Childhood is a period of preparation and learning. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports parents as they rear their children, but the real work of raising and teaching children falls to their mothers and fathers, whose parenting roles are sanctioned and bolstered by God Himself.
Our children help us rise to be the best we can be, and they can awaken previously untapped reserves of love and spirituality and reshape our priorities beyond the ordinary. They help us see beyond our own needs and remind us what it is to be humble and vulnerable; it is only the most valiant among us who can remain as humble and teachable as we ask our children to be nearly every day.
Molding and shaping our children to be the best they can be begins by acknowledging that they are, like us, spirit children of our Father in Heaven and that they arrive here with their own divine inheritances and identities. We’re entrusted with helping them develop this potential and it is, by far, the most important duty and privilege we’ll ever undertake in this life. It is in this pursuit that we most closely reflect the nurturing, paternal role of God, and indeed we partner with Him in this essential commission as we ask for inspiration on the big and the small aspects of parenting.
Once a wife and husband have forged lasting bonds between them, they have a chance to extend that refuge to children, widening their family circle to the first of exponential generations to come. We’re charged with developing our children’s characters, confidence, and identities and with teaching the importance of both greatness and goodness. We help them understand the responsibility that comes with having agency, and we teach them the consequences of good and bad choices and about repentance, eternal progression, and the purpose of life. We teach them to love themselves and each other by first exhibiting our own love to them. We convey values and teach our children correct principles to live by modeling Christlike attributes and being examples of good behavior. We believe in “do as I do” and not just “do as I say.”
We use tools to help us raise them well—tools like regular family prayer, service projects, daily scripture study, attending our church meetings, and weekly family home evenings, which are nights we set aside to just be with each other. Among Mormons this family gathering typically occurs on Monday nights. On these evenings we pray and sing; teach and learn lessons; play musical instruments and board games; share stories and treats and laughter; and invest in each other’s lives.
Each family member fills a crucial role in this little community that is the divine building block of all communities. The foundation of love and security comes largely from the mother, whose tender consistency in being there for her child begins from the moment of her child's birth. While the initial relationship of mother and child will eventually expand to include others, it is the mother whose face and voice and encircled arms comprise a child’s initial impressions of this life. Even as she leads her children through later stages of development, her role remains special as she tunes in to the divine intuition women are gifted with to help them in this profound responsibility. Prayerful requests for strength and spiritual insight regarding her children are her right.
Fathers support their wives in their parenting roles, and they manifest many of the loving attributes we understand our Heavenly Father to possess as they help ensure that the spiritual and material well-being of the family is intact. They lead by example and with patience. Fathers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exercise the priesthood in their homes. For example, they offer father’s blessings in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they lead family councils—family meetings in which parents listen to each other and to their children. Fathers help teach the gospel to their children and seek heavenly help to raise the next righteous generation.
As children embark on their lives away from their eternal family in heaven, they depend on their earthly parents to re-create the divine family relationship, and under the protective canopy of the home, mothers and fathers are striving to do exactly that.