We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility. We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform. We urge bishops and other Church officers to do all they can to assist parents in seeing that they have time and help, where needed, as they nurture their families and bring them up in the way of the Lord.1
If children are to be brought up in the way they should go, to be good citizens here and happy hereafter, they must be taught. It is idle to suppose that children will grow up good, while surrounded with wickedness, without cultivation. It is folly to suppose that they can become learned without education.2
I can say that it is good and wise and judicious in parents to instruct their children in the way. If they wish the word of the Lord upon the subject, I will give it to you and you may, any of you, write it down if you please. It is the will of the Lord our God that we teach our children the way of righteousness from the Holy Scriptures and there is no better method than for mothers to teach them at home, and in the Sunday Schools.3
We had to pay our own schoolteachers, raise our own bread and earn our own clothing, or go without; there was no other choice. We did it then, and we are able to do the same to-day. I want to enlist the sympathies of the ladies among the Latter-day Saints, to see what we can do for ourselves with regard to schooling our children. Do not say you cannot school them, for you can… I understand that the other night there was a school meeting in one of the wards of this city, and a part there–a poor miserable apostate–said, “We want a free school, and we want to have the name of establishing the first free school in Utah.” To call a person a poor miserable apostate may seem like a harsh word; but what shall we call a man who talks about free schools and who would have all the people taxed to support them, and yet would take his rifle and threaten to shoot the man who had the collection of the ordinary light taxes levied in this Territory–taxes which are lighter than any levied in any other portion of the country?4
How often is it the case that mothers will say—“Why, Pa, this child is growing up in ignorance, he is going to ruin. Really, dear husband, what shall we do with him?” I will tell you the truth as you will find it in eternity. If your children do not receive impressions of true piety, virtue, tenderness and every principle of the holy Gospel, you may be assured that their sins will not be required at the hands of the father, but of the mother. Lay it to heart, ye mothers, for it will unavoidably be so. The duty of the mother is to watch over her children, and give them their early education, for impressions received in infancy are lasting. You know, yourselves, by experience, that the impressions you have received in the dawn of your mortal existence, bear, to this day, with the greatest weight upon your mind. It is the experience of people generally, that what they imbibe from their mothers in infancy, is the most lasting upon the mind through life. This is natural, it is reasonable, it is right. I do not suppose you can find one person among five hundred, who does not think his mother to be the best woman that ever lived. This is right, it is planted in the human heart. The child reposes implicit confidence in the mother, you behold in him a natural attachment no matter what her appearance may be, that makes him think his mother is the best and handsomest mother in the world. I speak for myself. Children have all confidence in their mothers; and if mothers would take proper pains, they can instil into the hearts of their children what they please. You will, no doubt, recollect reading, in the Book of Mormon, of two thousand young men, who were brought up to believe that if they put their whole trust in God and served Him, no power would overcome them. You also recollect reading of them going out to fight, and so bold were they, and so mighty their faith, that it was impossible for their enemies to slay them. This power and faith they obtained through the teachings of their mothers.
The character of a person is formed through life, to a greater or less degree, by the teachings of the mother. The traits of early impressions that she gives the child, will be characteristic points in his character through every avenue of his mortal existence.
This is the education I wish you to establish in this Church, that mothers may not suppose they are not required to watch over the early education and impressions of their children, but over their husbands to know where they are every moment of their lives, taking special care to order them thus and so, so as to keep them advised and properly instructed all the time, instead of doing that which they ought in their houses with their children. I am not quite so strenuous as some of the ancients were, who taught that if the women wanted to learn anything, to learn it at home from their husbands. I am willing they should come to the meetings and learn, but some of the ancients proscribed them in this privilege, and would confine them at home to learn through their husbands. I am a little more liberal than they were, but this is not liberal enough for many of the women, they must also be watching their husbands, while at the same time their children are running abroad in the streets, naked and barefooted, cursing and swearing. What time have I got to watch my children today? Does not my duty demand my presence here? Where are my children? Some are here. Where are the rest of them? Perhaps in the streets, with other children, playing, or doing that which is wrong, entirely unnoticed by their mothers. This applies to the community. And then their mother will say—“Husband, our children will certainly be ruined.” Mothers, what do you want? Do you wish your husband to sit all the time in the parlor with you? Yes, and I should suppose, by the conduct of some, you want to be seated over the head of God Almighty, to rule over Him, and all His kingdoms. If I mention my own family, and use them as an example, I do it that other people cannot complain. Do you suppose that I cannot see faults in my own family, as well as in my neighbors? I am not so prejudiced in their favor, as not to discover faults in them, neither can I close my eyes upon the faults of my neighbors.
