Exponent II Classics: Sacrament Meeting Sampler
Ephesians 6:1-4 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I have some strong feelings about the responsibilities of parents. These ideas are shaped by my past experiences growing up poor and black and by Church teachings. It is Church doctrine that in the family children should be cared for and taught eternal principles. The most important of the Lord’s work will be that which we do within our own homes.
In our own home, my husband and I try to teach our children about gospel principles, including being morally clean and the importance of loving one another. When I was young, I wished that both of my parents believed in these principles.
My parents were divorced by the time I was six years old. My father, who was an alcoholic, did not share the responsibility of raising his family. He felt that because he was drunk all the time, it would be easier for him to leave.
My mom worked very hard and we saw very little of her. She made sure that we ate dinner with her or ate dinner while she was there. Most of the time, she did not eat dinner because there was not enough for her. As a child, I used to wake up in the middle of the night to find my mom on her knees crying and asking the Lord to help her feed her children another day. I learned something from this. I learned how to pray, what to ask for and that my mom loved us very much. I also learned an important lesson from my father and that was that I will never drink.
It is Church doctrine that children should be encouraged and allowed to receive as much education as possible to make sure that they are prepared for their life’s work. My mom could neither read nor write and the only job she could ever get was that of a maid or a cook. She taught us how important it was that we should get a good education. She also stressed that what you learn or what you know should be shared with those who don’t know.
We practiced this idea in our home with mother. We taught her the basic knowledge of words and how to sound them out. I remember that when I was in the third grade, she would ask me to read to her while she patched my brothers’ jeans. She was hoping that she might learn something new from this. She didn’t have time to go to school as an adult because she had a family to raise.
Years later, we taught mom how to read well enough to fill out a job application. She never had a desire to progress past this point. She obtained employment in a nursing home as a cook from the skills she had learned from her children. We were all so happy about that. We are also happy when mother sends her own Christmas cards out to her children. The cards never have return addresses on them so the postmen are forced to read and deliver them to us. We have never had a Christmas without a card from mother.
In our home, during family home evening, we discuss with our children the fact that grandmother was unable to read. We also discuss how much she missed out of life because of this problem. She has always told her own children that if she could read there would have been lots of things that she could have done and it would have been easier for her to raise her children. I disagree with her. With all the turmoil and racial problems that were occurring during the fifties these were the only jobs available for black women. I think that it is true that if Mother had been able to read, she could have made her life a little more exciting through books, art and literature and maybe understood things a little better.
It is also Church doctrine that we as parents should seek help first from family members and relatives who may be in a position to help. As a child, I have always lived in communities that were all black and poor. My mother didn’t have anything to give and no one had anything to give to us. It would have been a waste of time or a total embarrassment to ask relatives for something they didn’t have. Her siblings talked about how sorry they felt for Mother struggling so hard. They wished that they could help her, but they were struggling too. My mother’s favorite song during these times was “God Bless the Child Who Has His Own.” We didn’t quite have our “own,” but we felt very blessed with the little that we did have.
The way we lived made us strong. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. I know now that it wasn’t easy for us and deep down it made us feel a little bitter toward society for the way we were treated, but we can’t dwell on that because it will get in the way of our future and what we are trying to accomplish in this life. It is also Church doctrine that we teach our children good work habits and attitudes while they are young. These habits will likely stay with them later. This will make a difference between a useful, productive life and one that is idle and wasteful.
As children, we were never on welfare. We always helped Mother by working small jobs. My brothers usually had paper routes or delivered groceries and my sisters and I had baby sitting jobs or we went to work with mother and helped her. The ones who were left at home would take care of the other little ones and keep the house clean. WE all pitched in. I am not saying that we didn’t need welfare, but Mom didn’t believe in it. Years later, I asked Mother if she had ever considered welfare. She said that she had, but that when she prayed about it, something always made her abort the idea. She had a lot of pride in herself, and she felt that she could have managed by asking the Lord for what she needed. Her ideas were shared by most black people in the fifties and sixties in Memphis. In the communities in which I lived, I had not heard of a family being on welfare. I was unaware that it existed until I moved to Chicago.
Some parents feel that they worked too hard when they were growing up and that they don’t want their children to do the same. This is not my problem. I do want my children to work and help keep the house clean. I haven’t quite mastered the concept of work in my home, but I am working on it. I want to help my children develop positive attitudes about work. I want to teach the lessons that work teaches. I don’t want to tell my children how hard I have had to work all my life. I want them to develop a good attitude toward work. Perhaps the best way to do this is to help them find joy in their work even if it is just sweeping the kitchen floor.
I have included numerous black issues among these thoughts. I know that my children need to be aware of them and that they are as strong as I am. The hard times for them are ahead, and we have tried to teach them, in our family, how to cope with the problems that they will face as young black people. I do believe that they should remember one important lesson gained during our many discussions: Do not judge people; let God do that. If they remember this, they will be one step ahead of society.
None of us is perfect when it comes to raising our children. My mom made mistakes in raising us, and my husband and I have made mistakes in raising our children; however, we feel good when we know we have done the best that we could by building on gospel principles as well as the lesson learned from our lives.