Chapter 46: Parental Responsibility

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 336–42


President Brigham Young loved children and believed in their purity before God. Many of his sermons contained advice to the Saints on how they should care for their children. For example, a small son of his had the habit of knocking his spoon and his bowl of bread and milk to the floor whenever it was placed in front of him. The child’s mother was perplexed. Brigham counseled her: “The next time he knocks the dish from your hand lean him against the chair, do not say one word to him, [and] go to your work.” The mother did this. The child at first stood by the chair and looked at his mother, then at what he had knocked onto the floor. Finally, he crawled to the spoon and the bowl and placed them back on the table. The child never knocked them from the table again. Of his wife’s action President Young said, “She might have whipped him and injured him, as a great many others would have done; but if they know what to do, they can correct the child without violence” (LBY, xxv). That President Young lived the principles he taught is evidenced by his daughter Susa’s description of him as “an ideal father. Kind to a fault, tender, thoughtful, just and firm. … None of us feared him; all of us adored him” (LSBY, 356).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Parents are guardians of God’s children and are to train, educate, and care for them.

We are the guardians of our children; their training and education are committed to our care, and if we do not ourselves pursue a course which will save them from the influence of evil, when we are weighed in the balance we shall be found wanting (LBY, xxiv).

Parents are responsible before the Lord for the way in which they educate and train their children, for “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed [Psalm 127:3–5]” (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2).

Parents, seek to honor your children; bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Teach them truth and not error, teach them to love and serve God [see Deuteronomy 6:5]; teach them to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (DNSW, 8 Aug. 1877, 1).

The mothers are the moving instruments in the hands of Providence to guide the destinies of nations. Let the mothers of any nation teach their children not to make war, the children would grow up and never enter into it. Let the mothers teach their children, “War, war upon your enemies, yes, war to the hilt!” and they will be filled with this spirit. Consequently, you see at once what I wish to impress upon your minds is, that the mothers are the machinery that gives zest to the whole man, and guide the destinies and lives of men upon the earth (DBY, 199–200).

We can guide, direct, and prune a tender sprout, and it inclines to our direction, if it is wisely and skilfully 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).

Parents should rear their children in love and kindness.

Let parents treat their children as they themselves would wish to be treated, and set an example before them that is worthy of you as Saints of God (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2).

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 (DBY, 207).

In our daily pursuits in life, of whatever nature and kind, Latter-day Saints … 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 to their wives and children, 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;” 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).

In passing through the world I see that the most of parents are very anxious to govern and control their children. As far as my observations have gone I have seen more parents who were unable to control themselves than I ever saw who were unable to control their children. If a mother wishes to control her child, in the first place let her learn to control herself, then she may be successful in bringing the child into perfect subjection to her will. But if she does not control herself how can she expect a child,—an infant in understanding—to be more wise, prudent and better than one of grown age and matured? (DNSW, 12 July 1870, 2).

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, … but parents should govern their children by faith rather than by the rod, leading them kindly by good example into all truth and holiness [see D&C 121:43] (DBY, 208).

We cannot chastise a child for doing that which is contrary to our wills, if he knows no better; but when our children are taught better and know what is required of them, if they then rebel, of course, they expect to be chastised, and it is perfectly right that they should be (DNSW, 8 July 1873, 1).

I will here say to parents, that kind words and loving actions towards children, will subdue their uneducated nature a great deal better than the rod, or, in other words, than physical punishment. Although it is written that, “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame [Proverbs 29:15],” and, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [Proverbs 13:24];” these quotations refer to … wise and prudent corrections. Children who have lived in the sunbeams of parental kindness and affection, when made aware of a parent’s displeasure, and receive a kind reproof from parental lips, are more thoroughly chastened than by any physical punishment that could be applied to their persons (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2).

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).

It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children; but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them (DNW, 9 Aug. 1865, 3).

I do not believe in making my authority as a husband or a father known by brute force; but by a superior intelligence—by showing them that I am capable of teaching them. … If the Lord has placed me to be the head of a family, let me be so in all humility and patience, not as a tyrannical ruler, but as a faithful companion, an indulgent and affectionate father, a thoughtful and unassuming superior; let me be honored in my station through faithful diligence, and be fully capable, by the aid of God’s Spirit, of filling my office in a way to effect the salvation of all who are committed to my charge (DNW, 23 July 1862, 2).

At times our children may not be in possession of a good spirit; but if the parent continues to possess the good Spirit, the children will have the bad spirit but a short time. … Rule in righteousness, and in the fear and love of God, and your children will follow you (DNSW, 7 Apr. 1868, 3).

Kind looks, kind actions, kind words, and a lovely, holy deportment towards them will bind our children to us with bands that cannot easily be broken; while abuse and unkindness will drive them from us, and break asunder every holy tie that should bind them to us and to the everlasting covenant in which we are all embraced. If my family, and my brethren and sisters will not be obedient to me on the basis of kindness, and a commendable life before all men, and before the heavens, then farewell to all influence (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2).

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).

Parents should kindly and firmly lead their children in righteous living.

You ought always to take the lead of your children in their minds and affections. Instead of being behind with the whip, always be in advance, then you can say, “Come along,” and you will have no use for the rod. They will delight to follow you, and will like your words and ways, because you are always comforting them and giving them pleasure and enjoyment. If they get a little naughty, stop them when they have gone far enough. … When they transgress, and transcend certain bounds we want them to stop. If you are in the lead they will stop, they cannot run over you; but if you are behind they will run away from you (DNSW, 8 Dec. 1868, 2–3).

A child loves the smiles of its mother, but hates her frowns. I tell the mothers not to allow the children to indulge in evils, but at the same time to treat them with mildness. If a child is required to step in a certain direction, and it does not seem willing to do so, gently put it in the desired way, and say, There, my little dear, you must step when I speak to you. Children need directing and teaching what is right in a kind, affectionate manner (DBY, 209).

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).

Children can be bound to their parents by an everlasting tie.

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).

Suggestions for Study

Parents are guardians of God’s children and are to train, educate, and care for them.

  • According to President Young, how are parents only guardians of their children? How might this perspective influence how you think of rearing children?

  • What does it mean to direct children in “the way of life”? What are some specific things that a parent can do to provide this direction?

  • What does President Young say is the blessing of a faithful parent? How is this achieved?

Parents should rear their children in love and kindness.

  • How can parents teach their children to love them rather than fear them? Why is this important?

  • Why are some parents so “very anxious to govern and control their children”? What must parents do before they can govern their children righteously? How have you successfully gained control of yourself in angry moments?

  • What is the difference between chastening an unruly child and physically or verbally abusing an unruly child? When and how is it appropriate to chasten a child?

  • Why is kindness more effective than physical punishment in disciplining children?

  • What do you think President Young meant when he said, “Children who live in the sunbeams of parental kindness and affection, when [they] … receive a kind reproof from parental lips, are more thoroughly chastened, than by any physical punishment that could be applied to their persons”?

  • What actions will bind children to their parents? What actions will drive children away from their parents?

Parents should kindly and firmly lead their children in righteous living.

  • When do children need direction? Why is it critical that “bounds” be given to children?

  • According to President Young, what is the best way to give direction to children? What can parents do to lead their children rather than drive them?

Children can be bound to their parents by an everlasting tie.

  • How can you bind your children to you with an everlasting tie?