When my daughter was three or four months old, I took her to the pediatrician with a list of a million questions that quickly gave me away as a clueless first time Mom. Her doctor had several decades of experience and was also impressively up-to-date on the latest research, and he told me what has become my mantra for motherhood: “If all the experts say the same thing, that’s how you should do it. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter.”
For several years I focused on the “It doesn’t really matter how you do things” part of this advice, using it to free me from feeling guilty for not living up to the Pinterest expectations of motherhood.
But, the other side of this advice came back into my mind as I was recently reading 1 Nephi 17. Lehi’s family has just reached the land Bountiful on the seashore and God commands Nephi to go to the mountain and then reveals to him the blueprints of a ship that he wants Nephi to build.
God Gives Blueprints
God did not just command Nephi, “Build a ship” and let him use his skills and imagination to fulfill the command; He told him, “Construct a ship, after the manner that I shall show thee.”
God did not just care that Nephi had a ship. He cared what it looked like.
In fact, whenever God really cares how we do something, He gives a blueprint. And to paraphrase my daughter’s pediatrician, “When God, the greatest of all experts, says something, that’s how you should do it.”
Twenty years ago this weekend, President Hinckley presented, on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, reiterating God’s eternal truths concerning families.
God did not just command us “Get married” or “Have a family” and leave the rest to our interpretation. He does not just care that we have a family. He cares what our families look like.
And this Proclamation gives us a blueprint so we can construct our families after the manner that God has shown us.
What God Wants Your Family to Look Like
Specifically, God’s family blueprint tells us that marriage is between a man and a woman who have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other, and only within this union are the procreative powers to be employed. Children are entitled to birth within this kind of family and through this means they obtain a physical body and gain experience to progress toward eternal life.
Parents are to:
- rear their children in love and righteousness
- provide for their physical and spiritual needs
- teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live
Fathers and mothers work together as equal partners as fathers preside over their families, provide for their needs and protect them, and as mothers nurture their children.
Successful and happy marriages and families are founded on:
- teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ
- wholesome recreational activities
Sacred temple ordinances allow family relationships to continue eternally.
Using the Blueprint
With this blueprint, Heavenly Father still leaves a lot of room to individualize our families—number of children, where we live, schooling, careers, what we do for family vacations, etc. But there are things He does care about, which He has carefully outlined and which we ought to frequently review.
In each step of the building process, a wise architect will compare the blueprints to the actual structure to ensure each piece is in its proper place and to correct any discrepancies. Likewise, Nephi returned to the mount often and the Lord instructed him on the construction of the ship.
A blueprint is only helpful if it is used frequently as a standard against which all aspects of the structure, or the ship, or the family, are compared.
Most families don’t perfectly fit the blueprint described in the Proclamation, but at whatever point we are in our family-ship building process, we would be wise to compare it to the blueprint and make any changes in our power to come closer to God’s ideal.
Why It Matters
Heavenly Father told Nephi to construct the ship according to His blueprints, “that I may carry thy people across these waters” and to the promised land. Only a ship built according to God’s plan would be strong enough to withstand the storms encountered on the journey to the promised land.
God has the same purpose for our families—a vehicle to carry us to the eternal land of promise. But only a family built after God’s pattern will be strong enough to carry us through life’s storms and deliver us safely into God’s Kingdom.
He wants us to survive the storms and come home and that is why He cares what our families look like.