Monday, June 20, 2011

Building Better Families

In Church yesterday we had something of a Father’s Day theme going. The children sang (which gets to me even now when my children are all beyond those years). The talks were about good fathers. And in our women’s auxiliary meeting we talked about the importance of families. 

In my Church, we often talk about families and get down to the nitty gritty of how to make them better. It’s one of the reasons I have declared that my Church has a civilizing influence, and that if everyone believed the same—or lived their own religion according to these principles—the result would be worldwide civilization.  

Our teacher yesterday quoted from a talk given by Bruce D. Porter at a “Stand for the Family” conference at Brigham Young University, March 2010. I thought I’d share some of the quotes. 

The family is intended by God as the great entryway into mortal life. It is central to the salvation of the human race, the perpetuation of civilization, and the birth and rearing of each new generation.   

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one saying that. 

So vital is the family to the cycle of human life and the renewal of each generation that it is fair to say that if the family breaks down, everything breaks down. 

Porter quotes James Lincoln Collier, from the book The Rise of Selfishness in America 

We have abandoned our children. Between a soaring divorce rate and an equally soaring rate of children born to unwed mothers, it is now the case that the majority of our children will spend at least a portion of their childhoods in single parent homes—in effect being raised without fathers. A large minority will spend their entire childhoods essentially without fathers, and a considerable number will not even know who their fathers are. 

This is an extremely unusual circumstance—perhaps unique in human experience. In no known human society, past or present, have children generally been raised outside of an intact nuclear family. The nuclear family is one of the most basic of all human institutions, a system of doing things so fundamental that until this century it occurred to very few people that life could exist without it. (p. 246) 

Here’s Porter again:  

To some the very idea of a strait and narrow path will seem intolerant of those who choose different paths. By holding up a divine ideal of what family ought to be, they claim we are guilty of intolerance toward those who choose other paths, other standards, other definitions of right and wrong. 

And one more: “All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.” 

We’re in a world where right and wrong are often confused, and selfishness is often cultivated. But if we want to live happy and fulfilled lives, the way there is within a family. Job satisfaction and career goals won’t get us there. Getting things and going places won’t get us there. Having a loving spouse who helps you raise civilized children—that is the way there. Nothing teaches a person patience, long-suffering, kindness, and the other virtues listed in the Bible in I Corinthians 13, than becoming a parent and wanting a good life for your children. You might think you understand love already, but once you become a parent, then you say, "Oh, now I understand."

What are some of the ways to make a family more successful? Here are some of the ideas from yesterday’s lesson: 

  • Pray together daily as a family.
  • Study scriptures together as a family, and teach your children your religious beliefs.
  • Do things together as a family—recreation, work.
  • Have family meal times and hold family councils.
  • Attend church meetings together regularly.
  • Keep a family history; share stories about elderly family members and ancestors.
Some years ago I had a lesson to give in our children’s auxiliary on Father’s Day. I wanted to be sensitive to any child that day who didn’t have a father, because if we made something to give to fathers and they didn’t have one, they could feel excluded. So I looked at the list of 60 or so children—and there was not a single child not living in an intact two-parent household. In our world today I know that’s rare. I know it’s rare even within my church. It was a snapshot. But it was telling. In that little community parents were doing many things right. The odds continue to build up against us, but the solutions to stopping and correcting the decay are known. They just have to be chosen.

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