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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 15: The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers

Chapter 15: The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 191–202

During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Chapter 15: The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 191–202

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

A father’s calling is eternal.

Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released. Callings in the Church, as important as they are, by their very nature are only for a period of time, and then an appropriate release takes place. But a father’s calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity.

Unless the reader understands what is meant by “eternal calling,” important nuances may be missed. According to Mormonism, there is a state before this life (or mortal probation), officially called preexistence, or premortality. According to this unique doctrine, every person prior to the mortal probation existed as a spirt being and had at least some level of obedience (i.e. the choosing of Jesus over Lucifer when the Savior of the world was determined) to eventually receive a human body. Hence, all people—good, bad, or whatever—were part of a human family in this previous state.

During this lifetime, Mormon couples are instructed to get “sealed” in the temple. It is believed that their ties to each other don’t end in this life but continue to the next. Any children born to such a couple are considered “Born in the Covenant,” linking them forever to that nuclear family. If the mother and father become Latter-day Saints after having children, they can go to the temple as a family and get sealed together. The responsibility, then, is for each family member to “choose the right” and live an obedient life. For a person to attain the highest level of heaven (celestial kingdom), obedience is required. Then, in the heavenlies, a faithful Mormon father and mother hope to have their children together for eternity. This is what Benson meant when he used the term “eternal calling.”

Our pattern, or model, for fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. How does He work with His children? Well, in order to know that, of course, [fathers] will need to know something about the gospel, the great plan of the Lord.

For a family to be together, the father is responsible to guide the family in the right way. This is the crux of this particular chapter.

For a man, there is no calling as high as that of a righteous patriarch, married in the house of the Lord, presiding over His children. Even the very Elohim has us address Him as “our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9; 3 Nephi 13:9).

In Mormonism, fifth President Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet rings true:

As man is, God once was.

As God is, man may become.

Just as LDS leaders have taught how God once was like all humans in a previous world, qualifying for advancement through his good works, so too all Latter-day Saint males are told they have the opportunity to someday rule in a future world, with the ability to bring their wives and children with them.

Fathers are to provide spiritual leadership in their families.

The father must hunger and thirst and yearn to bless his family, go to the Lord, ponder the words of the Lord, and live by the Spirit to know the mind and will of the Lord and what he must do to lead his family.

[Fathers,] you have a sacred responsibility to provide spiritual leadership in your family.

In a pamphlet published some years ago by the Council of the Twelve, we said the following: “Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home” (Father, Consider Your Ways [pamphlet, 1973], 4–5). …

With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest 10 specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:

1. Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.

2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.

3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.

4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. …

5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.

6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.

7. Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. …

8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.

9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.

10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom.

Oh, husbands and fathers in Israel, you can do so much for the salvation and exaltation of your families! Your responsibilities are so important.

In this list, Benson instructs fathers to take their roles seriously so they might be able to train up their children in the way they should go. I must say, Latter-day Saint children are generally very well taught. They learn in their homes and in church-sponsored classes, from “primary” to “seminary” classes for high school students and “institute of religion” classes for those in college. I have talked to thousands of Latter-day Saints over the years, and I have met many young people who can articulate the beliefs of their faith in an understandable way. This reflects good training.

I must say that I have no problem with parents training up one’s children in the faith of the family. This is important in my family as well.  I do not quibble with the ten points he lists. Christian fathers should also take such interest in their children and make sure their kids get the parental attention they need.

“Have regular one-on-one visits with your children.”

We sometimes hear accounts of men, even in the Church, who think that being head of the home somehow puts them in a superior role and allows them to dictate and make demands upon their family.

The Apostle Paul points out that “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23; italics added). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home. We do not find the Savior leading the Church with a harsh or unkind hand. We do not find the Savior treating His Church with disrespect or neglect. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find the Savior doing anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church. Brethren, I say to you with all soberness, He is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families.

As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. …

Your homes should be havens of peace and joy for your family. Surely no child should fear his own father—especially a priesthood father. A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. … The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of [their] children.

Dads are told not to exasperate their children. They should lead by example. With only 18 or so years we get with each child, every opportunity should be taken to instill righteous ways in the children.

A mother’s role is ordained by God.

[Mothers] are, or should be, the very heart and soul of the family. No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother. There is no more noble work than that of a good and God-fearing mother.

In the eternal family, God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide, to love, to teach, and to direct. A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, to bear, to nourish, to love, and to train. So declare the revelations.

In recent years, some LDS feminists have fought against this stereotype as presented here. One such group is Ordain Women, whose founder was excommunicated in 2014. By including this information in the manual, it doesn’t appear the church is ready anytime soon to bestow priesthood responsibility upon the female memebership. While I’m sure there will be independent voices making noise within the church, it appears its crackdown has squashed the mini-rebellion. Church leaders still rule with an iron fist.

We realize that some women, through no fault of their own, are not able to bear children. To these lovely sisters, every prophet of God has promised that they will be blessed with children in the eternities and that posterity will not be denied them.

In Mormonism, women are not done conceiving in this lifetime, as there will be propagation of spirit beings in the next life. Of course, a woman will not be responsible to populate her husband’s world all by herself. This is why LDS leaders have insisted that polygamy will take place in the next life as well. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote on page 578 of Mormon Doctrine:

Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium.

