Access the previous 10 articles in the series HERE.
Editor’s Note: After a 6-week hiatus for family and reunions, Richard Eyre last week resumed this twelve-part series on the restored doctrine of The Parental God—a belief which separates our theology from that of any other religion. In this article, part 10 in the 12 part series, we examine what we know about how God parents us and how we can apply the same principles in our own families.
Author’s Note: The central thrust and thesis of this series is that our belief in literal Heavenly Parents changes everything and is the most pivotal and distinctive teaching of the Restoration from which all other key theology stems. If we are the spiritual children of Heavenly Parents then of course we lived with Them pre-mortally, of course They have a plan for our happiness, and of course we must prioritize our family like They prioritize Theirs. This series seeks to organize what we know from prophetic and official Church sources in a way that prompts personal pondering and prayer about our Parental God and perhaps draws us closer even as it influences how we think and how we live our lives, particularly within our families. This is important to me because, while I am not a theologian or a religious authority, I am one who believes deeply in eternal families and who has written and spoken about family topics around the world for more than four decades—and I believe that the ultimate example of marriage and parenting is our Heavenly Parents.
In these concluding articles we are exploring more deeply what we know of Their parenting and relationships and how they can influence ours; and discussing how the doctrine of a Parental God can strengthen and clarify many of our other beliefs and positions and aid us in explaining them to others.
Access the previous 10 articles in the series HERE.
So, Let’s get to the Practical
It’s one thing to discuss the Parental God theologically and theoretically, and to rejoice in how it can increase our love of God and our faith and our purpose in life; but it is something else again to ask the practical questions “How can we model Them? How can we emulate Them? How can we try to follow the same principles in our earthly parenting that They follow in Their celestial parenting?
This article presents a list of some of the things we know about how our Parental God, about our Heavenly Parents—and about how they parent us. As you read through the list, think about ways in which you may be able to better follow Their example within your own stewardship as an earthly parent of some of your spiritual siblings. There are 15 Divine Parental qualities or traits or principles or methods listed—some may just be insights to marvel at and enjoy, and others will beg for more attention in terms of how we raise our own children.
I will use “Heavenly Father” and the masculine pronoun for God in this list, but please read in the context of our Heavenly Parents who, as perfect eternal partners, share each of these perfect parental characteristics, approaches, and deliberate priorities.
And I will not try to editorialize or be prescriptive about specific ways that we can follow each of these 15 parental examples—I won’t make one-size-fits-all suggestions because each of us are stewards over our own one-of-a-kind children in our own unique situations and circumstances, and I believe that each of us, as we consider God’s relationship with us, can receive personal inspiration about ways that we can model and follow the Divine example in raising and relating to our own particular children within our own unique lives.
If you wish, you might consider asking yourself, after each item on the list, “Can I do that as a parent?” How can I apply that same principle or practice with my own children?”
1.God gives complete, unconditional love
Talk about starting with the obvious (and perhaps the hardest one to follow!)
We know that God has a deep, personal, and unconditional love for each of us and that His love is individual rather than collective. He loves us all equally. He loves the drug addicts, the sinners and even those who revile Him, even as he loves those who are true and faithful to his teachings. He knows and appreciates the uniqueness that each of us has, he knows each of us completely, and He applies equal (and total) love in different ways (as many different ways as He has different children) because each of us has different needs and learns in our own particular way.
Heavenly Father and Christ not only show their love for us, they tell us of their love, in countless ways. They tell us through sunsets and wildflowers. They tell us through the random acts of kindness of those we encounter. They tell us through comfort in hard times and little miracles every day. And They tell us in our minds and in our hearts when we listen and are still.
2. God sees (and treats) each child as a unique and eternal individual
Have you heard the parenting advice “Be fair, treat all of your kids the same.”
That’s not Heavenly Father’s method. He has lovingly put us each into a body, a situation, and a series of circumstances tailored to what each of us needs.
He knows all of His children perfectly and loves the uniqueness that makes us each who we are, and He answers our prayers in terms of what He knows is best for us, irrespective of whether it is the answer we prayed for or hoped for.
3. God gives clear, simple laws with well-announced consequences, rewards, and consequences.
Our Heavenly Father has never been subtle or ambiguous about His rules. He wrote them in stone. He gave them to Prophets. He wrote them in Scripture, and He often states the reward or the punishment right with the law or commandment that precipitates it.
It is by having immutable laws that God gives us the boundaries in which He expects us to operate. He gives us agency, but he also makes clear His laws, along with the rewards for compliance and the penalties for deviance. His laws are always part of His love.
4. God allows His children the chance to repent
Heavenly Father wants none of us to fail. His laws are not negotiable, and He knows we will fall short, so there is a provision for repentance. And with the repentance comes complete forgiveness.
He is not anxious to punish us, and His is not instant or automatic justice; rather it is justice tempered by mercy and undiminished love. His punishments are not capricious or impulsive or vindictive; and they are not impulsive and usually not instantaneous. He would rather have us set ourselves right than set us right Himself, so He gives us room, and gives us time to correct ourselves, to repent, to overcome, and to improve
This is made possible, of course, by the Atonement of the Savior which allows God’s children to overcome the sins that would otherwise prevent us from returning to Him.
5. God taught us and trained us lovingly and personally throughout the pre-mortal life; and then He gave us choices and agency and let us go.
God, in His marvelous model for parenting, held us close, kept us with Him in his home, and taught us all He could for eons. And then, when further progress required the responsibility, choice-making, independence and families-of-our-own that could not happen in His presence, He gave us our agency and encouraged us to go away to the orbiting option-offering earth-school that He had made for us.
With agency came choices, and the decision-making started with a bang even before we left His presence—with perhaps the biggest choice of all—concerning whether we would follow what must have seemed an unbelievably risky plan of veiled mortality, temptation, options and pain.
