All families need strengthening. There are so many stresses and challenges in today’s world that every family, no matter its make-up is potentially at risk. There is no such thing as “rock solid” without constant reinforcement. Both anticipated and unanticipated stresses can weaken what might appear to be even the most solid of foundations.
I know that the challenges of our first years of marriage made me profoundly grateful for both the blessings of the temple and the commitments we made there. During those first several years, we finished college, had two children, moved eight times, changed jobs six times, had floods in two different homes, undertook a DIY nearly complete rebuild of one our homes, weathered some serious health issues and had two grandparents and both of our fathers pass away.
For the Strength of Youth reminds us that “being part of a family is a great blessing. … Strong families require effort. Your family will be blessed as you do your part to strengthen it.”
So how do we strengthen ourselves so we can strengthen our families?
In an address to the young women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in spring of 2007, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley gave them a “simple four-point program” that he said would assure their happiness and would bless their families as well. He counseled each of them to pray, study, pay their tithing and attend their meetings.
Prayer has great power. It helps us to stay focused on the things that are most important and gives us guidance. One way we can strengthen our families through personal prayer is to consider who in our families might most benefit from our prayers. When we are praying for others, not only are we not focusing on ourselves, but it helps us to have compassion and to have a kindly attitude toward those for whom we are praying. Sometimes the act of praying may be an example in itself. When we lived in California, my very young niece and nephew frequently spent time at our house because my sister was a single mother and worked long hours. After one visit, my sister called and asked what special thing we did before dinner because my niece was bugging her to do “the thing they do at Aunt Marie’s before they eat.” The “thing” turned out to be a blessing on the food and, even at her very young age, my niece recognized it as something her family needed.
Study is the next item on President Hinckley’s list. Study the scriptures. Through scripture study, we can come to know the Savior, know his teachings, learn how we should live and learn from His example how we should treat our family. From scripture study we can learn love, service and forgiveness. In addition to studying the scriptures we need to study the words of our prophets and learn from their examples as well. Along with studying the gospel, we need to, in the words of President Hinckley, “get all the education [we] can.”
The 88th section of the Doctrine & Covenants tells us to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (88:118) and “you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:78-79)
Constant and appropriate study will enable us not only to be able to strengthen our families spiritually, but also to be prepared to help our families in other ways when the need arises. It will also, as it says in the Doctrine & Covenants, prepare us for our missions here on earth.
Pay a Full Tithe
President Hinckley’s third point was tithing. We need to pay a full tithing, not only with money, but also with faith. If we will pay our tithing in faith, the Lord has promised us great blessings. Most every seminary student knows the scripture from the 3rd chapter of Malachi where the Lord has promised he will “. . . open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”.
That promise continues on beyond verse 10 to say, “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
“And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land” (Malachi 3:11–12).” Are we taking full advantage of these strengthening blessings for ourselves and our families?
Attend our church meetings
Sacrament meeting is certainly the most important. As we renew our baptismal covenants each week by partaking of the Sacrament, we are able to spend time refocusing on the Savior, qualify ourselves for the guidance of the Holy Ghost and keep our priorities in the right place.
When my children were babies, it seemed all I ever did at church was walk the halls. One day I was wondering why I went through all the work of getting everyone ready and going to church every Sunday when I never actually got to sit through a Sacrament meeting or go to class. My friend wisely reminded me I was establishing in my family the habit of going to church every Sunday. Habit is powerful and can carry us through the times when we might not otherwise be inclined to participate fully. Attending our other church meetings and classes give us additional opportunity to learn and reinforce gospel principles. Church attendance gives us a spiritual recharge—to fellowship with others who have the same beliefs, to reinforce and strengthen and to be reinforced and strengthen through those associations.
There were many more things President Hinckley shared in his talk, titled, “Let Virtue Garnish thy Thoughts Unceasingly, so I’m sharing it here for those of you who would like to hear it in its entirety.