Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 43: Fathers in the Home

“Chapter 43: Fathers in the Home,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (2011), 380–87

“Chapter 43,” Teachings: Joseph F. Smith, 380–87

Chapter 43

Fathers in the Home

Every father should rise to the dignity of his holy office as head of his family.

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

Throughout his life, Joseph F. Smith carried with him the memory of his martyred father, Hyrum Smith. On 27 June 1918, President Smith presided at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, where a monument had been erected in honor of his father. On that occasion, he said: “I am blessed today with thirty-five children living, all of whom, so far as I know, have a standing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I believe their hearts are in the work of the Lord. I am proud of my children. I have today over eighty-six grandchildren. … I am rich; the Lord has given me great riches in children and in children’s children. … I want you to just take a look here at a little flock of my grandchildren—right here, every one of them. I love them. I know them all. I never meet them but what I kiss them, just as I do my own children.”1

Hyrum Smith

Hyrum Smith, father of President Joseph F. Smith, left a lasting impression on his son, even though the boy was just five years old when Hyrum was martyred.

Later his son Joseph Fielding Smith, who would serve as President of the Church from 1970 to 1972, observed that his father’s love for his family “was boundless in its magnitude and purity. The world did not know—could not possibly know—the depths of his love for them. The wicked and the depraved have ridiculed and maligned him; but the true condition of his family life and wonderful love for his family is beyond their comprehension. O how he prayed that his children would always be true—true to God, true to their fellow men; true to each other and true to him! … Let them, one and all, be true to him and true to the cause which he represented so faithfully for the period of his mortal life, and which was the dearest thing to him in all his life.”2

Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

There is no substitute for the home.

There is no substitute for the home. Its foundation is as ancient as the world, and its mission has been ordained of God from the earliest times. … The home then is more than a habitation, it is an institution which stands for stability and love in individuals as well as in nations.

There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home, and every effort made to sanctify and preserve its influence is uplifting to those who toil and sacrifice for its establishment. Men and women often seek to substitute some other life for that of the home; they would make themselves believe that the home means restraint; that the highest liberty is the fullest opportunity to move about at will. There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life.

Those who shirk home responsibilities are wanting in an important element of social well-being. They may indulge themselves in social pleasures, but their pleasures are superficial and result in disappointment later in life. The occupations of men sometimes call them from their homes; but the thought of home-coming is always an inspiration to well doing and devotion.3

In the ideal home the soul is not starved, neither are the growth and expansion of the finer sentiments paralyzed for the coarse and sensual pleasures. The main aim is not to heap up material wealth, which generally draws further and further from the true, the ideal, the spiritual life; but it is rather to create soul-wealth, consciousness of noble achievement, an outflow of love and helpfulness.

It is not costly paintings, tapestries, priceless bric-a-brac, various ornaments, costly furniture, fields, herds, houses and lands which constitute the ideal home, nor yet the social enjoyments and ease so tenaciously sought by many; but it is rather beauty of soul, cultivated, loving, faithful, true spirits; hands that help and hearts that sympathize; love that seeks not its own, thoughts and acts that touch our lives to finer issues—these lie at the foundation of the ideal home.4

In the home the presiding authority is vested in the father.

There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, and especially when that organization is presided over by one holding the higher Priesthood, than that of the father. The authority is time honored, and among the people of God in all dispensations it has been highly respected and often emphasized by the teachings of the prophets who were inspired of God. The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is, then, a particular reason why men, women and children should understand this order and this authority in the households of the people of God, and seek to make it what God intended it to be, a qualification and preparation for the highest exaltation of his children. …

This authority carries with it a responsibility and a grave one, as well as its rights and privileges, and men can not be too exemplary in their lives, nor fit themselves too carefully to live in harmony with this important and God-ordained rule of conduct in the family organization. Upon this authority certain promises and blessings are predicated, and those who observe and respect this authority have certain claims on divine favor which they cannot have except they respect and observe the laws that God has established for the regulation and authority of the home.5

I desire … to impress upon the officers of the Church the necessity of consulting fathers in all things that pertain to the calling of their sons to the Priesthood, and to the labors of the Church, that the respect and veneration which children should show for parents may not be disturbed by the Church, nor overstepped by its officers. In this way harmony and good will are made to prevail; and the sanction of the families and the family life, on which the government of the Church is based and perpetuated, will thus be added to the calls of the holy Priesthood, insuring unity, strength and power in its every action.6

Fathers, do your full duty to your families.

