Building a Family Culture Based on God

by Tracy Ward

Nurturing Spiritual Relationships 

I believe that one of my primary responsibilities as a mother is to nurture my children’s relationship with their Heavenly Father. I have found that this is not nearly as hard as some would have us believe, because children are innately drawn to spiritual things. Their eyes and ears, fingers and toes, their hearts and souls yearn to see, hear, and feel things of God. They yearn for the surety that He provides, and the foundation He gives their life. Our family strives to allow God into our lives in several ways. First, we acknowledge that everything testifies of Him. The earth we walk upon, the birds that fly, the food we eat, the friends we love, the new baby growing inside mommy, are all a demonstration of God’s love for us. It is our job to recognize Him and to let Him into our lives. We include Him in our conversations. We include Him in our family rhythms. We look to Him for answers to our questions. We rely on Him for strength and comfort. We live our lives according to His commandments. 

As we do these things day in and day out, our children trust in God as naturally as they trust in us, as naturally as they breathe. The earth, as God’s creation, testifies of Him. When we go exploring, we investigate bugs, rocks, flowers, and trees. We talk of how greatly God loves us to bless us with beautiful surroundings. We ponder why God may have created a slug or a prickly plant that hurts our fingers. We have amazing discussions about God’s world and how we can be better stewards of it. This helps my children to learn reverence for all life. They know they are serving God when they pick up litter, save an injured bird, or speak kindly to a squirrel. We believe pregnancy and birth are powerful teachers for children. In our home, our babies are prayed for by the family from the moment they are conceived, and often even before. As a couple, we teach our other children how babies grow, how they are born, what they can do to take care of the new baby. We teach them babies need mama’s milk, mama’s warmth, a family’s love, and little else. They learn that God gives our family a new baby to bless us and to teach us. We use this time to teach about the powers of procreation, the sanctity of their own individual bodies, the stages of development, and the need for families to have a mom and a dad who will lead in righteousness. 

Practical Gospel Applications 

In our family, the scriptures and gospel stories are part of daily conversation. We have found that family and personal scripture study are not adequate for our family to truly be immersed in the teachings of God. We have incorporated games, plays, and discussion into the flow of our daily family life. For example, we have a game where we name all the people from scriptures whose names start with a certain letter. Another favorite is to name all the prophets, name all the martyrs, or name all those groups of people who chose wickedness and their consequences. We play these kinds of games while eating a meal together or while driving. If one of my children is lacking courage, I may say, “Remember David!” or “Do you think Daniel was scared?” and then we talk about what they did to find courage. Our children act out the gospel stories over and over again because they love to pretend they are the great heroes they have studied. If we are stuck in a situation we don’t want to be in, we may talk about the children of Israel being slaves in Egypt. If we have a lot of food to prepare for winter, we might discuss Noah. If we don’t understand why something is happening to us, we may share the story of Joseph. 

Memorization and other Resources 

We believe that young children have a great ability to memorize. We capitalize on that ability by filling their minds with the things we would have them know: stories, songs, verses of scriptures, inspiring poetry, hymns. By the age of 3 or 4, my children know many of the hymns of our faith and the stories of the scriptures well enough to share them with others. If there is any doubt that this is possible, observe children who are being brought up as part of mainstream America. They will know the characters and songs from all the Disney movies, PBS shows, and Saturday morning cartoons. We choose to not allow our children’s minds to be cluttered with these things that are not of substance, and instead, to fill them with a foundation of truth. 

In our study of great men and women, we focus on those who believed in God and who lived their lives in accordance with His will. When we are studying a time period we will first study those who were noble and virtuous and then study the people who chose to live selfish, cruel, or evil lives. In this way, we have set the standard that is expected from people and use it to compare and contrast behavior to. Another way to include God in our daily life is to use the abundant media resources that exist today. We have hymns and scriptures on CD and our children love to listen to them while we drive, during cleaning time, or while they are drawing. It is not uncommon for our 6-year-old to listen for four or more hours each day. She recently finished a book of scripture on CD that is over 26 hours long, in about seven days. She would wake up early in the morning and have the CD player going before I was even out of bed! 

Our Favorite Books 

We love books at our home and have chosen books that teach principles of truth, are illustrated with artwork that appeals to our love of nature and beauty, or help us learn new skills. We believe that many children’s books today are written for children who have short attention spans and are attracted to glitzy, nonsensical stories because they have not been exposed to excellent literature. We spend many hours a day reading together and are grateful for the lessons the characters teach. 

Some of our children’s favorite books are: The Quiltmaker’s Gift, Robinson Crusoe, Charlotte’s Web, Welcome with Love, The Chronicles of Narnia, Pollyanna, My Great-Grandmother’s Gourd, Billy and Blaze books, Busy Bees, All of a Kind Family, The Bulletproof George Washington, Elizabeti’s Doll, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock books, Little House on the Prairie series, Little Women, Little Men, The Hiding Place, All the Places to Love, and Thornton Burgess books. One of our daughters loves books so much, she begs me to read her a sentence in between each bite I take. One of our favorite family activities is book night. On Friday nights, we will often pop popcorn, spread blankets and pillows all over the family room and “Papa” (my wonderful husband) reads to us for several hours till everyone is asleep or his voice is gone. There is nothing as splendid as curling up together as a family and reading of great adventures and triumphs! 

Family Rhythms 

We have been working on developing solid family rhythms for years, and still have a lot of work to do. We have some areas we are doing well in which have allowed God to be present in our home more than He previously was. In the past we read scriptures as a family, at night, right before bed. This time was frequently shut out by other activities and we would miss out on this precious time together. Now we have family devotional together in the morning at 7 am. We join together with singing a hymn, reading our scriptures aloud, reciting our family’s standards, and reading a small section of a variety of stories that focus on different values. Then we kneel in prayer together to thank our Heavenly Father for our many blessings, to discuss our activities for the day, and to ask for specific help for others and ourselves. At night time we again meet together to read scriptures and kneel in prayer. Some nights we have not been wise in our use of time and we do not have time to read scriptures. On those nights, we still have prayer and feel peace that we have joined in reading holy writ earlier in the day.

(... to be continued next month)

Meet the Author Born and raised in the open spaces of southwestern Wyoming, Tracy Ward has always been a writer, and is now finding a little time to put her talent to paper -- between home educating her children, violin and cello lessons, teaching gymnastics, political forums, assisting at home births, fulfilling church callings and furthering her education. In her spare time she is an avid reader, goes camping and hiking, and is enthralled with learning Hebrew and about Jewish culture. Tracy's life has been blessed and magnified by her best friend and husband, Richard, and together they have charted the blueprint for their heaven on earth. She currently resides in Idaho with her amazing guy, three adorable children, and an assortment of outside creatures, including laying hens, cats and kittens, a beautiful golden lab, and several squirrels.