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Lesson 12: Effective Family Leadership

“Lesson 12: Effective Family Leadership,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B (2000), 105–11

“Lesson 12: Effective Family Leadership,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, 105–11

Lesson 12

Effective Family Leadership

The purpose of this lesson is to motivate us to seek and follow the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in guiding our families.


Elder Bruce R. McConkie told the following story about why we should listen to the Spirit:

“One of my earliest childhood recollections is of riding a horse through an apple orchard. The horse was tame and well broken, and I felt at home in the saddle.

“But one day something frightened my mount, and he bolted through the orchard. I was swept from the saddle by the overhanging limbs, and one leg slipped down through the stirrup. I desperately hung to an almost broken leather strap. … My weight should have broken the strap, but somehow it held for the moment. Another lunge or two of the stampeding horse would have broken the strap or wrenched it from my hands and left me to be dragged to injury or death with my foot entangled in the stirrup.

“Suddenly the horse stopped, and I became aware that someone was holding the bridle tightly and attempting to calm the quivering animal. Almost immediately I was snatched up into the arms of my father.

“What had happened? What had brought my father to my rescue in the split second before I slipped beneath the hoofs of my panic-driven horse?

“My father had been sitting in the house reading the newspaper when the Spirit whispered to him, ‘Run out into the orchard!’

“Without a moment’s hesitation, not waiting to learn why or for what reason, my father ran. Finding himself in the orchard without knowing why he was there, he saw the galloping horse and thought, I must stop this horse.

“He did so and found me. And that is how I was saved from serious injury or possible death” (“Hearken to the Spirit,” Friend, Sept. 1972, 10).

  • What prompted Elder McConkie’s father to go out into the orchard? Why was it important that his father obey the Spirit immediately?

  • Ask the assigned class member to share his experience of when the Holy Ghost helped him as a father.

The Holy Ghost Can Guide the Family

One of our greatest responsibilities on earth is guiding our families. President N. Eldon Tanner explained: “The father must realize always that the family is the most important thing in his life. … It is in the home that the most impressive teachings are taught and where the lives of our children are shaped” (Ensign, July 1973, 92). President David O. McKay taught that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” (quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116).

Parents’ responsibility to teach their children has always been important, but it is becoming even more so as the world becomes more wicked.

In facing the challenges we do today as parents we may feel we are not wise enough or strong enough to always decide correctly for our families. The Lord understands this and has provided a way for us to receive the guidance we need. This guidance comes to us through the Holy Ghost.

To receive help from the Holy Ghost we must live the commandments. The Holy Ghost will not be with someone who takes the commandments lightly or fails to obey them. If we want His help we must continually repent of our sins and do what the Lord wants us to do.

In recognizing that family is their primary responsibility, parents can find comfort in knowing that they can pray and be guided by the Holy Ghost to do the right things for their families. One father, for example, “after seeking the help of the Lord, gathered his family together before deciding to accept a job in another city. He asked the family [members] their advice on the desirability of the move and gave them the opportunity to go to the Lord and receive an answer for themselves as to what they should do. After they had prayed, they felt inspired, as the father did, that they should make the move. Thus, because he gave them the opportunity to get the spiritual answer that he had also received, they were able to believe and follow his counsel” (Henry B. Eyring, “Family Followership,” Ensign, Apr. 1973, 32).

Following the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost helps us solve our problems and answer our questions in many ways. One way He does this is to bear witness of solutions already found in the scriptures. When we have problems we should study the scriptures for the answers. As we do so, the Holy Ghost will help direct us to the answers and will bear witness to us that the solutions are true. The Holy Ghost also helps us remember things we once learned but have forgotten (see John 14:26).

Although the Holy Ghost can and will help us solve our problems, He is only a helper. He may not solve our problems for us just because we ask for help. In the early days of the Church, Oliver Cowdery learned that often we must do more than just ask for answers.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–9. According to this scripture, what can we do before we ask the Lord about a problem we have? (We can study it out in our minds.) How will we know if the decision we made is correct? (We ask the Lord, who will let us know if it is right.)

Other ways the Holy Ghost helps us solve problems are by revealing answers to us directly in a still, small voice (see 1 Kings 19:11–13) or indirectly through advice from a Church leader, a family member, a friend, the scriptures, or another reliable source. At other times the Holy Ghost simply prompts us as we go about our daily activities. Such a prompting may simply be a feeling that we ought to spend more time with someone in our family or do something special for him or her.

Although an answer to a prayer may come in many different ways, the Lord has provided a way for us to know that the answer is from Him. He tells us that if the decision we make is right, we will have peace in our hearts and minds (see D&C 6:14–16, 22–24; 8:2).

