When Sister Joy D. Jones and her husband began their life together, they dreamed of having the perfect family, she said, “with perfectly obedient children who all played the piano, were great at sports and modeled reverence and respect at every Church meeting.”
Later, however, they subscribed to the “Pan Theory,” she said, which is “simply that our Heavenly Father is in control, we trust Him and if we do our best, in the end, everything will ‘pan out.’ ”
Sister Jones, Primary general president, and her counselor, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, spoke jointly during a session of BYU Women’s Conference on May 4 about the need for “intentional parenting.” Sister Cristina B. Franco, who was recently called to serve as Sister Jones’ second counselor, is serving with her husband in the Argentina Resistencia Mission until July.
In her remarks, Sister Jones pointed out that parents often have big dreams for their children and a heart full of the best of intentions. “To have a chance of achieving those parental dreams, we know that we can’t sit back, hold our breath, and wait as our children ‘accidentally’ do the right things — or the wrong things — while growing up,” she said. “Airplanes fly on autopilot — children don’t.”
Intentional parenting, she explained, “is parenting with a goal in mind. It is deliberate; it is planned and purposeful.”
Sister Cordon shared the counsel given by President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said, “No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting.”
The scriptures, Sister Cordon continued, teach of the importance of being intentional. She quoted the prophet Lehi, who taught of things “to act and things to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14). “Intentional parents strive to be proactive so their children also learn to act and not to be acted upon. Teaching children doctrine and principles early and consistently will arm and fortify them.”
Sister Jones spoke of the Grand Council in Heaven where Heavenly Father presented His plan for His children, including His expectations and the role of the Savior, who would make the plan possible.
“On a much smaller but perhaps equally important scale are our own family councils,” Sister Jones taught. “We can discuss often our expectations and family rules and our desire to live together forever. We can make intentional goals to achieve that desire, and we can encourage one another to follow the Savior.”
Parents cannot know what the future holds, Sister Cordon said. However, “our role as parents is to prepare and fortify our families for the whirlwinds that will come. Deep gospel roots of testimony growing in the rich soil of faith, hope, repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost lead our children to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through continual nourishing, we help our children learn to resist the temptations that will surely come so they stay deeply rooted in the bedrock of Christ.”
Sister Cordon noted the “astounding promise” found in Helaman 5:12, a promise of “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
“Even recognizing that our children have agency and may not accept our teaching, it is always worth being intentional, deliberate and purposeful in our families,” Sister Cordon said. “Isn’t that our true desire as parents — to have our children build their foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ? If they will use their agency to do so, they cannot fall.”
Each parent’s circumstances are different and there is no “singular recipe for perfect parents or a perfect family,” Sister Jones said. However, “there are some perfect parenting principles. We can look to our Heavenly Father as the perfect example of how to parent,” she said. “He is the epitome of intentional parenting. Patterning our parenting skills after the truths found in His scriptures can be our guide.”
Sister Cordon shared the words of Nephi, who taught that the words of Christ “will tell you all things what ye should do” and that the Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3, 5-6).
The mission of the Holy Ghost, Sister Cordon explained, is to bring to mind the Savior’s words. “As we receive the Holy Ghost, we can learn to speak by the power of our Savior. We can speak the words of Christ. We can act according to the way our Savior would act. Then we become more mindful of His influences in our lives and in the lives of our children. Listening to the voice of Heavenly Father as it comes to us through the Holy Ghost is a celestial way of intentional parenting, just as Nephi affirmed.”
Sister Jones promised listeners that life as a parent can be easier and more enjoyable as they seek the Lord’s guidance through His Holy Spirit. “There is nothing more vital to our success and happiness in our homes than learning to hear the voice of the Spirit,” she said.
The greatest tool in the “intentional parenting toolbox” is love, Sister Cordon said, “the love we receive from our Father in Heaven and generously extend to our precious children.”
“The greatest gifts we can give our children,” Sister Jones continued, “will be the simple but intentional daily acts of love and caring inspired by the One who showers us with His perfect love.”