Relief Society Lesson 11: GBH – Home: The Basis of a Righteous Life
Please read the section heading for each section allowed, then discuss and use the materials as supplied.
This can be a very tricky lesson to teach because of its outward focus on families and children. Please be mindful of the women in your Relief Society who might be dealing with infertility, marital issues, are mothers of children who have left the church, or are mothers of children with disabilities. Be additionally mindful of widows, single women, and women from broken homes. In this light, and in order to have everyone feel like this lesson applied to them, I would start the lesson by telling the women that everyone there is a daughter of Heavenly Parents.
Ask: what are some different kinds of families? Be sure to include ward families.
From a post I previously wrote:
“Family is a rubbery term at best; even within the church, the definition of family comes in varied terms of a mortal family, an eternal family, a heavenly family, a ward family (wherein the bishop is the father of a ward) and for those in University wards, you may get “assigned” membership in FHE family groups. Even at work or in sports, a branch or a team can be described as a family unit. In consideration of this, you can see why I prefer the mathematical definition of the term “family”: a group of curves whose equations differ from a given equation in the values assigned to constraints in each curve.
“In applying this concept to the more common definition of family, I am comfortable in defining family like this: A group of individuals who share values within constraints of a common group. The values are not necessarily perfectly matched but shared- as in a team, the team or the group is the commonality.”
In other words, we are approaching this lesson in a way that includes all kinds of families- no matter what we look like.
Invite someone to read this quote:
“The ultimate goal with reference to all relationships is to come closer to Christ. Therefore, I can judge the progress of my relationships with my husband, children, parents, and friends not so much by the things they give me or the words they say, but by whether or not we are helping each other come closer to life eternal. By this criterion, we may discover that we are blessed with a whole group of “best friends” we had not realised we had.” – Sheryl Condie Kempton, “Why I Need Friends,” Ensign, March 1979.
Suggest that the women in the room at that moment are in a Relief Society family, and invite everyone- no matter their circumstance- to feel the love of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father as the lesson proceeds.
Read from the manual:
In late 1973, Gordon and Marjorie Hinckley reluctantly decided to move from their home in East Mill Creek, Utah, so they could live closer to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. President Hinckley, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, took time on New Year’s Eve of that year to write about their home. His words revealed his feelings about the place, but even more, they revealed his feelings about a loving family.
“How sentimentally sad we are about leaving,” he wrote. He recalled the family’s labor to build the home and to develop its surrounding property. Then his thoughts turned to relationships—with one another and with God:
“Here we played together as our children grew, and here we prayed together. Here we and our children came to know our Heavenly Father, that He lives, and listens, and answers.
“I might go on to write a book … not for the world, but for those five children, their spouses and posterity. And if I can get into words the story of that home there will be tears and laughter, and a great, quiet, pervading spirit of love that will touch the hearts of those who read, for those who lived and grew there loved one another, they loved their neighbors, they loved their God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ask: Have any of you lived or visited a place that just felt joyous and full of love? This place might not be where you grew up or even where you are living now. Imagine that place now. What are some of the things that made that place feel so wonderful?
(List these things on the chalkboard)
Family relationships are the most sacred of all relationships.
Ask: Consider someone who is unmarried- how might the Ward family be sacred to them?
Ask: Consider a widow- how might her Relief Society sisters be a sacred support to her?
Ask: Consider a university student who attends a YSA ward—how might that ward family be sacred to them?
Ask: Consider your ward family—how is this sacred to you?
Ask: Consider your own family—be it with roommates, friends, or a spouse and children—how is that sacred to you?
(add or remove any of these choices based on the women in your Relief Society)
2. Fathers and mothers have the privilege of caring for their children and teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Read this statement:
“The art of rearing children peacefully and pleasantly is the art of becoming a child again, of growing up with them.” – Emma Ray Riggs McKay (spouse of David O. McKay), – Great Thoughts on Motherhood, Aspen Books, 1992, 49.
Ask: This statement is about parenting, but how can we apply this in our church family? In other words, how important is empathy in building a righteous life?
Ask: Where in the scriptures have we been taught to become like a child? (Mosiah 3:19) (you may invite someone to read this scripture): For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Ask: How can we help each other as earthly ward, biological, and social families to draw closer to, and learn of Christ?
The lesson manual next recounts a story that president Hinckley shared in February 1989 (published in the June 1989 Ensign). He repeated the story in September 2006. Most recently, Elder David S. Baxter repeated this story in the April 2012 General Conference, showing that this story is as relevant today as it was almost 30 years ago.
From Baxter’s retelling:
President Gordon B. Hinckley related an experience shared by a divorced single mother of seven children then ranging in ages from 7 to 16. She had gone across the street to deliver something to a neighbor. She said:
“As I turned around to walk back home, I could see my house lighted up. I could hear echoes of my children as I had walked out of the door a few minutes earlier. They were saying: ‘Mom, what are we going to have for dinner?’ ‘Can you take me to the library?’ ‘I have to get some poster paper tonight.’ Tired and weary, I looked at that house and saw the light on in each of the rooms. I thought of all of those children who were home waiting for me to come and meet their needs. My burdens felt heavier than I could bear.
“I remember looking through tears toward the sky, and I said, ‘Dear Father, I just can’t do it tonight. I’m too tired. I can’t face it. I can’t go home and take care of all those children alone. Could I just come to You and stay with You for just one night? …’
“I didn’t really hear the words of reply, but I heard them in my mind. The answer was: ‘No, little one, you can’t come to me now. … But I can come to you.’”
Ask: Why has this story been important enough for it to be recounted to often over the past 30 years?
Ask: How is it relevant to our times?
Ask: How is it relevant to all of us—not just single mothers—but when we get down and feel hopeless?
