Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Family Values – Page 2
I may understand the benefits of being honest to my self and the community but if I loved immediate profit more, and thought that I could get away with cheating or stealing, I would behave according to the profit value rather than the honesty value. Later when the thrill of acquisition was past and the need for trust became pressing, then being honest could eventually change the feeling component of my triangle sufficiently enough to generate honesty as a consistent personal value. This has been called “Values Clarification”. We often gain understanding, and thus learn to love a principle, in the study or practice of behavior consistent with the value. In the effort to impart values, it has been shown that values are better caught than taught.
This planting “family values” into young hearts becomes ever more challenging as the world gains direct access to budding appetites through media and technology. That so many would directly seek profits using methodologies that appeal to appetite stimulation, regardless of the moral side effects, creates significant opposition. Research has repeatedly shown that adopting key family values, as exemplified by our ancestral Smiths, can dramatically assist families in this vital contest for the minds and hearts of the rising generations and protect our children from the critical generational consequences. Modern family science research has identified several key common values in successful, cohesive families that, like good trees, have been judged by their fruits.
In an effort to appeal to a large extended family with diverse belief structures this report will rely on secular sources with well-studied findings. Since a modern family counselor cannot diagnose the cause and effect condition of a historical family through the interview process, this report will center on findings from historical research mostly using that of Dr. Kyle R. Walker. He specifically targets numerous historical accounts of an effective nineteen-century family. Fortunately for us, this family is ours – the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith family. His doctoral thesis is published in “A Family Process Analysis of a Nineteenth-Century Household”. Quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from this thesis.
Families differ on so many levels that determining the success of one family as compared to another can seem like comparing mangoes to kiwis. But even diverse fruits can be judged by their nutritional value rather than their appearance. Though parental failure and success might be difficult to measure, there are well-studied characteristics and values, common to happy productive (measures of success) parents, children, and ensuing posterity. However, rendering a “failure judgment” also assumes that all efforts to assist family members towards becoming productive in society have ended, and that progress, or any hope of it, has ceased. Parents have not failed until they have given up, so a historical study can give valuable insights since the effects over several succeeding generations may be available.
From a well-established list of examined processes, characteristics and values, Dr. Walker identified six inter-related categories that were easily identifiable within historical records and don’t require an interview with the family to evaluate. 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.). On closer examination some of these could be defined as values while others seem to be strategies/behaviors used to implement the values. Perhaps that is because these values are so intertwined in creating successful families in that the behavioral aspect of one value becomes a strategy for implementing another.
It can be said for example, that a cohesive family is one that manages conflict effectively and is resilient after crises, and thereby successful. Though cohesion is itself a value, one can ask what values fuel cohesion and provide reproducible results in other families? Likewise, just as managing conflict and bouncing back are to be valued, they are also strategies towards cohesion. It can then be asked which management strategies are more measurably effective in both meeting stress and bouncing back from its culminating crises? For example, Dr. Walker noted that those families that valued religion (internally and externally) managed conflict and were resilient to life’s crises more effectively than those who were not religious. So though religious belief is a value it is also perhaps the “understanding-MIND” component that persuades family members to sacrifice personal benefits towards resolving conflict because they are motivated by a link to higher causes (More on this later.) Likewise family unity (a value) was enhanced as the family worked and played together – both values that served as cohesive strategies that enabled unity.
Though not strategically incorporated by our early Smith family as a result of any schooling, these specific strategies can be seen today as applicable for parents seeking direction in the ongoing battle for family effectiveness. For our purposes, we will call them Smith Family Values – though they were hardly exclusive to them.
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 all 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. 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. 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. 1
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 common teenage desires to be with friends rather than family might ask, “What behaviors might encourage cohesiveness or unity?” Dr. Walker includes four different models used to measure family status. To augment a family’s cohesion-value parents might add the following connected behaviors: goal sharing; expressiveness; intra-family service/sacrifice; “work, play, and worshipping 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: