One of the ways the Lord teaches us is by guiding us to establish upright, worshipful patterns of living. He commands us to pray and read the scriptures every day, individually and as families. He commands us to attend church and partake of the sacrament weekly, to attend the temple as often as we can, and to fast and pay fast offerings each month. These patterns of living show us the way we should walk as His disciples.
Children learn to live as the Savior’s disciples when they join with their families, from their earliest years onward, in repeating the patterns of worship, service, study, and work that He has ordained. If the family does not live by these patterns, the effectiveness of the parents’ formal gospel teaching will be limited. If the parents’ way of life is inconsistent with their spoken words, the children will tend to follow what the parents do more than what they say. But if the parents speak often of the Savior and establish His ways as their family pattern, they will teach their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” as Enos said he had been taught by his father (Enos 1:1).
President Brigham Young stated: “In every nation, community, and family, there are peculiar traditions, and the child is trained in them. If the law of Christ becomes the tradition of this people, the children will be brought up according to the law of the celestial kingdom. … Children will then be brought up, under the traditions of their fathers, to do just right, and to refrain from all evil” (in Journal of Discourses, 3:327).
Our children are “brought up according to the law of the celestial kingdom” as we establish patterns of gospel living in our homes.
Specific Things We Can Do to Establish Patterns of Discipleship
We have the obligation to conscientiously choose and foster patterns of gospel living. For example, we can select art, music, and literature that will help our children develop a preference for that which uplifts and edifies. We can serve together in the Church and community. We can choose modest clothing for ourselves and help our children do the same. We can study the scriptures together and hold family home evening. We can foster a reverent attitude toward the Sabbath that will influence children’s feelings about keeping it a holy day.
One of the most powerful ways to establish righteous patterns of living is to create and maintain family traditions. Children feel secure in knowing that no matter what happens in their lives, certain events in their family will remain the same. President Ezra Taft Benson counseled: “Foster wonderful family traditions which will bind you together eternally. In doing so, we can create a bit of heaven right here on earth within individual families. After all, eternity will be but an extension of righteous family life” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1989, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 5).
Many family traditions can be gospel centered. For example, in some families, children receive a new copy of the Book of Mormon on their eighth birthday. Some families celebrate Christmas by acting out the events surrounding the Savior’s birth. In some families, the father administers a priesthood blessing to each of his children at the beginning of a new school year. Some families have annual reunions or meet together for holidays and baby blessings. These anticipated and beloved traditions strengthen families and individuals as they rejoice in repeating what is familiar and often sacred. Traditions can remind family members of their way of life as disciples of Christ, and they can often provide opportunities for instruction in gospel principles.
Changing Unwanted Patterns in Our Families
We can change unwanted patterns in our families. If we have come from a less-active family, we can change that pattern in our own lives and strive to regularly attend Church meetings. If we have criticized Church leaders or heard our parents do so, we can choose from now on to sustain our leaders through our language and actions. Such changes in the way we live will give our children a better pattern to follow.
A member of the Church shared the following story:
“My husband, Roger, was raised in a home with no patterns of gospel living. His father was addicted to alcohol, and the family suffered from this. His mother tried to be active in the Church, but his father wanted the family to do other things on Sunday. Roger became very active with friends as a teenager, and when he obtained his own testimony of the gospel, he began to keep a special loose-leaf notebook of what he wanted to have in his own family when he got married. He was about 17 at the time. He had one section in the notebook for what he would do with his children, one for what he wanted in a wife, one for how he wanted his house to be, and one for the kind of job he would prepare himself for. He wrote all his ideas there, and he also included articles he found that were helpful. Some of what he wrote he learned from the negative example of the family in which he was raised; it taught him how he didn’t want his own family to be. His father so objected to his Church activity that he needed to move out, and he lived with a religious family whom he admired, though they were not Church members. From them he got other ideas about his future family. So even at that early age, he wanted to be a turning point in his generation from a troubled past to a more blessed future.
“When we became engaged he showed me the notebook, and we would discuss the ideas and develop them until we shared our vision of what we wanted for our family. I remember the first thing we worked on was prayer. We taught our children to pray from the time they were very tiny, so it would be a deeply ingrained habit they wouldn’t think of ignoring. We decided tithing would never be a question. We held family home evenings faithfully. And we established the tradition of scripture study every morning. At first we worked too hard to read a certain number of verses each time, but then we realized that the discussions we had when the children asked questions were more important than keeping strictly to a schedule. In the last few years we have added a hymn right after opening prayer, with all the verses. This wakes us up and brings a good spirit. These are only a few of the traditions around which our family has been built.
“I marvel that my husband decided to set up righteous traditions in his own family when he was so young and had such a poor example to follow. I also marvel and am grateful that he was so determined to work together to teach them to our family, mostly by just doing them on a faithful basis.”