When I first became a mother nearly seventeen years ago, I was overwhelmed—with love, with awe, and with a sense of tremendous responsibility. Nothing will make you feel the weight of adulthood on your shoulders like becoming a parent—a little being now depends on you for everything from food and diaper changes to nurturing in the gospel and instruction on how to return to our Heavenly Father. And perhaps the most overwhelming feeling of all was the message I received from the Spirit one night while taking care of my daughter—this was God’s baby, on loan to me, and I’d better do right by her.
Talk about pressure.
Because we have been entrusted with the care and keeping of our Heavenly Father’s children, it only makes sense that we should raise them in His way. I’ll liken it to babysitting. When you take a babysitting job, the parents will tell you the child’s bedtime and what they should have for dinner and what rules they should follow. They also provide a telephone number in case of emergency. Our Heavenly Father has done no differently. He has given us instructions for His children—commandments and the scriptures—and He gave us a way to contact Him—prayer—if we need help.
The new book “Parenting with Spiritual Power” by Julie K. Nelson outlines some of the examples we find in the scriptures of good parents and the way that God parents us. After all, what better example of a father could we find than our Eternal Father? The author posits that the scriptures are the best instruction manual we could ever find for raising our children and that by turning to them, we can feel as though we’re raising our children in the most loving, Christlike, and effective way.
Each chapter takes a story or episode from the scriptures and likens it to our relationship to our own children today. We start out the book with a discussion of how God dealt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He outlined the rule, told them of the consequences, and then allowed them room to make their own choice. When they broke the rule, He didn’t pat them on the head—He made it clear that they had disobeyed. But He also gave them the opportunity to try again, and He continued to love them and teach them and be a father to them. While He did have to drive them from the garden because that was the natural consequence, He never ceased caring about their welfare.
The author then explains how the principle of free agency and consequences can be applied in our families as well. Adam and Eve were very much like children, and while we are not God, we can use His perfect example as we seek to teach and discipline.
Additional chapters examine the power of teaching our children doctrine, as demonstrated by the Savior’s interactions with Judas and with Mary. We learn about the power of having good cheer, as demonstrated by Lehi and his family. Alma and Corianton show us the power of correcting with love. And perhaps one of my favorite chapters in the book—the power of banners and fortifications as shown us by Captain Moroni.
One of the banners, in this case, was compared to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Just as Moroni took a pole and mounted a flag whereon he wrote his reasons for fighting, essentially reminding himself and everyone around him that his cause was just, we can hold the Proclamation up high and say, “This is what we believe, this is where we stand, and we won’t back down from it.” Of all the things we have to fight for, what could possibly be of more worth than the family? I can’t think of one.
This book caused me not only to think about parenting in a more godly way, but the scriptures as well. We’ve always been taught that we’ll learn great and important truths from the scriptures, but it’s key for us to realize that they aren’t just stories sprinkled with a bunch of wars. They are examples given to us for how we can better live our lives, and the book is a step-by-step curriculum for how we can implement the scriptures more fully. In addition, I would say that it gave me some hope on my journey of motherhood. At times it seems so overwhelming, and even impossible. But God loves His children so much that He made sure we would have the knowledge we would need to be successful parents, and we can turn to Him in prayer for comfort and additional answers. Children might not come with instruction manuals, but what they have been sent with is even more perfect.