I Have a Question

Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How do we honor parents whose conduct and example at times may be dishonorable?

David S. Ricks, regional welfare agent and member of the Butler Twenty-seventh Ward, Salt Lake Butler West Stake.

Only one of the Ten Commandments comes with a stated promise: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12).

According to the word’s definition, to honor means to treat with respect, to value, or to esteem highly. Yet children whose fathers or mothers have misguided, abused, or neglected them may find it difficult to honor their parents in that manner. Honoring, however, has meaning beyond the traditional definition. Understanding this additional meaning is essential to those who have lost respect for a parent or who may be torn between allegiance to parents and devotion to God.

In the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that the prophet Abraham faced an especially hard task of honoring his fathers, who, “having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen, utterly refused to hearken to [Abraham’s] voice” (Abr. 1:5).

Abraham’s fathers began sacrificing men, women, and children to heathen gods. Then they even “endeavored to take away [his] life by the hand of the priest of Elkenah” (Abr. 1:7). Despite their wickedness, Abraham “sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto [he] should be ordained to administer the same; having been [himself] a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge” (Abr. 1:2). Through his diligence, Abraham qualified himself to become “a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (ibid.).

From Abraham’s story we see that those who choose to follow their Heavenly Father need to honor him above their earthly fathers and mothers.

Yet, in so doing they can bless the lives of their mortal parents. Abraham’s father, for example, repented, though he later returned to his idolatry (see Abr. 1:30; Abr. 2:5).

“One of the most difficult tests of all is when you have to choose between pleasing God or pleasing someone you love or respect—particularly a family member,” President Ezra Taft Benson said. “We should give God, the Father of our spirits, an exclusive preeminence in our lives. He has a prior parental claim on our eternal welfare ahead of all other things that may bind us here or hereafter. Should we not love Him for it and honor Him first?

“There are faithful members who joined the Church in spite of the objections of their mortal relatives. By putting God first, many later became the instruments to lead those loved ones into the kingdom of God” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 350).

Nephi honored and respected his father despite Lehi’s murmuring against the Lord after Nephi broke his bow (see 1 Ne. 16:18–25). Upon making a new bow, Nephi showed deference to his father by asking him, “Whither shall I go to obtain food?

“And it came to pass that he [Lehi] did enquire of the Lord, for they had humbled themselves because of my words” (1 Ne. 16:23–24).

Following his conversion, King Lamoni in the Book of Mormon put God first by refusing to obey his father’s command that he kill Ammon. Lamoni also refused to abandon his mission to free Ammon’s brothers from prison (see Alma 20:14–15). As a result of missionary work by Ammon and his brothers, many Lamanites throughout the land of Nephi, including Lamoni’s father, rejected the unrighteous traditions of their fathers and repented of their sins. Because Lamoni had honored God and disobeyed his father’s unrighteous commands, many people were blessed, including his father.

Honoring our parents does not mean we must agree with parental errors or emulate unrighteous examples. Parents, like their children, make mistakes. But those mistakes should not prevent children from respecting their parents’ righteous counsel and from supporting their parents in noble endeavors. Children need to pray for and forgive their parents—despite their imperfections and, in some cases, their unrighteousness.

Also, we can honor parents, regardless of their mistakes, by acknowledging the good they have done, the good they do now, and by showing appreciation for the gift of life they have given to us. We honor them when we do what is right and when we set a good example for them. When honoring is difficult, we need to remember that we show honor to our earthly parents when we honor our Heavenly Father first.

As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9.)

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Thompson

Why wouldn’t information submitted to the Church from three-generation and four-generation family group sheets in the 1960s and 1970s be included in Ancestral File™?

Stephen K. Kendall, director of research support services, Family History Department.

At the request of Church leaders, members submitted three-generation family group records to the Church from 1962 to 1965. Then from 1965 through the early 1970s, members were asked to submit four-generation family group records.

During those years, the Church received many duplicate family group records as well as many different versions of the same record. Consequently, in 1978 the Church requested that families verify information about their four-generation records and submit one copy of the family group records and a pedigree chart for the four generations. These post-1978 submissions, rather than the earlier group records, were typed into computers over a period of several years, becoming the basis of Ancestral File.

Ancestral File contains approximately twenty million names linked in family groups and pedigrees. It will be expanded as individuals and organizations continue contributing family history information. Ancestral File is part of FamilySearch®, a computer system that helps members find ordinances and genealogical information on ancestors.

Families that have not submitted updated family group information should submit this information only after carefully verifying data with family members to ensure accuracy and determine whether others have already submitted the information since 1978. Using a personal computer program such as Personal Ancestral File®, members make submissions to Ancestral File on computer diskettes. Ward family history consultants can provide assistance.

Families without a personal computer can submit information using Church-owned computers at meetinghouses and stake centers. Stake and ward leaders have been instructed to install Personal Ancestral File on these computers. If submitting information on computer diskettes is still not possible, families can submit information on paper to Ancestral File Operations, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.

If individuals find information in Ancestral File that does not agree with personal records, they should coordinate corrections with contributors. Sources and reasons must be provided for corrections to be made. In some cases, information that may appear to be inaccurate has been thoroughly documented through extensive research.

Family group records submitted in the 1960s and 1970s are available on microfilm through family history centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Individuals can locate microfilm numbers of the Family Group Records Collections in the Family History Library Catalog™. The catalog is available either on microfiche or as part of FamilySearch.