Strengthening the family
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Any good mechanic will tell you that to keep machinery in top running order, a certain amount of preventive maintenance must be performed at regular intervals.
The same is true for families. Family home evening is a weekly preventive maintenance to keep the family functioning smoothly. In addition to family home evening, family councils strengthen the family in numerous ways."A family council is the most basic council of the Church. Under the direction of the father and the mother, this council can meet to discuss family problems, work out finances, make plans, support and strengthen each other and pray for one another and the family unit." (Our Family pamphlet, 1980, p. 6.) These same principles apply to single-parent families and to couples without children.
Family councils can help a family work, plan and grow together. They help family members become more sensitive to the needs of others, help them set goals and evaluate progress. They can create an atmosphere of respect, understanding, order and harmony. Children can be more committed to family plans and goals because they have helped to formulate them. All family members can grow in spirituality, unity and love for one another.
President Ezra Taft Benson counseled: "I mention family councils because of our persistent emphasis on family unity and family solidarity. By encouraging parents to hold family councils we imitate in our homes a heavenly pattern." (April 1979 Conference Report.)
Family councils can help parents establish strong, personal relationships with their children. These relationships provide the foundation on which parents can build as they teach their children the gospel. Family councils also establish habits of communication and mutual respect on which both children and parents can rely when serious and difficult problems arise within the family or in the lives of individual family members.
The Lord's counsel to the Prophet Joseph Smith on temple building could also apply to families: "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
"That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoing may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord." (D&C 88:119-120).
President Benson said the following about Church councils which can be applied to family councils:
"The decisions of these (councils) are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering and in faith and virtue and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord." (April 1979 Conference Report)
When to hold a family council, what to discuss and how it should be organized varies from family to family. A family should meet in council often enough to fulfill family needs but not so often that the council becomes meaningless.
How a council is organized also varies, but parents may consider these suggestions:
- Before meeting together, parents may want to determine what's talked about. Parents may want to talk privately in advance and with individual children when they need personal or confidential information about subjects to be considered by the family. Individual privacy should be maintained.
- All family members should participate. Parents may have to encourage quiet family members to express their thoughts or ideas. All opinions should be valued and respected.
- After everyone has expressed his or her opinion or feelings, ideally all will agree on the decision. If family members cannot all agree, parents may ask them to further consider and pray about it. If they still don't agree, the parents, as presiding authorities, make the final decision, carefully weighing everyone's suggestions along with using their own experience and acting on the inspiration they are entitled to receive.
Some topics families can consider include subjects like dividing up household chores, planning family vacations, budgeting for school and other household expenses, working on ways to eliminate quarreling or encouraging Sabbath-enhancing activities.
Family councils can be used to build and maintain close, loving relationships between parents and between parents and children. Indeed, the hearts of the children and the parents can more fully turn to each other by working together.