Bring up your children in the love and fear of the Lord; study their dispositions and their temperaments, and deal with them accordingly, never allowing yourself to correct them in the heat of passion; teach them to love you rather than to fear you, and let it be your constant care that the children that God has so kindly given you are taught in their early youth the importance of the oracles of God, and the beauty of the principles of our holy religion, that when they grow to the years of man and womanhood they may always cherish a tender regard for them and never forsake the truth (DBY, 207).
We live in an age where, unfortunately, many public heroes that accomplished a lot of good have been revealed to have immoral private lives. This includes US presidents, civil rights leaders, and religious ministers. In stark contrast to these hypocritical figures is the Prophet Brigham Young. Not only was he a great man to the people and nation, he was equally if not more so a great father to his children.
Brigham Young had a famously large family with 46 children. Given the average American family has three children or less now, this type of lifestyle is probably utterly alien to us. Most imagine it would be impossible to properly see after each of your 46 children’s needs or even to have enough fatherly love to spread around, but Brigham Young was not a typical man of the world but a man among men. His daughter Clarissa fondly remembered her childhood as a time of happiness and that her father was incredibly tender to his family, while another daughter said that he “was an ideal father, kind to a fault, tender, thoughtful, just and firm. … None of us feared him.” This is not at all like the austere, cold authority figure many people make him out to be.
In fact, Brigham Young felt his family was so important that if he failed being a good husband and father then he would “[wake] up in the morning of the First Resurrection to find that he had failed in everything.” He never let his many responsibilities get in the way of his most important responsibility: his family. We would do well to take his principles of child rearing to heart. He said, “It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children, but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them.” The most important thing we can do for our children is set a good example, and President Young is an excellent example to emulate.
An important aspect of being a good example is spending time with children. Brigham Young would spend every evening he was at home having a devotional with his children where he would instruct them and plan the coming days with them. He also involved them in some of his errands and tasks and made sure to be honest and just to all he encountered. His children later attested to the towering man of integrity he was in their lives.
And what was the effect of all this? His oldest son, Joseph, served in the Utah Territorial Legislature. Brigham Jr. was a mission president, apostle, and First Presidency Counselor. His son John was a counselor with his father. Willard had a prestigious military career. Susa Young Gates, a noted author and editor, was a leader in state and national women’s organizations in addition to raising a large family. We can see that Brigham Young had a great effect on his children and helped them to become upstanding, virtuous men and women.
Few people in history have been the subject of as much slander as Brigham Young. Even today, many biographies and accounts of his life rely on hearsay and fabrications, not the least of which are about his personal and family life; however, we can rely on primary sources concerning his family and relationship with them, chiefly his letters of correspondence with his children. They paint a picture of a man deeply concerned for the well-being of his family and always doing what he can to help them temporally and spiritually. We would all do well to study his methods and example in order to better help our children, too.
For more information:
Brigham Young Family Quotes https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-24?lang=eng