During 2016, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter 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 in boldfaced is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Howard W. Hunter
The family is the most important unit in society, in the Church, and in eternity. The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life.
I need to state from the outset that Christians are big supporters of the family. The Word of God certainly makes that clear. It explains the roles of godly husbands and wives as well as parents and children. The family ought to be a priority for those who seek to live for God.
With that said, I need to say that I disagree with Howard’s assertion how “the family is the most important unit . . . in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life.” According to Mormonism, the family takes precedence over all. Most Mormons desire to be with their family unit for all eternity. If their nuclear family wasn’t there, heaven would not be desired (even if Jesus were there!). Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland is featured in the temple open house video shown to guests before their tour. He said,
I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisaical, beauty that we speak of heaven – I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would, it would not be heaven for me.
It is impossible for families to be together forever, as I pointed out in this article located here. Regardless, the problem with making families the top priority in life is that, though admirable, the family can become an idol, just as much as fame, money, or anything else that takes our focus off God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Shouldn’t a Christian focus all attention on God first and foremost? If this is done, won’t all these other things (including families) be put into the proper perspective?
The Church has the responsibility—and the authority—to preserve and protect the family as the foundation of society. The pattern for family life, instituted from before the foundation of the world, provides for children to be born to and nurtured by a father and mother who are husband and wife, lawfully married. Parenthood is a sacred obligation and privilege, with children welcomed as a “heritage of the Lord” (Ps. 127:3).
A worried society now begins to see that the disintegration of the family brings upon the world the calamities foretold by the prophets. The world’s councils and deliberations will succeed only when they define the family as the Lord has revealed it to be. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).
The breakdown of the family structure in today’s American society is certainly painful to watch. Our culture has lost its moral compass. In fact, nobody is sure what “marriage” means anymore; as soon as we took away the distinctive of “a man and a woman” (by legalizing homosexual marriage), we started down the road toward “anything goes.” With the destruction of God’s intended purpose for marriage comes dysfunctional families and children with confused worldviews.
Parents are partners in the leadership of the home and are under strict obligation to protect and love their children.
The responsibilities of parenthood are of the greatest importance. The results of our efforts will have eternal consequences for us and the boys and girls we raise. Anyone who becomes a parent is under strict obligation to protect and love [their] children and assist them to return to their Heavenly Father. All parents should understand that the Lord will not hold guiltless those who neglect these responsibilities.
Fathers and mothers have a great responsibility with respect to the children which are entrusted to their care. … In the Book of Proverbs we find this admonition to parents:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6.)
The greatest training that can be given to a child is that which comes from the example of parents. Parents need to set the example for young people to follow. Great strength comes from the home where righteous principles are taught, where there is love and respect for each other, where prayer has been an influence in the family life, and where there is respect for those things that pertain to God.
Effective family leadership … requires both quantity and quality time. The teaching and governance of the family must not be left … to society, to school, or even the Church.
As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with Hunter’s counsel here. We can agree on the importance of strong families. We merely disagree that nuclear families are meant to be together forever.
You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Our homes should be places of love, prayer, and gospel teaching.
We simply must have love and integrity and strong principles in our homes. We must have an abiding commitment to marriage and children and morality. We must succeed where success counts most for the next generation.
Surely that home is strongest and most beautiful in which we find each person sensitive to the feelings of others, striving to serve others, striving to live at home the principles we demonstrate in more public settings. We need to try harder to live the gospel in our family circles. Our homes deserve our most faithful commitments. A child has the right to feel that in his home he is safe, that there he has a place of protection from the dangers and evils of the outside world. Family unity and integrity are necessary to supply this need. A child needs parents who are happy in their relationship to each other, who are working happily toward the fulfillment of ideal family living, who love their children with a sincere and unselfish love, and who are committed to the family’s success.
Again, Christians have no problem agreeing that a good family structure and an emphasis on the home ought to be important priorities. Having a godly family requires work along with patience and wisdom. It’s certainly not easy.
When family home evenings were first introduced as an official program of the Church, the First Presidency said, “If the Saints obey this counsel [to hold family home evenings], we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them.” We reaffirm the promised blessings to those who faithfully hold family home evenings.
Monday evenings should be reserved for family home evening. Local leaders should ensure that Church buildings and facilities are closed, that no ward or stake activities are planned for Monday evenings, and that other interruptions to family home evenings be avoided.
The primary emphasis of family home evening should be for families to be together to study the gospel. We remind all that the Lord has admonished parents to teach their children the gospel, to pray, and to observe the Sabbath Day. The scriptures are the most important resource for teaching the gospel.
Family home evening is a priority for many LDS families. Imagine if all Christian families spent quality time like this together. I think the program has merit in teaching children the fundamentals of the Bible and the Christian faith.
Pray as families both night and morning. What great blessings come into the lives of children who hear their parents petition the Lord for their welfare. Surely children who come under the influence of such righteous parents will be better protected against the influences of the adversary.
Prayer is wonderful. While my children are all but grown up now, I treasure the times I had each night to kneel at their beds and join them in their evening prayers. Even our dogs would participate!
A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent. Perhaps there are children who have come into the world that would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances. Likewise, perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother.
My concern today is that there are parents who may be pronouncing harsh judgments upon themselves and may be allowing these feelings to destroy their lives, when in fact they have done their best and should continue in faith.
No parent is perfect. We can train up a child in the way he should go, but unfortunately, even some really good parents have had great disappointments in how some of their children have ended. I recently ate dinner in the home of a wonderful pastor; I could tell his teenagers were well taught. You would have never know that his oldest son walked away from the faith and committed suicide earlier this year. What a tragedy! In my own parenting, I realize that I only have so much time and influence with the kiddos. They grow up too fast. My wife and I regularly pray for our children. But we cannot live our children’s spiritual lives for them. In the end, they are responsible for themselves. Our goal is to input as much as we can in the short time we have and trust them to God.
In an increasingly wicked world, how essential it is that each of us “stand in holy places” and commit to be true and faithful to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . Home may seem commonplace at times with its routine duties, yet its success should be the greatest of all our pursuits in life.
Hunter uses the phrase “stand in holy places” from the Doctrine and Covenants to refer to temple but ultimately the home. As a Christian, I am in agreement that the home should be a place where the gospel of Jesus is emphasized. Family ought to be a priority and even a great pursuit, but it shouldn’t be emphasized over Jesus and “seeking first” His kingdom. Unfortunately, while Hunter and I agree on much, this remains the main point of our disagreement.