bridling of the tongue and self-mastery over anger. …

—And encouragement that is quick to compliment and slow to criticize.

These, with prayers, will accomplish wonders. You cannot expect to do it alone. You need heaven’s help in raising heaven’s child—your child, who is also the child of his or her Heavenly Father.

Every child, with few possible exceptions, is the product of a home, be it good, bad, or indifferent. As children grow through the years, their lives, in large measure, become an extension and a reflection of family teaching. If there is harshness, abuse, uncontrolled anger, disloyalty, the fruits will be certain and discernible, and in all likelihood they will be repeated in the generation that follows. If, on the other hand, there is forbearance, forgiveness, respect, consideration, kindness, mercy, and compassion, the fruits again will be discernible, and they will be eternally rewarding. They will be positive and sweet and wonderful. And as mercy is given and taught by parents, it will be repeated in the lives and actions of the next generation.

I speak to fathers and mothers everywhere with a plea to put harshness behind us, to bridle our anger, to lower our voices, and to deal with mercy and love and respect one toward another in our homes.

It was said of old that “a soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Prov. 15:1.) We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention. … The voice of heaven is a still small voice [see 1 Kings 19:11–12]; likewise, the voice of domestic peace is a quiet voice.

Of course, there is need for discipline with families. But discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty inevitably leads not to correction but rather to resentment and bitterness. It cures nothing and only aggravates the problem. It is self-defeating.

There is no discipline in all the world like the discipline of love. It has a magic all its own.

Let us continually work to strengthen our families. Let husbands and wives cultivate a spirit of absolute loyalty one to another. Let us not take one another for granted, but let us constantly work to nurture a spirit of love and respect for each other.

Except for our disagreement concerning preexistence and the potential for families being together forever, I agree with the vast majority of the advice given by the president. I don’t have a problem saying that because I also agree with much of what Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil, and other nonChristian counselors say. When it comes to families, I would have to say that Christians can learn much from the Mormons, including spending more time together as a family. For more on this, see 10 Things Christians Can Learn from Mormons.

If you think I’m always this easy, well, stay tuned for my review of chapter 12 of this manual (“Obedience: Simply Live the Gospel”)!

To read other reviews of the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, click here.