Relief Society Lesson #17: Preserve and Protect the Family



Opening Note: I am a fan of families. I have my own fantastic family of origin and I see many good families around me. I have seen children and adults benefit from strong nuclear families. While I have no wish to diminish families, I do have a wish to expand our view of families – including the definition of family, types of family, and single life sans family. As a single woman who is happily Mormon, I feel crushed by the non-stop discussion of only one type of family.

A quotation like this one that opens the lesson: “Home may seem commonplace at times with its routine duties, yet its success should be the greatest of all our pursuits” leaves me feeling that without a family all of my pursuits are lacking. (And that doesn’t feel very good.)

As you teach this lesson, be sanative to the many different types of people in our class. I find that expansive language yields good results.


From the lesson:
“The family is the most important unit in society, in the Church, and in eternity.

The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life. The Church has the responsibility—and the authority—to preserve and protect the family as the foundation of society.”

I find this quote narrow in scope and a bit presumptive. Use sensitivity around this subject.

This section continues by discussing the disintegration of the family that is now upon us. I find this language to be alarmist and maybe false? I believe that the times we live in can be difficult on families, I’m not convinced that they are more difficult than other times in history, such as times of slavery.

A good discussion might be to focus on challenges facing the family and strategies to overcome them, rather than the strong bias that this is the worst of times.

I appreciate this quote:
“in focusing on the family, we should remember that in the world in which we live families are not restricted to the traditional grouping of father, mother, and children. Families in the Church today also consist of [husbands and wives] without children, single parents with children, and single individuals living alone. … None should be neglected.”


From the lesson:
“Fathers and mothers have a great responsibility with respect to the children which are entrusted to their care. … In the Book of Proverbs we find this admonition to parents: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6.)

Living as good examples to children and youth is a good discussion point in this section of the lesson: “The greatest training that can be given to a child is that which comes from the example of parents. Parents need to set the example for young people to follow.”

I would be careful of assigning gendered roles or in showing condescending respect to women or mothers.


From the lesson:
“Our homes should be places of love, prayer, and gospel teaching.”

Our homes can be in a variety of places and consist of a variety of people, but a should be a place of peace. Possible areas of discussion:

  • Strategies for keeping love and prayer in a home.
  • How to practice living gospel principles with the home as a basis.
  • Ideas for Family Home Evenings.


From the lesson:
“A successful parent is one who has loved, sacrificed, cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child.”

I love the idea of focusing on the needs of a child / children in this section. Pull in aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers from church.

I like Robin Baker’s Ensign article: “When a Child Leaves the Church” as a basis for discussing children “wandering from the fold”.

From the lesson:
“Each of us is unique. Each child is unique. Just as each of us starts at a different point in the race of life, and just as each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and talents, so each child is blessed with his own special set of characteristics.”


From the lesson:
“Our homes should be holy places where the principles of the gospel can be lived and where the Spirit of the Lord can dwell.

We hope that you will not be overcome with discouragement in your attempts to raise your families in righteousness. Remember that the Lord has commanded this: “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved” (D&C 45:32).”




Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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3 Responses

  1. Michael Thompson says:

    This section continues by discussing the disintegration of the family that is now upon us. I find this language to be alarmist and maybe false? I believe that the times we live in can be difficult on families, I’m not convinced that they are more difficult than other times in history, such as times of slavery.

    In our country Education is the most significant key to improving your circumstances.
    If you compare rates of high school graduation within any ethic group you will see a direct correlation of graduation rates to numbers born into nuclear families. It’s not alarmist. If you want to go further look at the percentage of children born into single parent homes.

    There are in fact fewer nuclear families statically than ever before.

  2. Erica says:

    I applaud your attempts to teach this lesson in a more inclusive manner than it is written. Take another look at this lesson from the eyes of a divorced sister, or a mother in an abusive relationship. The only suggestion for non-traditional family structures is that home teachers do their job so that there is a priesthood presence for the home. And the last paragraph, particularly could lead to the thought that the best thing a woman without a supportive spouse can do for her children is to give them up to someone who does have a loving relationship with a spouse.

  3. kristine N says:

    Teaching this today. I’m starting with the Anna Karenina principle (the idea that a family with any deficiencies will fail) and talking about how, if we find ourselves in a family with deficiencies we can address those deficiencies and how, if we see a family with deficiencies we can support them. Hope it goes well, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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