Raising children is never smooth sailing. Each child is his or her own unique challenge, and success and failure are always blended together to some degree. As we look back on any successes we may have had in raising our children, one humbling thought is always crystal clear: We could not have done it without our LDS Church ward.
We love President Harold B. Lee’s statement that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the scaffolding with which we 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 scaffoldings. 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 will have progressed enough to return to God’s presence.
The question we need to ask ourselves 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, call their children “nwa ora,” which means "child of the community."
A negative twist on the same idea pretty well describes one of the biggest worries of parents today: “Children are a product of their cultures and their communities.” Our children grow up in a peer-pressure culture, in a media and video game culture, in a culture of entitlement and bailouts and with the false idea that they can often get something for nothing.
Their communities and cultures and relationships are online. Their influencers are advertisers, Facebook friends, Hollywood and various purveyors of violence and pornography.
But let’s shift back to the positive. 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 a ward or branch? Without a 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 Primary teachers? Can you imagine trying to raise a child without the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and the Duty to God program and the Young Women Personal Progress 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 a ward family? Or without your children’s friends in the ward or your own 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.
The question we should all ask ourselves as Mormon parents is: Do we fully use the resources of the ward? Do we completely avail ourselves of all the church programs? Do we know our kids’ teachers and advisers and do we talk to them and exchange information and observations about our kids?
Yes it takes a ward, but the buck still stops with us, the parents. We ought to take every chance to get all the help and teamwork we can from the marvelous thing we call “the ward.”
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."