In fact, while Mormon men don’t believe in getting married to multiple women in this life, they certainly have the ability to be sealed to more than woman for all eternity. How does this work? If a man’s wife dies (assuming they were married for both time and eternity) and he marries another woman, she too can be sealed to him if:

  • She has been single her entire life
  • She had been married for eternity but received a temple divorce
  • She had been married for this life to another man but not for eternity.

A woman who has been married to a man for “eternity” cannot do this again. But having one man married eternally to two (or more) women is not unheard of. In fact, two LDS apostles are married in this way, as they have two women with whom they have been sealed for eternity.

For more information on this topic, click here.

Through pure faith, pleading prayers, fasting, and special blessings, many of these same lovely sisters, with their noble companions at their sides, have had miracles take place in their lives and have been blessed with children. Others have prayerfully chosen to adopt children. We salute these wonderful couples for the sacrifices and love you have given to those children you have chosen to call your own.

God bless our wonderful mothers. We pray for you. We sustain you. We honor you as you bear, nourish, train, teach, and love for eternity. I promise you the blessings of heaven and “all that [the] Father hath” (see D&C 84:38) as you magnify the noblest calling of all—a mother in Zion.

Mothers should love, teach, and spend effective time with their children.

Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all.

With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would now like to suggest 10 specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children.

[First,] whenever possible, be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave or return from dates, when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are 6 or 16. …

Second, mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children. Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them. Yes, regularly spend one-on-one time with each child. Be a real friend to your children.

Third, take time to read to your children. Starting from the cradle, read to your sons and daughters. … You will plant a love for good literature and a real love for the scriptures if you will read to your children regularly.

Fourth, take time to pray with your children. Family prayers, under the direction of the father, should be held morning and night. Have your children feel of your faith as you call down the blessings of heaven upon them. … Have your children participate in family and personal prayers, and rejoice in their sweet utterances to their Father in Heaven.

Fifth, take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening. Have your children actively involved. Teach them correct principles. Make this one of your family traditions. …

Sixth, take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible. This is a challenge as the children get older and lives get busier. But happy conversation, sharing of the day’s plans and activities, and special teaching moments occur at mealtime because parents and children work at it.

Seventh, take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family. … Reading the Book of Mormon together as a family will especially bring increased spirituality into your home and will give both parents and children the power to resist temptation and to have the Holy Ghost as their constant companion. I promise you that the Book of Mormon will change the lives of your family.

Eighth, take time to do things as a family. Make family outings and picnics and birthday celebrations and trips special times and memory builders. Whenever possible, attend, as a family, events where one of the family members is involved, such as a school play, a ball game, a talk, a recital. Attend Church meetings together, and sit together as a family when you can. Mothers who help families pray and play together will [help them] stay together and will bless children’s lives forever.

Ninth, mothers, take time to teach your children. Catch the teaching moments at mealtime, in casual settings, or at special sit-down times together, at the foot of the bed at the end of the day, or during an early-morning walk together. …

A mother’s love and prayerful concern for her children are the most important ingredients in teaching her own. Teach children gospel principles. Teach them it pays to be good. Teach them there is no safety in sin. Teach them a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a testimony of its divinity.

Teach your sons and daughters modesty, and teach them to respect manhood and womanhood. Teach your children sexual purity, proper dating standards, temple marriage, missionary service, and the importance of accepting and magnifying Church callings.

Teach them a love for work and the value of a good education.

Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate movies, videos, music, books, and magazines. Discuss the evils of pornography and drugs, and teach them the value of living the clean life.

Yes, mothers, teach your children the gospel in your own home, at your own fireside. This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive. …

Tenth and finally, mothers, take the time to truly love your little children. A mother’s unqualified love approaches Christlike love.

Your teenage children also need that same kind of love and attention. It seems easier for many mothers and fathers to express their love to their children when they are young, but more difficult when they are older. Work at this prayerfully. There need be no generation gap. And the key is love. Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence. They need empathy and understanding, not indifference from mothers and fathers. They need the parents’ time. A mother’s kindly teachings and her love for and confidence in a teenage son or daughter can literally save them from a wicked world.

Honestly, this is good advice for all mothers.

“Take time to read to your children.”

Do you know one reason why righteous mothers love their children so much? Because they sacrifice so much for them. We love what we sacrifice for and we sacrifice for what we love.

Parents should work together in unity and love in raising their children.

Husbands and wives, as co-creators, should eagerly and prayerfully invite children into their homes. … Blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice.

When parents, in companionship, love, and unity, fulfill their heaven-imposed responsibility and children respond with love and obedience, great joy is the result.

God help us to support one another. May it start in the home as we support our families. May there be a spirit of loyalty, unity, love, and mutual respect. May husbands be loyal to their wives, true to them, love them, strive to ease their burdens, and share the responsibility for the care, training, and the rearing of the children. May mothers and wives show a spirit of helpfulness to their husbands, uphold and sustain them in their priesthood duties, and be loyal and true to the calls that come to them from the priesthood of God.

May we be faithful to this great obligation of parenthood, this sacred obligation, that we may build our homes solidly upon eternal principles, that we may have no regrets. May we never be recreant [unfaithful] to the great trust which has been imposed in us. May we always keep in mind that these spirits that have entered our homes are choice spirits.

In conclusion, I would say that the advice given in this chapter is practical. My major disagreement is I don’t believe family units are eternal. The Bible does not teach in a preexistence or postmortal family life and therefore these concepts are rejected by Christianity.

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