Chapter 29: The Importance of the Family

“Chapter 29: The Importance of the Family,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 78–82

“29: Family,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 78–82

Chapter 29

The Importance of the Family


Only in and through a family unit can we obtain eternal life. President Gordon B. Hinckley declared:

“How beautiful is that home where lives a man of godly manner, who loves those for whose nurture he is responsible, who stands before them as an example of integrity and goodness, who teaches industry and loyalty, not spoiling his children by indulging their every wish, but rather setting before them a pattern of work and service which will underpin their lives forever. How fortunate is the man whose wife radiates a spirit of love, of compassion, of order, of quiet beneficence, whose children show appreciation one for another, who honor and respect their parents, who counsel with them and take counsel from them. Such home life is within the reach of all who have cultivated in their hearts a resolution to do that which will please their Father in Heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 66; or Ensign, May 1985, 50).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Families are ordained of God.

    1. Husbands and wives should cleave to each other (see Genesis 2:24; Moses 3:24; D&C 42:22; 1 Corinthians 7:10).

    2. Husbands and wives are commanded to bring children into the world (see Genesis 1:28; 9:1; D&C 49:16–17).

    3. Children are a blessing to a husband and wife (see Psalm 127:3–5).

  2. Husbands and wives should love and support one another.

    1. The relationship between husbands and wives should be patterned after the relationship between Christ and the Church (see Ephesians 5:22–33; Colossians 3:18–19).

    2. Husbands and wives should live together in joy (see Ecclesiastes 9:9).

    3. Husbands should love and take care of their wives (see Ephesians 5:25; D&C 42:22; 83:2; Colossians 3:19).

    4. Wives should love and comfort their husbands (see D&C 25:5, 14; Titus 2:4–5).

  3. Parents are responsible to teach, discipline, provide for, and care for their children.

    1. Parents are to establish a home of order (see D&C 93:43–44, 50).

    2. Parents are to provide for and care for their children (see D&C 83:4; 1 Timothy 5:8; D&C 75:28; Mosiah 4:14–15).

    3. Parents are responsible to teach the gospel to their children (see D&C 68:25–28; Moses 6:56–61; Deuteronomy 6:6–7; 11:18–19).

    4. Children will benefit from the good example of their parents (see Proverbs 20:7; Jacob 3:10).

    5. Parents should correct and discipline their children in love (see Proverbs 19:18; 23:13; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Samuel 3:12–13).

    6. Prayer should be taught and practiced in the home (see D&C 68:28; 3 Nephi 18:21; Alma 34:21).

  4. Children should honor their parents and be obedient to them.

    1. Children should respect and honor their mother and father (see Exodus 20:12; 1 Timothy 5:4; Leviticus 20:9; Ephesians 6:1–3; Colossians 3:20).

    2. Children should be subject to their parents (see Luke 2:51; Mosiah 3:19).

    3. Children should listen to their parents and follow their teachings (see Proverbs 1:8; 23:22).

A family making cookies

Supporting Statements

  1. Families are ordained of God.

    • “The Lord organized the whole program in the beginning with a father who procreates, provides, and loves and directs, and a mother who conceives and bears and nurtures and feeds and trains. The Lord could have organized it otherwise but chose to have a unit with responsibility and purposeful associations where children train and discipline each other and come to love, honor, and appreciate each other. The family is the great plan of life, as conceived and organized by our Father in Heaven” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 324).

    • “When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and flunked in the final test of true manhood. No other success can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 5).

    • “Now, you husbands, remember that the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home. Home teaching, bishopric’s work, and other Church duties are all important, but the most important work is within the walls of your home” (Harold B. Lee, Strengthening the Home, 7).

    • “I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you, all of you here, with reference to your home and your families. It is the choicest of all life’s experiences. I urge you to put it first. The center core of the Church is not the stake house; it is not the chapel; that is not the center of Mormonism. And, strangely enough, the most sacred place on earth may not be the temple, necessarily. The chapel, the stake house, and the temple are sacred as they contribute to the building of the most sacred institution in the Church—the home—and to the blessing of the most sacred relationships in the Church, the family” (Boyd K. Packer, Family Togetherness—the Core of the Church, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [13 June 1963], 10).

    • “The Lord has spoken out very strongly in this matter, constantly and continuously. He said, as one of his important commandments, ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28.) That wasn’t just a hoping so; it wasn’t just something that would be kind of nice to do. The Lord said, ‘Go forward now, husband and the wife; love each other.’ They will have their children, and then they will work together for the children to see that they grow up in righteousness” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Melbourne Australia Area Conference Report 1976, 21).

