“Chapter 21: Strengthening Families,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 191
Look well to yourselves and to your families, to your sons and to your daughters; and let us seek to do right. 1
From the Life of John Taylor
On 1 February 1885, John Taylor went into voluntary hiding to avoid persecution by federal authorities. Although he hoped that this exile would limit the oppression that the Church was experiencing at that time, he also knew that his hiding would likely separate him from most of his family for the remainder of his earthly life. Nonetheless, throughout this time, he remained ever concerned for their well-being. “Say unto them I remember them always,” he told his nephew Angus M. Cannon just prior to his death. “I love them individually, and never cease to plead with God for them.” 2
President Taylor was a loving and devoted husband and father. Of him, his son Moses W. Taylor wrote the following: “He had a strong desire to keep his children under the family influence and provided play grounds for us. Even when he was past seventy years of age he would join us in our games. He provided a large sand pile for the little ones and if I have ever had any better time in my life than I did digging in the sand, I have failed to recognize it. …
“I have never heard him enter into any argument with any of his family; I have never heard him and my mother contend or disagree in the presence of the children. When talking about our duties in the church, it was always in the spirit of counsel and he would frequently say, ‘It would please me if you are a faithful Latter-day Saint.’ He was held in such high esteem by his children that to please him seemed to be their greatest desire.” 3
President Taylor taught the Saints the importance of parents setting a good example for their children. His son Frank Y. Taylor once spoke of the great influence for good that the example of his father had been in his life: “When I think of the careful training that I had, of the wonderful example that was set before me, in my youth, I feel that it would be inexcusable for me to do that which was not right in my life, because I feel that I had a perfect example to follow. As a boy, however, I have been tempted like other boys; but my father’s life was so free and pure and clean that whenever temptation was presented to me, it seemed like my father rose up before me in majesty, like a monument, and I could not do the wrong which I was tempted to do. I felt that I would bring displeasure upon him, and I know there was nothing in his life that would warrant me in taking a course that would not be acceptable before our Father in heaven. I felt, as I thought of his life, O, I would like to live that kind of a life myself, so that I would be a light in the darkness to my boys and girls.” 4
Teachings of John Taylor
Marriage and family relations are eternal.
The gospel that we preach is the everlasting gospel; it reaches back into the eternities that are past; it exists in time and it stretches forward into the eternities to come, and everything connected with it is eternal. Our marriage relations, for instance, are eternal. Go to the sects of the day and you will find that time ends their marriage covenants; they have no idea of continuing their relations hereafter; they do not believe in anything of the kind. It is true there is a kind of natural principle in men that leads them to hope it may be so; but they know nothing about it. Our religion binds men and women for time and all eternity. This is the religion that Jesus taught—it had power to bind on earth and to bind in heaven, and it had power to loose on earth and to loose in heaven [see Matthew 16:19]. We believe in the same principles, and we expect, in the resurrection, that we shall associate with our wives and have our children sealed to us by the power of the holy priesthood, that they may be united with us worlds without end. 5
The gospel, when introduced and preached to Adam after the fall, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, placed him in a position not only to have victory over death, but to have within his reach and to possess the perpetuity, not only of earthly, but of heavenly life; not only of earthly, but also of heavenly dominion; and through the law of that gospel enabled him (and not him alone, but all his posterity) to obtain, not only his first estate, but a higher exaltation on earth and in the heavens, than he could have enjoyed if he had not fallen; the powers and blessings associated with the atonement being altogether in advance of and superior to any enjoyment or privileges that he could have had in his first estate. Hence, he and his partner became the father and mother of lives—lives temporal, lives spiritual, and lives eternal, and were placed in the position to become Gods, yea, the sons and daughters of God, and to the increase and extent of their dominion there was to be no limit; worlds without end. 6
What is more amiable and pleasant than those pure, innocent, endearing affections which God has placed in the hearts of the male and female, who are united in lawful matrimony, with a love and affection, pure as the love of God, because it springs from him, and is his gift: with bodies chaste and virtuous, and an offspring, lovely, healthy, pure, innocent, and uncontaminated: confiding in each other, they live together in the fear of God, enjoying nature’s gifts uncorrupted, and undefiled as the driven snow, or the crystal stream. But how would this enjoyment be enhanced if they understood their destiny, could unravel the designs of God, and contemplate an eternal union in another state of existence, a connection with this offspring, commenced here, to endure for ever, and all their ties, relationships, and affections strengthened.
