Family scripture study at my house doesn’t look like it does in the church videos. It usually looks like this:
“…The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels…” (2 Nephi 13:20-21) My husband is reading, barely holding it together because he says men still aren’t any better at describing women’s clothing than Isaiah was.
“What’s a nose jewel?” my 9 year old asks. The response he gets is “Maybe it’s a booger.” That doesn’t come from my 7 year old, or my 9 year old, it came from my 36 year old husband. Since I am the only girl in the whole family, not counting the dog (which I don’t, mostly because she would side with the boys anyway), that reply went over exactly the way you imagine it would. Laughter trumped all, significantly delaying bedtime because although outwardly I was rolling my eyes I can’t resist those moments where we are unified in joy, and my kids know it.
Oh well, we will have to save those life changing, soul saving family scripture moments for another night.
When it comes to motherhood I wholeheartedly echo the words of Ammon who said “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak.” (Alma 26:12) I’m not just being modest, it is 100% true, and it is 100% okay. It is supposed to be that way. My greatest desire as a mother is for my children to be worthy to receive exaltation. But no matter how hard I try I can’t do that. In fact, it is not even my job to achieve that! That is the job of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, it is their sole purpose.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
Even if I am the best mother in the world I cannot atone for my children. I cannot bring to pass their eternal life. It is the work of God. When I rate my success as a mother based on how well I am doing Heavenly Father’s job I will come out feeling like a failure every time! Do you have faith that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are actively working towards their purpose? When we act with the knowledge that they are doing their part we can stop being distracted and focus on our portion of the task.
So what is our purpose in parenting?
Elder Bednar loves to cross reference Moses 1:39 with Doctrine and Covenants 11 and as I read the section with parenting in mind I saw my role as a parent in a whole new way. My friends, the entire section is a treasure trove of parenting advice, I hope you will choose to study it, but here are a few highlights (verses as noted):
“4. Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
“8. Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.”
I love that these verses point out that if we have a desire to assist in the raising of this generation, we are called to the work. Mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, leader, friend, whatever your title you have a stewardship and can have be a positive influence in this work.
“9. Say nothing but repentance unto this generation. Keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.”
In essence repentance means more than just repenting of sin, but implies a change of mind and heart that draws us closer to God. It also points out that we are His assistants in this work, that sure lets us know who the boss is!
“20. Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.
“21. Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
“”23. . . . Seek the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added according to that which is just.”
This is the essence of our work, to keep the commandments. We cannot assist in converting our children unless we are converted ourselves. Period. Everything else, including parenting, will follow. As Elder Packer famously told us decades ago “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (Little Children, October 1986) It will not be a study of the best time out methods, or chore charts, or grades, or activates that make us better parents. I am not trying to say that a study of the doctrine will negate the need of the study of the other things or, for parenting will always require consistent and deliberate effort. Parenting without works is dead. But that as we draw closer to Jesus Christ we will have greater ability to discern the truths and methods needed to teach in the best possible way, independent of cultural trends, pressures and distractions. We will find ourselves becoming partners with Him in the raising of the souls that we have been entrusted with and we will be successful in our role.
Although the deepest desires of our hearts for those we love is “most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) it is not a guarantee that they will choose to be successful in that quest. Remember that even a perfect father, Heavenly Father, still lost 1/3 of His children, and they didn’t even have the excuse of not remembering! Don’t beat yourself up for things outside your stewardship that go wrong.
Chances are if you are keeping your covenants, if you are doing your best to become like Him, if you are seeking personal revelation and action on that revelation, you are probably a pretty fantastic parent. Righteously act as if you have all the powers of heaven behind you, because you do. Have faith that Heavenly Father has His eye on things, because He does. Believe that you can be successful in your role, because you can be!