    • “To those who are barren and unable to bear offspring, our deepest sympathy is extended. Let us quote for the consolation of those who are not blessed with the procreative power a statement from the Prophet Brigham Young:

      “‘Let me here say a word to console the feelings and hearts of all who belong to this Church. Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations. You will become Eves to earths like this, and when you have assisted in peopling one earth, there are millions of others still in the course of creation. And when they have endured a thousand million times longer than this earth, it is only as it were at the beginning of your creation. Be faithful and if you are not blessed with children in this time, you will be hereafter.’ (Deseret News, Vol. 10, p. 306, October 14, 1860.)

      “The promise is not made to those who could but who deliberately evade the responsibility of procreation. Those men and women who have been unable to have children should build their faith. Many a barren woman like Sarah has had children through special blessings of the Lord. She was blessed in having a son—a son to a barren woman.

      “Sometimes operations or adjustments or hormones may make parenthood possible. Frequently fears and frictions and tenseness are causes for barrenness and sterility. Such people should do everything in their power to put themselves in a position to have their babies. Adoption of parentless children brings joy to many hearts. Few, if any, parents need be childless through their years” (Spencer W. Kimball, fireside address delivered in San Antonio, Texas, 3 Dec. 1977, 24–26).

    • “You may think me extreme, but I am going to say that a married woman who refuses to assume the responsibilities of motherhood, or who, having children, neglects them for pleasure or social prestige, is recreant to the highest calling and privilege of womankind. The father, who because of business or political or social responsibilities, fails to share with his wife the responsibilities of rearing his sons and daughters, is untrue to his marital obligations, is a negative element in what might be and should be a joyous home atmosphere, and is a possible contributor to discord and delinquency” (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 477).

    • “We have no choice … but to continue to hold up the ideal of the Latter-day Saint family. The fact that some do not now have the privilege of living in such a family is not reason enough to stop talking about it. We do discuss family life with sensitivity, however, realizing that many … do not presently have the privilege of belonging or contributing to such a family. But we cannot set aside this standard, because so many other things depend upon it” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 294–95).

    • “To the large group of [single women], we can only say, you are making a great contribution to the world as you serve your families and the Church and world. You must remember that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you. We have no control over the heartbeats or the affections of men, but pray that you may find total fulfillment. And in the meantime, we promise you that insofar as your eternity is concerned, that no soul will be deprived of rich, eternal blessings for anything which that person could not help, that eternity is a long time, and that the Lord never fails in his promises and that every righteous woman will receive eventually all to which she is entitled which she has not forfeited through any fault of her own” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 294).

  2. Husbands and wives should love and support one another.

    • “One of the most provocative and profound statements in holy writ is that of Paul wherein he directs husbands and wives in their duty to each other and to the family. First, he commands the women: ‘Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: And he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.’ (Ephesians 5:22–24.)

      “If you analyze that very carefully, you can see that the Lord is not requiring women to be subject to their husbands if their husbands are bad and wicked and demanding. This is no idle jest, no facetious matter. Much is said in those few words ‘as unto the Lord.’ As the Lord loves his church and serves it, so men should love their wives and serve them and their families.

      “A woman would have no fears of being imposed upon, nor of any dictatorial measures, nor of improper demands if the husband were self-sacrificing and worthy. Certainly no sane woman would hesitate to give submission to her own really righteous husband in everything. We are sometimes shocked to see the wife taking over the leadership of the family, naming the one to pray, the place to be, the things to do.

      “Husbands are commanded: ‘Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.’ (Ephesians 5:25.) And that is a high ambition.

      “And here is the answer: Christ loved the Church and its people so much that he voluntarily endured persecution for them, suffered humiliating indignities for them, stoically withstood pain and physical abuse for them, and finally gave his precious life for them.

      “When the husband is ready to treat his household in that manner, not only the wife, but all the family will respond to his leadership. Certainly if fathers are to be respected, they must merit respect. If they are to be loved, they must be consistent, lovable, understanding, and kind and must honor their priesthood” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Stockholm Sweden Area Conference Report 1974, 46–47).

    • “As a husband, [a man] would live with respect for his wife, standing side by side with her, never belittling her nor demeaning her, but rather encouraging her in the continued development of her talents and in the church activities which are available to her. He would regard her as the greatest treasure of his life, one with whom he can share his concerns, his innermost thoughts, his ambitions and hopes. There would never be in that home any ‘unrighteous dominion’ of husband over wife (see D&C 121:37, 39), no assertion of superiority, no assertion of authority, but rather an expression in living which says that these two are equally yoked.

