The family is ordained of God. It is central to His plan. He has established families to bring happiness to His children, to help them learn the gospel in a loving atmosphere, and to prepare them for eternal life. The home is the most important place to teach, learn, and apply gospel principles.
Parents have the primary responsibility for teaching their children the gospel (see D&C 68:25–28). The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have declared: “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).
What Parents Should Teach Their Children
The following summarizes many of the things that parents should teach their children. Resources that you can use in teaching your children include the scriptures, the words of latter-day prophets, Church magazines, and other Church-produced materials.
Basic Principles of the Gospel
The Lord has commanded parents to teach their children “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” (D&C 68:25). You should teach your children of the Savior’s Atonement, the nature of the priesthood and the ordinances of salvation, and the central role of families and eternal marriage in the divine plan of happiness.
The Lord has also commanded that parents “teach their children to pray” (D&C 68:28). It is essential for children to know that they can talk to Heavenly Father and seek His guidance. You can teach them that God is always ready to help them. You can help your children learn to pray individually in the morning, at night, and whenever they need help or want to express thanks. You can also teach the importance of family prayer.
You will receive great blessings as you study the gospel individually and hold daily scripture study as a family. You will be able to help your children love the scriptures and recognize the power of God’s word in their lives (see
Living the Gospel
You should teach your children to exercise their agency in righteous ways—to apply gospel teachings in all they do. As King Benjamin taught, you should teach your children “to walk in the ways of truth and soberness” and “to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15).
In the home, children should learn to keep the Sabbath day holy, pay tithing, and follow latter-day prophets. They should learn to seek for all things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
In addition to teaching doctrinal topics, you should teach your children practical skills such as how to manage money, maintain good health, get along with others, and take care of clothing and property. Help them learn to work hard, get a good education, and be good citizens.
How Parents Can Teach Their Children
As a parent, you should strive to establish patterns of gospel living in your home (see
Example can be your most powerful teaching tool. Children learn attitudes and conduct by observing your actions (see
Regular Occasions for Teaching in the Home
Daily family prayers and scripture study, family home evening, and even family traditions can weave the gospel into every part of children’s daily living (see
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “Love for our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ is greatly enhanced when the gospel is taught and lived in the home. True principles of eternal life are embedded in the hearts and souls of young and old alike when scriptures are read and discussed, when prayers are offered morning and night, and when reverence for God and obedience to Him are modeled in everyday conduct” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 112; or Ensign, May 1996, 81).
Some of your greatest teaching opportunities will be unplanned. Be alert for opportunities that arise in the course of everyday living to teach your children gospel principles (see
It Is Never Too Late for Parents to Begin Teaching Their Children
It is important to establish patterns of gospel living when children are young. As Elder L. Tom Perry expressed, “How important it is that gospel training begin right at the start when we accept a new little spirit into our home” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 87; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 74). Smaller children are eager to participate in family home evening, scripture study, prayer, and service projects.
President Thomas S. Monson observed: “There are those who dismiss these responsibilities, feeling they can be deferred until the child grows up. Not so, the evidence reveals. Prime time for teaching is fleeting” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 21; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 17).
Still, it is never too late to begin teaching the gospel to your children—or to begin again. The teaching process will be different if you have delayed teaching your children the gospel. There may be additional challenges. But the Lord will bless you for your earnest efforts to teach true principles and establish righteous practices in your family. If you are newly awakened to your parenting responsibilities, take hope. Pray, exercise faith, and do all you can to reach your children and influence them for good.
Elder Robert D. Hales explained, “Certainly parents will make mistakes in their parenting process, but through humility, faith, prayer, and study, each person can learn a better way and in so doing bless the lives of family members now and teach correct traditions for the generations that follow” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 10–11; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 10).