Building a Family Culture Based on God

by Tracy Ward

This is the second article of a two part series. You can see part one here.

Sabbath Preparation

One of our favorite family activities is our Sabbath preparation. Saturday used to be a day of endless errands, projects, and shopping. We would often arrive home late Saturday night exhausted and grumpy. We decided this had to change! We now try to use our time during the week more efficiently so that Saturday is not bombarded with a huge to-do list. Saturday is now a special day to spend time together as a family, having a picnic in the yard, going fishing for a few hours, walking through the woods, reading, or working in the yard in the early hours of the day. We try to be done with all of our activities by around 3 pm. My husband prepares our food for the Sabbath, our children prepare their clothing, and we gather any supplies we may need for church. Then, after dinner we have what we call Saturday Night Devotional. We meet together for an hour or more singing hymns, reciting the poetry we have been memorizing, and reading stories from our ancestor’s lives.

Often, our children will call their grandparents or others we have read about to ask them more questions about what we read about or to simply giggle with them about a funny experience. If our children are speaking or singing in church the next day, they will also share their talk or music with us as a final rehearsal. Our children look forward to this time all week. They are so excited to hear stories about their ancestors. I carefully pick stories that teach a principle my children need to grasp. For example, stories of my grandmother having to gather the eggs of 5000 chickens, or churning butter to sell help my children to understand the principle of work. Sometimes I choose something hilarious that my children will identify with and remember forever, like my grandma trying to ride a bike for the first time as an adult and falling off in a big mud puddle. Since making these changes in our week, our Sabbath has become a day of delight to our family.

Family Night – A Favorite

Another favorite family rhythm is our Family Night. Monday nights are special nights where the only thing on the schedule is family time. My husband teaches us a lesson from the scriptures, we sing songs, play games, and talk about family issues. We use this time to teach hymns we aren’t familiar with, music leading technique, poise and skills in giving a lesson, or performing a skit or music piece. Making this time a priority in our schedules has blessed our family in numerous ways. Our fourth area of focus is looking to God for answers. If we are studying or wondering about anything at all, rocks, war, values, bugs, food, countries of the world, freedom, holidays, health, cleanliness, anything you can think of, we first look at what our scriptures say about the topic. Sometimes we can’t find anything specific and we do our best to understand the truth of the subject. Sometimes, we are surprised to find there are an abundance of answers we have never known about.

Personal Mission Preparation 

We believe God has a personal mission for each of us. One of our roles as parents is to help our children develop the faith, obedience, and talents they need to fulfill their mission. We believe a child’s education, indeed each person’s education must be undertaken in a partnership with the One who created us, knows us, and sees what we do not see. We know that if we ask for His guidance in our personal educations and the education of our children that we will be led to precisely those writings, mentors, music, books, art, and philosophies that will allow us to best serve Him. We believe that the process of education is personal and individual; each person on this earth needs to learn different things. We also believe education should always include a core foundation of truth: who we are, who God is, how to discern truth, how to make choices concerning right from wrong, how to be a wise steward, and how to be obedient to the truth one has been taught. As we learn together in our home, we look to God to direct our path and realize that each of us has a different path. After the foundational principles are learned, we may each journey toward different goals.

Meeting Challenges in Life

Many times in our lives, we know we are not up to the challenges before us. We realize that we cannot solve a problem on our own or remove the grief from our hearts. For our children it is when their favorite animal dies, a friend moves away, there is not enough money to buy what they want, or when they are asked to do something they are afraid of. As adults, we are often faced with much larger trials and fears. When we are scared, sad, in need of understanding, a blessing of health, or a temporal item, we pray about it. At times, our children hear us pouring our hearts out to the Lord. We believe this teaches them that we are dependent on our God and that we trust His will for our lives. Last year, our little girl, who was five at the time, was fishing and had not caught anything. She went away from the group and knelt down on the beach. When she returned we asked her what she was doing. She said she had been praying about not catching any fish and asking God to help her. On her next cast she caught a fish. We are grateful that a loving Father in Heaven saw fit to bless this precious child with a faith-boosting experience. 

Simple Christian Service

Lastly, we strive to live the commandments. We try to serve others as a family by taking in food to those who are sick, giving items to people who need them more than we do, visiting those who need a cheerful presence in their lives. We try to keep the Sabbath day holy. We try to base our behavior on the teachings of Christ. We do not always succeed, and this can prove to be just as excellent a teacher as when we do. Our children learn much from our mistakes as well as their own. The task of our life is to align ourselves with Christ. Through incorporating these activities and habits, we are developing family unity and allowing God to be part of our family identity. We believe that for our children and ourselves to desire the simplicity and beauty of the things of God, we must limit or eliminate the things of this world that are showy, loud, overly stimulating, and immoral. When we do not have television, video games, popular culture, and expensive recreation to dull our minds and fill our days, our spirits are free to seek for truth and enjoyment in the things of God.

Our journey to this point has brought us closer as a couple and as a family. We have learned that God has called us to be parents of our children and He expects great things from us. We are slowly becoming the people He created us to be and catching a glimpse of His vision for us. As we embrace the duties of mothering and fathering with joy, we are blessed by a deeper understanding of how even the most mundane tasks of running a home and raising a family can bring us closer to God. As our family learns to worship, trust and ultimately follow Christ we will find happiness and completeness and have a lot of fun along the way! 

For further reading, see Ezra Taft Benson, “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 59


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.