“Strengthening the Family: Happiness in Family Life,” Liahona, Sept. 2005, 36
“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”1
A happy family life is a primary goal not only here in mortality but in the eternities to come, and mothers and fathers have an obligation to do everything possible to make that goal a reality. Recognizing our limitations because of the agency of others, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “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.”2
“Parents are the master teachers,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “They do their most effective teaching by example. The family circle is the ideal place to demonstrate and learn kindness, forgiveness, faith in God, and every other practicing virtue of the gospel.”3
Helping children mature into spiritually committed adults is no easy matter in today’s world, but parents are not alone. They are partners with Heavenly Father. To missionaries the Lord promised, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). Parents—because the teaching of their own children is perhaps the most important missionary labor—can feel confident of similar promises.
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) once taught: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it. We parents can be both.”4 As parents seek the Lord’s Spirit in their lives, their example will shine brightly for their children and their goodness will be reflection of a far greater light.
Sometimes children need correction and discipline. Thus, parents should study carefully Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–44. President Gordon B. Hinckley has also given wise counsel: “There is need for discipline with families. But discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty, inevitably leads not to correction but rather to resentment and bitterness. It cures nothing and only aggravates the problem.”5
“Children cannot be forced into obedience,” explained President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “Our best method for correcting children when they have done wrong is by firmness, love, patience, kindness, persuasion, and reason.”6
Families grow stronger as they spend time together. Elder Oaks explained:
“Families should pray together, kneeling night and morning to offer thanks for blessings and prayers for common concerns.
“Families should worship together, participating in church services and family devotionals.
“Families should study and learn. …
“Families should work together. … Families should also play together, so that happy recreational experiences are associated with the activities of the family.
“Families should counsel together, treating all matters of concern to the family and its members.
“Families should eat together. Mealtime is a natural time for the family to assemble and communicate. It is a shame for such an opportunity to be lost in family bickering or to be fragmented by family members seizing food and scattering to the four corners as if the family kitchen were a fast food outlet.”7
Sometimes, in spite of every good effort by parents to teach their children and to build unity in the family, children struggle and even rebel. Those who find feelings are strained in their family, that they are temporarily losing the battle for happiness, can put this promise from Elder Eyring to the test: “I promise you that if you’ll use your gifts to serve someone else, you’ll feel the Lord’s love for that person. You’ll also feel his love for you.”8 Sometimes all we can do as parents is to love and serve, expecting no immediate return. But these efforts will bring peace. And eventually, when the storm has passed and feelings have softened, they may also bring the fruit we desire most—happiness in our families now and in the eternities.