"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
January 05, 2016
Evaluating Your Emphasis
by Daryl Hoole

When Hank was called to serve as president of the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission in 1991 he was advised to watch his emphasis because, as he was told, whatever you emphasize as a mission president, that is what you will get.

I think the same is true of parents in our homes. The word “emphasis” is one that has great significance in our homes. It is seldom mentioned or discussed, but it exists whether we realize it or not. Let’s talk about it.

Children are extremely perceptive in picking up the emphasis, or priority, of our homes and lifestyles, however subtle it may be. Think for a moment and be honest with yourself—how do you stress such things as education, music, sports, vacations, careers, fun times, traditions, clean houses, good food, cars and other material possessions?

All these things are important, but are they all-important?

In Relief Society one morning we were discussing the importance of prioritizing and balancing our lives. One of the sisters, who was an accomplished violinist, made the point when she said, “No matter how well I play the violin, it will not prepare my dinner or save my soul.”

Where should our emphasis be? I refer to the scriptures for the answer:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

Vacationing in southern Utah one summer, we visited the old pioneer home of Jacob Hamblin in Santa Clara, near St. George. Brother Hamblin, with his family, settled there in 1854 in response to a call from Brigham Young to fulfill a life-long mission to the Lamanites.

We noticed in the house, which had been restored as it was when the Hamblins lived there, that the rustic chairs surrounding the old wooden kitchen table were placed facing outward toward the center of the room, rather than facing inward toward the table. Our missionary guide explained that the chairs were so positioned for family prayer. As the parents and children approached the table for meals, it was obvious that they were first to kneel in prayer.

I thought about life as it is today with many people so busy and hurried that they sometimes don’t even gather at all, let alone kneel for family prayer. I don’t envy the pioneer lifestyle with its hardships and sacrifices, but as I looked at those chairs facing away from the table I did feel a twinge of longing for a lifestyle that slows down long enough for family prayer to receive the attention it deserves.

Recently a woman in our ward said, in paying tribute to her husband, that he makes the scriptures a presence in their home. Later I asked her to tell me more. She said they did four things with their young children.

  1. Keep copies of the Book of Mormon close to the kitchen table.

  2. Read from them every day as a family.

  3. Assist the children in their own personal and daily scripture study.

  4. Turn to the scriptures for making decisions, answering questions, and solving problems.

Blessed is the home where all interactions and activities in the home point to the transcendent importance of loving the Lord and serving our fellow men through keeping the commandments and honoring our covenants.

In homes where the gospel is emphasized above everything else, children come to understand why the gift of eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God (D&C 14:7) Preparing them to be worthy of that gift is of the highest priority. It matters so much, in fact, that nothing else can compare, nothing even comes close. Elder Neal A. Maxwell expressed this powerfully when he reminded us:

If you do not choose the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.

William Law, 18th Century Clergyman, as quoted by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1974, p. 11

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About Daryl Hoole

A native of Salt Lake City, Daryl Hoole has written and lectured extensively on home management and family living. She has served on the ward, stake, regional, and general levels of the Church. It has also been her privilege to fulfill three missions -- once to the Netherlands when she was young and single; another time as companion to her husband as he presided over the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission; and the third time with two other senior couples as Asia Area Welfare/Humanitarian Administrators, headquartered in Hong Kong.

She and her husband Hank and are the parents of eight living children, the grandparents of thirty-six, and the great-grandparents of a rapidly increasing number.

Her website is www.theartofhomemaking.com.

She currently serves in the Salt Lake Temple as a sealing assistant.

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