M. Russell Ballard

A father and mother traveled a great distance to visit their married son. When they arrived, they were enthusiastically received into their son’s lovely home. Proudly he showed them through the house. They saw each child’s room and its closets which held many toys and ample clothing. They viewed the family room, which was outfitted with the latest electronic equipment for entertainment. Then later, after a sumptuous family meal in the dining room, this thoughtful, gentle father drew his son aside and said, “Son, I see you have filled almost every need a child could have for his physical surroundings and recreation. But I have been troubled by a question—How well are you providing for your family’s spiritual growth and well-being?”

In a materialistic age, when recreation and convenience are the suggested priorities of our society, we might all well ask ourselves, “How well are we providing for the spiritual well-being and strengthening of our families?” Are we clothing family members with “garments of salvation” as anxiously as we provide clothing for their wardrobe? Is our diet of entertainment and recreation balanced with the food offered by Him who said, “Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely.” (Alma 5:34.)

Our families need spiritual food to resist the temptations and overcome the trials of our day. President Kimball has said, “We must be fed and fortified regularly in order to live in the world without being of the world.” (Church News, 26 Nov. 1977, p. 3; italics added.)

Family home evenings and family activities provide two important settings for feeding and fortifying our children. During the past five years a veritable feast of materials has been made available by the Church that can help parents enhance family time and help individuals improve their spiritual direction. (Families who want to obtain these materials will find an order form for that purpose in this issue of the Ensign. Orders may also be placed through meetinghouse librarians for any other materials developed by the Church.)

Scriptures

The LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible contains many features to help families better use and understand the Old and New Testaments. The new edition contains a Bible Dictionary adapted for Latter-day Saints and a 750-category Topical Guide.

A mother recently told of using the Topical Guide to help her six-year-old. He had received an assignment to give a memorized scripture in Primary. In his class he was learning about courage, so the mother and her little boy looked in the Topical Guide under the word courage. She knew the scripture must be short, and so they found in Ezra 10:4 this phrase: “Be of good courage, and do it.” The boy memorized the scripture and filled the assignment. A few weeks later, when school started and he was faced with separation from his family for the first time, he repeated to himself on the way out the door, “… Be of good courage, and do it!”

The new editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible are cross-referenced to each other. Never before has there been more comprehensive information available on the teachings and the mission of our Savior. What strength can come to us in our families as we follow Christ’s admonition: “Search the scriptures; … they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.)

Elder Boyd K. Packer, in speaking of the effect these new editions of the scriptures will have upon the rising generation, said; “There is another generation growing up. The revelations will be opened to them as to no other in the history of the world. Into their hands now are placed the sticks of Joseph and of Judah. They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forebears could achieve. They will have the testimony that Jesus is the Christ and be competent to proclaim Him and to defend Him.” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 53.)

Materials for Children and Youth

For children and youth, illustrated, simplified readers have been prepared of Book of Mormon, Old Testament, and New Testament stories. Five or six illustrations appear on a page along with an easy-to-read text. A simple, illustrated glossary, an index of people and places, and easy-to-understand maps and time charts are included. Two professionally narrated cassette tapes of the text are available.

A hardbound, illustrated book of Scripture Stories has also been printed. Written on the sixth grade level, it uses a vocabulary and style that will help young people prepare to read the standard works.

Many families are taking turns reading the scriptures for a few minutes before breakfast or dinner when the family members are all together. Others have developed incentive programs for reading a specific number of consecutive days and then having a special family activity together. Some listen to selected portions of the scripture tapes and follow the text in the standard works. There are many approaches possible, but the results of increased understanding, testimony, and spiritual strength are the same.

All of these help parents teach their children to love the scriptures.

Instructional Materials

Teaching children the basic principles of the gospel is another responsibility of parents. The current family home evening manual should serve as the major resource for teaching our families. For families who would like to expand their library of family home evening manuals, there are several past editions available at Church distribution centers for a reduced price.

In production is a new family home evening resource book that will replace the annual family home evening manuals in preparing family home evenings and activities. It is targeted for distribution some time after 1 January 1984.