What faults do I discover in my neighbors’ families? I can see their women go off visiting, riding on horseback, attending parties, while their little ones are neglected, and left to run at large in the streets, exposed to the pernicious examples of vile company. Hear it again! The blood of these wicked children will be required at the hands of their mothers! Should your husbands be called out to fight the Indians, or go to the islands of the sea to gather the poor, it is none of your business, when it is their calling to be away from home.
I want education to commence here. I wish you strictly to follow out this principle, and when children are old enough to labor in the field, then the father will take them in charge. If children are not taught by their mothers, in the days of their youth, to revere and follow the counsels of their fathers, it will be hard indeed for the father ever to control them. I know it is so, for it is too true. Mothers will let their children go to the Devil in their childhood and when they are old enough to come under the immediate guidance of their fathers, to be sent out to preach the Gospel in the world, or to learn some kind of mechanism, they are as uncontrollable as the winds that now revel in the mountains.
It is not for the mother to rise up and encourage her children to fight against their father. You know my feelings on this point—they are pointed, resolute, and strong. And when I undertake to conquer a child who wants to conquer me, it shall be death to him before I yield. I would rather see every child I have, go into the grave this day, than suffer them to rise up and have control over me.
Mothers, if you suffer your children to grow up wild, and uncorrected, when they come into the hands of their fathers, and will not follow their counsels, let them be disowned, and have no portion in the inheritance; let them be disfranchised, be banished from Israel, and not be numbered in the books of the offspring of Abraham. This shall be the fate of my disobedient children, if I have any; and if there are any of my children here today, let them hear it! For if they will not keep my commandments, they shall have no part or lot in the household of faith.
Let education commence at this point, you mothers! And then with brother Spencer and the Board of Regents. Let mothers commence to teach their children while in their laps, there do you learn them to love the Lord, and keep His commandments. Teach them to keep your commandments, and you will learn them to keep the commandments of your husbands. It is not the prerogative of a child to dictate to his mother, or his father; and it is not the prerogative of the father to rise up and dictate to his God whom he serves. Is it right that my wife should dictate to me? It is just as reasonable, and as right, as it is for your children to rise up and dictate to their mother. It is not their business to dictate to you, their duty is to obey, and not to dictate.5
I am told in the revelations to bring up my children in the fear of God. Now we are engaged in building our temples that we may become united and linked together by eternal covenants that shall exist in all time and throughout eternity. And then when we have done all this go and deliberately turn our children over to whom? To men who do not believe the Gospel, to men who, according to your faith are never going to the celestial kingdom of God. And you will turn your children over to them. And you call yourselves Latter-day Saints, do you? I will suppose a case. You expect to be saved in the celestial kingdom of God. Well, supposing your expectations are realized, which I sometimes doubt, and you look down, down somewhere in a terrestrial or telestial kingdom, as the case may be, and you see your children, the offspring that God had given you to train up in his fear, to honor him and keep his commandments. And supposing they could converse with you what would be their feelings toward you? It would be, Father, Mother, you are to blame for this. I would have been with you if you had not tampered with the principles of life and salvation in permitting me to be decoyed away by false teachers, who taught incorrect principles. And this is the result of it. But then I very much question men and women’s getting into the Celestial kingdom of God who have no more knowledge about principles of life and salvation than to go and tamper with the sacred offspring, the principle of life which God entrusted to your care, to thus shuffle it off to imbibe the spirit of unbelief, which leads to destruction and death.6
Joseph F. Smith