A mother feels great delight in beholding her child, and gazing on its lovely infant form; how would her bosom swell with delight at the contemplation of that child being with her for ever. And if we only understood our position, this was the object for which we came into the world. And the object of the kingdom of God, on which I have written at length, is to reestablish all these holy principles. 7
Parents’ influence extends to future generations.
The life of a saint is not simply a personal perfecting, it is also a factor in the entire scheme of earth’s redemption. No one can be saved alone, by himself or herself, unassisted by or unassisting others. The weight of our influence must be either for good or harm, be an aid or an injury to the work of human regeneration, and as we assume responsibilities, form ties, enter into covenants, beget children, accumulate families, so does the weight of our influence increase, so does its extent broaden and deepen. 8
The first commandment given to man was to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” [Genesis 1:28.] And as man is an eternal being, and all his actions have a relevancy to eternity, it is necessary that he understand his position well, and thus fulfil the measure of his creation: for as he and his offspring are destined to live eternally, he is not only responsible for his own acts, but, in a great measure, for those of his children; in training their minds, regulating their morals, setting them a correct example, and teaching them correct principles, but more especially in preserving the purity of his own body.
And why? Because if he abuses his body and corrupts himself he not only injures himself but his partner or associates, and entails misery incalculable upon his posterity, … and this not only in time, but in eternity. Hence the Lord has given laws regulating marriage, and chastity, of the strictest kind, and entailed the severest punishment upon those who in different ages have abused this sacred ordinance. … And why? because man being made a free agent over his own body, that he might exalt himself and his posterity, both in time and eternity, if he abuses that power, he not only affects himself, but unborn bodies and spirits; corrupting the world, and opening the flood-gates of vice, immorality, and estrangement from God. … But when the order of God is carried out, it places things in a lovely position. 9
If I … was the head of a family, I would want to teach my family right and teach them the principles of virtue, holiness, purity, honor and integrity, that they might be worthy citizens, and that they might be able to stand before God, that when they and I get through this world, we might be worthy to meet the elect of God (those whom he has selected from the nations of the earth), and the Gods in the eternal world. Therefore, every morning, as head of my family, I should dedicate myself and my family to God. 10
We should avoid unkind or harsh words and actions in our families.
You should never say a word or do an act which you would not want your children to copy after. The idea of men who profess to fear God, and some of them Elders in Israel, being addicted to swearing, … is a shame and a disgrace to high heaven, and this is sometimes done before their families; it is a shame. And then some men give way and say they have a bad temper: I would sell it for nothing, and give something to boot to get rid of it. I would be careful that all my acts and doings were right. …
We will treat our wives right. He is a mean man who would abuse a woman. … Have you not made covenants with your wives for time and eternity? Yes, you have. Would you not like, when you get through, to be able to say, Mary, Jane, Ann, or whatever the name may be, I never injured you in my life. And if you are wives, would you not like to be able to say, Thomas, or William, I never injured you in all my life. And, then, to spend an eternity together hereafter. 11
Husbands, do you love your wives and treat them right, or do you think that you yourselves are some great moguls who have a right to crowd upon them? … You ought to treat them with all kindness, with mercy and long suffering, and not be harsh and bitter, or in any way desirous to display your authority. Then, you wives, treat your husbands right, and try to make them happy and comfortable. Endeavor to make your homes a little heaven, and try to cherish the good Spirit of God. Then let us as parents train up our children in the fear of God and teach them the laws of life. If you do, we will have peace in our bosoms, peace in our families, and peace in our surroundings. 12
Do away with unkind or harsh words, and do not allow hard feelings to exist in your hearts, or find place in your habitations. Love one another, and by each trying to enhance the welfare of the other, that element will characterize the family circle, and your children will partake of the same feeling, and they in turn will imitate your good example, and perpetuate the things they learn at home. 13
We should teach and practice principles of godliness in our families.
