One of the best ways to strengthen families is to strengthen youth through regular religious practices in the home, according to today’s prophets and apostles. President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Robert D. Hales, and Elder Quentin L. Cook offered counsel on this subject during the April 2012 general conference.
For example, President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said families should have regular prayer and regular family time together.
“One way for you to reproduce the successes of Father Lehi is by the way you lead family prayers and family time, such as family home evenings,” President Henry B. Eyring said during the April 2012 general conference.
“Give children opportunities to pray, when they can pray, for each other in the circle who need blessings. Discern quickly the beginnings of discord and recognize acts of unselfish service, especially to each other. When they pray for each other and serve each other, hearts will be softened and turned to each other and to their parents.”
Lift and Lead
Speaking on ways to strengthen families and help youth remain faithful, President Eyring suggested four things fathers can do to lift and lead their family so that they will feel close to Heavenly Father and the Savior.
First: Fathers should gain and keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with them in the home and held by the President of the Church for the Church as a whole.
Second: As a husband, love your wife. Strengthen and reassure her and you will strengthen and reassure your children as well.
Third: Encourage the entire family to love each other, both in word and in their actions.
Fourth: When discipline is needed, use it as an opportunity to lead your family in the Lord’s way. To correct in the Lord’s way means to lead our children toward eternal life.
Care of Brothers and Sisters
President Eyring said the third item, love among family members, is of particular importance. “Consistent care of brothers and sisters for each other will come only with persistent effort by parents and the help of God,” he said. “You know that is true from experience in your own families. And it is confirmed each time you read of the family conflicts faced by righteous Lehi and his wife, Sariah, in the Book of Mormon record.”
President Eyring said the successes of Lehi’s family provide a guide for us in keeping our families and children faithful. “They taught the gospel of Jesus Christ so well and so persistently that children and even some descendants over generations had hearts softened toward God and toward each other,” he said. “For instance, Nephi and others wrote and reached out to family members who had been their enemies. The Spirit at times softened the hearts of thousands and replaced hatred with love.”
Learning Spiritual Self-Reliance
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the same subject during the same general conference. “It is difficult for youth to understand how present actions will prepare them for or disqualify them from future service opportunities,” he said.
“All of us have an ‘imperative duty’ to assist our youth in preparing for lifelong service by helping them become self-reliant.”
Elder Hales spoke to parents and leaders about how to help youth to become more spiritually self-reliant and to remain faithful.
“As our spiritual desires increase, we become spiritually self-reliant. How, then, do we help others, ourselves, and our families increase our desires to follow the Savior and live His gospel? How do we strengthen our desires to repent, become worthy, and endure to the end? How do we help our youth and young adults let these desires work in them until they are converted and become true ‘saint[s] through the atonement of Christ’?” he asked.
“We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants—through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.”
Lift Others to Higher Ground
“The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance,” Elder Hales said, “is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.”
“Whether we are young or old, what we do today determines the service we will be able to render and enjoy tomorrow. As the poet reminds us, ‘Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”’ Let us not live our lives in regret of what we did or did not do!”
Come to Ourselves
“With His love and the love of His Son in my heart,” Elder Hales said, “I challenge each of us to follow our spiritual desires and come to ourselves. Let’s have a talk with ourselves in the mirror and ask, ‘Where do I stand on living my covenants?’ We are on the right path when we can say, ‘I worthily partake of the sacrament each week, I am worthy to hold a temple recommend and go to the temple, and I sacrifice to serve and bless others.’ ”
Raised in Truth and Righteousness
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Our great desire is to raise our children in truth and righteousness. One principle that will help us accomplish this is to avoid being overly judgmental about conduct that is foolish or unwise but not sinful. Many years ago, when my wife and I had children at home, Elder Dallin H. Oaks [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] taught that it was important to distinguish between youthful mistakes which should be corrected and sins that require chastening and repentance. Where there is lack of wisdom, our children need instruction. Where there is sin, repentance is essential.”
Elder Cook said, “Religious observance in the home blesses our families. Example is particularly important. What we are speaks so loudly that our children may not hear what we say.”
He also spoke of the importance of mothers and fathers praying with children, saying that it may be more important than any other example. And he counseled parents about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon with their children regularly.