Ask: **What does this story teach to you about how important you are in your Heavenly Parents’ family?**
3. Through family prayer, children grow with faith in the living God.
From the manual:
I know of no other practice that will have so salutary an effect upon your lives as will the practice of kneeling together in prayer. The very words, Our Father in Heaven, have a tremendous effect. You cannot speak them with sincerity and with recognition without having some feeling of accountability to God. …
Your daily conversations with him will bring peace into your hearts and a joy into your lives that can come from no other source. … Your love will strengthen. Your appreciation for one another will grow.
Ask: What do children learn from us when they see us pray?
Ask: What do we learn about each other as we gather as a group to pray?
Have someone read:
“Don’t underestimate the power of your prayers in the lives of your friends.” – Chieko Okazaki, Sanctuary, Deseret Book, 1997, pg 7.
Ask: How does praying for our friends and family and with our friends and family deepen our relationship children of Heavenly Parents?
4. Family home evening can draw parents and children together in learning the ways of the Lord.
When I was a teen, FHE meant a short lesson, and mostly going over the weekly afterschool activities, household chores list and car sharing so we could meet the needs of a large family. When I was a YSA, FHE meant a game or an activity with my roomates. When I lived alone, family home evening was the night that I wrote letters to friends and family, some whom I have not seen in years. Sometimes, I went to a movie alone. (I didn’t mind it.) After my husband and I married, but did not have children, we still shared a short lesson, and once a month, went over the household budget. Now that we have children, we rotate games, lessons, and activities, and once a month, we still have a family budgeting night to teach our children the importance of balancing our income.
Ask: What does FHE look like to you?
5. Parents should begin to teach their children when the children are very young.
In this section, there is a recollection about a honey locust tree that grew in a twisted manner over time because it has not been supported as a sapling. The only way to right the growth was to cut off a significant portion of the tree:
From the manual:
When the tree was first planted, a piece of string would have held it against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort, but I did not. And it bent to the forces that came against it. Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. Said the writer of Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” [Proverbs 22:6].
Ask: Are there any other ways in which we can benefit in helping children, including our own children, in helping them to grow in the gospel?
“Some of our most scared and important times as a family have come when our children have shared their revelations with us. You feed them and feed them when they are tiny, and then they begin to feed you, and that food is some of the sweetest and most delicious that exists in the universe. I am sure it mingles with the fruit of the tree of life.” – Elizabeth Huntington Hall, To Rejoice as a Woman, Deseret Book, 1995, pg 204.
Ask: (perhaps ask someone to share a treasure that they have learned from a child.)
Sometimes even when we do the very best job we possibly can, children can fall away from the gospel. These might be children we taught in Sunday school, nieces, nephews, siblings, or our own children or grandchildren.
Ask: What can we do to support our sisters who have children who have chosen another path?
6. If children rebel, parents should continue to pray for them, love them, and reach out to them.
From the manual:
Once in a while, notwithstanding all the things you try to do, there is a rebellious child. But keep at it. Do not ever give up. You have never lost as long as you try. Keep at it.
If any of you have a child or loved one in that condition [of rebelliousness], do not give up. Pray for them and love them and reach out to them and help them.
7. We strengthen our families as we seek heaven’s help and nurture a spirit of love and respect for each other.
This section largely discusses how to mentor and discipline children. President Hinckley is an anti-corporal punishment advocate. i.e. he is against spanking, slapping, smacking or hitting children. This may seem irrelevant to those who are not parents, but years ago, a dear friend of mine attended a ward where a woman in the ward would spank primary children if they did not behave. Clearly she did not know how to manage children (and it can be difficult!). So- when you are with children who might be misbehaving, how can you manage YOURSELF, in addition to managing a child? (a printable version of this poster can be found here.)
Ask: How can being mindful of this help us to keep calm in any situation—be it with children, people in our wards who might disagree with us, or otherwise?
From the manual:
Love can make the difference—love generously given in childhood and reaching through the awkward years of youth. It will do what money lavished on children will never do.
—And patience, with a bridling of the tongue and self-mastery over anger. …
—And encouragement that is quick to compliment and slow to criticize.
These, with prayers, will accomplish wonders. You cannot expect to do it alone. You need heaven’s help in raising heaven’s child…
Ask: In consideration of this, how can this advice also apply to us when we are working with people in church, professionally, or otherwise, who might be difficult, argumentative, or disagree with you?
From the manual:
Of course, there is need for discipline with families. But discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty inevitably leads not to correction but rather to resentment and bitterness. It cures nothing and only aggravates the problem. It is self-defeating.25
There is no discipline in all the world like the discipline of love. It has a magic all its own
Ask: What are some of the ways that we discipline with love?
-You may look up resources, such as Positive Parenting Solutions (they have a free webinar) or other programs that might be available locally (Does LDS family services do free parenting sessions in your area?). These are aimed at child and parent relationships, but remind the sisters that within the church we often get called to serve in primary or otherwise, and such learning can be beneficial for everyone.
-You may also look up anger management resources and share them with the class. Often parents strike their children out of their own impatience and frustration. Basic online anger management courses or, in more serious cases, controlled, clinical anger management sessions may be important resources for all in dealing with children, spouses, workmates, and even
Close the lesson bearing testimony that we are all children of a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, and that as sisters, we can strive together in God’s light. If there is time, you may choose to read this poem:
Woman of Another World, I am With You
You, woman of a different tounge,
Speak in the language of light
That flutters between us.
Open my heart to your dailiness;
Give voice to your fears and celebrations
As you wonder at mine.
Your family becomes me,
The substance of what you believe
Colours my view.
You take me on.
Here, here is my hand.
Filled with yours
It pulses with new hope
And a fierce longing
To let the light that guides us both
Tell me where to be.
-Emma Lou Thayne, Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems, Signature Books, 1989, pg 42