What can I do to help my family grow spiritually?

“What can I do to help my family grow spiritually?” Ensign, Dec. 1992, 29–30

My husband often neglects his priesthood duties as patriarch of our home. What can I do to help my family grow spiritually?

Thomas A. Holt, regional representative, Independence Missouri and Omaha Nebraska regions. The situation you describe is a difficult one. There are no easy answers. If your husband resists or resents your efforts to motivate him to honor his priesthood duties, go to our Heavenly Father in prayer and ask for the inspiration you have the right to receive, to know what you can do to best motivate your husband to honor his priesthood, also asking the Lord to soften your husband’s heart. You may feel impressed by the Spirit to discuss the problem with your bishop.

Keep certain “family-first” priorities in mind as you decide how to nurture your family’s spiritual growth. Your first priority is to love God and be responsible for your own righteousness; that is, you must persevere on the road to exaltation despite setbacks that might occur in your family. Your next priorities, in order of urgency, are to help your spouse, your children, and then other family members to live the gospel and seek exaltation.

You may be limited in what you can do to foster your family’s spirituality if, for example, your initiating family prayer and family home evenings alienates your husband. In that case, loving patience may be your best recourse, since even gentle, well-intentioned prodding may be perceived by your husband as nagging. Rather than jeopardize your family’s spiritual well-being, you may have to relent, allowing your husband the time and space he may need.

Some less-active husbands shirk their patriarchal duties because they lack confidence or feel unworthy. Although your bishop, your husband’s priesthood quorum leader, and your home teacher may be of great help here, there are some things you should consider as you try to help your family without appearing to take over.

In this regard, your course is clear—sustain your husband even in his weakness. Complement his weaknesses with your strengths, just as a bishop’s counselors assist the bishop by sharing their insights and testimonies without usurping his authority. Allow your husband a margin of error, which will probably diminish as he gains experience and grows spiritually.

Giving continued support to your husband is crucial. Talk things over with him, letting him know of your willingness to help him plan and call the family together for prayers, home evenings, and council meetings. Give him loving, respectful counsel. Be patient. Tell your children that you appreciate having a priesthood holder in your home.

With the entire family cheering for him, your husband may find it easier to resume his patriarchal role. If you feel it will be well received, you can help the family support him by helping assemble the family for prayer and saying something like “Dad, as head of our home, would you like to call on someone to pray?” It’s also a key idea to meet privately with your husband before family home evenings and council meetings so that you and he will address family concerns in a united fashion. And there are many areas you will both want to teach—honesty, integrity, thrift, hard work, and so forth.

Look to the Book of Mormon for insights into your situation. For example, the account of Nephi breaking his bow teaches in a powerful manner the wisdom of supporting the family patriarch. Left without a means of obtaining food in the wilderness, it appears that many of the company, but not Nephi, “began to murmur against the Lord.” (1 Ne. 16:20.) Although Nephi knew that his patriarch-father shouldn’t murmur, he didn’t presume to lead the family. Instead, he made another bow and then went to his father for direction. The result was that Lehi repented and, chastened, learned from the Lord where food could be found. (See 1 Ne. 16:18–31.)

Nephi’s respect for his father’s patriarchal role helped Lehi to draw close to the Lord. Helping your family to show a similar degree of respect to your husband is no guarantee that he’ll honor his role as family patriarch, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Seeking the inspiration of the Lord, you must ultimately decide how to teach your children righteous principles while respecting your husband’s role as head of the family. However confusing and challenging that may seem, you can trust that the Lord will guide you as you fast, pray, and seek his inspiration in your unique situation.

Nephi’s New Bow, by Gregory Sievers