Fathers, have you ever found yourself saying things like this:
“We know better, but we haven’t yet made ourselves, as a family, get down on our knees each morning and evening for family prayer.”
“Our neighbors moved out yesterday; it seems like such a short time since they moved in. We really did intend to meet them and eventually try to get them interested in the gospel. But we didn’t do it.”
“Missions are not far away now for the boys. But the money hasn’t been saved—in spite of our best intentions.”
“The garden never seems to get planted.”
“Grandmother used to tell the greatest stories about when she was a young girl. I wish we had written them down while she was still alive.”
“We don’t feel very well. Seems like at least one of us is always sick. Why can’t we get some kind of physical fitness program going for the whole family?”
“Laurie [eight years old] doesn’t seem to be interested in the Church at all. I don’t know why. I feel bad about it, because I haven’t kept close tabs on her progress.”
“Joe will be getting out of high school next year, and it just dawned on me that we haven’t given any thought to what he will do when he graduates—what kind of job he will get, or what kind of school he will go to.”
“I’m amazed at how fast the kids are growing up—they just don’t stop! But somehow they haven’t learned the scriptures as they should have.”
“We know that our genealogy work is important; but when all things are said and done, we’re no further along this year than we were the last.”
“As a father, I feel that there’s something missing in the way I exercise my priesthood. I don’t exercise it, really. I’m not in control. Things just seem to drift along naturally, and I’m not satisfied with the way things get away from me.”
Do any of these ring true? If you’re like many fathers in the Church, some of them will. Perhaps you have stopped, from time to time, to measure your performance and your family’s progress against the expectations placed upon you as a father in the kingdom of God; and perhaps you have found that array of expectations bewildering. Why? It usually isn’t a matter of believing, or of a desire to do right. Often it’s simply a matter of getting the family organized.
Consider the example of our father Adam.
Three years prior to his death, Adam called his righteous children together in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. The Lord Jesus Christ came to that family meeting and declared to Adam words which ought to resound in the minds of every father:
“I have set thee to be at the head; … thou art a prince over them forever.” (D&C 107:55.)
Adam, through a lifetime of righteousness, had instilled within his children who met with him on that solemn occasion the saving principles of the gospel and had thereby become their father, under Christ, in the patriarchal order of the priesthood that is to exist in eternity. Looking forward to our own day, Adam himself, “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” said:
“Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.” (Moses 6:7–8.)
Therefore, as we look at our families today and realize that they too may become part of this eternal family of God, we need to ask ourselves seriously whether or not we are teaching our children the things that will ensure that end. Perhaps we will see that each family should be organized in this order of the priesthood—organized to meet not only the needs of day-to-day life, but to accomplish all of the loftier goals of life as well.
These goals include temporal welfare; spiritual, social, and intellectual maturity; recreational activity; missionary work; and genealogy and temple work. In other words, the ideal family organization will be patterned after the kingdom of God, being flexible enough to diversify and grow as family members become more experienced and more numerous. It will provide an atmosphere where members can associate and grow in all phases of life to the utmost of their abilities.
All families in the Church—both the young couple who have just married and the older family with more years of experience behind them—can begin to prayerfully and anxiously organize to meet their various needs. In any event, it should begin soon—the sooner the better—because much groundwork needs to be laid and personal habits established if children are to grow up with proper training, respect, devotion, faith, knowledge, and humility.
The basic programs of the priesthood provide the family with its framework. These include welfare, missionary, and genealogy activities.
Welfare includes the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of each family member. It may include personal interviews with the children by the father, family council meetings, home evenings, and properly organized programs for physical development, home storage, gardening, farming projects, career development plans for each member, and financial management.
In the welfare session of general conference, April 5, 1975, Bishop H. Burke Peterson said, “When we speak of family preparedness, we should·speak of foreseen, anticipated, almost expected needs which can be met through wise preparation.”
Families carry the primary responsibility for the missionary work of the Church, with the full-time missionaries and the organizations of the Church there to assist them.
Missionary activity for a developing family may consist of a mission savings fund, personal preparation for missions, and assisting in ward or family missionary projects. It is the family’s responsibility, more than that of anyone else to prepare young men for missions. The father should teach his sons from the time they are young so that they will be prepared to go on missions. Every boy should have a savings account for his mission. Parents and grandparents should talk to them about when they will go on missions.
It is also the responsibility of every family in the Church to friendship another family. What a great blessing it is for a child to grow up in a home where the family prays for the family they are friendshipping, when at least once a month the family does something to let the other family know they love them, and when they see the other family come into the Church and share the joys of the gospel.
Genealogical activity begins with training the children to appreciate family ties and heritage. Developing a family book of remembrance which is used, along with the scriptures, in teaching children; emphasizing membership in larger family organizations; participating in genealogical research, temple work, and subsequent activities—these are all means to that end.
One of the things that distinguish mortal mankind from their Heavenly Father is the faultiness of human memory. We are often not only inefficient in recalling details, but also tend to forget overall priorities and covenants. Our Father has given us record keeping to help us compensate for this deficiency.
The Church keeps records of all that ought to be remembered. There are records of decisions, experiences, revelations, discourses, ordinances, and membership—all these comprising a book of remembrance for the kingdom of God. In like manner, the purpose of sacred family records is to help members of the family kingdom remember those things that will help obtain salvation and allow them to teach others these same things. Among the most important of the things to be remembered are the principles of the gospel, sacred personal experiences and revelations, ordinances performed for family members, lineages, and the personal histories of their ancestors.
Of course, the thing that ties the above three areas of emphasis together is family home education, including home teaching.
The father learns his duty with regard to welfare, missionary, and genealogy work from his parents and later from his priesthood quorum leaders. Perhaps he keeps a notebook with all his duties carefully categorized so that he can keep his responsibilities constantly before his attention, and so that he can easily measure his progress from day to day. He is then prepared to instruct his family in these things and in all the doctrines of the kingdom. He is prepared to exercise his priesthood. Home teachers visit the family periodically to see that all is well.
Thus instructed, the family is able to swiftly mature under the sweet, persuasive influence of the Holy Spirit. Couples grow together in righteousness, standing like Adam and Eve at the head of noble generations. This is what it means to organize your family. Later on, the organized family may expand to include the individual families of children in a larger, extended organization.
President Joseph Fielding Smith put family organizations into an eternal context by saying: “Our associations are not exclusively intended for this life, for time, as we distinguish it from eternity. We live for time and for eternity. We form associations and relations for time and all eternity. Our affections and our desires are found fitted and prepared to endure not only throughout the temporal and mortal life, but through all eternity. Who are there besides the Latter-day Saints who contemplate the thought that beyond the grave we will continue in the family organization, the father, the mother, and children recognizing each other in the relations which they owe to each other in which they stand to each other? The family organization when a unit in the great and perfect organization of God’s work, is destined to continue throughout time and eternity!” (“The Restoration of All Things,” address delivered Dec. 3, 1944, over radio station KSL.)
Certainly, in living up to his family organization responsibility, a father could do no better than to establish as a standard for his home what was said of the house of the Lord:
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” (D&C 88:119.)
For any father, such a challenge demands study, planning, prayer, and sacrifice; but the blessings that await such a father and his family are well worth the required effort. If your family is just drifting along, lukewarm to the programs of the kingdom, try family organization. It’s for you; it can help; it is part of the gospel in these last days.