They wanted their children to understand the importance of scripture study, compassionate service, and the value of work. And they wanted to make an impression on them by doing something out of the ordinary.
So when one of their daughters suggested having a family conference, patterned after a stake workshop, Carl and Sherrie Johnson readily accepted the idea. Mom and Dad and the five oldest daughters each prepared five-minute lessons built around the theme of compassionate service. (Even the two youngest girls prepared a flannel-board story.) Each workshop was held in a different room in the house; the family traveled from room to room, ending in the dining room with a testimony meeting and refreshments.
“It was fun to go into the different rooms and find posters and pictures waiting,” says fourteen-year-old Breana. “And in each room we were given handouts with a scripture or a picture or a poem that would help us remember what had been taught there.” The testimony meeting “was a very special time. I felt a lot of love for my family, and I could tell that the rest of my family felt the same way.” (See Friend, Aug./ Sept. 1985, pp. 20–22.)
Latter-day Saints all over the Church are seeing a need to understand the principles of welfare—principles such as work, self-reliance, provident living, giving, and caring for the poor—and to teach them to their children. They are seeing that it’s vital to know what to do in their lives in order to take care of themselves and their families—and how to apply these principles.
The Church organization itself provides valuable settings for learning the principles of welfare. We come to understand the doctrines as we attend sacrament meeting and classes; we learn new skills as we participate in quorum and Relief Society projects; we taste the joy of giving and serving as we fulfill Church callings; we develop compassion and enjoy the gift of charity as we willingly and lovingly serve as home teachers and visiting teachers.
Essential to learning how to “fare well” is personal and family prayer. As we pray about our own needs and the needs of family members, the Lord will guide us to know what is best for us at this time and for our circumstances. The guidance we receive may be different from that given to our neighbors or relatives. It may also be different from year to year as circumstances in our lives change. But we can always trust that the answers we receive will be exactly what we need.
The scriptures and the words of living prophets, such as those found in the general conference talks printed in this issue of the Ensign, are vital resources. Parents often teach the concepts of welfare to their families during daily scripture study and Monday night family home evening activity; others do so during Sunday lesson and scripture time.
One approach is to assign a conference talk to a family member and ask for a report at the end of the week. Another approach is for everyone to study the same talk and come prepared to discuss it. (Older family members can adapt the talks for the younger ones.) Additional study helps are found in such sources as illustrated scripture story books, the Friend and New Era magazines, regular issues of the Ensign, the Church News, the Family Home Evening Resource Book, and the Gospel Principles manual.
Husband/wife planning sessions help parents focus on specific needs of the family and of individual family members. Frequent parent/child interviews give parents a chance to get feedback on individual needs and on how well the children are understanding and applying the doctrines. Family councils, where everybody can offer ideas and opinions, are a vehicle for implementing family goals and projects.
With these basic tools in hand, families are finding successful, creative ways to teach and apply principles of welfare. The Gordon Romney family, for example, found that a family constitution worked well for them. They first studied their priorities, then using parliamentary procedure, they agreed upon the following “inalienable rights”:
“(1) True and righteous teaching, (2) Love and understanding, (3) Reasonable discipline, (4) Nourishing food, (5) An orderly and comfortable home, (6) Clean clothes, (7) Sufficient privacy, and (8) Education leading to self-sufficiency.
“We further hold that in a family, as elsewhere in life, rights are inseparably linked to responsibilities. Within our family, each member has a responsibility to:
“(1) Strive to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) Respect the rights of others, (3) Be loyal to the family, (4) Contribute to the welfare and progress of the family by sharing in the necessary work.”
Next comes “the real working section of the constitution”—the family rules, says Sister Victoria Romney. “Our family rules cover things like chores, bedtime, allowance, piano practicing, special privileges, manners, and TV watching.” Of course, other families would have different guidelines and different family rules. The secret of this method is that all family members have the opportunity to participate in the formation of the rules—and thus are more willing to obey the laws they’ve helped to create. (See Ensign, June 1976, pp. 71–72.)