Similar to (but vastly beyond) going off to college, it was time for the irony of leaving our Parents so we could become more like them. It was time to apply what we knew (and trying to remember it despite the veil) and to make our own decisions and set our own course.
6. God trusts His children and is completely trustworthy for His children
God trusts us mightily! And He entrusts us. He trusts us enough to send us into this dangerous mortality. He entrusts us not only with our own salvation but with the stewardship of others of His spirit children.
And of course, God is completely, totally, and endlessly trustworthy. What He says is what He does. He is His word, and He is The Word. His promises are always kept.
One form of trust is covenants. Like any loving parent (but so much more so) God, after turning us loose and putting us on our own, seeks ways to bind us to Him, ways to help us remember, even though the veil, who we are, setting up covenants and bonds that can pull us back toward Him whenever we begin to drift.
As we learn in Primary, a covenant is a two-way promise between us and the Lord. We pledge ourselves to do something righteous, and He promises blessings in return.
7. God gives us stewardships
Heavenly Father, who owns all in His universe, gives us stewardships. First of our agency, then of so much more, and He does so with the promise that we can someday own that which we learn to steward.
His stewardships are responsibilities, not entitlements. They require sacrifice, and they generally involve learning to love someone else more than ourselves.
8. God has A Plan of Happiness for His Children
One of the most marvelous and awesome things that we know about God is that He has a magnificent and comprehensive plan for the ultimate happiness of His children.
He does not leave our development or our opportunities to chance.
We sometimes call His plan for us The Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness. He has spelled it out for us in His gospel and in the Restoration. He has told us that the purpose of mortality is Joy. He has explained to us that trials, sorrow and opposition are as much a part of it as happiness and fulfillment. And He has made it clear that His plan, and our eternal progress, centers around families.
9. God Gives us Written Advice in the form of Scripture
Heavenly Father knows and values the written word, as do His Prophets. Lehi sent his boys back, at the peril of their lives, to get written records. The word and will of our Heavenly Father is written in His scriptures.
Language and writing lend clarity and permanence to the laws and wisdom of God; and allows His word and His will to settle in on us gradually over time, like dew.
10. God allows us constant availability to Him through prayer, and suggests regular communication
With God, there are certain set times when we anticipate spiritual communication–when we partake of the Sacrament, when we kneel in family prayer, when we have our personal bedtime prayers. These are like set appointments for spiritual meetings that will keep us in tune and in touch. Yet we don’t need an appointment to converse. We can “call” anytime, and the line is never busy, nor is our Father ever unavailable.
He still, and always, respects our agency, not giving us every answer before we ask the question, and not taking the initiative away from us by telling us the details of what to do before we have tried to sort it out ourselves.
11. God sent His Eldest Son to help and save us.
Perhaps the most beautiful of all Divine parenting stories involves the Eldest Son—a Father sending His Beloved Son to do something that only He could do for all of his younger brothers and sisters.
God, like (but much more than) all loving parents, wants to see His children loving and helping each other, and He encourages that in countless ways.
12. God sends Angels
Far from leaving us on our own, Heavenly Father prompts and guides us by the Holy Ghost and also sometimes sends actual Heavenly Beings or Angels to help us in times of special need.
He does not do everything for His children or try to meet their every need in person, sometimes asking or prompting others to be there and to meet our needs.
13. God Finds Joy in his Children and in His relationship with them.
God’s “glory” is the progress and eternal lives of His children, and “joy” is the purpose for which He made mortality. And even as we seek and find that joy, we know that He takes joy in our progress, in our learning, and in His individual relationship with each of us.
He shares in our joy and feels with us in our sorrows. His glory is our growth.
14. God gives us specific opportunities for Service
Through His Church, God gives us constant opportunities for service—service in the ward, service on missions, and compassionate service of all kinds. And this service often brings us into contact and into friendship with people we would not otherwise ever meet, let alone know and love.
He knows that our happiness as well as the welfare of our fellow travelers in mortality can be increased and enhanced by service.
15. God makes Family central to All, and the Core of His Purpose
Finally, as we think through what we know about God as a parent, we come to this: Heavenly Father’s family is His priority, his “end” to which all else is the “means.” His goal is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of His children.
I Challenge you to read the list again
Others who have read through this list have told me that it took a while to digest it, and that, in their first reading, their minds were occupied with thinking of and appreciating God as a Parent.
Now that you have done that—read the list and pondered the miraculous and glorious Parental God and felt both the love and the wisdom of our Heavenly Parents—please read it again, this time trying specifically and prayerfully to understand and apply each principle in the context of your own parenting of your own children (who are actually His children and your spirit siblings). As I attempt this, I enjoy the feeling of being “in between” with our Heavenly Parents on one side and our earthly children on the other.
Good luck to us all. There is no greater challenge and no greater model to follow.
Please join me here next week when we will explore how our belief in a Parental God can increase our testimonies of many other doctrines and help us answer both our own questions and the questions of others in ways that are natural and appealing rather than strange and divisive.
Thank you for reading this tenth article, and please feel free to share your inputs and thoughts and questions directly with me by going to https://valuesparenting.com/contact-eyres/. You can also reply there if you would like to reserve a copy of the forthcoming book Our Parental God which is based on these articles.
If you wish to hear further discussion of this latest article, it is the topic of the next episode of our Podcast “Eyres on the Road” which is available on your favorite podcast app or at https://byuradio.org/eyresontheroad. You are also invited to follow my weekly “sacrament meditations” on Christ on Instagram @RichardLindaEyre.
Richard Eyre is the New York #1 Bestselling Author of more than 50 books, a dozen of which are on parenting and marriage. He believes that the ultimate parenting and marriage example is God.