Lesson 20: Settling Family Problems Harmoniously

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 146–52


The purpose of this lesson is to encourage us to settle family difficulties harmoniously in order to build a happy home life.

Introduction

  • Show visual 20-a, “Love is the foundation of harmonious family life.”

    washing dishes(click to view larger)

    20-a, Love is the foundation of harmonious family life.

President Joseph F. Smith taught what we must do if we are to have ideal homes:

“What … is an ideal home … ? It is one … in which the father is devoted to the family with which God has blessed him, counting them of first importance, and in which they in turn permit him to live in their hearts. One in which there is confidence, union, love, sacred devotion between father and mother and children and parents” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 302–3).

Although all of us are trying to achieve ideal homes, we all occasionally experience conflicts. Even the Prophet Joseph Smith felt disharmony in his home at times. One morning, for example, when he was translating the Book of Mormon, he became upset about something his wife had done. Later, as he tried to translate some of the Book of Mormon, he found he could not. He went to an orchard and prayed, and when he came back he asked for Emma’s forgiveness. Only then was he able to translate. (See B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:131.)

The Lord also expects us to recognize the sources of disharmony in our homes and to solve our problems harmoniously.

Sources of Disharmony in Our Homes

The scriptures tell us that Satan’s influence is a major cause of disharmony and contention.

  • Read 3 Nephi 11:29–30. How does Satan “[stir] up the hearts of men to contend with anger”?

Whenever the spirit of contention comes into our homes, the Spirit of the Lord will leave. And without the Spirit of the Lord in our homes, we cannot be happy and feel the joy of the Lord and His gospel.

Our own personal weaknesses may also cause contention with others (see James 4:1). When a person is not at peace with himself, it is very difficult to live in harmony with others. Among the weaknesses that can cause disharmony are lust, greed, impure desires, and conflicting loyalties. President Spencer W. Kimball mentioned one weakness in particular: “A couple may have poverty, illness, disappointment, failures, and even death in the family, but these will not rob them of their peace. The marriage can be successful so long as selfishness does not enter in. Troubles and problems will draw [partners] together into unbreakable unions if there is total unselfishness there” (Marriage and Divorce [1976], 19, 22).

  • Why is selfishness such a source of disharmony and unhappiness in the home?

As President Kimball mentioned, problems that are commonly thought to cause unhappiness, such as poverty and illness, can actually bring a family closer together if family members work together unselfishly and lovingly.

Dealing with Family Problems

The following are ways the Lord and our Church leaders have given us to prevent or solve family problems.

Accept Responsibility

Parents and children both have responsibilities to each other.

  • Read about some of these responsibilities in Ephesians 6:1–4. What duty does a young man have to his parents? What duties do parents have to their children? How will accepting these responsibilities help to promote harmony in the home?

Avoid Unkind Words

Angry, unkind words have no place in our homes. Elder Boyd K. Packer counseled: “As you enter the marriage covenant, [you should never speak] a cross word—not one. It is neither necessary nor desirable. There are many who teach that it is normal and expected for domestic difficulty and bickering and strife to be a part of that marriage relationship. … I know that it is possible to live together in love with never the first cross word ever passing between you” (Eternal Marriage, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [14 Apr. 1970], 6). A soft, understanding answer calms us; angry words only cause more conflict (see Proverbs 15:1).

  • What is the difference between discussing differences and arguing?

Admit Mistakes

President Spencer W. Kimball gave this counsel:

“Being human, you may some day have differences of opinion resulting even in little quarrels. … Suppose an injury has been inflicted; unkind words have been said; hearts are torn; and each feels that the other is wholly at fault. Nothing is done to heal the wound. The hours pass. There is a throbbing of hearts through the night, a day of sullenness and unkindness and further misunderstanding. Injury is heaped upon injury until the attorney is employed, the home broken, and the lives of the parents and children blasted.

“But there is a healing balm which, if applied early, in but a few minutes will return you to [proper] thinking; … with so much at stake—your love, yourselves, your family, your ideals, your exaltation, your eternities—you cannot afford to take chances. You must swallow your pride and with courage, [say to your wife:] ‘Darling, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please forgive me.’ And [your wife will reply:] ‘Dear, it was I who was at fault more than you. Please forgive me.’ And you go into one another’s arms and life [will be good] again. And when you retire at night, it is forgotten, and there is no chasm between you as you have your family prayer” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 134).