I would like my children, and all the children of Zion, to know that there is nothing in this world that is of so much value to them as the knowledge of the gospel as it has been restored to the earth in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is nothing that can compensate for its loss. There is nothing on earth that can compare with the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let, therefore, all the parents in Zion look after their children, and teach them the principles of the gospel, and strive as far as possible to get them to do their duty—not mechanically, because they are urged to do it, but try to instill into the hearts of the children the spirit of truth and an abiding love for the gospel, that they may not only do their duty because it is pleasing to their parents, but because it is pleasing also to themselves.7
David O. McKay
The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.8
There is a spirit working among the Saints to educate their own offspring. If our children will be all we will have for a foundation of glory in eternity, how needful that they be properly trained… There are wolves among us in sheep’s clothing ready to lead astray our little ones… Wolves do not devour old sheep when there are any young ones. I have herded sheep long enough to know that. Look after your children.9
Political poison is being administered to many of the youth of America by advocates of Communism. There is one very effective source which can counter-act such teaching, and that is the influence of an intelligent mother.10
Joseph Fielding Smith
Children should be encouraged in the home to read and be instructed in the value of good books and how to discriminate between the good and the bad in literature.11
Spencer W. Kimball
President J. Reuben Clark said in his address to the MIA Conference in 1954:
You newlyweds have gone into the House of the Lord, you have been sealed with the holy spirit of promise. You, groom, have the priesthood. Through that sealing your bride has the blessings of the priesthood, not the priesthood itself. By virtue of the fact that you have the priesthood, you become the head of the family. What kind of a head of a family are you going to be? If I might make a very trite statement, the bride has not become your chattel by marriage to you; she is a complement of you in the family. For that purpose, she was created, that the two of you might go forward in a life that shall answer to the commandment given to you when you were married, “Multiply and replenish the earth,” one of the great commandments given to Adam in the beginning—.
If you will observe, you grooms, that one principle, it will tend to bring into your home more of happiness and contentment and peace than any other one thing of which I can think. How are you going to be the head of the family? You should be the head of the family in patience, in forbearance, in forgiveness, in kindness, in courtesy, in consideration, in respect and in all the other Christian virtues. You should be the head of the family in devotion and loyalty. If you are that kind of a head of a family, there will be nothing but happiness even as they bring further responsibilities.
In this comment President Clark was emphasizing the position of the husband. It goes almost without saying that the wife has responsibilities of equal importance to be a kind, considerate helpmeet to her husband.12
Ezra Taft Benson
Powerful forces are at work to lead our young people into the weird and destructive world of drugs, moral decay, and revolution. To say it cannot happen here is to disregard all existing statistics. In this age of permissive parents and soft permissive educational leaders, it is happening to tens of thousands of our youth. Why? Because these choice young people have not been properly alerted and informed by parents and teachers who are recreant to the greatest God-given trust, and because many students do not seem to appreciate their priceless heritage and other rich blessings.13
Mothers, take time to teach your children. Catch the teaching moments. This can be done anytime during the day—at mealtimes, in casual settings, or at special sit-down times together, at the foot of the bed at the end of the day, or during an early morning walk together. Mothers, you are your children’s best teacher. Don’t shift this precious responsibility to day-care centers or baby-sitters. A mother’s love and prayerful concern for her children are her most important ingredients in teaching her own.
Teach children gospel principles. Teach them it pays to be good. Teach them there is no safety in sin. Teach them a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a testimony of its divinity. Teach your sons and daughters modesty, and teach them to respect manhood and womanhood. Teach your children sexual purity, proper dating standards, temple marriage, missionary service, and the importance of accepting and magnifying Church callings. Teach them a love for work and the value of a good education. Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate movies and videos and music and books and magazines. Discuss the evils of pornography and drugs, and teach them the value of living the clean life.
