The Home as an Educational Institution

G. Homer Durham


If the Lord will grant me utterance, I desire to outline a basic required curriculum for the gospel-centered family of which President Kimball has spoken today.

When the family is in trouble, the world is disturbed. As the prophet has said, a major purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to strengthen the home. Home and family are the most important, the most influential institutions of society, educational as well as religious. Teachers, universities, and schools are important. But more important are the homes from which professional teachers come. Classmates are influential. But more influential are the homes from which the classmates come. The restored Church proclaims that the family may be an eternal family. Gospel-centered family living helps us to reach these goals.

The education received by children in their first two years is vital. The attitudes, the sounds, the quality of speech, the expression experienced, the reverence, kindness, the cruelty demonstrated in these critical years influence the future. The home may not be expert in plasma physics. We leave that to the universities. But it should be expert in teaching true self-identity as a child of God. The hymn declares, “Prayer is the simplest form of speech / That infant lips can try” (Hymns, no. 220). Such lips may later reap the blessings set forth in the book of Proverbs:

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Prov. 21:23).

The educational testimony set forth in the opening lines of the Book of Mormon is challenging and instructive:

“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; …

“… which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Ne. 1:1–2; italics added).

“Therefore I was taught. …” Can our children record such a fact? The learning of the Jews included effort to engrave on the minds and hearts of children Moses’ prophetic instructions from the book of Deuteronomy:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way.” (Deut. 6:5–7.)

In 1775 John Adams, designing a new nation in Philadelphia, wrote his wife Abigail of his concern for the nation’s future leadership. She replied, “If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, … we should have learned women” (Quoted in Page Smith, John Adams, New York: Doubleday, 1962, vol. 1, pp. 221–22).

Which reminds me of the lines written by Clara Horne Park of Draper, Utah, at the age of ninety-three:

I’ve heard a lot of good things said
About what the Pilgrim fathers did. …
I wonder who fed them and brought them a drink,
Kept the children away when they wanted to think.
It must have been strange with so many others,
Not to have had any Pilgrim mothers.

What shall we teach our children? The Lord has outlined the basic curriculum, as the prophet quoted to us this morning, in section 68, verses 25 to 30. [D&C 68:25–30] Let us examine this somewhat.

First, teach “the doctrine of repentance.” To some the word may sound ominous, but none need shrink from it. It is the road to progress. The most glorious opportunities for true joy and happiness are found in this doctrine.

Second, teach “faith in Christ the Son of the living God.” Children taught to have faith in him can follow his example in doing good to all. Such will serve well their fellow beings.

In his ten-volume study of history, Professor Arnold Toynbee has written that when a society begins to disintegrate, the following ways of behavior appear: people feel that the world is ruled by chance; vulgarity and barbarism in manners appear; traditional values are replaced by iconoclasm. People turn to various remedies: to the so-called creative genius, the sword, archaism, futurism, or to Plato’s philosopher king. All these fail, says the record of history as read by Toynbee. And “a single figure arises from the flood and … fills the whole horizon” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947, abridgement of vols. 1–4, p. 547; see also abridgement of vols. 8–10, pp. 376–77). That figure is the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first lines written by Christopher Columbus in the journal of his first voyage are these: “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Bjorn Landstrom, Columbus, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967, p. 54). Thus begins that historic record. When Bartolome Las Casas, with the help of Columbus’s son Ferdinand, abridged the journal, he recorded that when they landed on October 12, 1492, the admiral kneeled and then rose and named the first landfall San Salvador, holy Savior—the first land named by the Europeans. (See Landstrom, p. 68.)

We proclaim faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the saving principle for mankind. That salvation begins with the instruction to children.

Third, teach baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, when eight years old.” This provides entrance to the Church itself, a large family circle. The gift of the Holy Ghost follows as the means of leading us into all truth.

Section 68, verses 25 to 28, [D&C 68:25–28] outlines required courses in the family curriculum. For “inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand” these things, the Lord has said “the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

Fourth, to make such teaching effective, the Lord has said in this same section: “Parents shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

“And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (D&C 68:28–29.)

Fifth and finally, diligent, intelligent industry must be taught as the key to all this and to all achievement. All inhabitants of Zion are counseled in this section “to labor in all faithfulness” (D&C 68:30). Work habits are best taught at home.

I pray that fathers will magnify their callings as true priesthood leaders and by example teach love for these principles in their families. Mothers, cherish, love, encourage, teach respect, and inspire your children as only mothers can do. Joseph Smith was and remains a prophet. The Lord Jesus Christ lives as the Son of the Eternal Father and is the head of this, his restored church. President Spencer W. Kimball presides today as the Lord’s living prophet. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder G. Homer Durham