Our Heavenly Father intentionally placed us in this mortal experience to give us the opportunities we need to return to Him. What an amazing idea he had for us to learn and grow! This life is full of hands-on experiences, consequences, and learning moments. On top of it all, we get to help some of God’s other children learn and grow as well: we get to be parents. We shouldn’t look at our role of helping with His work as any less important than He sees His own work. We are helping “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of ourselves, our children, and any other lives we may touch.
If this is true, the most important work of mothers and fathers is to bring our children to a knowledge of God and His Plan of Salvation, enabling them to return to their Heavenly Parents. As I think about this responsibility, several thoughts come to mind: if God is deliberate and intentional as he accomplishes His work, shouldn’t I be intentional in my own parenting work as well? And if my husband and I are to be successful in our parenting endeavors, shouldn’t our goals match His goals?
But there’s another side to our responsibility of raising good children: we as parents need to return to Him as well. Again, our Heavenly Father thought of everything. In all His wisdom, God made the benefits of parenting help both children and parents, allowing all of us to learn the most from our individual experiences. Helping God accomplish His goals for our children accomplishes His goals for us at the same time. No one learns better than when they are teaching it themselves. This means we, as parents, are enrolled in a sort of Parenting 101 class. We get our first taste or experience in parenting here which can continue into the next life if we are worthy.
The young men who were part of the Army of Helaman did not have the amazing spiritual experiences their parents had of being taught by Ammon, burying their weapons, and choosing to die rather than sin again. But somehow their parents were still able to pass on that knowledge to them. In other scripture stories this didn’t always happen.
What a difference between these young men and the ones who lived during the reign of King Benjamin who were too young to understand his great speech: many of that rising generation rejected his words. Of course there is no way to guarantee children’s testimonies will always grow the way we would like, but if parents couldn’t make a difference, then God wouldn’t bother designing parents and families into His plan. However, He did design it that way because parenting does make a difference and Intentional Parenting can make an even bigger difference.
Intentional Parenting can be defined as:
Deliberately choosing to raise children in an environment created to instill a desire for truth, a strong faith in Christ, and a determination to follow Him.
Intentional Parenting means children are the priority. I once heard a popular conservative radio host ask parents to find out what their children have learned from them by asking one simple question, “What do we, your parents, most want you to be: successful, smart, good, or happy?” How many children would answer “good”? As it turns out not very many. In fact, most children choose all the other answers before selecting good. This is an interesting impression of parenting today.
Good parenting means making goals and, typically, goals we make are measured in the length of time it takes before they can be achieved. This goal of raising children to successfully return to our Heavenly Father is just about the longest goal imaginable. Often long-range goals can fall through the cracks when there are pressing short-term goals that need addressing. But when it comes to parenting, sometimes those short-term goals can actually get in the way or even hurt the prospects of achieving the long-term goals.
When my children reached an age to begin helping with jobs around our home, many times I told myself it would be a lot easier to just do it myself. My three-year-old helping empty the garbage often meant I was picking up dropped pieces of trash; my six- or seven-year-old helping me clean the bathtub or vacuum the family room meant spending time with touch-ups, pulling toys and stray socks out of the vacuum, or even vacuuming again which felt very much like wasting valuable time already in such short supply.
Two of my short-term goals, accomplishing these tasks quickly and efficiently and having a clean house, were being undermined by little helping hands. But while I was despairing of ever reaching these goals, my big picture, long-term goal of helping my children return to God was working great! My children were learning the valuable skill of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from it. Depending on which goal I focused on, I could either feel very successful or an abject failure. As I tried patiently and lovingly to teach my children these various tasks, I could just imagine the patience and self-control it takes for our Heavenly Father to watch and wait for His work to be accomplished.**
We’re not only working out our own salvation by following Christ and His teachings; we’re also trying to make sure, as much as we can, that our children will also follow Him and our grandchildren as well. It is a multi-generational goal which only God can ensure. I can do my part but then my children have to do theirs—which means they have to understand the multi- generational aspect as well—and their children and so on. This means not only are parents teaching their children to be righteous people, they are also emphasizing how important it is for them to teach their children to be great people too.
We can’t fix the world or even our own communities, but we can choose to be Intentional Parents and raise our children with the long range goal of their becoming Intentional Parents themselves to continue the cycle another generation. Nothing else should matter as much. Then when my children (and their children) are asked if their parents want them to be successful, smart, good, or happy, their answer will be, “To be good; to gain eternal life and to pass this knowledge on to my children through my own Intentional Parenting.”
By: Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents”
* We will always discuss the God-ordained traditional nuclear family with His ideas of their various responsibilities. We might not all have this family form but we can work towards it and we can teach our children to aim for this as well.
1 Moses 1:39
2 Alma 53:21, 56:47-48, Book of Mormon, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016. 3 Mosiah 26:1-4, Book of Mormon.
4 Telushkin, Joseph. “What Did Your Parents Most Want You to Be?” YouTube, uploaded by PragerU, Mar 17, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5adJxEWLFKU. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.
**story from anonymous contributions by parents of GatheringFamilies.com