I appreciate all the good things my husband, Neil, represents because they enlarge the spiritual influences available to me and my children—and that’s important, because a family’s spiritual atmosphere is determined, to a large extent, by the spirituality of the father. If he doesn’t have spiritual strength, he can’t give it to his wife and children. Here are a few examples of how my husband spiritually nourishes us:
1. A few years ago we decided to keep a written record of some of the strengths and weaknesses of our children and hold a personal interview with each child every two or three months.
Their father prepared a folder with each child’s name on it. Inside on the left are sheets of paper with the title “Weaknesses.” On the right side are sheets of paper entitled “Strengths.”
During the interview, which is a very special time alone with each child, we discuss the two areas. Under the date, we write how all three of us see any problems that exist, pinpoint jobs well done, and record attitudes improved during the past few weeks. The children are free to express to us any feelings they have regarding our home, other family members, their friends, or their personal concerns. And we respond as parents.
2. It isn’t always easy to get seven children to work in harmony around the home, but when their dad can work with them the children just love it and “work” turns into “fun.” Part of this comes because he’s always telling them about the chores he had as a boy and how important it is to like to work.
As a family we plant a garden each spring. We all get involved in preparing the ground, planting the seeds, watering, hoeing, and pulling weeds. Then in the summer and fall each child experiences some part of harvesting the results—pulling radishes, picking berries or corn, digging potatoes, etc.
Neil is very alert for teaching opportunities and compares aspects of gardening to preparing for missions, life after death, the importance of getting proper care and training, destroying the enemy (weeds). Many lessons are taught from the simple things we do each day.
3. Another meaningful experience we have as a family is reading the scriptures, usually for ten or fifteen minutes right after our evening meal. The Book of Mormon is our current project. Each reader takes a turn, and even our preschoolers have a book and follow along with their fingers. Every once in a while they’ll ask, “Where are we now?” It’s interesting, too, that these little ones most frequently remind us that it’s time to read the scriptures. Neil gives us many spiritual insights at these times. Often he’ll put an idea on the chalkboard or act out a part of the story. The children love it!
4. Fast Sunday has more meaning when there is a purpose in fasting, and it helps when Neil discusses on Saturday the purpose of the “fast” (someone in our ward is sick, someone needs a special blessing). It is always very special to the younger children when he takes time to listen to their individual prayers, and frequently I hear him ask the older children if they’re praying each day.
I know that when we take time during meals or at prayer times to talk about specific happenings of the day the children become more sensitive and thankful.
5. A father also spiritually nourishes his family by the way he exercises his priesthood. He sets the example by his attitude. Children are especially blessed when they know their dad is happy to be doing the Lord’s work. It’s important to all of us that Neil consistently makes the effort to take me to the temple each month. This pattern in our family has a positive impact on all of us. It helps us as parents to keep our priorities in order and the children seem to sense there is something special about what we are doing. They express this in their attitudes of cooperation. We feel that going to the temple is an important way to teach our children to be married there.
6. The very best time of the week for us is family home evening. We look forward to priority time spent together as a family. We take turns in giving the lesson, leading a game, singing a song, or telling of a special experience, but always Neil presides. He can observe the emotional climate of the family, making mental notes on what can be done to improve it.
It’s an ideal setting to get to know each other better and teach the gospel principles thoroughly. During our own family night, we have the opportunity to test our children’s knowledge, for we know that we often think gospel ideas are clear when in fact they are not. For example, one of our young children has had difficulty learning to distinguish between the president of the Church and the president of our country.
These are some of the areas where we have found success; but what works for us may not work for another family. As wives, we must be patient if our husbands do not always take the lead, but we do need to express appreciation to them for all of the qualities they have that are good. A successful marriage, like a testimony, must be continually renewed to be kept alive.