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Cover image via “History of the Saints”
This is the fifth of six articles in a series on the trans-veil family. Though each article stands alone to some degree, none is complete without the others: 1) The Enabling Power and Ministering Angels; 2) Family Reunions – Vital Whys; 3) Family Reunions – Practical How’s; 4) KEY FAMILY VALUES.
In part 1 of “Key Family Values” we introduced Dr. Kyle R. Walker’s book, The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, A Family Process Analysis of a Nineteenth-Century Household and a “value paradigm” diagram, as we explored key values that would increase our parental influence over succeeding generations as we learned to teach our children to teach their children.
Six inter-related categories were introduced as professionally identified within historical records of the Joseph Senior and Lucy Mack Smith family. These include cohesion (unity), conflict management (problem solving towards harmony), resiliency (ability to bounce back), religiosity (faith and works), family work, and family recreation (play, family together time, singing, discussion, etc.). It cannot be stated too often that these and all values are best caught rather than just taught. I will examine each of them individually.
Dr. Walker defines this value as an emotional bond between family members. In another study discussed by Dr. Randal A. Wright, this bond is amplified and strengthened when the parent is outwardly and verbally expressive.
This value produces a unified family where parents and siblings develop interpersonal communication, loyalty, service, and love. Today’s struggles with the realities of two-spouse employment, demanding children’s sports and lesson schedules, rising divorce rates, a variable economy, etc., family cohesion has been replaced with family survival. Which often degenerates into individual survival making family cohesion seem like a myth.
In the face of these realities one might ask if family cohesion is just old fashioned or if there are advantages that would help the parenting process, and secure the children into valued productivity. We note that many studies abound that show, for example, a young woman’s sense of security, modesty, self-esteem, etc. are each tied to her relationship with her father. Or, that a young man’s respect for girls and women, sufficient to over-ride his budding hormonal saturation, is aided by the respect manifest in the relationship between his mother and father. The profound respect that Joseph Sr. and Lucy held openly for each other is frequently demonstrated, as in one example where Lucy writes, “The joy I felt in throwing myself and my children upon the care and affection of a tender husband and father doubly paid me for all I had suffered.”[i]
Children’s willingness to listen to others or share personal property develops through being listened to by non-judgmental parents who they see making personal sacrifices to provide for them. Joseph Sr. and Lucy were found, without fail at the bedside of sick and suffering children, literally waiting upon them through the night. Their first lessons on charity, sacrifice, community service, and other cultural strengthening behaviors, which in the future will make them valued citizens, are learned in a cohesive family. If parents value family togetherness and unity (heart, mind, and strength) then children catch that value, for values are better caught through experience than taught with words!
Father and Mother Smith caught cohesion as a value from their parents. Asael Smith not only exemplified this value in his parenting but also spoke and wrote about it as he could see his life ending. He wrote:
“…know one another. Visit as you may each other, comfort, counsel, relieve, succor, help and admonish one another… Join together to help one another.”[ii]
The Mack family story includes successive sisters tending each other’s sick-bed over extended periods, brothers sharing large sums of money with sisters, etc.
The Joseph and Lucy Smith family history is rich with stories where this cohesive relationship was extremely self-sacrificing and binding. When one person struggled, all struggled with them. They were a very unified family, which allowed them to accomplish all that continues to influence millions for good today.
Perhaps a modern parent struggling with the teenage who desires to be with friends rather than family might ask, “What behaviors might encourage cohesiveness or unity?” In using Dr. Walker’s four included and different professional models for measuring family conditions, it could be recommended that to augment a family’s cohesion-value parents might add the following connected behaviors: goal sharing; expressiveness; intra-family service/sacrifice; “work, play, and worshiping together-time”; building others; listening; self-reliance; solution-thinking; justice; mercy; patience; etc.
To summarize this value, one might visualize again a possible component triad:
With consistency over time the value of family cohesion will be caught and lived as a natural consequence of the resulting lifestyle.
As one can see, the family values of family work and recreation also become strategies for internalizing family cohesion (unity). It is through meaningful time spent together, that bonds are formed. When family members engage in work that yields a mutual benefit, not only is communication time increased but also a sense of common purpose develops, as there is a sense of mutual help, synergy, and accomplishment. If on the other-hand the benefit is unilateral, benefiting only one side, resentment may develop. Youth may not be capable of appreciating the long-term or even near-term benefit of family work time without help. The value-triad can be of assistance; the parent works to make sense using language and examples that speak to the young person’s understanding and feeling levels. By we of experience a parent might demonstrate synergy by opening an old watch and showing a pile of watch parts.
The value of the parts total but a few pennies while the watch may be worth hundreds of dollars. Because the parts work together in unity, each doing their own work, the watch value is multiple times more than the non-integrated parts alone. Then short term benefits can be provided for those with short attention spans, after short work periods, like points that can add up to purchasing power of something they already value such as items, food, time allowance, etc. will complete the triad and grow within the child the value of family work-time.
A garden will benefit the family budget but if a child has nothing to do with paying the bills the benefit won’t seem mutual even with explanations. The Smith Family worked together for survival. When they struggled financially all family members felt the effects. The oldest, Alvin, eventually found that he had earning power through hiring-out that allowed him to return and contribute to a new family home, barn, etc. with the desire to help the family “live more comfortably, particularly his parents.[iii]” All family members caught this value of laboring together for the common good of the family thus binding them together in common purpose.
The last four values and their inter-relationship will be covered in the next and last article in this series. Stay tuned…
[i] Kyle Walker, PhD; The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, A Family Process Analysis of a Nineteenth-Century Household; A doctoral thesis in the Philosophy, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University 12/200; p46, footnote 83
[ii] Ibid p21
[iii] Ibid p79