Chapter 24: Teaching the Family

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 170–76


“Let us live so that the spirit of our religion will live within us, then we have peace, joy, happiness and contentment, which makes such pleasant fathers, pleasant mothers, pleasant children, pleasant households, neighbors, communities and cities. That is worth living for, and I do think that the Latter-day Saints ought to strive for this” (DBY, 204).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The family is a divine institution in time and in eternity.

If every person who professes to be a Latter-day Saint, was actually a Saint, our home would be a paradise, there would be nothing heard, nothing felt, nothing realized, but praise to the name of our God, doing our duty, and keeping his commandments (DBY, 203).

When a man and woman have received their endowments and sealings [in the temple for eternity], and then had children born to them afterwards, those children are legal heirs to the Kingdom and to all its blessings and promises, and they are the only ones that are [legal heirs] on this earth (DBY, 195).

The ordinance of sealing must be performed here … woman to man, and children to parents, etc, until the chain of generation is made perfect in the sealing ordinances back to Father Adam; hence, we have been commanded to gather ourselves together to come out of Babylon, and sanctify ourselves, and build up the Zion of our God, … until the earth is sanctified and prepared for the residence of God and angels (DBY, 407).

Edward Martin family 1870

Edward Martin with his family in 1870. Edward was captain of the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company of 1856. He survived to become a photographer in Salt Lake City.

Parents should teach their children to keep God’s commandments.

We see the infant in its mother’s arms. What is this infant here for? What is the design in the creation of this little infant child? … You see this foundation, the starting point, the germ of intelligence embodied in this infant, calculated to grow and expand into manhood [or womanhood], then to the capacity of an angel, and so onward to eternal exaltation. But here is the foundation. … Here is the first place where we learn, this is the foot of the hill (DBY, 205–6).

I have often thought and said, “How necessary it is for mothers, who are the first teachers of their children and who make the first impressions on their young minds, to be strict.” How careful they should be never to impress a false idea on the mind of a child! They should never teach them anything unless they know it is correct in every respect. They should never say a word, especially in the hearing of a child, that is improper (DBY, 206–7).

Let mothers commence to teach their children while in their laps, there do you teach them to love the Lord, and keep his commandments (DBY, 206).

If you mothers, will live your religion, then in the love and fear of God teach your children constantly and thoroughly in the way of life and salvation, training them up in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it [see Proverbs 22:6]. I promise you this, it is as true as the shining sun, it is an eternal truth. In this duty we fail (DBY, 206).

Bring up your children in the love and fear of the Lord; study their dispositions and their temperaments, and deal with them accordingly, never allowing yourself to correct them in the heat of passion; teach them to love you rather than to fear you, and let it be your constant care that the children that God has so kindly given you are taught in their early youth the importance of the oracles of God, and the beauty of the principles of our holy religion, that when they grow to the years of man and womanhood they may always cherish a tender regard for them and never forsake the truth (DBY, 207).

Parents, teach your children by precept and example, the importance of addressing the Throne of grace; teach them how to live, how to draw from the elements the necessaries of life, and teach them the laws of life that they may know how to preserve themselves in health and be able to minister to others. And when instructing them in the principles of the Gospel, teach them that they are true, truth sent down from heaven for our salvation, and that the Gospel incorporates every truth whether in heaven, in earth, or in hell; and teach them, too, that we hold the keys of eternal life, and that they must obey and observe the ordinances and laws pertaining to this holy Priesthood, which God has revealed and restored for the exaltation of the children of men (DBY, 207).

If we do not take the pains to train our children, to teach and instruct them concerning these revealed truths, the condemnation will be upon us, as parents, or at least in a measure (DBY, 207).

As parents lead by proper example, they help set a righteous course for their family.

We should never allow ourselves to teach our children one thing and practice another (DBY, 206).

We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate. Do we realize this? How often we see parents demand obedience, good behavior, kind words, pleasant looks, a sweet voice and a bright eye from a child or children when they themselves are full of bitterness and scolding! How inconsistent and unreasonable this is! (DBY, 208).

If parents will continually set before their children examples worthy of their imitation and the approval of our Father in Heaven, they will turn the current, and the tide of feelings of their children, and they, eventually, will desire righteousness more than evil (DBY, 208).

Let the father and mother, who are members of this Church and Kingdom, take a righteous course, and strive with all their might never to do a wrong, but to do good all their lives; if they have one child or one hundred children, if they conduct themselves towards them as they should, binding them to the Lord by their faith and prayers, I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang (DBY, 208).

Our children will have the love of the truth, if we but live our religion. Parents should take that course that their children can say, “I never knew my father to deceive or take advantage of a neighbor; I never knew my father to take to himself that which did not belong to him, never, never! No, but he said, ‘Son, or daughter, be honest, true, virtuous, kind, industrious, prudent and full of good works.’” Such teachings from parents to their children will abide with them forever, unless they sin against the Holy Ghost (DBY, 209).