Yes, mothers, teach your children the gospel in your own home, at your own fireside. This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive. This is the Lord’s way of teaching. The Church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain you. Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them.14 They will call you blessed—their truly angel mother. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time—lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.15
No nation rises above its homes. In building character the church, the school, and even the nation stand helpless when confronted with a weakened and degraded home. The good home is the rock foundation — the cornerstone of civilization. There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from a good home, with the old-fashioned virtues at its base. If your nation is to endure, the home must be safeguarded, strengthened, and restored to its rightful importance.16
One of the great needs is more parental instruction in life’s problems. I know there is a tendency for parents to shrink from this responsibility, the instructing of their own children in the problems of sex, the relationship with other young people, the problem of dating, and all of the many temptations that confront a growing boy and girl. These instructions should not be left to the school or to a class in sociology. The safest place, the best place, to give this vital counsel, these sacred instructions, in matters of moral purity should be in the home on a basis of confidence between parent and child. As parents, we should instruct our children. The sacred books of the ancient Persians say: “If you would be holy, instruct your children, because all the good acts they perform will be imputed unto you.”17
Repetition is a key to learning. Our sons need to hear the truth repeated, especially because there is so much falsehood abroad.18
“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”.19 His admonitions to us reveal a sequence to possessing the power of God in our message. First, it is to obtain the word, then we obtain understanding and the Spirit, and finally the power to convince. You can’t fool the Spirit. Some have tried only to learn of their own folly.20
As you teach these children, remember this is our first obligation, to implant in their hearts a testimony of the divinity of this great work, in a period when the world, even the Christian world, is filled with doubt and insecurity, when it is groping, unable to see the future and to know where it is going. The youth of Israel must have in their hearts a firm conviction that God is directing this work, that His priesthood and power is here, and that this is His kingdom. They must have in their hearts a testimony that God lives, that He is watching over us as His children-that He loves us.21
Before you can strengthen your students, it is essential that you study the doctrines of the kingdom and learn the gospel by both study and faith.22 To study by faith is to seek understanding and the Spirit of the Lord through the prayer of faith. Then you will have the power to convince your students. This is not just good advice; it is a commandment of the Lord.23
Gordon B. Hinckley
Behold your little ones. Pray with them. Pray for them and bless them. The world into which they are moving is a complex and difficult world. They will run into heavy seas of adversity. They will need all the strength and all the faith you can give them while they are yet near you. And they also will need a greater strength which comes of a higher power. They must do more than go along with what they find. They must lift the world, and the only levers they will have are the example of their own lives and the powers of persuasion that will come of their testimonies and their knowledge of the things of God. They will need the help of the Lord. While they are young, pray with them that they may come to know that source of strength which shall then always be available in every hour of need. 24
Parents, work at the matter of creating an atmosphere in your homes. Let your children be exposed to great minds, great ideas, everlasting truth, and those things which will build and motivate for good.25
Thomas S. Monson
Perhaps most significant of all classrooms is the classroom of the home. It is in the home that we form our attitudes, our deeply held beliefs. It is in the home that hope is fostered or destroyed. Our homes are the laboratories of our lives. What we do there determines the course of our lives when we leave home. Dr. Stuart E. Rosenberg wrote in his book The Road to Confidence, “Despite all new inventions and modern designs, fads and fetishes, no one has yet invented, or will ever invent, a satisfying substitute for one’s own family.26
Alma 57:21. Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your dhand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
“The writing anything about my way of education I am much adverse to. It cannot, I think, be of service to anyone to know how I, who have lived such a retired life for so many years, used to employ my time and care in bringing up my own children. No one can, without renouncing the world, in the most literal sense, observe my methods; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save souls of their children,which they think may be saved without so much ado; for that was my principal intention, however unskillfully and unsuccessfully managed.” 27
Henry B. Eyring
We cannot control what others choose to do, and so we cannot force our children to heaven, but we can determine what we will do. And we can decide that we will do all we can to bring down the powers of heaven into that family we want so much to have forever. “A key for us is in the proclamation: ‘Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ “What could make it more likely that people in a family would love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and obey the law? It is not simply teaching them the gospel. It is in their hearing the word of God and then trying it in faith. If they do, their natures will be changed in a way that produces the happiness they seek.28
Russell M. Nelson
Unfortunately, far too many parents in today’s world have abdicated the responsibility to teach these values and other Church doctrines to their families, believing that others will do it: the peer group, the school, Church leaders and teachers, or even the media. Every day our children are learning, filling their minds and hearts with experiences and perceptions that deeply influence personal value systems. 29
L. Tom Perry
I am impressed by countless mothers who have learned how important it is to focus on the things that can only be done in a particular season of life. If a child lives with parents for 18 or 19 years, that span is only one-fourth of a parent’s life. And the most formative time of all, the early years in a child’s life, represents less than one-tenth of a parent’s normal life. It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes. This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners. I am grateful that today many fathers are more involved in the lives of their children. But I believe that the instincts and the intense nurturing involvement of mothers with their children will always be a major key to their well-being…
Don’t overschedule yourselves or your children. We live in a world that is filled with options. If we are not careful, we will find every minute jammed with social events, classes, exercise time, book clubs, scrapbooking, Church callings, music, sports, the Internet, and our favorite TV shows. One mother told me of a time that her children had 29 scheduled commitments every week: music lessons, Scouts, dance, Little League, day camps, soccer, art, and so forth. She felt like a taxi driver. Finally, she called a family meeting and announced, “Something has to go; we have no time to ourselves and no time for each other.” Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together. 30
Mother was a great [relief society] teacher who was diligent and thorough in her preparation. I have distinct memories of the days preceding her lessons. The dining room table would be covered with reference materials and the notes she was preparing for her lesson. There was so much material prepared that I’m sure only a small portion of it was ever used during the class, but I’m just as sure that none of her preparation was ever wasted. How can I be sure about this? As I flipped through the pages of her notebooks, it was as if I were hearing my mother teach me one more time. Again, there was too much in her notebooks on any single topic to ever share in a single class session, but what she didn’t use in her class she used to teach her children.
