“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”—The Family: A Proclamation to the World
God planned family as the best way for us to achieve some of the most important goals of salvation. In ideal situations, children are first taught right and wrong, and eternal truths at home from their parents. They are taught love by being loved, and responsibility and socialization by being a part of a functioning home. Of course, not everyone has the opportunity for such perfect conditions, and often converts don’t learn of God’s plan for families until they are already divorced or have made other choices they would not make today. By the time a parent converts, children might already have gone astray, or a spouse may be unwilling to join the church and participate in the change. However, the gospel doesn’t require us to begin at the beginning. We can start where we are.
You can make your family an LDS family starting today, regardless of your starting point. Start where you are, with what you have, and take steps to move further toward the ideal. Every small bit of progress is good. Don’t compare your progress to that of others. Work with Heavenly Father and, if needed, your priesthood leaders, to determine how you’re doing.
The first step is to make your family a priority. Television, clubs, hobbies, and friends are all distractions from the core of the circle God placed you into. This is not to say you can’t have any of those things, only that they must never get in the way of building your eternal family. Simplifying life can bring more time to spend together as a family. Church programs such as family home evening, family scripture study, and family prayer give you set ways to spend some time together each day.
When your family has challenges, use a family council to resolve them, even if you’re the only one who attends. Invite God to attend with you and work out solutions. Be patient. Alma the Younger rebelled against his family, and his father was a prophet. It was the prayers of the parents that eventually returned Alma to the family and the proper path, but it was a long and scary time before that happened. His parents probably didn’t know for sure he’d return, but they never gave up hoping and praying. Hope and prayer are gifts we can give even the most rebellious child.
Talk about family to your family. You needn’t preach. But share with them what your new religion has taught you about the blessings and responsibilities of family life and ask for their participation in turning your family into an LDS family. The process may be slow, but the rewards are great.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.