Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents, children, extended family members, leaders, teachers, and other individuals accept the fact that we have a sacred duty to strengthen our own family as well as other families. The scriptures clearly teach the importance of strengthening families, particularly on a spiritual level.
Adam and Eve were righteous parents, and they taught the gospel to their sons and daughters. They taught them to make sacrifices; Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing unto God while Cain’s sacrifice was not. Cain killed his brother Abel and committed other serious sins. Adam and Eve were saddened by Cain’s behavior, but they continued to teach correct principles to their children. (See Moses 5:12, 18, 20, 27; Moses 6:1, 58.)
Some children rebel against the teachings of their parents; Cain was one of those rebellious children, and Alma the Younger was another. Both Cain and Alma the Younger brought heartache and suffering to their parents; Cain never repented of his sinful ways, but Alma the Younger did. When he remembered his father’s words about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, Alma repented of his sins and was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. His teachings and testimony strengthened other people.
Some children seem to be faithful from their birth and bring great joy to their parents. Abel seemed to be one of those children, and his death was greatly mourned by his parents. Enos was another of those children who remembered his father’s words and let them seek deeply into his heart. The 2,000 stripling warriors in the army of Helaman were so faithful to the teachings of their parents – particularly their mothers – that they could not be slain by their enemies (see Alma 56:47-48).
In our day the Lord declared to the 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.
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on the subject of strengthening families and declared that the “key to strengthening our families is having the Spirit of the Lord come into our homes. The goal of our families is to be on the strait and narrow path.”
Elder Hales had numerous suggestions on “things that can be done within the walls of our homes to strengthen the family.” (1) Make our homes a safe place of love and belonging; (2) Speak softly and never out of anger; (3) Give individual time to each child; (4) Teach the children to pray, study the scriptures and fast for specific needs and observe their attitudes, words and actions to determine spiritual growth;
(5) Pray as a family every day; (6) Read the scriptures as a family every day; (7) Share the words of the living prophets and inspiring articles from the Church magazines; (8) Fill our homes with worthy music; (9) Hold family home evening every week; (10) Hold family councils to discuss concerns and plans on the family level and individually to discuss more personal ones; (11) Invite the missionaries into our homes to teach less-active or nonmember friends; (12) Sustain and support Church leaders and show it by words and actions; (13) Eat meals together as often as possible and make mealtime discussions meaningful; (14) Work together as a family and communicate with family members while doing so; (15) Help children to build good friendships by welcoming their friends into our homes and being friendly with the parents of the friends;
(16) Teach children by word and example how to budget time and resources; (17) Teach self-reliance and the importance of preparing for the future; (18) Teach family history; (19) Build family traditions; (20) Have meaningful vacations together; (21) Teach moral values and obedience to commandments by word and example; (22) Teach children how to feel the presence of the Holy Ghost; (23) Teach the children the importance of baptism, confirmation, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, partaking of the sacrament, honoring the priesthood, and making and keeping temple covenants; (24) Teach the children the importance of living worthy of a temple recommend and preparing for a temple marriage;
(25) If your family has not yet been sealed in the temple, set temple goals as a family; (26) Brethren, be worthy of the priesthood you hold and use it to bless your family; (27) Dedicate our homes using the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Elder Hales also gave some suggestions for using resources outside the home to strengthen our families: (1) Encourage children to serve in the Church and the community; (2) Communicate clearly with other adults – coaches, teachers, etc. - about our concerns and the needs of our children; (3) Be aware of what our children do in their spare time; (4) Teach them to see the importance of wholesome entertainment and be a good influence in their choice of movies, television programs, and videos; (5) Know what your children are doing on the Internet; (6) Encourage worthwhile school activities; (7) Help the children to realize the importance of education and of preparing for employment and self-sufficiency;
(8) Know what the children are studying in school and help with their homework.
Elder Hales concluded his talk by saying, “The family is strengthened as we draw near to the Lord, and each member of the family is strengthened as we lift and strengthen and love and care for one another.”
Strengthening families is not solely the job of parents. Every person – adult, youth or child – has a sacred duty to strengthen their own family and other families. If we accept this sacred duty, we will be blessed. We all can do something to strengthen families and thus strengthen our communities and nations.