Walk in His Ways (Part A, Part B) is a manual which could help parents teach the principles to children from ages seven to eleven. Gospel Principles, though prepared as a manual for new members of the Church, makes an excellent, simplified text for family use. The Latter-day Saint Woman (Part A, Part B) was prepared for sisters in developing areas of the Church, but it is an excellent introduction to the role of the Latter-day Saint woman. Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood (Part A, Part B) was also prepared for the developing areas of the Church, but it will introduce any priesthood holder to his basic duties and blessings.

A Flannel Board Story Kit is also available for use in the home and can be purchased or borrowed from the ward meetinghouse library. The kit contains scripts and figures depicting twenty-nine stories from the Old and New Testaments and Church history. Children love participating in these stories by helping with the figures or by telling the stories themselves.

Cassette Tapes

Has your family tried listening to Church recordings while you work? Every family has work projects that could be more enjoyable if listening and working were combined. Getting the children to husk the corn on the back porch was a real challenge in one family until father brought out a cassette of the testimonies of the Presidents of the Church. The children responded to the voices of these great men and their testimonies. The discussion was lively and the family ran out of corn long before they ran out of questions.

Music

Music appeals directly to our feelings and spirit. Recently, a family began their home evening by singing a hymn together. One of the children then asked if they could sing another one. Soon every family member had made a request and the whole family home evening time was spent singing hymns together. A sweet influence came with the music. The family felt encouraged and at peace. None has ever forgotten that special time together.

Materials to assist families with music include Songs and Hymns for Latter-day Saints—tapes of hymns being sung in unison to help teach the melody. The opposite side of the tape contains the same hymns and children’s songs, but with piano accompaniment only. This allows the family to try singing the hymns on their own. Hymns—Simplified Accompaniments are easy arrangements of hymns transposed to lower keys making them easier to sing.

Video Cassettes, Films, Filmstrips

Over fifty of the finest Church and BYU films have been placed on video cassettes and are available for family use. These films can help teach valuable lessons.

A young man seeking employment was hired by an LDS businessman. More than giving him a job, the employer took the young man into his home. He became exposed to all the influences of a fine LDS family, and after several months he asked to be baptized. During the time of his conversion, the family made good use of the resources of their ward meetinghouse library. On one evening, the father showed his family the filmstrip Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts. One of the ideas suggested in the filmstrip is that we rid ourselves of impure thoughts by replacing them with hymns. Months after his conversion, the young man revealed that in his struggle to free his mind of nineteen years of pollution, he had used the principle he had learned in the filmstrip. Each day he would have a hymn to sing or a scripture to memorize. It proved to be an essential part of his efforts to strengthen himself and draw closer to the Lord.

Periodicals

The Church provides an impressive variety of periodicals that can bless the lives of individuals and families. These periodicals include the Church magazines and the weekly “Church News.” The Ensign is the Church’s standard for adults 18 years and older, the New Era for youth 12 to 18 and youth leaders and teachers, and the Friend for children through 11 years of age and their leaders and teachers. These periodicals and the “Church News” have helped change and influence many lives with their timely, up-to-date applications of the gospel to our everyday lives. They are available through all ward executive secretaries or ward magazine representatives.

As useful as all these materials may be, however, let us remember that they will not automatically enhance or strengthen our family times together. We must always rely on inspiration to instruct our families. In using these aids, careful selection and a proper setting and application are vital. No audio or visual material can replace the influence of a parent’s love and personalized instruction to a child.

Draw your family close around you. Savor your family times together. President Kimball recalls: “I remember our beloved family activities. Heaven was in our home. When each person did something, whether it was sing a song, lead a game, recite an article of faith, tell a story, share a talent, or perform an assignment, there was growth and good feeling.” (Ensign, Jan. 1982, p. 3.)

Assess your children’s needs. Strive for a balance in your family life and assure adequate spiritual growth for your children. “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy; … come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted.” (2 Ne. 9:51.)

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark