Today, my husband and I spoke in sacrament meeting. Here is the first part of my talk (read Part 2 and Part 3):
“The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world.” Those are the words of President David O. McKay.* If we have such an astounding influence over the world, we need to be examples of righteousness. As Paul counseled, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. . . . Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16).
The Lord said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also” (John 14:12). So to be an example of the believers is to do what the Lord has done so that we can “save [ourselves], and them that hear [us].”
We usually apply this principle to missionary work, but it also extends into family life. As The Family: a Proclamation to the World teaches, “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” and “the family [is] the fundamental unit of society.” If we are first examples in our own homes, our righteous families will bless the communities in which we live and help others desire to know more about the gospel and become like us.
President Wilford Woodruff warned, “In our zeal to preach the Gospel to the people of all nations, we should not forget the duties devolving upon us in regard to the proper bringing up of our own children, instilling in them, when young, a love for truth and virtue, and reverence for sacred things, and affording them a knowledge of the principles of the Gospel. . . . It is . . . a great blessing to children to have parents who pray and teach their children good principles, and set a good example before them.”
Setting a good example is the best way to teach our children. No matter how much we talk about the gospel, they won’t truly learn, understand, and gain a testimony of it unless they see us live it. Our actions must follow our words.
“It is the duty of parents and of the Church,” said President McKay, “not only to teach but also to demonstrate to young people that living a life of truth and moral purity brings joy and happiness, while violations of moral and social laws result only in dissatisfaction, sorrow, and, when carried to extreme, in degradation.
“It is our duty as adults and [as parents] to set them a proper example in the home and in society. It is our responsibility to impress our children with our sincerity in our belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never should parents teach one thing about the gospel and do another. Children are very susceptible to insincerity.”
And President Woodruff said, “Parents cannot properly reprove [or correct] children for doing things which they practice themselves.”
I haven’t been the best example to my son. I like to hit Justin playfully when he says something obnoxious or teases me. One day my son started to do the same. He would hit Justin and laugh. I immediately had to stop the behavior, much to Justin’s joy, because I did not want my son to hit his father or others and think it funny. [In his talk, Justin said I still hit him, I'm just cautious about it, making sure Caden isn't around first.] I’ve had to reevaluate all my actions to make sure they are not ones I wouldn’t want my son to imitate, especially in how I express my anger.
The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob told us the consequences of being bad examples as parents: “Ye have . . . lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them . . . Remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day” (Jacob 2:35, 3:10). Our children will not trust us and obey us if we are bad examples, making us partially responsible for their bad choices.
On the other hand, a righteous example holds much power. A couple months after my son was born, I was determined that our family have scripture study together, something my immediate family and Justin and I were not consistent in. Every night we would sing a Primary song, pray, and read the Book of Mormon. One night when Caden was about a year old, he suddenly folded his arms when we were about to pray. Justin and I were shocked. It was not something we were actively teaching him; we didn’t fold his arms for him during prayer. He learned simply by watching us. I then understood how important my example as a parent is in teaching my son the gospel.
I too saw good examples from my parents. Although we didn’t always have family scripture study while I was growing up (they do now with my younger sister), I always saw my parents reading the scriptures, the Ensign, the Church News, and other Church material. They would often share with us what they were reading and learning. Because of their examples, personal scripture study was not something I struggled with during my adolescent years, a time when many teens do. I desired to do it and it felt natural to me. Ever since I left their home, I have struggled to maintain the dedication I had when I was younger, but I continue to work on it so that my children will have the same example to follow as I did.
Sharing Time: How were your parents good examples to you?
*All quotes taken from the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series.