What Is The Perfect LDS Family?

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I loved growing up in my family! When I got married, I tried, as best I could, to model my “new” family after the “old.” I don’t know if my wife and I succeeded in doing so, but I have hopes that our kids feel the same way about “our” family as I felt about “my” family. What I liked about “my” family was that there were rules, but not too many.  There were expectations, often unspoken, but not demands. There was encouragement but not a lot of criticism. There are high expectations of “Mormon” families! Mostly from within our own community. Sometimes it causes our members to be dissatisfied because their families are not “perfect.”

I was reading an interesting article a few years ago called, ” Creative Obedience- Becoming Vitally Engaged with the Gospel”, by James T. Summerhays, which addressed this subject. I quote the article:

“I wish to review some research studies that will hopefully transcend our understanding of “how things ought to be” and help us see more of “things as they really are” and of what they can become (Jacob 4:13). Hopefully this review will alleviate some of the fears and worries that plague many Latter-day Saints, who live in a religious community where sometimes an austere, rules-based perfectionism is accidentally encouraged and where variety, creativity, and expansive thinking are unwittingly discouraged.

Researchers William G. Dyer and Philip R. Kunz in their book,  “Effective Mormon Familes: How They See Themselves”, asked stake presidents throughout the Western United States to identify fifteen families that they felt were the “best families” in their stake. Dyer and Kunz then sent detailed questionnaires to the hundreds of families. We might assume these families would be very effective in those practices we call the Sunday school answers—prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and temple attendance. Not so. Only 28 percent of these “best families” always held morning and evening prayer. Less than half of the rest “usually” did. Only 18 percent said they always held weekly family home evening. Over 70 percent of families responded that they “sometimes” or “seldom” conducted family scripture study. 24 percent “always” attended the temple regularly.

Although the study showed that these families were very dedicated to God and wished they were doing better, obviously they were less than perfect at doing the daily, mechanical, regimented activities. These families often had older children who worked and were in school. Conflicting schedules made it difficult to coordinate official twice-a-day family devotion. The lesson I see is that the parents were not pharisaical, insisting that every family member go to incredible lengths so they can get 100 percent on their religion stats. The families gave devotion regularly but were reasonable and practical about things. Religion did not happen always, but it did happen usually.

Also, the parents conveyed religion in less formal and more creative ways that do not always show up in the stats. The researchers found that these families were very effective in areas that are harder to measure, areas that beckon innovation and improvisation. These activities are governed by broad, overarching principles rather than tight regulations.”

I had wonderful parents,  but I’m sure they didn’t do everything right.  No parents can claim such no matter how hard they try! I hope all of us have the goal of having “love” as an overriding principle in our families.  I would certainly encourage all of us to do all that we have been instructed to do by our leaders. However, when we fall short, as we all do, I hope we will not sink into depression thinking “I will never get there!”  This type of attitude is a recipe for an unhappy life. We need to strive to do what is right, then let the Lord exercise his mercy. He has done so through the giving of His son. As we travel through life let that knowledge be our source of never-ending peace and joy. What is the perfect LDS family? In my mind it is a family that strives but accepts imperfection as part of this life,  and then recognizes and embraces the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ in making it whole.

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