Thursday, March 11, 2010

Proclamations - Parental Obligations

You're invited to join me in examining and deepening your convictions about the Family this month.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

What strikes me the most about the perfection of the family as God's method of teaching, perfecting, and bringing his people happiness, is that it is designed to work when manned with imperfect people.

Parents are inevitably people plagued with every sort of flaw and imperfection, but IF they are striving within the framework the Lord has established, to do these things as parents: to rear children in love and righteousness, to provide for physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens, then God can and does make up for all their shortcomings. (Which is not to say he takes away the agency of their children, but he makes the inevitably flawed offering the parents figuratively place on the altar enough).

To some extent, the talk of parental obligations makes it sound as if much is expected of parents, and they'd better deliver or else. What I'm finding to actually be the case is that parents learn and grow far more from striving to teach and live these ideals than children do from watching them. (And the children do learn so much!) The process of fulfilling these admonitions blesses the individuals who willingly take that obligation upon themselves. They get to experience being partners with the Lord in bringing up a righteous generation. They get to experience all of the synergy that comes with being on the Lord's errand. They are entitled to the assistance of angels. They get to intimately increase their understanding of our Heavenly Father's character by striving to parent as He parents us. They have an increase in the opportunity to commune with God in earnest over the well being of their children, and they learn to love after a holy, holy manner. They get to develop an eternal parental relationship with children in whom they invest everything they have to offer.

There is no other mortal experience that compares.

And parenting in this manner opens up our hearts for the greatest joy and the most overwhelming sorrow that life can provide. It increases our capacity to feel far beyond what our pre-parenting selves could comprehend. The cliche of "I didn't know I could love this much" transforms into life-altering epiphanies for parents all the time.

I struggled with the possibility for sorrow when I boarded the parenting train. At the time I was birthing boys I was also watching people I loved struggle with choices their adolescent boys were making. It was harrowing, and no matter how well I fulfill my parental duties, or how diligently I pray it remains a distinct possibility for the future of any parent. Part of opening up your heart to a child is the proverbial "watching your heart walk around outside of your body" wherein your heart could possibly be whisked away, and beaten badly.

I think, perhaps, more importantly than whether our increased capacity for emotional life brings us more happiness or pain in this life, is experiencing the actual increase. God in His infinite love, patience, and understanding will help us to shepherd our children to safety and happiness both in this life and the next. He loves them more than we do, and He is completely trustworthy, so our trust is safe with Him, as are our prayers.

I am increasingly aware of the reality that parenting and all the big and little parts of it are the Lord's errand. And He is ever ready to help us when we are diligently doing what we can do. He makes our best good enough. And if we are paying attention, we can witness the miracle of it becoming "good enough" quite regularly. A miraculous thing, parenting.

What also strikes me, as I read this statement, is the presence of scriptural examples of the result of parents who neglect these duties. It is one thing to personally reject the gospel and its principles, but so often those who do so proceed to not only fail to teach their children the gospel, but they teach them to despise it, and train animosity for it into them. (All of this is usually done to help someone justify themselves and prove they are right when they know they are wrong. People who truly know they are right rarely feel the need to prove anything.) Then there is a generation who has such a terrible disadvantage that it is rarely overcome. When children are raised this way they cannot be held accountable for what they did not know, so the sins that lay upon the heads of that generation that knew the gospel but rejected it pile up high and fast and hard as generations of their posterity languish in unbelief and unhappiness. They will be held accountable before God. It is a serious thing, and warrants such serious language in the proclamation.

There's been a phenomenon in my generation of interfaith marriages where both parties say that because they don't share a religion, they just won't teach their children to be religious. I find this sad and frightening. I believe my religion to be true with every fiber of my being, but I would much MUCH rather have them raised in another God-fearing and God-loving religion than to be raised with none at all.

Having gospel principles taught to them (in a gospel setting - taught both by word and by congruent example) does more to teach and encourage desirable behaviors in children than any other method of encouraging compassion and decency. Knowing what I know, I cannot personally fathom denying my children this blessing.


Cam said...

I'll try to summarize all my thoughts and feelings on this post by saying that, for a good deal of the post, I thought I must be reading a quote of a very good General Authority talk on the subject of parenting.

hairyshoefairy said...

I especially loved what you wrote about our trust being safe with God and and I think it's so true about parents being the ones supremely blessed by parenthood.

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