An answer to our prayers may not come as soon as we would like it to come. But the Lord loves us and knows what is best for us. We should not become discouraged, therefore, if we do not receive an answer immediately. We should continue to pray, live righteously, study the scriptures, and seek for the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

When we get an answer to our prayers, we must do what the answer requires us to do. We cannot expect the Holy Ghost to keep helping us if we ignore His promptings. Even if the answer is not what we want or if the effort He asks of us seems too great, we must be willing to do as He directs. Otherwise, we risk losing contact with the Holy Ghost and thus His comfort and direction.

The Lord leaves some decisions up to us. These decisions may simply be a matter of what we like rather than a matter of right and wrong. (See D&C 58:26–28; 60:5; 80:3.) In such cases we should use good judgment based on our knowledge and experience.

President Joseph Fielding Smith gave this counsel: “Now, I think that above all else in the world I, and you, and all members of the Church should seek to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord. To the extent that we gain the guidance of that Spirit we will be prophets to ourselves and in our own affairs, and we will also find ourselves in harmony with those prophets whom the Lord has placed in the First Presidency and in the Council of the Twelve” (Joseph Fielding Smith: A Prophet Among the People, ed. J. M. Heslop and Dell R. Van Orden [1971], 24–25).

How the Holy Ghost Can Bless Our Families

When the Holy Ghost guides us, we are greatly blessed and in turn can bless our families. For example, when Elder Bruce R. McConkie was a boy, his father’s heeding the Holy Ghost saved his son from harm. This kind of protection can be ours if we are open to inspiration from the Holy Ghost and if we do what He tells us to do.

Besides keeping us safe physically, the Holy Ghost also helps us avoid temptations that could harm us spiritually. Through the Holy Ghost we may also know when something is wrong in our families. Perhaps one or more family members have a special problem they need to talk about. Or perhaps they have questions about the Church or are concerned about why they do not seem to be able to live the commandments as well as they should. With the help of the Holy Ghost we can assist and strengthen our families. We may be able to save them much pain and heartache.

When we discipline our children we should also seek direction from the Holy Ghost. As we follow the Holy Ghost’s guidance and treat our children with love and respect, they will see that we are simply trying to help them. (See D&C 121:41–44.)

The Holy Ghost can help when we give father’s blessings. He can prompt us to give our families advice, even for problems they may not be aware of. Such a blessing can be a sacred experience for our family.

  • Show visual 12-a, “Father’s blessings can strengthen family members.”

President Ezra Taft Benson told of the following experience:

“A young man came to my office … for a blessing. He had problems … ; he was confused; he was concerned and worried. And so we talked for a few minutes and I said to him, ‘Have you ever asked your father for a blessing?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I don’t know that Dad would do a thing like that. He is not very active.’ I said, ‘But he’s your father.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Does he hold the priesthood?’ ‘Yes, he is an inactive elder.’ I said, ‘Do you love him?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I love him. He is a good man, he’s good to the family, good to the children.’ … I said, ‘All right, would you be willing to go home and watch for an opportunity, and ask your father if he will give you a blessing? And if it doesn’t work out, you come back, and I will be glad to help you.’

“So he left, and in about three days he came back. ‘Brother Benson, this has been the sweetest thing that’s happened in our home,’ he said. ‘Mother and the children sat there, my younger brothers and sisters, with my mother wiping the tears from her eyes. She expressed her gratitude later. Father gave me a lovely blessing.’ He added, ‘I could tell it came from his heart’” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [1974], 84).

  • Why was this young man’s father the best person to give him a blessing at that particular time?

  • How can we tell when our experiences are guided by the Holy Ghost?


The Lord has given us a precious gift to help us make decisions and solve problems. This gift is the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Through the Holy Ghost we can come closer to Heavenly Father and receive revelation to lead our families righteously. This revelation can help us provide some of the strength and wisdom our family members need to overcome their temptations and problems. We can feel assured that the Lord will help us if we are willing to do our best. Two important things can happen as we receive this help: our children will turn to us for comfort and guidance, and we will come closer to the Lord.


Study the scriptures to learn the various ways the Holy Ghost can help you. Through repentance, keep yourself worthy of being guided by the Holy Ghost. Follow the promptings you receive from Him, no matter how difficult doing so may seem.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. Read Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 30, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.”

  2. Read Gospel Principles chapter 21, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.”

  3. Ask one of the fathers in the class to prepare to tell of a time when the Holy Ghost helped him as a father.

  4. Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.