Our fourth son is about to graduate from high school. As I think of his life and the lives of his older brothers and as I ponder the joy and challenges my wife and I have had in raising our children, I have a growing sense of gratitude for what the Church has done to help us in this journey. That gratitude grows especially great when I think of what the Church has done for my marriage. So much of what matters most in my life has been blessed by the Church and its teachings, and so much has been helped along by its programs and by association with its members.
Here are a few of the ways the Church has blessed me in these relationships.
- Foremost, I think, is the eternal perspective the Church gives. Marriage and family ties are meant to be eternal. They are of supreme importance. They are worth great sacrifices to build and preserve. This basic LDS perspective can do so much for parents and couples as they make decisions, face temptations, and plan their lives.
- Also vitally important are the Church’s teachings and commandments on moral standards. More than just “no sex before marriage” and constant fidelity afterwards, the Church helps young people and adults understand why sexual morality matters and why the powers of procreation are so sacred. It teaches men to respect and honor women as daughters of God, not as objects. It teaches me to cherish my wife as an eternal companion and to avoid anything that would jeopardize that relationship. It teaches to absolutely avoid pornography, one of the most insidious and relationship-destroying vices out there. These teachings have blessed my marriage and my family, and have helped us as parents in so many ways in raising our children that they might have better and richer lives.
- LDS teachings on personal revelation have brought so much help over the years. More than just believing in the power of prayer, we are taught that parents can and must receive personal revelation to guide us our duties and decisions. We are taught that the Gift of the Holy Ghost received after baptism can help us receive constant guidance in our lives and ares of responsibility. How wonderful it is when facing a challenge for a couple to prayerfully turn to the Lord and seek His guidance on behalf of a child or family challenge or decision. When a husband and wife are united in this and jointly seek to make inspired decisions pleasing to the Lord, it brings such peace and strength, even when things are difficult. This kind of approach can bring a family together in many ways in addition to finding wise solutions and making better decisions.
- The LDS rhythm of life, including daily prayer (including prayer as a couple and as a family), regular scripture study, and weekly Family Home Evening, bring our family together frequently and bless us repeatedly. I love being part of a family that prays and reads together. In addition to the spiritual blessings, the time spent reading with young children helped infuse them with reading skills that have made their lives much better, and made our work as parents much easier.
- The programs and people of the Church have provided constant positive guidance and good examples to my children and us as a couple. What a blessing it is to have our children’s lives enriched with seminary, Sunday services, Scouting and many other youth activities, wholesome youth outings and dances, inspiring speakers (some of the time, anyway), and loving adult leaders who really care about them and their eternal welfare. Anyone who has the least doubt about this Church would be amazed if they could put on a ring of invisibility and sit in on the leadership meetings of Young Men and Young Women leaders (group, ward, and stake levels), bishoprics and ward councils, and stake presidencies and see what really happens behinid closed doors–I’ve done all that, but usually in visible mode. You would encounter amazing, loving people who are prayerfully working and planning in their precious volunteer time to find ways to help young people have better lives, to succeed in personal growth and education, to have wholesome growing experiences, to love their families, to make wise decisions about marriage and education, to avoid destructive influences like drugs and alcohol, and above all to find joy by accepting and following Jesus Christ. Yep, that’s the big conspiracy behind everything the Church does: plotting and planning to bless lives through the power of Jesus Christ. And it works! I’m so grateful to the numerous people in the Church who gave of their time to help my boys long in so many phases of their lives. So many of my flaws and limitations as a parent have been compensated by the steady stream of help my children have received through the Church and its people and programs. Thank you!
- Ultimately, the best thing for families is the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which the Church helps us to make a part of our daily lives. The doctrines of forgiveness and repentance of sins is so vital for a healthy family. It adds to the charity, cooperation, and understanding that can bring joy to family life. We all sin and offend one another in the proximity of family life, but with the teachings and understanding of the Atonement in our lives, we can steer back on course and work together to look past our flaws and strengthen each other after we fall. The Atonement gives us the knowledge and hope that we can change and be better, and that we can be forgiven and have strength to forgive when hurt. We need that so much! It’s part of why we need to worship each Sunday, to partake of the sacrament and contemplate our relationship to Christ, and to partake of the doctrines and the Gospel and make them part of our lives. A crowning aspect of all this is the knowledge Christ and the Father intend for families to be eternal, and that through the blessings offered in the Temple make that possible.
I have so much to be grateful for, in spite of all the flaws and shortcomings I’ve had as a parent and spouse. I can’t imagine having had the joy that I’ve had in family life without the support and blessings made possible by the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would have fallen apart long ago! My mistakes would have been even more painful and my decisions even more short-sighted. And without the saintly patience of my wife, I would have been single again shortly aften marriage. How she endured those early months when I went through that country music phase (singing it, wretchedly, not just listening), I’ll never know. She truly is a saint.
In fact, I have the Church to thank for meeting her in the first place. We were both signed up for a seminary program called “Seminary Bowl”–a competitive Church-based quiz game–and I first set eyes on her at a seminary bowl meeting at the beginning of my senior year in high school. I can still remember that beautiful, flowing yellow dress she wore. What a sweet beginning to a wonderful journey.
From your perspective, what are the most important ways that the Church influences your family for good?