Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

RS/MP Lesson 37: “Family Responsibilities” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on July 9, 2011

Things are a bit busy this summer, so sorry for getting this posted so late (Joe has other projects to attend to this summer, so I’ll try to fill in for him on the 2nd weeks, but if someone else would like to volunteer to help post notes, please let me know, either below or at rcouchZZZ@gmail.com, without the ZZZs.)

I’m going to focus on D&C 121:41-44, which is mentioned under the “Responsibilities of the Father” section. In the notes for the previous lesson (here), I discussed the phrase “train up” as used in Prov 22:6 (which is quoted again in this lesson), and the ways I’ve wrestled with trying to dish out the right amount of discipline and love as a father.

There’s a fantastic new movie out called The Tree of Life which depicts a stern 1950s (or so) father. I think most viewers of the movie would say that the father is overly stern in a kind of chauvinistic way, even though the father is portrayed sympathetically (the movie itself is, on my view, primarily a commentary on the father-son relationship as laid out in the Book of Job, but I’ll try not to get too sidetracked in discussing the film here…). Some commentators, however, have defended the father as being necessarily stern, and the mother (who I think embodies the virtue of grace) as overly permissive. Because the film portrays the father in at least a sympathetic way, I’ve been really wondering about the right balance between sternness and permissiveness (esp. in the context of our relationship to our Heavenly Father and the problem of evil more generally—that is, how can hardships in our life and the Lord’s fatherly “chastenings,” a la Hebrews 12:6, help us understand familial relations?).

In D&C 121, the tension can be viewed through the following portions of the text:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained . . . only by . . . gentleness and meekness . . . —Reproving betimes [i.e., ‘early’] with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love.

I’d like to broaden the scope of the principle being presented here for a minute. Prior to this, in verse 39, we read about the nature of “unrighteous dominion.” Dominion is a term that used in the creation account, where Adam and Eve are given “dominion . . . over all the earth” (Gen 1:26, 28). There is an ancient Syriac sense of the root Hebrew term here that “may be taken in the . . . sense to teach, a notion which arises from that of correction.” I think this is a fascinating connotation in the context of both the creation account and these passages in D&C 121. What is the relation between “authority,” “power,” and “teaching,” and what do these concepts have to do with the larger question of how we relate to the world and others more generally?

Since I’m out of time for today, I’ll let this question stand as a teaser for now, and I’ll simply post one link that I think is insightful for contemplating the meaning and significance of these verses in D&C 121, and how they relate to our responsibilities as members of both earthly families and eternal families…: Creative Quietude (by John Nielsen)

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