Gospel Protection in a Poisonous Culture
I came to conference this time hoping for real answers to niggly questions about how to protect my children, how to arm them in the face of trials they were weathering individually and the seeming assaults our home was facing. Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk Can Ye Feel So Now and Elder L. Tom Perry’s talk Becoming Goodly Parents led me to remember concrete things I can retool in our lives to better lead us to the protection I sought; the defenses we need.
Elder Cook quoted Peggy Noonan, saying “everyone knows the culture is poisonous and nobody expects that to change.” He suggests that feelings of spiritual drought can be the result of unwise choices, of casual covenant observance, of giving our best selves to lesser causes or allowing our allegiance to be swayed by intense political views or troubling internet material.
I imagined myself finding the gas mask necessary to live in a poisonous culture, to find the necessary antidote for the poisons around us, once ingested. Ultimately, the antidote for exposure to this poisonous culture is the same as the protection against it: to create and maintain a gospel culture of our own within our homes, to make our homes “the places of refuge where kindness, forgiveness, truth and righteousness prevail.”
I’m a sucker for buzz words. I am always looking for something quick I can say to jog my own memory and the memory of my children back to the task at hand. Maybe rallying cry sounds better than buzz words. After Elder Cook’s talk and our subsequent FHE on it, I found myself asking myself and my children in the face of altercation: “Is this kind? Are you forgiving? Are you being true? Are we being righteous?”
There’s a lot of vigilance required in parenthood. Elder Cook reminds us that we must “have the courage to filter or monitor Internet access, television, movies and music. . . .the courage to say no, to defend truth, and bear powerful testimony.” Sometimes I hear about all this courage needed and I need a nap. Vigilance and courage really are exhausting for the non-confrontational introvert that I naturally am. Perhaps that’s why I took such great comfort in Isaiah’s promise that Elder Cook quoted:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Elder Perry’s talk dovetailed perfectly with Elder Cook’s in giving me tools for a better home. First, he defined the gospel culture as coming from the “plan of salvation, the commandments of God and the teachings of living prophets.” The “way we raise our families and live our individual lives” is how we put our unique spin on the universal gospel culture.
I want a strong family culture in my home. That gas mask is what I imagine myself building for each of my children. It is important to me to tie choices to consequences and behaviors to covenants. One day, not too long ago, I thrilled to hear the chastisement of my younger son to his pesky older brother “you should not be bothering me—you have been baptized!” But covenants made, while essential steps in the journey to safety are not enough. Elder Cook reminds us of how many things can interfere with our safety and one of them is casual covenant observance.
Elder Perry outlines five things parents can do to create stronger family cultures:
- Pray in earnest
- Hold family prayer, scripture study, FHE, eat together as often as possible
- Avail ourselves of the Church’s support network—teachers, leaders, presidencies
- Share testimonies often
- Organize the workings of the family under simple rules, expectations, traditions and rituals and family economics
None of these items is breaking any new ground. They are the very definition of the Sunday School answer. But the basics are what build strength. I find that having my attention drawn to them repeatedly helps me to note which areas have become weak or which require attention to bring their use to full power in my life.
The admonition to eat together as often as possible struck a nerve with me. Scheduling and food issues have long made dinner in my home much less than a source of power. But listening to Elder Perry’s talk, I thought why not breakfast? So, we’re trying breakfast together with some initial success.
Elder Perry’s direction to avail ourselves of the Church’s support network got me thinking about the many ways in which we can support each other in our ward families. Years ago, as a recent college graduate, I attended my parents’ ward after a long absence. I looked around the chapel at my former YW leaders, my Sunday School teachers, my basketball coaches. I felt overwhelmed with love for the lessons they taught me, reaffirming what I had learned in my faithful home. I felt grateful for the safe landing site during the days of typical teen friction. They were as integral a part in my gospel instruction as were my parents and in that moment, I could see myself as the product of dozens of faithful foot soldiers and I marveled in the rich blessings of a good ward.
I see the same thing now in the ward where my children are growing. I am deeply grateful, for example, for the Bros: my nine year old son’s primary teachers last year who intricately tied each of their lessons to baptismal covenants, to preparation for ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood (they taught a large class of boys) and they were cool, so cool in their faithfulness, that if the Bros said it, my often troublesome son would do it without question. In many other ways we have been blessed by the faithful observance of our ward members and I am reminded by Elder Perry of the beautiful synergy the Lord envisions within His church organization.
- How do you fortify your family culture?