I believe it is even safe to say that while my mother was an enormously effective teacher among the sisters at Relief Society, her best teaching occurred with her children in the home. Of course, this was largely due to the greater amount of time she had to teach her children compared to teaching the Relief Society sisters, but I also like to think she prepared so thoroughly, first, to be an example to her children of diligent Church service and, second, because she recognized that what she learned from preparing her lessons could be used repeatedly for a higher purpose—teaching her sons and her daughters.
. . .When we were young, we each had a desk in the kitchen where we could continue to be taught by her as she performed household duties and prepared supper. . . . Part of our learning at home also involved memorizing scriptures, including the Articles of Faith, and the words of prophets, seers, and revelators. My mother was someone who believed a mind would become weak if it was not constantly exercised. She taught us as we would wash the dishes, churn the butter, and help in many other ways. She did not believe in letting idle thoughts enter her children’s minds, even when they were engaged in physical labor. . . . while times may change, a parent’s teaching must never be devalued. Many activities link the values of one generation to the next, but perhaps the most central of these activities is parents teaching children in the home. This is especially true when we consider the teaching of values, moral and ethical standards, and faith. . . .
Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home. 31
The Lord intended parents to be the primary teachers of their children. He is not concerned about credentials, degrees, or curriculum and such—only about parents’ love for their children. He expects parents to sacrifice for their families. He expects learning and the search for truth in all areas to be a family quest and a lifetime pursuit. He expects excellence, integrity and refinement. And He stand ready to pour out direction and blessings upon the family. With the Heavens working with us, how can we fail?32
There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.
- First Presidency Letter, February 27, 1999.
- Joseph Smith, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph
- Brigham Young, The Teachings of President Brigham Young, Vol. 3 p. 100.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 16:19-20
- Journal of Discourses, 1:66.
- Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p. 107-108.
- Joseph F. Smith, Masterpieces of Latter-day Saint Leaders, comp. N. B. Lundwall, 1953, p. 78.
- David O. McKay, Family Home Evening Manual, 1968, p. iii.
- John W. Taylor, Collected Discourses
- David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 9.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp. 203-4.
- Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 74.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 306-307; “Opportunity and Challenge,” in BYU Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: BYU, 1970], p. 2.
- Proverbs 22:6
- Ezra Taft Benson, Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice, p. 33.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1966, p.130.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 295; So Shall Ye Reap, pp. 120-21
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 305; Conference Report, October 1985, Ensign 15 [November 1985]: 36
- D&C 11:21
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 313; Salt Lake City, Utah, 19 January 1977.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 309; So Shall Ye Reap, p. 35-36.
- D&C 88:118
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 309; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Environment of Our Homes,” Ensign, June 1985, p. 3.
- Thomas S. Monson, Precious Children—A Gift from God, Ensign, Nov 1991, p. 67.
- Franklin Wilder, Immortal Mother, New York: Vantage Press, 1966, p. 43;
- Henry B. Eyring, “The Family,” Ensign, Feb. 1998.
- Russell M. Nelson, Like A Flame Unquenchable, Church News, April 4, 1999.
- 2008 General Conference, L. Tom Perry, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/daughters-of-god?lang=eng
- 2010 General Conference, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/mothers-teaching-children-in-the-home?lang=eng
- Joyce Kinmont, President of the LDS Home Educators Association