  • What are some things that cause misunderstandings and quarrels? How can identifying the causes of the problems help us solve them? Why is it so difficult to admit our mistakes?

President Spencer W. Kimball told us to admit our mistakes and to say “I’m sorry.” When we sincerely do this, we have taken a large step toward settling family disharmony. Parents need to do this with their children too, not just with each other.

Show Kindness

One of the principles the scriptures give us to help us make our home life happier is kindness. We are commanded, in fact, to be kind, loving, and forgiving. Both children and adults in a family are counseled to treat each other with respect and the type of kindness Christ has shown us. In these matters, we should always let Christ be our model. (See Ephesians 4:29–32.)

  • Ask the assigned Aaronic Priesthood bearer to tell what things a young man can do to help promote harmony in the home.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught us how to achieve family happiness: “You ask, ‘What is the price of happiness?’ You will be surprised with the simplicity of the answer. The treasure house of happiness may be unlocked and remain open to those who use the following keys: First, you must live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. … Second, you must forget yourself and love your companion more than yourself. If you do these things, happiness will be yours in great and never failing abundance” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 126).

  • How can kindness prevent and solve family problems?

Pray

Harmony in the home is encouraged when we ask the Lord in family and personal prayer to help us overcome our differences.

  • Read 3 Nephi 18:19–21. Notice that it is a duty to pray in our families. How does prayer help to solve family problems?

The following story tells how one mother prayed for guidance to solve a problem in her home:

“It was about a week after we had taken ten-year-old Wayne into our home through the Church Indian Placement Program. He was a bright, handsome little boy, but, of course, he had to prove himself to the other boys. He fought with them quite often, and he could hold his own with the best of them.

“One day I received a phone call from his school teacher. The teacher informed me that he was having trouble with Wayne at school. Wayne was disrespectful to him and to other teachers. This was a blow to me. I had never had a problem like that with my own children, and it greatly upset me. Of course my temper flared, as it so often does, and I began to rehearse all the things I was going to tell Wayne when he returned home from school. ‘I must nip this problem in the bud,’ I told myself.

“To make matters worse, Wayne was late coming home from school because of a fight with a neighbor boy. They fought all the way from the bus stop. Finally they were on our front lawn. Both of them were fighting rough. I watched for awhile, until I was sure that the fight was indeed serious, then I stepped to the door and called Wayne into the house.

“He ignored me. He was not about to back down from the other boy. As I watched, I became even more angry. I ordered Wayne into the house. I was so angry that I knew I could not deal with the problem while in that state, so I sent him into his room to read.

“Shaking with anger, I slipped into my own bedroom and knelt and prayed. I prayed for wisdom in handling the problem, and I also asked that through the Spirit I would know what to say. As I stood up after praying, I felt a warm, calm feeling consume me. It started at my head and gently flowed to my feet.

“As I opened the door to Wayne’s room and saw him sitting there on the edge of the bed with a book in his hands, a million thoughts raced through my mind. He looked so out of place sitting in that room; somehow he belonged outdoors where he could run free, as he was used to doing. In an instant my heart went out to this little fellow so all alone, a little boy uprooted from familiar surroundings and plopped down in a different world, to live by different rules. He had to prove to the other boys that he was just as good, if not better, than they.

“I sat on the edge of the bed next to him, and put my arm around his shoulders. The first words I spoke surprised even me, for I said, ‘Wayne, forgive me for being so cross with you.’ Then I told him of the phone call from his teacher and gave him an opportunity to explain himself. We had a wonderful talk; he confided in me, and as we spoke, we did so in whispers. This was much different from the tone I had expected to use before asking my Heavenly Father for help. It was a truly spiritual experience and it did more for the relationship between Wayne and me than any other thing.

“Thank goodness we have prayer and the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us if we ask for it” (Myrna Behunin, “We Talked in Whispers,” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 51–52).

Conclusion

Challenges occur in the life of every family. We can choose how we will meet and resolve these challenges. By practicing the righteous principles discussed in this lesson, we can resolve challenges in our families and increase in love and unity.

Have class members sing “Love at Home” (Hymns, no. 294; or Gospel Principles, 352) at the close of the class.

Challenges

Build and improve the happiness of your own home by identifying any sources of disharmony among the family members.

If you have had unkind words with a family member, admit your mistake.

Treat family members with kindness.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Gospel Principles chapter 36, “The Family Can Be Eternal.”

  2. 2.

    Assign an Aaronic Priesthood bearer to tell how young men can promote harmony in the home.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.