Life is all about families! As I have been writing histories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I’m drawn to them with increased tenderness and honor, even greater than when they were alive. Some of them I never knew. I am also thinking about precious one-on-one moments with my children and grandchildren in soul-connecting activities and discussions. I am happiest in the presence of my family. My thoughts wrap around them; every prayer centers on them; my heart is linked inseparably by eternal bonds. Family is everything to me—husband, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, grandparents—backwards and forwards up and down the generations. It’s like an intricate web that cannot be touched without setting the whole matrix in motion. I think of my posterity yet to be born, and already love them with inexpressible intensity. I yearn to leave behind a legacy of faith to help them remain constant as they traverse their mortal journey. I hope to assist them—by example and precept—to have a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ which will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face. I know this love and concern will increase, in this lifetime and beyond the veil, as I continue to labor and pray in their behalf. Family is my work, my joy, my life—now and forever. Family gives me abundant Reasons to Rejoice!
“Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). What does this mean to you? When I think of the word, “hewn” I think of a statue emerging from a block of beautiful marble after the master artisan has laboriously chipped away with sharp tools to create a likeness. Along with all of God’s children, I am “hewn” from divine parentage as a beloved child of God. He is shaping me to be in His likeness. The word “Rock” is often used in the scriptures to represent the Savior Jesus Christ. He is what I strive to become. I have taken upon myself His holy name in covenant, and have pledged to always remember Him. In another respect, I am also “hewn” from beloved earthly parents and ancestors. I want to carry on their legacy of courage and faith. I live in a confused world when it comes to identity. Many people look to find themselves in the wrong places. The right place to find one’s real identity is from God, as His beloved child. Real identity comes from recognizing our divine heritage and purpose. These words from a favorite child’s hymn relate to adults as well: “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me; help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” Isaiah’s words, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” remind me of who I am and whose I am.
We were standing in the wind, rain, and cold at the end of a long queue to tour the Payson Temple open house on the busiest of days. Three teenage girls in front of us were shivering in short sleeves and bare legs—jumping up and down to generate heat. Finally, one girl said to her friends, “Ok, guys—enough of acting wimpy. We’ve gotta be tough. We can do this!” It made me smile—because I think she had heard these words many times before. Good parents teach their children to do hard things. They teach them to work, to endure, and to be “tough.” In this context, “tough” means to weather the storm instead of quitting. It means—no whimpering allowed! But how do parents teach this important skill when it’s our natural instinct to swoop down and pluck a child from distress? It’s a delicate balance to minister compassion while giving challenging responsibilities and accountability. A child will gain confidence when a parent says, “You can do this!” instead of rescuing. Does the Savior rescue us from every distress? No. He allows us to grow as we push through hard things, although He guides us to the finish line. He cheers us on and enables us to do what we could not do on our own. When our children were young, we gave them tasks to perform. If they complained—another task was immediately added, without scolding. Lessons were learned quickly this way. I want to be able to say these words at the end of each day: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Our main role as parents is to teach our children. But how do we teach them most effectively? We know the lecture format doesn’t work very well. Our monologues are tuned out as we drone on and on. During His mortal sojourn, Jesus Christ modeled for parents, many instructive methods, such as teaching as He went—walking and talking along the way. When my children were young, we spent lots of time in the car driving to lessons, sports events, and youth activities. In an era before electronic devices, imagine this—WE TALKED! Time in the car provided opportunities to share experiences and what we learned from them. We discussed struggles and brainstormed solutions. We laughed over humorous or embarrassing moments in school. We told each other details about our day. We shared goals and dreams and anecdotes. These exchanges also happened while we worked side by side at home—washing dishes, weeding the garden, painting a room. Subtle teaching happened as we went through an ordinary day. And relationships were strengthened. Little seeds of insight and counsel slipped unperceived into fertile soil. Snatching priceless in- between moments to subtly teach values to our children can provide the seedbed of great lessons remembered and lived.
The act of leaving is an important part of human progression. As spirit children of Heavenly Father, we needed to leave His presence in that holy home in order to be born on earth. Adam and Eve needed to leave the luxurious Garden of Eden to enact the change necessary for procreation. Children leave the comforts of home to attend college and serve missions. Young adults leave parents to marry and begin families of their own. During our spiritual journey in mortality, we try to leave behind us, sin and worldliness. The Lord commands: “Come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things” (Alma 5:57). As we leave these things behind, it is important to ask ourselves—where are we going? To what are we coming? “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32). As I come unto Christ and strive to follow Him, He promises: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
With all the gains in technology, some things have been lost—like reading together as a family. I’m grateful for counsel from our prophets to have family scripture study every day. It might go like this: Parents call the children to gather. They each take turns reading a few verses. Even the toddler joins in, repeating the words read by an older sibling. They talk about the principles and how to apply them, ending by kneeling together in family prayer. The session doesn’t have to be long—just consistent. “Most of us would not shirk from the task of defending our families if they were in physical danger—even giving up our own lives, if necessary. Yet are we as quick to make the less obvious sacrifices necessary to protect our families from spiritual dangers?” (Robert Eaton). Children are strengthened as they ponder and practice principles of truth. They are armed with spiritual defense against temptations and worldly influences. Families are unified in common direction and purpose. Family scripture study produces strong and spiritually healthy children.
The idea came softly, as spiritual promptings often do, when I thought of 20 good questions to ask my aging parents during my daily visits. I didn’t have a fancy recording method. I just scribbled their answers in a notebook and later typed them up. They were in their early nineties, still mentally alert, but declining rapidly in physical health. I didn’t realize then that within a few months their cognitive window would be closed. It was a delightful project—for them and for me—resulting in a binder of stories, counsel, and life lessons for their posterity.
Here are just a few questions I asked each of them separately:
- In what ways are you like your mother? Your father?
- What legacy would you like to carry on from your mother? Your father?
- Describe an experience in your youth reflecting the beginnings of testimony of Christ.
- What qualities first attracted you to Dad (to Mom), and what other merits of character have you come to discover in each other over the years?
- Describe a trial in your life and what you learned from it.
- You have been married almost 70 years. What counsel would you offer your descendants about the makings of a good marriage?
If your parents are living—try this idea. Make up your own questions. You might discover as I did, invaluable gems to treasure forever.