      “No man can please his Heavenly Father who fails to respect the daughters of God. No man can please his Heavenly Father who fails to magnify his wife and companion, and nurture and build and strengthen and share with her” (Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 65; or Ensign, May 1985, 49).

    • “I have asked myself, ‘How can any member of the Church—any man who holds the priesthood of God—be guilty of cruelty to his own wife and children?

      “Such actions, if practiced by a priesthood holder, are almost inconceivable. They are totally out of character with the teachings of the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. …

      “A priesthood holder is temperate. This means he is restrained in his emotions and verbal expressions. He does things in moderation and is not given to overindulgence. In a word, he has self-control. He is the master of his emotions, not the other way around.

      “A priesthood holder who would curse his wife, abuse her with words or actions, or do the same to one of his own children is guilty of grievous sin” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 61–62; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 42).

    • “Parents, in the first place, whether they do it or not, should love and respect each other, and treat each other with respectful decorum and kindly regard, all the time. The husband should treat his wife with the utmost courtesy and respect. The husband should never insult her; he should never speak slightly of her, but should always hold her in the highest esteem in the home, in the presence of their children. We do not always do it, perhaps; some of us, perhaps, do not do it at all. But nevertheless it is true that we ought to do it. The wife, also should treat the husband with the greatest respect and courtesy. Her words to him should not be keen and cutting and sarcastic. She should not pass slurs or insinuations at him. She should not nag him. She should not try to arouse his anger or make things unpleasant about the home. The wife should be a joy to her husband, and she should live and conduct herself at home so the home will be the most joyous, the most blessed place on earth to her husband. This should be the condition of the husband, wife, the father and the mother, within the sacred precinct of that holy place, the home” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 283–84).

    • “It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice. It is the place of the man, to stand at the head of his family, and be lord of his own house, not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, neither as one who is fearful or jealous that his wife will get out of her place, and prevent him from exercising his authority. It is his duty to be a man of God (for a man of God is a man of wisdom,) ready at all times to obtain from the scriptures, the revelations, and from on high, such instructions as are necessary for the edification, and salvation of his household. —And on the other hand, it is the duty of the wife, to be in subjection to her husband at all times, not as a servant, neither as one who fears a tyrant, or a master, but as one, who, in meekness, and the love of God, regards the laws and institutions of Heaven, looks up to her husband for instruction, edification and comfort” (“On the Duty of Husband and Wife,” Elders’ Journal, Aug. 1838, 61–62).

  3. Parents are responsible to teach, discipline, provide for, and care for their children.

    • “Our Heavenly Father placed the responsibility upon parents to see that their children are well fed, well groomed and clothed, well trained, and well taught. Most parents protect their children with shelter—they tend and care for their diseases, provide clothes for their safety and their comfort, and supply food for their health and growth. But what do they do for their souls?” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 332).

    • “Parents are directly responsible for the righteous rearing of their children, and this responsibility cannot be safely delegated to relatives, friends, neighbors, the school, the church, or the state” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 21).

    • “In our homes, brethren and sisters, it is our privilege, nay, it is our duty, to call our families together to be taught the truths of the Holy Scriptures. In every home, children should be encouraged to read the word of the Lord, as it has been revealed to us in all dispensations. We should read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price; not only read it in our homes, but explain it to our children, that they may understand the hand dealings of God with the peoples of the earth. Let us see if we cannot do more of this in the future than we have done in the past. Let each one in this congregation today ask himself: ‘Have I done my duty in my home in reading and in teaching the Gospel, as it has been revealed through the prophets of the Lord?’ If we have not let us repent of our neglect and draw our families around us and teach them the truth” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1914, 12).

    • “To bring up children in light and truth is to bring them up in an understanding and acceptance of the true word of God. Do our children understand the doctrine of repentance, of faith in Christ the Son of the Living God, and the importance of baptism, its purpose, significance, and value to them in their lives? Do they understand the need of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and what the powers and functions of the Holy Ghost are, and the blessings which are theirs through possessing this divine gift?” (Delbert L. Stapley, “Keep Faith with Your Family,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1960, 944).

    • “We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate. Do we realize this? How often we see parents demand obedience, good behavior, kind words, pleasant looks, a sweet voice and a bright eye from a child or children when they themselves are full of bitterness and scolding! How inconsistent and unreasonable this is!” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 208).

    • “Discipline is probably one of the most important elements in which a mother and father can lead and guide and direct their children. It certainly would be well for parents to understand the rule given to the priesthood in section 121. Setting limits to what a child can do means to that child that you love him and respect him. If you permit the child to do all the things he would like to do without any limits, that means to him that you do not care much about him” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 340–41).

