Home and family are “at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said President Ezra Taft Benson February 22 at the annual Fireside for Parents. The fireside, which originated at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, was telecast over the Church satellite network to more than one thousand meetinghouses throughout the United States and Canada.
Also speaking at the fireside were Elder Jack H Goaslind of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and Jeanine S. Hansen, a mother and homemaker from the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake.
“This evening I pay tribute to the mothers in Zion and pray with all my heart that what I have to say to you will be understood by the Spirit and will lift and bless your lives in your sacred callings as mothers,” President Benson said.
He quoted President David O. McKay: “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life.” (Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953, p. 452.)
President Benson encouraged, “Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, ‘We’ll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we’ve obtained a few of the material conveniences,’ and on and on,” he said.
“Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early,” he counseled. “Husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing of children.
“Do not curtail the number of your children for personal or selfish reasons,” he said. “Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity.”
Speaking of women who are unable to bear children, President Benson said: “To these lovely sisters, every prophet of God has promised that they will be blessed with children in the eternities and that posterity will not be denied them.”
He pointed out that some barren couples have “prayerfully chosen to adopt children” and saluted them “for the sacrifices and love you have given those children you have chosen to be your own.”
President Benson gave ten specific suggestions to help mothers spend effective time with their children:
“First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are coming or going—when they leave and return from school—when they leave and return from dates—when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen.”
“Second, mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children. Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them.”
He told mothers to take the time to read to their children, and also to take the time to pray with them.
“Take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening,” President Benson advised. “Have your children actively involved. Teach them correct principles.”
He suggested that families should be together at mealtimes as often as possible and that time should be spent daily in reading the scriptures together.
The eighth suggestion was for families to take time to do things together, while the ninth advised mothers to take time to teach their children. “Mothers, you are your children’s best teacher,” he said, listing gospel principles, modesty, sexual purity, and a love for work and education among the things a mother should teach.
“Tenth and finally,” President Benson said, “mothers, take the time to truly love your children. A mother’s unqualified love approaches Christlike love.
“Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence,” he added. “They need empathy and understanding, not indifference from mothers and fathers. They need the parents’ time.”
In conclusion, President Benson briefly addressed fathers and husbands. “We look to you to give righteous leadership in your home and families,” he said “and, with your companions and the mothers of your children, to lead your families back to our Eternal Father.”
President Benson’s address at this fireside has been printed in a pamphlet, “To the Mothers in Zion,” which is to be distributed to English-speaking stakes worldwide for delivery to members.