President Harold B. Lee used to say that the church is the scaffolding that helps us build eternal families. Does that seem to diminish or understate what the church is?
We think not! Tall, straight, beautiful buildings cannot be built without scaffolding. The scaffolding eventually comes down, but not until the structure is complete. The church is God's organization here on earth, during the construction period of our families, and it will not be needed in the hereafter only because it has done its job here in this world and families have progressed enough to return to God's presence.
The question for now is are we making full use of this wonderful, divine scaffolding?
The ancient Igbo culture of Nigeria has a proverb, "Oran a azu nwa," which means it takes a whole village to raise a child. The Igbos also, to this day, name their children "Nwa ora," which means child of the community.
Change one word, and the Nigerian proverb works perfectly for the LDS culture today: "It takes a whole ward to raise a child."
Can you imagine trying to raise a child in today's world without the ward or branch? Without the bishop and the Young Men and Young Women programs and the home teachers and the visiting teachers and the Scout leader and the coaches and the advisers and the Sunday School teachers? Can you imagine trying to raise a child without the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and the Duty to God awards and the Young Women in Excellence program and the treks and the youth conferences and the camps and the outings and the commemorations? Can you imagine trying to raise a child without the ward family? Or without your children's friends in the ward or your friends, who know your kids and care about them and say and do little encouraging things that you don't even know about?
It takes a ward to raise a family!
We should all try to more fully use and fully appreciate and fully coordinate with all that the church does (and can do) to support our families.
Often our friends or others in the ward have more social distance and therefore are more effective in talking with our children about certain things. Kids come home from youth conference, Scout and girls camp and Young Men and Young Women activities full of the light of the gospel and are truly inspired to be better, to do better and to think better!
Our kids get so used to us that they often tune us out, whereas a Priesthood quorum adviser or Young Women leader or Primary teacher gets their attention long enough to get some of the same things we say to really get through to our children.
The way to take full advantage of this is not only to appreciate it but to milk it! Be aware of who your kids' teachers and advisers are. Debrief your children about what they are learning. Visit with the teachers and advisers to learn what their impressions are of your kids and what they might have learned about them. Coordinate your own efforts with what teachers and ward leaders are doing. Work with the goals being set in Scouts or in the Young Women of Excellence program. Team up and enjoy mutual support with youth leaders as you work together on your children.
Think of the ward as your backup, your support and your child-rearing team.
We should all try to be the kind of "hands-on" general contractors who take full personal responsibility and know we have to do much of the work (particularly the essential tasks) ourselves, but what could be better than having all kinds of sub-contractors, from youth advisers to teachers to the "construction superintendent" bishop?
If we fully avail ourselves and our kids to the programs of the church and if we apply the ongoing and always current advice of present-day church leaders, it becomes vastly more likely that we can bring certain incredibly valuable things to pass:
1. Our children will be better speakers and communicators: It is amazing what the church and its programs do for our kids in these areas.
2. Empathy, caring, sharing and working with others: Within the organization and activities of the church, our children learn to forget themselves and serve.
3. Great friends: Peers can make or break a child, and the church gives our kids a cadre of reliable ones.
4. Backup, support and mentors: Parents get backed up on the values and truths they teach, and kids get advisers and mentors who can last a lifetime.
5. Spiritual knowledge as a defense: Constant learning in the church arms children with testimony and the ability to recognize and withstand error.
6. Family unity via shared beliefs, practices and worship: Church activity together creates quality time and bonding.
7. Examples: Everyone needs models, and kids who are active will find worthy individuals who they want to emulate.
The Eyres are the founders of Joy Schools and of valuesparenting.com and the authors of numerous bestselling books on marriage, parenting and family. Their mission statement, developed while presiding over the England London South Mission, is "FORTIFY FAMILIES by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, bolstering balance and validating values."
Their newest book, now available in stores and online, is "5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges," and their blog can be found at http://www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com.