    • “I am convinced that one of the greatest things that can come into any home to cause the boys and girls in that home to grow up in a love of God, and in a love of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is to have family prayer, not for the father of the family alone to pray, but for the mother and for the children to do so also, that they may partake of the spirit of prayer, and be in harmony, be in tune, to have the radio, so to speak, in communication with the Spirit of the Lord. I believe that there are very few that go astray, that very few lose their faith, who have once had a knowledge of the gospel, and who never neglect their prayers in their families, and their secret supplications to God” (Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Oct. 1923, 7–8).

    • “The home should be a place where reliance on the Lord is a matter of common experience, not reserved for special occasions. One way of establishing that is by regular, earnest prayer. It is not enough just to pray. It is essential that we really speak to the Lord, having faith that he will reveal to us as parents what we need to know and do for the welfare of our families. It has been said of some men that when they prayed, a child was likely to open his eyes to see if the Lord were really there, so personal and direct was the petition” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 342).

    • “If a parent has made what could be considered an error—or, on the other hand, has never made a mistake, but still the lamb has wandered from the fold—in either case there are several thoughts I would like to share with you.

      “First, such a father or mother is not alone. Our first parents knew the pain and suffering of seeing some of their children reject the teachings of eternal life. (See Moses 5:27.) Centuries later Jacob came to know of the jealousy and ill feelings of his older sons toward his beloved Joseph. (See Genesis 37:1–8.) The great prophet Alma, who had a son named Alma, prayed at length to the Lord regarding the rebellious attitude of his son and no doubt was overwhelmed with concern and worry about the dissension and the wickedness his son was causing among those who were within the Church. (See Mosiah 27:14.) Our Father in Heaven has also lost many of his spirit children to the world; he knows the feelings of your heart.

      “Second, we should remember that errors of judgment are generally less serious than errors of intent.

      “Third, even if there was a mistake made with full knowledge and understanding, there is the principle of repentance for release and comfort. Rather than constantly dwelling on what we perceive as a mistake or a sin or a failure to the detriment of our progress in the gospel or our association with family and friends, it would be better for us to turn away from it. As with any mistake, we may repent by being sorrowful and by attempting to correct or rectify the consequences, to whatever extent possible. We should look forward with renewed faith.

      “Fourth, don’t give up hope for a boy or a girl who has strayed. Many who have appeared to be completely lost have returned. We must be prayerful and, if possible, let our children know of our love and concern.

      “Fifth, remember that ours was not the only influence that contributed to the actions of our children, whether those actions were good or bad.

      “Sixth, know that our Heavenly Father will recognize the love and the sacrifice, the worry and the concern, even though our great effort has been unsuccessful. Parents’ hearts are ofttimes broken, yet they must realize that the ultimate responsibility lies with the child after parents have taught correct principles.

      “Seventh, whatever the sorrow, whatever the concern, whatever the pain and anguish, look for a way to turn it to beneficial use—perhaps in helping others to avoid the same problems, or perhaps by developing a greater insight into the feelings of others who are struggling in a similar way. Surely we will have a deeper understanding of the love of our Heavenly Father when, through prayer, we finally come to know that he understands and wants us to look forward.

      “The eighth and final point of reminder is that everyone is different. Each of us is unique. Each child is unique. Just as each of us starts at a different point in the race of life, and just as each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and talents, so each child is blessed with his own special set of characteristics. We must not assume that the Lord will judge the success of one in precisely the same way as another. As parents we often assume that, if our child doesn’t become an overachiever in every way, we have failed. We should be careful in our judgments” (Howard W. Hunter, in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 92–93; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 64–65).

  4. Children should honor their parents and be obedient to them.

    • “We have the old commandment, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.’ Children should be taught and trained to honor their father and their mother. Their parents gave them life and cared for them when they could not care for themselves. Every child of every age should love and honor his parents” (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 136).

    • “Young men should be scrupulously careful to impress upon their minds the necessity of consulting with father and mother in all that pertains to their actions in life. Respect and veneration for parents should be inculcated into the hearts of the young people of the Church—father and mother to be respected, their wishes to be regarded—and in the heart of every child should be implanted this thought of esteem and consideration for parents which characterized the families of the ancient patriarchs.

      “God is at the head of the human race; we look up to him as the Father of all. We cannot please him more than by regarding and respecting and honoring our fathers and our mothers, who are the means of our existence here upon the earth” (Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 162).