“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
“Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3–5).
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“‘Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion … that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents’ [D&C 68:25; italics added].
“That commandment places responsibility and accountability for the teaching of children squarely upon the shoulders of the parents. The proclamation to the world regarding the family warns that individuals ‘who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God’ [“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102]. Today I solemnly reaffirm that reality.
“In discharging these duties, we need both the Church and the family. They work hand in hand to strengthen each other. The Church exists to exalt the family. And the family is the fundamental unit of the Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 70).
“‘God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 1:28), a commandment that has never been rescinded” (M. Russell Ballard, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 28; or Ensign, May 1995, 22).
“Bear and Nurture Children,” in “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks (262)
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (83–84)
Selected Teachings from “Parenthood: Creating a Gospel-Centered Home” (241–43)
Discussion. Ask students how many of them have siblings. Ask: How is your life enriched by your brothers and sisters?
Share the first paragraph of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s statement in the student manual (p. 16).
Why is the commandment to have children so important?
What are some methods or philosophies used by Satan “to thwart the plan of God” in bringing children into the world?
If you have children, display a picture of your family or pictures of each child, and make a brief, positive comment about each.
Have the class read the section “Bear and Nurture Children” in Elder Oaks’s talk, “The Great Plan of Happiness” (student manual, 262). Discuss the following questions:
In what ways can children be considered our “ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven”?
What did President Spencer W. Kimball say was the main reason for a married couple’s refusal to have children? (Selfishness.)
What are examples of values or priorities a married couple might put ahead of having children?
Elder Oaks said a couple should have “all [the children] they can care for.” What factors might we consider in pondering how many we can care for?
According to President Gordon B. Hinckley, who is responsible for determining family size? (“The man and the woman and the Lord.”)
Why is it important that we not judge one another by the size of our families?
Have the class read the section “No Blessing Will Be Denied” (student manual, 262–63).
What must we do to receive the blessings that seem to be denied to us now? (Stay true to our covenants.)
According to Elder Oaks, when will these things be “set right?” (In the Millennium.)
Why is it sometimes hard to keep this in perspective?
Discussion. Invite class members to think of the children they have or may eventually have. Ask them what they want most for their children, and list responses on the board. Ask: What can we do to help our children be righteous and faithful? Make a second list with their responses on the board.
Group Work. Divide the class into groups and assign them readings from “Teaching Children the Gospel” and “Teaching Children to Work” in the student manual (pp. 248–51). Have each group identify two or three concepts relating to parental responsibility that impress them. Compare their findings with the second list on the board.
Discussion. Read the following statement by President Harold B. Lee:
“Our youth are in danger. Keep your home ties strong, brethren. See to it, as we have all tried to say, and as I have repeated it many times and some have quoted it in this conference, that ‘the greatest of the Lord’s work you brethren will ever do as fathers will be within the walls of your own home.’ Don’t neglect your wives, you brethren. Don’t neglect your children. Take time for family home evening. Draw your children around about you. Teach them, guide them, and guard them. There was never a time when we needed so much the strength and the solidarity of the home” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 130; or Ensign, July 1973, 98).
What responsibilities do you think comes under the heading “the Lord’s work”?
What is the typical response of a father when people ask, “What kind of work do you do?”
If a father had President Lee’s teachings in mind, how might his response be different?
While we cannot guarantee that our children will be faithful, there are things we can do to encourage them to be faithful. How can we make teaching the gospel to our children more effective? Divide the class into three groups and assign each of them one of the following sections of the student manual: “Family Home Evening” (pp. 243–44), “Family Council Processes” (pp. 244–45), “Good Marriages Bless Children” (pp. 245–46). Have them read their sections looking for specific ways we can make our teaching more effective. Invite them to report their findings to the class.
Discussion. Ask students to think of people they consider exemplary parents. List on the board attributes of such parents.
Can parents be considered successful if some of their children go astray?
What are the dangers of judging parents by their children’s actions?
Why might parents measure their own success or failure by the behavior of their children?
President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, cautioned: “It is very unfair and unkind to judge conscientious and faithful parents because some of their children rebel or stray from the teachings and love of their parents. Fortunate are the couples who have children and grandchildren who bring them comfort and satisfaction. We should be considerate of those worthy, righteous parents who struggle and suffer with disobedient children.
“One of my friends used to say, ‘If you have never had any problems with your children, just wait awhile.’ No one can say with any degree of certainty what their children will do under certain circumstances. When my wise mother-in-law saw other children misbehaving, she used to say, ‘I never say my children would not do that because they might be out doing it right while I am speaking!’ When parents mourn for disobedient and wayward children, we must, with compassion, ‘forbid the casting of the first stone’ [Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 58]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 69–70; or Ensign, May 2003, 67).
Read together the statements by Elders Howard W. Hunter and Richard G. Scott on page 242 in the student manual.
What insights do these readings provide as to what makes a successful parent?
Why do you think children sometimes choose a path different from that of their righteous parents?
Discussion. In his vision of the tree of life, Lehi saw that Laman and Lemuel refused to eat the fruit. Read aloud the words Lehi spoke to his rebellious sons (see 1 Nephi 8:36–38).
How would you describe Lehi’s teaching approach to his sons in verse 37?
What impresses you most about what he said and how he said it?
Near the end of his life Lehi spoke again to his wayward sons. Read 2 Nephi 1:21–23.
Why would a parent continue to reach out to a disobedient child in spite of years of evidence that the child might not repent?
What do you think keeps parents from giving up on their children?
How would you assess Lehi’s effectiveness as a parent?
Share the following counsel by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a member of the Seventy, and have students look for ways it can be applied to a parent’s responsibility.
“May I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. …
“The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. …
“Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refuses to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process. Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves. …
“… We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 14–15; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 12–14).
How might this counsel help you measure your own success as a parent?
How does this contribute to your understanding of your parents?
How might it help you as you interact with other parents?
Ask students to summarize three or four main concepts from this lesson.
Share the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:
“Husbands and wives who love each other will find that love and loyalty are reciprocated. This love will provide a nurturing atmosphere for the emotional growth of children. Family life should be a time of happiness and joy that children can look back on with fond memories and associations” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 59).
Write the following phrase and reference on the board:
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).
Bear testimony that bearing and rearing children in a setting of love is a divine opportunity. We become partners with Heavenly Father in furthering the advancement of His spirit children.