Scott and Angelle Anderson tried another successful approach: organizing family welfare committees. The two-year-old is the Family Sunshine Committee, responsible for hugs, kisses, smiles, thank-yous, and joyful attitudes. The six-year-old is the Family Education Committee; he encourages everyone to come prepared to family home evening and helps check for worthwhile TV programs. The nine-year-old, the Family Preparedness Committee, helps with morning devotional and scripture reading and encourages food storage, emergency preparedness, and missionary preparation.
The twelve-year-old is the Family Activities Committee; he reminds family members of upcoming birthdays and other special events and encourages secret service to other families. The thirteen-year-old, the Family Heritage Committee, is in charge of history, genealogy, and visits to members of the extended family. Sister Anderson is the Family Spirit Committee; she is responsible for harmony, health, unity, the arts, order, and environment. Brother Anderson, the Family Perfection Committee, oversees the providing, protecting, and planning.
“Having these committees has brought us a lot closer,” says Sister Anderson. “At family council, each person reports on his or her committee assignment and on what we each need to do. It took some experimenting to get the committees to fit our family’s needs, but they are working very well now, and could work in other families.”
Having devoted Sunday family time to studying the gospel, the Bill and Shelley Davies family devote their Monday nights to welfare activities. The first Monday of each month is service night: they weed grandma’s garden, visit a widower, or perform some other act of service. The second Monday is culture and education night: sometimes they dabble in watercolors, attend a concert, or take a ride and talk about various subjects. The third Monday, physical fitness night, has included hopscotch tournaments, croquet, aerobics, and swinging at the park. The fourth Monday is family project night; everyone works together. If there is a fifth Monday night, they invite another family over for social night. Often, these are spent friendshipping inactive or nonmember friends.
“There are two great benefits to this arrangement,” Sister Davies says. “It involves the family in similar interests, so we are growing together rather than separately. And the structure has made our family home evenings happen consistently. Instead of Monday night being an unstructured hassle, we all look forward to it.”
The ways of teaching our families principles of welfare—work, self-reliance, compassionate service, and others—are limitless. As we pray and study and seek, the Spirit will help us find and implement the ideas that will be most successful for our own families.
Here are some ideas on how to get going with four of the ideas mentioned in the preceding article:
1. Hold parent planning council (a time when husband and wife meet to discuss family members and their needs). Decide:
• When shall we hold it? (Sunday morning or evening? Monday night before or after home evening? Friday night as part of a date night?)
• How often shall we hold it? (Daily? Weekly? Monthly?)
• What shall we discuss? (What are each child’s strengths and weaknesses? How can we build on strengths and diminish weaknesses? How can we improve family harmony? When is the best time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening? How well are we participating in the three-fold mission of the Church: perfecting the Saints, preaching the gospel, and redeeming the dead? What goals do we have for our family? What can we do to make our family life better? Do we feel the Spirit of the Lord in our home? How can we do better?)
2. Hold family council (a time for the entire family to discuss family welfare). Decide:
• When and how often shall we meet? (After home evening lesson? After Sunday dinner? Each fast Sunday? Before or after Monday night activity?)
• What will our family council agenda consist of? (Prayer and hymn? Calendar activities? Discuss problems and solutions? Set goals? Help each other with goals? Recognize achievements of family members? Discuss family budget? Plan family activities and service projects?)
3. Hold family scripture study (a time for the entire family to study the scriptures together). Decide:
• When shall we hold it? (Every morning? Every evening? At dinner time?)
• What do we want to study? (The scriptures? Simplified scripture stories for children? General conference talks?)
• How much shall we study each day? (One chapter? One page? Two pages? Five verses? Ten minutes? Twenty minutes?)
• What else shall we do during this time? (Have a prayer? Sing a hymn? Have a short thought? Discuss the things we’re reading and give background material to what we’re reading?)
4. Hold family home evening and family activities (times when the family gathers together to teach each other the gospel through word and action). Decide:
• When will we hold them? (Sunday after church? Monday night? Another night?)
• What will the agenda be for family home evening? (Prayer, hymn, talent number, lesson, refreshments?)
• What will our activities be?