Parents, be truthful; let your children have confidence in your word, so that if father or mother says anything, they might say, “if father or mother says such and such a thing, I know it is right, because father or mother said it, and they never prevaricate or tell a falsehood.” That is the kind of feeling we want to cultivate among ourselves and with our families.
And again we want to be cleanly in our persons, in our houses and in everything. And mothers, you ought to cultivate in your hearts the spirit of peace; you ought to be like angels of God, full of every virtue. And the father ought to treat the mother right. Has she her infirmities? Yes. And so has he. … Make your homes joyous. And let your children see that you love one another, that they may grow up with the same feeling, and be led from principle to honor their father and mother. These are the kind of feelings that will elevate us. 14
Do you have prayers in your family? … And when you do, do you go through the operation like the grinding of a piece of machinery, or do you bow in meekness and with a sincere desire to seek the blessing of God upon you and your household? That is the way that we ought to do, and cultivate a spirit of devotion and trust in God, dedicating ourselves to him, and seeking his blessings. 15
We have been commanded of the Lord to set our households in order. Apostles, Presidents of Stakes and Bishops, have you done this with your own households? Have you also seen that the Saints have done the same? Have you impressed upon the people under your charge the absolute necessity of purity if they desire the blessing and protection of the Most High? Wolves never watched with greater cunning and more ravenous hunger a flock of sheep and lambs than the people of your wards and stakes are now being watched by those who are ready to devour them. Are you awake to this danger, and do you take every precaution against it?
Parents, are you full of fidelity yourselves to every principle of godliness, and do you surround your sons and daughters with every safeguard to shield them from the arts of the vile? Do you teach them that chastity in both man and woman should be more highly esteemed than life itself? Or do you leave them in their ignorance and inexperience to mix with any society they may choose, at any hour that may be convenient to them, and to be exposed to the wiles of the seducer and the corrupt? These are questions you will all have to answer either to your shame and condemnation or to your joy and eternal happiness. Know this, that God, in giving us the precious blessings we possess, demands from us a suitable return. By receiving them we are placed under obligations. If these are not discharged, condemnation inevitably follows. 16
Parents, treat your children aright; train them up in the fear of the Lord; they are of more importance to you than many things that you give your attention to.
And you, children, obey your parents; respect your fathers and mothers. Your mothers have watched over you, and your fathers are desirous for your welfare, and their hearts and feelings and affections are drawn out towards you. Do not give them pain by departing from correct principles; but walk in the paths of life. And parents, and children, husbands and wives and all people, fear God and put your trust in him and carry out the principles of your holy religion which God has revealed to us. 17
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• How does a knowledge of the eternal nature of marriage and family relations influence the feelings in your home? How does this knowledge help you to be a better spouse or family member?
• What specifically can husbands and wives do to help them keep their marriage covenants?
• In what ways can parents teach their children the principles that are necessary for their salvation? How can parents help their children who may be rebellious or have made serious mistakes?
• Read Proverbs 3:5–6. How can parents and grandparents prepare themselves to hear the Spirit so they can counsel their children and grandchildren correctly? In what ways has the Holy Ghost helped you make decisions that have influenced your children or grandchildren for good?
• What have you learned from the example of your parents?
• Read or sing the hymn “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns,no. 301). How should knowing that we are all the spirit children of our Father in Heaven affect the way we treat our children? our spouse?
• John Taylor warned against harsh words or actions within our families. How can we guard against these things in our homes?
• Why is emotional or physical abuse of a spouse or child a serious sin in the eyes of God? How can abusive situations be resolved?
• How can we cultivate a feeling of love and peace in our homes? What blessings have come into your home when the Spirit of God was present? How can those who do not live in a peaceful home find peace in their own life?
3. “Stories and Counsel of Prest. Taylor,” Young Woman’s Journal, May 1905, 219; paragraphing altered.
7. “Extract from a Work by John Taylor about to Be Published in France,” Millennial Star, 15 Mar. 1851, 82; paragraphing altered.
8. In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 3:87.
9. “Extract from a Work by John Taylor,” Millennial Star, 15 Mar. 1851, 81–82; paragraphing altered.