If [fathers] have the Spirit of the Lord with them in the performance of their temporal duties, they will never neglect the mothers of their children, nor their children. They will not fail to teach them the principles of life and set before them a proper example. Don’t do anything yourselves that you would have to say to your boy, “Don’t do it.” Live so that you can say, “My son, do as I do, follow me, emulate my example.” That is the way fathers should live, every one of us; and it is a shame, a weakening, shameful thing for any member of the Church to pursue a course that he knows is not right and that he would rather his children should not follow. What a shameful thing it is for a man to place upon himself an embargo, a handicap against doing his full duty to those that love him and whom he should love above his own life, by yielding to appetites that are wrong and to passions that are base, and doing things that he ought not to do, and that he would feign keep his children from doing. Do your duty, my brethren, and the Lord will do His for you.7

Brethren, there is too little religious devotion, love and fear of God, in the home; too much worldliness, selfishness, indifference and lack of reverence in the family, or these never would exist so abundantly on the outside. Then, the home is what needs reforming. Try today, and tomorrow, to make a change in your home by praying twice a day with your family; call on your children and your wife to pray with you. Ask a blessing upon every meal you eat. Spend ten minutes in reading a chapter from the words of the Lord in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, before you retire, or before you go to your daily toil. Feed your spiritual selves at home, as well as in public places. Let love, and peace, and the Spirit of the Lord, kindness, charity, sacrifice for others, abound in your families. Banish harsh words, envying, hatreds, evil speaking, obscene language and innuendo, blasphemy, and let the Spirit of God take possession of your hearts. Teach to your children these things, in spirit and power, sustained and strengthened by personal practice. Let them see that you are earnest, and practice what you preach.8

I pray you and I pray God to help you, fathers and mothers, to teach your children the principles and precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that they will grow up without sin unto salvation. I pray that God will help you to rear your children in the love of truth, in the love of virtue, free from the contaminating vices of the world, free from defilement, from drunkenness, from the use of tobacco, from strong drinks and narcotics, and vices of every description; that you will teach them to be pure in their lives—in their habits, that they may be holy temples in which the Spirit of the living God may dwell and find congenial habitation. It is your duty to do it, and it is my duty; it is the duty of every man living to teach his family these things, and bring them up in the way they should go.9

May the fathers in Israel live as they should live; treat their wives as they should treat them; make their homes as comfortable as they possibly can; lighten the burden upon their companions as much as possible; set a proper example before their children; teach them to meet with them in prayer, morning and night, and whenever they sit down to partake of food, to acknowledge the mercy of God in giving them the food that they eat and the raiment that they wear, and acknowledge the hand of God in all things.10

Family associations are intended for eternity.

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.11

The family organization lies at the basis of all true government, and too much stress cannot be placed upon the importance of the government in the family being as perfect as possible, nor upon the fact that in all instances respect therefor should be upheld.12

Our [family] associations are not exclusively intended for this life, for time, as we distinguish it from eternity. We live for time and for eternity. We form associations and relations for time and all eternity. Our affections and our desires are found fitted and prepared to endure not only throughout the temporal or mortal life, but through all eternity. Who are there besides the Latter-day Saints who contemplate the thought that beyond the grave we will continue in the family organization? the father, the mother, the children recognizing each other in the relations which they owe to each other and in which they stand to each other? this family organization being a unit in the great and perfect organization of God’s work, and all destined to continue throughout time and eternity?13

I have the glorious promise of the association of my loved ones throughout all eternity. In obedience to this work, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I shall gather around me my family, my children, my children’s children, until they become as numerous as the seed of Abraham, or as countless as the sands upon the seashore. For this is my right and privilege, and the right and privilege of every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who holds the Priesthood and will magnify it in the sight of God.14

After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.15

Suggestions for Study

  • What should be the “main aim” of fathers in the home? How does providing for the family extend beyond the temporal to the spiritual? How can a father build a feeling of “soul-wealth” within his family?

  • What elements “lie at the foundation of the ideal home”? Why is it the responsibility of the father to see that these things are cultivated?

  • How can wives and children sustain the head of their household? What must husbands and fathers do to be worthy of this sustaining support from their family members?

  • How has the Lord provided the blessings of the priesthood for single women?

  • How are fathers strengthened and families blessed when fathers are consulted and respected by priesthood leaders?

  • What needs reforming in our homes today? What can fathers do to counteract worldliness and instill religious devotion in the home?

  • What blessings do we receive because we know that our family associations can continue through eternity? What can fathers do to ensure the eternity of their own families?


  1. In “The Hyrum Smith Monument,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1918, 860–61; paragraphing altered.

  2. Life of Joseph F. Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (1938), 4.

  3. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 300.

  4. Gospel Doctrine, 303–4.

  5. Gospel Doctrine, 286–88.

  6. Gospel Doctrine, 162–63.

  7. In Conference Report, Apr. 1915, 7.

  8. Gospel Doctrine, 301–2.

  9. In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 132.

  10. Gospel Doctrine, 288.

  11. Gospel Doctrine, 162.

  12. Gospel Doctrine, 162.

  13. Gospel Doctrine, 277.

  14. Gospel Doctrine, 108–9.

  15. Gospel Doctrine, 285.