I spoke at church yesterday! This was my talk:
“More Diligent and Concerned in the Home”
Growing up, I never doubted my parents love for each other and their love for me (and each of their other 5 children). I witnessed my father sneaking up behind my mother to kiss her and express his love much more than I ever felt comfortable with during my teenage years. Their PDAs were often and sincere enough to significantly counteract the effects (or perhaps, post traumatic trauma?) of our yearly pilgrimages to Utah in a hot, crowded minivan. Those kisses and more I would say more than made up for the seemingly endless hours of arguing about directions, driving and stinky feet. Now THAT is a lot of love.
Elder Bednar gave a wonderful talk during last fall’s General Conference entitled “More Diligent and Concerned in the Home.” In it, he offers 3 suggestions on how we can build a foundation in our homes that is built on Christ and our love for our families.
The first Suggestion is to express love – and show it.
Simply put, he says we should sincerely and frequently express love to our family members; expressing not only in words, but in our actions as well.
In my home, I’d say we’re pretty good with the “I love yous”. In fact, we have an “I love you” for any occasion. The sweet, heartfelt “thank heavens you’re finally home, I wouldn’t have lasted another second without you” I love you, the “what you said is so funny and adorable I could just eat you up” I love you, the “I’m so sorry you have get up early and go to work while I get to just lay here, but really you’re my hero” I love you and finally, the “I need to get off the phone but I don’t want to be rude so instead of saying that I’ll just suddenly say ‘I love you’” I love you. Saying it is definitely important although pretty darn EASY. Showing it is a lot harder.
In his talk, Elder Bednar stated:
We should remember that saying “I love you” is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.My 3 year old son and I go through a set of rules almost daily on how not to treat people - a list he thoroughly enjoys reciting to me if I so much as raise my voice: No yelling, no hitting, no biting, no pushing. Now, assuming you all have those down, we can discuss how we DO treat others, most especially those we hold most dear. Please forgive me for my love of cheesy Mormon youth/EFY music, but the Michael Mclean song, “Are You Giving the Least to Those Who Matter Most” runs through my mind whenever I approach this topic, and it’s times like this that I really wish I could sing. I don’t even need to look over at my husband to know he’s rolling his eyes right now. Maybe later he’ll give my one of those “you’re such a nerd, but you’re MY nerd” I love yous. Anyway, here is the part I keep humming in my head: “Are you giving the least to those who matter most or are you sharing your best with those who really aren’t that close? Well it’s time to turn around and find out where your greatest joys are found.” I find it easiest to think of things that way – just save your best for the best. Your wife, husband, children, etc. should see the best of you and receive the best you have to give. This includes your patience, your listening ear, your smile, your talents, your faith and your respect.
The second suggestion is to Bear Testimony – and Live It.
I pulled this quote from Elder Bednar’s talk:
The bearing of testimony need not be lengthy or eloquent. And we do not need to wait until the first Sunday of the month to declare our witness of things that are true. Within the walls of our own homes, we can and should bear pure testimony of the divinity and reality of the Father and the Son, of the great plan of happiness, and of the Restoration…. Each of us already knows we should bear testimony to the people we love the most. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed…. As we profess truth rather than admonish, exhort, or simply share interesting experiences, we invite the Holy Ghost to confirm the verity of our words.I can relate to the embarrassed bit. Openly sharing my testimony is something I find difficult and to be honest, a little awkward. Although I’m pretty sure it’s not as difficult as I’m making it out to be – especially after breaking the ice and getting into the habit. In fact, no one made it seem easier than my own mother. In high school, my mom was the early morning seminary teacher (held at my house, pretty awesome, I know) so I heard her testimony every weekday at the crack of dawn, whether I wanted to hear it or not. I suppose I could try that with my own children, it might even be less intimidating when they’re drowsy… But if I can’t rustle up the Spirit that early, Family/spouse scripture study or Family Home Evening will definitely continue to be the easiest time for me to bear my testimony. Perhaps I’ll work on being more stealth, gradually sneaking my feelings on the plan of happiness into breakfast time as time goes by.
The third suggestion is to Be Consistent.
It’s hard not to recite the rest of his talk here because it’s just so good. Elder Bednar told about his experiences bringing his rambunctious young boys together for family home evening, scripture reading and the like; an effort that often left him and his wife exasperated, feeling as though they weren’t doing any good. They persisted however, and here’s what Elder Bednar believes came of their efforts:
Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.
Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome. But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn together. The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson—a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time…
Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.As I mentioned earlier, in my home growing up there were 6 of us children. The odds were stacked way against my parents, and we often resembled a pack of wolves as opposed to children. We ran around throughout the neighborhood often without shoes, and sometimes without clothes. My parents, bless their hearts, were diligent however -- and my dad was really strong -- and despite being vastly outnumbered, they still managed to reign us in for family dinners, family prayers, and FHEs, all of which were interspersed with complaining, hitting, giggling and mysterious bodily noises. As we got into high school, we might have been a little more reverent, but our varying schedules made it a much harder get everyone together. I know, however, that my parents still tried and that’s what sticks with me. Their efforts were always consistent with their love for us.
Consistency is really the key. None of us is perfect, and we’re certain to fall short at some point. What’s critical is that we keep at it and are consistent in our efforts, otherwise our words will ring hollow. For example, Marc and I have something of a dirty secret: We have a weakness for sugared cereal, especially as a midnight snack. Erich doesn’t know about this secret life we lead, he just knows that he’s not allowed to choose the pretty boxes of Lucky Charms as his cereal in the morning (otherwise he’d refuse to eat anything else). But if I happen to break down during the light of day, and he sees me start to pull the box out, he definitely has an opinion about it. He used to say something like: “Mama, you can only have yellow or blue!” But now he’s started with: “Yummy Mama, can you share?” Children will call you out AND THEN FOLLOW YOUR LEAD if they catch you breaking your own rules or going against your own philosophies. Teenagers will notice too, only instead of following your lead, they’ll likely come up with something on their own – something much more interesting. At least that’s what I remember doing…
The point is, we need to be authentic and sincere with our families. We need to do more than say we love our family in public, we need to tell them and show them we love them in private. We also need to do more than say we have a testimony of the gospel, we need to share it with our family regularly and live in a way that shows we do. If we want our family to grow closer to one another and to Christ, then we must be consistent. As parents, as hard as it may be, it is important to be diligent about ensuring our families come together for scripture reading, family home evening, dinners and time together. But the effort alone is tangible evidence to our children that we really do love them and that our beliefs really are important to us. 1st Timothy 4:12 states “But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Love and faith simply aren’t things that can be understood through words alone, they need to be taught through action, so our children learn by receiving love and faith.
Elder Bednar says that:
As we seek the Lord’s help and in His strength, we can gradually reduce the disparity between what we say and what we do, between expressing love and consistently showing it, and between bearing testimony and steadfastly living it. We can become more diligent and concerned at home as we are more faithful in learning, living, and loving the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.I really believe this is true. I think if we consistently share our love and our testimony with our families, we’ll end up with closer, more faithful families. It may not happen immediately, but that’s the fruit these efforts will ultimately bear. But now I’m trapped, see. I’ve publicly expressed that’s what I believe so now I need to follow through behind closed doors! Well I promise I’ll try. None of us is perfect, and our busy lives often get in the way, but the best we can do is keep on trying. Elder Marlin K. Jensen once joked that his family never seemed to get Lehi out of the desert in their family scripture study, but they kept at it nonetheless. Having faith in our own efforts and trudging through even when we feel stuck in the mud is part of the journey, and I know our families will be eternally blessed as a result. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.