Our family is in the planning stages of building a home. Since we remodeled our current home a few years ago, we have half an idea of what to expect. We are sure it will be exciting, but equally overwhelming. Every day a contractor will come to the job with the tools needed to perform his work. With the right tool and the skill to use it, they can create something lasting and beautiful.
The actual building work is horribly messy and loud. We know that we’ll step through danger zones, climb over piles of material, and walk through dust-covered rooms to see bits of progress here and there. The buzz of the saw or pounding of the hammer is usually constant. There will be mistakes that will have to be corrected, pulled out, and re-built. Delays are inevitable and most projects wind up behind schedule and over-budget. From a shell, the home slowly begins to take shape. If it is constructed with solid materials using the right tools and the right skills, the finished product can be a masterpiece.
Church leadership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wrote a “Proclamation To the World” several years ago about the family to state the importance of this sacred responsibility:
“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.”
As “builders,” Mom and Dad each have jobs to do but may need different tools and different skills to build their part of the structure.
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”
So how do Mom and Dad get the right tools and the skill to use them?
I can’t speak for the fathers, but being a mother, I know that I am in great need of certain tools: I need the tool of teaching, listening, and evaluating progress. I need the tool of increased patience, and an understanding of what motivates a toddler or teenager. I need the ability to correct someone while ensuring they know they are loved. I need to know when to get involved and when to pull back. I need the tool of good example, because all eyes in the home are watching—all the time! I need a selfless heart, ready to support and lift others. I know that I’ll need to use a different tool with a different child.
No matter what your background, every parent has gaps in their parenting abilities. There will always be a tool or skill I am missing and know I need, but don’t have. Whether we had great parental mentoring or none at all, we are always learning new things as parents.
In my search, I’ve found that one of the best resources to gain the tools and skills for this construction project are the scriptures. In the words of Henry B. Eyring:
“Often the answers will come as you study the scriptures. They contain accounts of what the Lord did in His mortal ministry and the guidance He has given His servants. They have doctrine in them which will apply in every time and every situation. Pondering the scriptures will lead you to ask the right questions in prayer. And just as surely as the heavens were opened to Joseph Smith after he pondered the scriptures in faith, God will answer your prayers and He will lead you by the hand” (Henry B. Eyring, “Rise to Your Call,” October 2002).
Our learning as parents is “line upon line, precept upon precept.” We don’t learn it in a day, but over a long period of time and usually through hard experience!
Another way to add to our toolset is prayer. A mother I know was having trouble with her teenage son. She was out of ideas and didn’t know what else to do. She prayed about it and her answer was a complete surprise. She was counseled through prayer to be nice to his friends — to talk to them when they came over and feed them when her son was entertaining them at her house. She said it was something she would have never thought of, but tried it. Because she built the relationship with her son’s friends, she strengthened the relationship with her son. This simple piece of counsel solved her problem.
The construction of a human life is indeed messy, hard work. In this hard-hat area we call family life, we may need to reframe something that we’ve built that is unstable. We will have to be careful where we step. It will take time to step back and see the frame slowly take shape. We will need to periodically check the blueprints and renderings to remind ourselves what the finished product should look like, and that it is worth the expense in time and sacrifice.
Our Creator has given us the grand opportunity to help create and build this human life. We are starting with first-rate materials! He will surely support us in the worthy work of caring for His spirit children. In the end, our foundation can be strong and our tools and skills ready for the task at hand. With His help and endowed with this miraculous power, mothers and fathers will have helped to construct a living masterpiece.