Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents fulfill their responsibility to properly teach their children, including the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the gospel of Jesus Christ includes everything about life – education, work, good manners, faith, repentance, baptism, etc. – parents have a very big responsibility to care for and teach their children properly.
The charge to teach children came from Heavenly Father through His prophet Joseph Smith: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not 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, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:25).
Dr. Ben Carson was the “worst student” in his fifth grade class, but he was the top student in his seventh grade class. What made the difference? Although she was uneducated, his mother recognized that her two boys needed to learn to read. She allowed her sons to watch three hours of television per week and insisted that they read two books per week and reported to her about the books. Ben Carson did not like the new rules but admitted as an adult that his mother rules changed the course of his life. He attended Yale University on a scholarship and then was accepted at Johns Hopkins medical school. He was only 33 years old when he became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery and a world-renowned surgeon at Johns Hopkins. His success is proof that his mother magnified her calling as his mother.
Elder Matthew O. Richardson was the bishop of a young single adult ward when he noticed the young adults in his ward “approached dating with very little purpose, understanding, or direction. Some were apathetic, while others were much too zealous. Often they didn’t know how to treat each other properly.”
Elder Richardson discussed the situation with his wife. They determined that “the skill of developing worthwhile relationships is something a person indeed learns, whether from peers, family, a course or book, culture, traditions, or religious beliefs and practices.” After determining that they wanted to teach their children the importance and purpose of relationships, they began searching for ideas of how to do it. They “wanted to teach realistic, proper, and practical behaviors that would empower self-confidence, engender confidence in others, and lay a foundation for healthy relationships.
“In all of this we felt that we needed to start early – long before our children began dating – and we wanted our experience to be filled with learning and teaching that were natural and hopefully fun. We fully understood, too, that we would be competing with the way the media portray relationships.”
The Richardson family began the “Richardson Dating Academy.” Their children entered the academy when they turned twelve years old, and the teaching continued long after the child graduated from the academy. The academy accomplished much more than preparing the children to properly develop and navigate relationships. It also instilled self-confidence and taught respect for others. It also forged strong relationships between parents and children.
Elder Tad R. Callister, SundaySchool general president, taught that parents “are to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children…. As their prime gospel teachers, we can teach them the power and reality of the Atonement – of their identity and divine destiny – and in so doing give them a rock foundation upon which to build. When all is said and done, the home is the ideal forum for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ….
“One of the most meaningful things we can do as parents is to teach our children the power of prayer, not just the routine of prayer. When I was about 17 years of age, I was kneeling by my bed, saying my evening prayers. Unbeknownst to me, my mother was standing in the doorway. When I finished, she said, `Tad, are you asking the Lord to help you find a good wife?’
“Her question caught me totally off guard. That was the furthest thing from my mind…. I replied, `No,’ to which she responded, `Well, you should, Son; it will be the most important decision you will ever make.’ Those words sunk deep into my heart, and so for the next six years, I prayed that God would help me find a good wife. And, oh, how He answered that prayer.”
Parents’ responsibility for teaching their sons and daughters never ends even when their children become adults. The titles and duties of mothers and fathers will continue throughout all time and eternity. If parents accept their roles and responsibilities and teach their children properly, they can strengthen their families, communities, and nations.