We are concerned parents. Like others, we are alarmed at the deteriorating social conditions that affect the happiness and stability of our home.
We once believed that the security and moral safety of our family depended on our being near the headquarters of the Church, and we wondered if we could raise our children safely away from the strength that other members and established programs would bring.
So we turned to the counsel of the Lord and his prophets. We learned that security and safety come to members of the Church not as they withdraw from society, but only as they establish righteousness and holiness in their homes. “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly,” the Lord warns in scripture (D&C 87:8). What are these holy places? Among others, they are the homes of the members of the Church.
As we set about to make our home a holy place, we discovered that turning a house into a haven takes more than being active in the Church and participating in its programs, important as that is. From the scriptures and the counsel of Church leaders we gleaned the following guidelines:
1. Home beautification and orderliness
Just as we feel the Spirit of the Lord in the clean, orderly surroundings of a chapel or a temple, we can more easily invite the Spirit of the Lord into our homes by making them clean and orderly. No home, no matter how costly, is beautiful if it isn’t neat. Even an impoverished home can be beautiful if everything is orderly. We find an increased spirituality and reverence when our home is clean.
Parents and children should all help keep a home clean, inside and outside. We have tried to make housecleaning more of an attitude than an event. We try to generate pride in our home, which prompts a more constant awareness of the home’s condition. When we clean thoroughly, father is responsible for major parts of the process. When the children see him helping, they have a greater desire to do their part.
The Lord has said the Church should “stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14). To bring the Church and the families of Church members to this state, we have been counseled to—
—eliminate unnecessary debt;
—maintain a home storage program of a year’s supply that would maintain life and health;
—grow food in our own gardens;
—increase fast offerings substantially;
—know how to make our own clothing (D&C 42:40);
—obtain training for adequate employment;
—live on a budget so that income and expenses can be monitored and controlled. (See Boyd K. Packer, “Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, p. 85–89.)
Doing these things gives us a sense of well-being and peace. We feel confidence and security; we find ourselves less anxious about economic fluctuations.
3. Television, books, and music
With all the potential for good that television, books, and music have, they also have a potential for evil. We as a family select the programs we will watch during the coming week. Similarly, we fill our bookshelves with books—many purchased used and therefore inexpensively—that we trust.
We feel that not all modern music is necessarily bad, nor all older music necessarily good. We collect records and tapes that the whole family enjoys, helping our children to discriminate between uplifting music and its less edifying counterparts. We don’t feel it’s necessary to have religious or classical music playing constantly. We find it helpful to have appropriate music playing much of the day and evening; it produces the calming, cheerful effect as only good music can.
4. Marital fidelity
Immorality is the major cause of family disruption. Our prophets, ancient and modern, have warned against immorality in all degrees. President Spencer W. Kimball warns against even those who “flirt a little, share their hearts, and have improper desire.” (Improvement Era, Dec. 1962, pp. 926–31.) Marital fidelity and proper marital sexual relations are appropriate and necessary. Presidents of the Church have taught that sex is not only for procreation, “but for the development of the higher faculties and nobler traits of human nature, which the love-inspired companionship of man and woman alone can insure” (Joseph F. Smith, “Unchastity the Dominant Evil of the Age,” Improvement Era, June 1917, p. 739).
5. The decision to be good parents
We have discovered that the decision to be parents involves more than a biological function. As Elder A. Theodore Tuttle said, “This decision to be parents means to put first the obligation to be baby-sitters, trainers, discipliners, supervisors, teachers, assigners, checker-uppers, planners, story-tellers, exemplars, and, in short, to be common, ordinary, garden variety, old-fashioned, on-the-job, full-time parents” (Relief Society Magazine, July 1963, p. 484).
This attitude toward being a parent is challenging, but the rewards are worth the effort. One of our children requires virtually constant attention and supervision because of a particular problem. This takes more patience than we sometimes feel we have; but since we have committed ourselves to helping him achieve his full potential, we witness many miracles of improvement.
Also, we have learned that we must love our children, not merely endure them. Children can be irritating at times, but we must recognize that, in the words of President Brigham Young, “they are so full of life that they cannot contain themselves. … They have so much vitality in them that their bones fairly ache with strength.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:69.)
Great dividends come through love. Each week we try to spend time alone with each child. A trip to the store or a little chore at home involving parent and child can have great value. Even bathing them, flossing and brushing their teeth, and helping them prepare for bed bring many benefits.
6. Home Evening
We were married when family home evening was being reemphasized in the Church, and we determined to do our best in this program. Instead of just having an activity and calling it home evening, we decided that family home evening would be devoted to gospel teaching and discussion. We spend Monday nights in home evening lessons from the manual and related activities—we find plenty of time for family outings during the week. Family prayer and family scripture study throughout the week provide fine support for our Monday nights.
7. Patriarchal responsibilities
We find it important for us as parents to exercise responsibilities related to our roles. Father’s blessings and personal interviews are significant parts of a father’s patriarchal responsibilities. In addition to a patriarchal blessing from the stake patriarch, guidance and comfort come from blessings given by father at home. We record, transcribe, and file these blessings in each child’s personal history. The children then grow up with a series of blessings to which they can turn for direction and encouragement.
We hold personal interviews on fast Sunday with each child. The interview includes prayer, questions and answers, counsel, and hugs.
With these activities at home, supplementary service from Church auxiliaries fills a proper and appreciated role in our family.
8. Self-control in speech and actions
What we are at home is what we are. We try to follow the counsel of Elder Boyd K. Packer: “Never a cross word—not one. It is neither necessary nor desirable. There are many who teach that it is normal and expected for domestic difficulty and bickering and strife to be a part of that marriage relationship. That is false doctrine.” (“Eternal Marriage,” Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 14 Apr. 1970], p. 6.)
This standard is worthy. While disagreements are inevitable, cross words are not. Quarreling among the children does not go unnoticed; bickering and backbiting are not permitted. We try to remind ourselves of this constantly through family prayer, home evening discussions, and verbal vigilance. We like to remember this statement by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley: “We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention. … The voice of heaven is a still small voice; likewise, the voice of domestic peace is a quiet voice” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 82).
9. Dedicating or blessing the home
Since the most important work we do is done at home, it seems appropriate for a father to invoke a blessing on the home. The First Presidency has advised that homes not be formally dedicated until they are free from debt. A rented home or apartment could have a blessing pronounced on it, though. Since our home is not yet paid for, we invoked, in the privacy of our family, the blessings of heaven on our home and on all that pertains to it.
10. Home ownership
We decided early in our married life that we would buy a home as soon as possible. We consciously committed ourselves to this goal. Although we wondered many times how we could ever achieve our goal, we did eventually buy a home. It was modest, to be sure, but we were grateful for it.
Owning a home is becoming more difficult as inflation and interest rates increase. Some young friends of ours moderate the impact of inflation and interest rates by not insisting on their dream-home immediately. They settle for something more traditional, something less expensive than what their parents have. Others buy run-down older homes and turn them into lovely homes through renovation and neighborhood improvement. Home ownership can be a reality for those willing to start in somewhat humble circumstances.
As we follow these guidelines in our home, we feel safe and secure. We are motivated to do all within our power to draw God’s Holy Spirit into our home, and then to do nothing to alienate that spirit.
Dale C. Mouritsen, director of the Institute of Religion at San Jose State University, serves as a counselor in the Sunnyvale, California, Fourth Ward bishopric.