Although parents have the primary responsibility for teaching the gospel to their children, other family members can be a great help. Parents should seek opportunities to have other family members teach and strengthen their children.
The Teaching Influence of Grandparents
Grandparents can strengthen and inspire their grandchildren as they share their experiences, testimony, and faith. Their true stories of obedience, learning from mistakes, making sacrifices to reach eternal goals, and cheerfully facing problems can help children as they face similar experiences. In addition to talking with their grandchildren, grandparents can record their testimonies and experiences in journals, which can uplift and teach family members now and in future generations.
Sister Susan L. Warner, who served as second counselor in the Primary general presidency, told the following story:
“I know a grandfather who, at a recent family gathering in the mountains, took his grandchildren for a walk. As they came to a clearing in the trees, he invited the young children to sit down on a log while he told them about a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith, who wanted to ask Heavenly Father some questions that were troubling him. The grandfather explained that the boy Joseph went to a grove of trees near his home to pray, having faith that God would answer him. The grandchildren quietly listened, but four-year-old Johnny, who often has difficulty sitting still, could not contain himself. He blurted out, ‘I’ve heard that story before.’
“The grandfather told of Joseph’s sincere prayer and how it was answered with a glorious visitation from Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. As he finished, little Johnny grabbed his grandfather’s hand and said, ‘That was a good testimony, Grandpa.’ He loved hearing the story again.
“Though the grandfather had repeated this sacred account many times throughout his life, he said, ‘Never did the Spirit of the Lord bear stronger witness than when I bore my testimony of Joseph Smith to my own grandchildren.’ The grandfather and the children had felt the witness of the Holy Ghost” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 67).
Even if grandparents live far away from their grandchildren, they can still influence them for good. Through telephone calls or letters of praise and encouragement, they can inspire confidence and provide counsel.
The Teaching Influence of Brothers and Sisters
Parents should encourage their children to help one another learn and grow. Older siblings can often be positive examples to their younger brothers and sisters and can be assigned to teach them how to accomplish household tasks. When a son serves a full-time mission, he can, by his example and his letters, greatly influence a younger brother’s desire to serve. When a sister marries in the temple, she can share her excitement and testimony with her brothers and sisters. When children willingly help with the chores at home, they set good examples, teaching one another of service and responsibility. Their own learning is also reinforced.
The Teaching Influence of Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins
There may be times when uncles, aunts, or cousins can reach out and help a family member when parents cannot.
A father recalled how his son was influenced by a cousin. The son had refused to attend church for several weeks. General conference was approaching, and his cousin, excited to attend, arose early in the morning and stood in line to be seated in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The son saw this example, was touched by his cousin’s faith and enthusiasm, and was motivated to attend church again. That decision changed his life, and he later served a mission faithfully.
A mother told of the positive influence her brother and his family had when she and her husband sent her son to live with them and work at their gas station one summer. Another woman recalled with gratitude a conversation her son had with a favorite uncle. Because of that discussion, her son chose to avoid friends who were influencing his behavior in damaging ways.
The Teaching Influence of Children
When parents listen to their children, they can learn a multitude of truths. Elder Russell M. Nelson described a time when he learned from one of his daughters:
“When our youngest daughter was about four years of age, I came home from hospital duties quite late one evening. I found my dear wife to be very weary. … So I offered to get our four-year-old ready for bed. I began to give the orders: ‘Take off your clothes; hang them up; put on your pajamas; brush your teeth; say your prayers’ and so on, commanding in a manner befitting a tough sergeant in the army. Suddenly she cocked her head to one side, looked at me with a wistful eye, and said, ‘Daddy, do you own me?’
“She taught me an important lesson. I was using coercive methods on this sweet soul. To rule children by force is the technique of Satan, not of the Savior” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 27; or Ensign, May 1991, 22).