Many of us like to spend our time doing worthwhile things. We volunteer, we help neighbors, we try to be good citizens of the countries in which we live. But our most important work, prophets have reminded us, is within the four walls of our homes.
Family activities and traditions help us strengthen family bonds, help to bring fathers and mothers and children closer together and help create lasting memories.
Ancient Israel established many traditions around feasts and festivals of the calendar. Today, however, it is becoming increasingly more difficult and complex to find quality family time together. Husbands and wives must work to find more and more creative ways to bring families together and establish traditions that will be remembered by all family members.
As we do small activities together, we establish bonds that last eternally. We may discover things about family members that we didn't know before: father's abilities to tie a fly or make a kite, mother's ability to create recipes "by feel," not by set amounts of ingredients, or children's abilities to complete tasks on time and without complaint.
These small activities then become family traditions creating a special meal at Christmas time, a cultural experience yearly, a family vacation to some favorite spot.
Each of these events in family life should be cultivated, but so should our religious traditions. That should begin with daily prayer held both individually and as families. It should also include weekly attendance at Sabbath meetings and weekly family home evening. There, planning and family time can be shared and talents and spiritual thoughts exchanged.
Additionally, attendance at general conference provides opportunities for fathers and sons to worship together at the priesthood session, or mothers and adult daughters to attend the general women's meeting together. Families can also gather to listen to the addresses and discuss them later in a home evening or other setting.
Those traditions then become something to which the family looks forward as they strengthen one another while building spiritual ties with each other.
Elder Richard L. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1953-71, counseled, "Oh, parents, we would plead, give good and happy memories to your children not pampering or overindulging, not satisfying everything they take a fancy to but memories of love, encouragement, of peace and harmony and happiness at home memories that will bless and lift their lives wherever they are, always and forever" (Improvement Era, December 1970, p. 128).
As important as is the establishing of any tradition, no matter how creative or enlightening, we must never lose sight of the spirit of how the activity is conducted. Even if things don't go as planned, the food doesn't turn out just so, or the decorations aren't quite what you had imagined them to be, remember the important thing is you are doing these things together and it is the memories that last, not the food or the project.
Remember to write about these things in your journal, to record your feelings about your children and their growth through spiritual activities, such as giving a book of remembrance when a child is baptized, recording the date of a child's baptism or priesthood advancement in a family record.
Giving a father's blessing at the beginning of a school year or at other times of change or challenge can ease doubts and worries and draw parents and children more closely together. Traditions such as these give children a sense of identity and of belonging and provide those memories that bind families together.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, "No nation, no civilization can long endure without strength in the homes of its people. That strength derives from the integrity of those who establish those homes. No family can have peace, no home can be free from storms of adversity unless that family and that home are built on foundations of morality, fidelity and mutual respect" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 202).
The bonds of love are strengthened with families who work and play together and develop traditions that last from generation to generation.