We can guide, direct, and prune a tender sprout, and it inclines to our direction, if it is wisely and skillfully applied. So, if we surround a child with healthy and salutary influences, give him suitable instructions and store his mind with truthful traditions, may be that will direct his feet in the way of life (DBY, 209).

Self-restraint and kind discipline help build strong families.

To gain the spiritual ascendancy over ourselves, and the influences with which we are surrounded, through a rigid course of self-discipline, is our first consideration, it is our first labor, before we can pave the way for our children to grow up without sin unto salvation (DBY, 203).

What did you promise your little girl if she would do so and so? Did you promise her a present for well doing? “Yes.” Have you recollected it? “No, it has gone from my mind,” says the mother. If she does ill have you promised her a chastisement? “Yes.” Did you keep your word? You have not, and the child forms the conclusion in its own mind directly that the mother tells that which is not true—she says she will do this or that, and she does not do it. It is an easy lesson for mothers to learn to pass their time with their children and never give them a false impression. Think before you speak. … If you wish to make them presents, do so; if you promise a chastisement, keep your word, but be cautious! (DBY, 210).

Parents should never drive their children, but lead them along, giving them knowledge as their minds are prepared to receive it. Chastening may be necessary betimes, but parents should govern their children by faith rather than by the rod, leading them kindly by good example into all truth and holiness (DBY, 208).

I can pick out scores of men in this congregation who have driven their children from them by using the wooden rod. Where there is severity there is no affection or filial feeling in the hearts of either party; the children would rather be away from father than be with him (DBY, 203).

In our daily pursuits in life, of whatever nature and kind, Latter-day Saints, and especially those who hold important positions in the Kingdom of God, should maintain a uniform and even temper, both when at home and when abroad. They should not suffer reverses and unpleasant circumstances to sour their natures and render them fretful and unsocial at home, speaking words full of bitterness and biting acrimony … , creating gloom and sorrow in their habitations, making themselves feared rather than loved by their families. Anger should never be permitted to rise in our bosoms, and words suggested by angry feelings should never be permitted to pass our lips. “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger” [Proverbs 15:1]. “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous” [Proverbs 27:4]; but “the discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” [Proverbs 19:11] (DBY, 203–4).

You see, hear and witness a good deal of contention among children—some of you do, if not all—and I will give you a few words with regard to your future lives, that you may have children that are not contentious, not quarrelsome. Always be good-natured yourselves, is the first step. Never allow yourselves to become out of temper and get fretful. … They have so much vitality in them that their bones fairly ache with strength. They have such an amount of vitality—life, strength and activity, that they must dispose of them; and the young ones will contend with each other. Do not be out of temper yourselves. Always sympathize with them and soothe them. Be mild and pleasant (DBY, 209–10).

In my experience I have learned that the greatest difficulty that exists in the little bickerings and strifes of man with man, woman with woman, children with children, parents with children, brothers with sisters, and sisters with brothers, arises from the want of rightly understanding each other (DBY, 203).

Suggestions for Study

The family is a divine institution in time and in eternity.

  • Why is the sealing of families for eternity so important? (See also D&C 128:18.) How can understanding the eternal importance and divine nature of family relations help us in our interactions with family members?

  • What can you do to strengthen the family ties between generations in your family? How can your actions affect your ancestors and your descendants?

Parents should teach their children to keep God’s commandments.

  • Who has the primary responsibility for teaching children? When should parents begin teaching their children to be righteous? What counsel did President Young give to parents regarding their roles as their children’s first teachers?

  • President Young said that parents should “bring up [their] children in the love and fear [respect] of the Lord.” (See also D&C 68:25–28.) How can you teach children to love and respect Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?

  • What principles did President Young outline for parents to teach their children? What might happen if parents do not teach their children properly?

As parents lead by proper example, they help set a righteous course for their family.

  • Why is example such a powerful way of teaching children? What kind of example are you setting for the children around you?

  • President Young stated that children will “return again to the fountain from whence they sprang.” Why might this promise be particularly comforting to parents whose children go astray? What can parents do to help wayward children want to return to their families?

  • What positive values did you learn from your parents? What are some of the values you want your children to learn from you? How can you teach these values? What evidence do you have that your children are learning values from you?

  • How can “truthful traditions” help your children become more committed to righteousness? What righteous traditions have strengthened your family? What righteous traditions would you like to establish in your family?

Self-restraint and kind discipline help build strong families.

  • What is the difference between “driving” children and “leading” them? Why is leading children more effective in teaching children righteousness?

  • Why is it essential to “maintain a uniform and even temper” when dealing with others, especially children?

  • Quarreling and fighting are sometimes common parts of family life. Why are these things detrimental to the family? (See also Mosiah 4:14.) What did President Young say is the primary reason these things happen? How can you promote better communication and understanding within your family? What have you done that has helped your family to show their love for each other more frequently?