Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899)


Ms 58, 1899

The Duty of Parents to Children


April 13, 1899

Portions of this manuscript are published in AH 172-173, 389-390; 7MR 7.

Before parents can do their duty to their children, they must be converted and transformed in character. Mothers, fathers, your children are the younger members of the Lord’s family. He has paid the price for their ransom, and when you deal with them from caprice, you are unfaithful stewards of souls. God has given you reasoning faculties and you are to put them to use. There are responsibilities resting upon Christian parents which they do not accept and carry in the fear of the Lord. They profess to believe the most sacred and solemn truth ever given to the world, but they do not reach the standard to which God calls them. They do not sanctify themselves through the truth, that their children may be sanctified. Parents are required by God to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, constantly instilling in their minds correct principles, and training them by the law of kindness and love. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 1

But while parents are to make the religion of Christ attractive by their cheerfulness, their Christian courtesy, and their tender, compassionate sympathy, they are to be firm in requiring obedience and respect. Right principles must be established in the mind of the child. If the parents are united in this work of discipline, the child will understand what is required of him. But if the father, by word or look, shows that he does not approve of the discipline the mother gives, if he feels that she is too strict, and thinks that he must make up for the harshness by petting and indulgence, the child will be ruined. Deception will be practiced by the sympathizing parent, and the child will soon learn that he can do as he pleases. Parents who are committing this sin against their children are accountable for the ruin of their souls. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 2

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it; because wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth unto death, and many there be which go in thereat.” [Matthew 7:14, 13.] Satan has prepared pleasing attractions for fathers and mothers as well as for the children, for he knows that if he can exercise his deceptive power upon mothers, he has gained much. The ways of the world are very inviting, but they are full of deceitfulness and fraud and misery. “Many there be which go in thereat.” 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 3

If the children and youth are not carefully educated and trained and disciplined, they will surely go astray. Having no fixed principles, it will be hard for them to resist temptation. So long as the father’s eye is upon them, the mother’s watchcare over them, there is a certain degree of security. But if the mother in her love of society leaves her children to themselves, Satan watches the opportunity, and uses it to their ruin. These, separated from the influence which should have a power to hold them in check, reveal that their moral power is weak. They have no strength to resist temptation, and when sinners entice them, they have not the moral strength to meet them with a resolute No. The youth who thus follow their own impulse and inclination can have no real happiness in this life, and in the end will lose eternal life. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 4

Fathers and mothers should become intelligent in regard to the laws that govern physical life, that they may know what are and what are not correct physical habits. Right habits in eating and drinking and dressing must be insisted upon. Children must be taught to make a right and appropriate use of the things of this life, and to leave alone those things which abuse the powers of mind and body. Parents who would secure physical soundness in their children must teach them that every organ of the body, every faculty of the mind, is the gift of a good and wise God, and that it is to be used to His glory. By a proper exercise of the talents lent them, they may secure eternal happiness. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 5

The souls, as well as the bodies, of the youth are affected by their habits of eating and drinking. Bad habits render the youth less susceptible to Bible instruction. God calls upon parents to guard their children against the indulgence of appetite, and especially against the use of stimulants and narcotics. The tables of Christian parents should never be loaded down with food containing condiments and spices. Prepare healthful, palatable food which will preserve the stomach from any abuse. Fathers and mothers may do much in giving right characters to their children by conforming their own appetites and passions. Fathers who use tobacco and liquor poison their blood and transmit to their children their own vitiated appetites, intensified. They give feeble moral powers as a legacy to their children. Thus the sins of parents are perpetuated in their offspring. What a weight of crime will be charged to parents in the day of final account! 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 6

Those who have charge of God’s property in the souls and bodies of the children formed in His image should erect barriers against the sensual indulgence of this age, which is ruining the physical and moral health of thousands. If the many crimes of this time were traced to their true cause, it would be seen that they are chargeable to the ignorance of fathers and mothers who are indifferent on this subject. Health and life itself is being sacrificed to this lamentable ignorance. Parents, if you fail to give your children the education that God makes it your duty to give them, both by precept and example, you must answer to your God for the results. These results will not be confined merely to your children. They will reach through generations. Just as the one thistle permitted to grow in the field produces a harvest of its kind, the sins resulting from your neglect will work to ruin all who come within the sphere of their influence. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 7

Many parents send their children to school, and think when they have done this that they have educated them. But education is a matter of greater breadth than many realize. It comprises the whole process by which the child is instructed from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood. As soon as the child is capable of forming an idea, his education should begin. The teachers in the school will do something toward educating the youth, but the example of parents will do more than can be accomplished by any other means. Their conversation, the way in which they manage their business matters, the likes and dislikes to which they give expression, all help in molding the character. The disposition the child sees in you, the self-control, the self-possession, the kindness, the courtesy, all will be daily lessons to him. Like time, this education is ever going on, and the tendency of this everyday school will be to make your child what he ought to be. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 8

The circumstances in which a child is placed will often have a more effective influence on him than even the example of parents. There are wealthy men who expect their children to be what they were in their youth, and blame the depravity of the age if they are not. But they have no right to expect this of their children unless they place them in circumstances similar to those in which they themselves have lived. The circumstances of the father’s life have made him what he is. In his youth he was pressed with poverty, and had to work with diligence and perseverance. His character was molded in the stern school of poverty. He was forced to be modest in his wants, active in his work, simple in his tastes. He had to put his faculties to work in order to obtain food and clothing. He had to practice economy. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 9

Fathers labor to place their children in a position of wealth, rather than where they themselves began. This is a common mistake. Had children today to learn in the same school in which their fathers learned, they would become as useful as they. The fathers have altered the circumstances of their children. Poverty was the father’s master; abundance of means surrounds the son. All his wants are supplied. His father’s character was molded under the severe discipline of frugality; every trifling good was appreciated. His son’s habits and character will be formed, not by the circumstances which once existed, but by the present situation—ease and indulgence. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 10

The parent may think that he will counteract these tendencies and bring up his son to economical habits, to tax his physical and mental powers, and guard his associations. He has realized the benefits to be derived from a plain, simple diet, and he will seek to have his child restricted to the plainest food, that he may not become dainty or sickly. But his surroundings are such that simplicity cannot be preserved. His table is spread with food of every description, to gratify the taste of visitors, and what the child sees others indulge in, he will reason that he should have. When luxury abounds on every side, how can it be denied him? 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 11

Christ discerned these dangers in the life of the rich man. He said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” [Matthew 6:19, 20, 33.] This is the first work to be engaged in. Every family should rear its altar of prayer, realizing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 12

If any persons in the world need the strength and encouragement that religion gives, it is those who are responsible for the education of their children. They cannot do their work in a manner acceptable to God while their daily example teaches those who look to them for guidance that they can live without God, as though it were not necessary to have him in their thoughts. If they educate their children to live for this life only, without reference to the future life, these children will make no preparation for eternity. They will die as they have lived, without God. And the parents will be called to account for the loss of their souls. Parents need to seek God morning and evening at the family altar, that they may learn to teach their children wisely, tenderly, lovingly, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. 14LtMs, Ms 58, 1899, par. 13