Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today I was assigned to talk to you about how to teach your children gospel principles in the home. (Because this is the only topic I’ve ever seen a woman assigned to speak about in Stake Conference, I feel comfortable volunteering for this. Heaven forbid a woman ever gets to talk about something other than motherhood. But I digress…)

First of all, I’m not going lay on guilt about the idealized, imaginary version of perfect Mormon -hood that starts with getting everyone in the house up at 5am to read scriptures as a family. I was not blessed with children who slept through the night. For the first ten years of motherhood I never got full nights sleep and I’ll be danged if I am going to say the best way to eternal familial bliss is by waking up a fussy child who just got to sleep at 3am. That nonsense is the fast track to crazyland in my experience.

I’m also not going say that having a Norman Rockwell supper on the table at 5:30 pm with clean faced, cheerful children, homemade bread and mystery casserole lovingly prepared by the hands of a stay-at-home mother is the best way to have family communication.

Lastly, I’m not going to say that having strict family rules about parental roles in the home, attendance in church programs outside of Sacrament meeting or any other organized church activities is going to be the difference between a celestial family or a family doomed to a lesser degree of glory.

What I am going to say is forget about the children for a minute. Let go of your anxieties of not doing enough, being enough or having enough. Instead, think of yourselves. What ARE you feeling? Exhausted? Overwhelmed? Numb and completely flat? So anxious you can’t sleep at night? What is going on in your adult life that is leaving you with no breathing room?

Whatever that is, that is exactly the stuff that will keep your children from feeling the spirit because that is what is keeping you from feeling it. If you can’t access the spirit yourself it will be very hard to impart it to anyone else.

I think in our wonderful Mormon culture we live and breathe the maxim Spencer W. Kimball made famous “Lengthen Your Stride.” Lengthening your stride is great when you aren’t walking fast enough. It doesn’t work so well when you have been running a marathon for years and you don’t know how to stop.

So- How do we stop? How do we breathe? How do we regain the ability to feel and hear the spirit for ourselves?

Here is what has worked for me and what I try to practice every day. Some days are better than others.

1. Find ways to nourish your spiritual self. Through music, scripture study, listening to encouraging talks, reading good books, attending the temple and seeking positive conversations with others it lift our minds out of the day-to-day stressors and worries of survival and remind us of eternal truths.

2. Turn off the noise. Spend a few minutes everyday without the cacophony of tv, computers, radios, and numerous other distractions. Take deep breaths and remind yourself what relaxed shoulders, jaws and toes feel like. If it works best for you, may I suggest enjoying the quiet while behind the locked door in the bathroom? Nothing is nicer than brushing your teeth in blessed silence. Ignore the tiny hands clawing at the underside of the door and the pitiful cries of small bodies that haven’t seen you in 45 seconds.

3. Get enough sleep. Cutting the hours of sleep your body requires to finish projects or getting up ridiculously early when you have been up all night with sick children is not what Heavenly Father wants for you. He designed us to require adequate rest and if you don’t respect that your physical health will suffer and can shorten your life. Either go to bed early or get up later, but don’t short change your health.

4. As you seek to find and access the spirit for yourself, you will find the unique ways your family needs to hear gospel truths. Every child and every family are different. What works for one situation won’t work for another. Instead of trying to cram yourself and your family into a generic box labeled “The Mormon Way”, be courageous and plead with Heavenly Father to show you what your family needs, in the way they need it. Family Home Evening can be on Thursdays if that is what works best for your family. ( I can hear the air being sucked out the room on that one. Everyone knows the Family Home Evening Spirit only works on Monday nights. Aaarrrgggh!)

5. Have confidence that as you step out in faith, trusting that as you take care of yourself physically and spiritually, Heavenly Father will light the path and straighten the roads you should take to teach your children all the gospel principles they need to know. As President Hinckley used to say, “In the end, it will all work out.” Trust that truth and enjoy this ride we call life.

I say these words with all the love and compassion I have, knowing you all have heavy burdens you are carrying, often unspoken and with no easy solutions in sight. May God bless us all in our struggles to be more like Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.