Monday, September 20, 2010

Advice on Sibling Relationships From The Book of Mormon (plus Link-up)

I am so pleased to welcome Michaela of Scriptorium Blogorium to our Celebration of Family.
She is light-years ahead of me in her understanding and ability to apply scripture to real life, and I am thankful that she shares her insights and wisdom for me to benefit from!
I love her e-book Isaiah Insights to Teenage Temptation, and I have really enjoyed and learned so much from all of the posts she has written on Family this month.  The one she is about to share with us is pretty amazing too...enjoy!

Here is Michaela!


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"What The Book of Mormon Teaches About Sibling Relationships"

           When Jocelyn asked me to do a guest post on the Family Proclamation, she asked me for “cool insights from a scriptural perspective.”  I really have to thank for her request because it got me thinking about the scriptures and what they have to say about family.  And I realized that the scriptures are actually CHOCK FULL of things that can help us strengthen the family because there are tons of stories there about families. 

            We’ve had the admonition “strengthen the family” beat into our brains over a period of years, maybe a decade or so, but what exactly does that mean and how do we do it?   In conference recently we’re getting a sudden flood of “teach your children” messages, while we wonder what we should teach them.  I don’t know if I have THE answer, but one excellent idea I now have is that we can strengthen our families by teaching them about how families should or should not work…using the scriptures! 

All we have to do is try reading the scriptures looking for how they apply to families.  You have parent-child relationships, spouse relationships, sibling relationships, all revealed in their glory… or their degradation.  

I’m going to share some things that that I’ve just learned about sibling relations from the Book of Mormon.  At the end, I will tie all this in with the Family Proclamation.   Start with the stories of Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi.  That is the mother lode of potential lessons about sibling relations.  I will examine only one small sample:

17 And I [Nephi] spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them. (1 Nephi 2:17-18)

We are told that Nephi shared what he learned from the Lord with his brothers.  One of them believed and two of them did not.  And even though Nephi felt rejection from his older brothers, he prayed for them.  This is a great lesson for our children to learn.  They can follow Nephi’s example by sharing the good things they learn with their brothers and sisters and they can pray for siblings who don’t believe them and when they feel rejected.

Now, consider how the four sons of Mosiah must have felt as they all experienced angelic chastisement together.  Consider the unity they had as a group as they all went through the repentance process together and decided together that they wanted to go on a mission to the Lamanites.  Does that change how you read this next verse about that comes in the middle of Ammon’s celebrations?

And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting. (Alma 26:10)

Suddenly we see the deep worry that an oldest brother expresses to a younger brother about his spiritual state.  And Ammon doesn’t get offended by this.  Rather, he hastens to explain that he isn’t boasting in his own strength, but rather he is boasting in God.  He sets his older brother’s mind at ease and focuses more carefully on the blessings God had given them during their mission.  Aaron’s words give an example of how an older sibling can warn a younger sibling who might be out of line. Ammon’s reaction give an example of how a younger sibling can react when an older sibling’s warnings may be off-base.  Since sibling pecking orders are simple facts of life, this is a VERY important lesson to teach children.

Another part of Ammon’s enthusiastic exclamations provide insight into good sibling relationships.

 23 Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?
  24 For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language. (Alma 26:23-24, emphasis added)

Did you catch the “do you remember”?  It shows that when siblings have good relationships, they will begin to reminisce together about their shared past.  It hints at the possibilities of a future when children will remember their childhood together with fondness.  Parents can use this to advantage.  Parents could help cultivate good experiences that will provide their children good memories by teaching principles of teamwork to their children through teambuilding activities.

If you want to see a great example of sibling teamwork, consider the story of Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi.  It’s possible that the great power and authority the Lord gave them in their teaching grew out of their righteous unity and mutual cooperation.  They taught the gospel together

17 And it came to pass that they did preach with great power, insomuch that they did confound many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites, insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done.
  18 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them—
  19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers. (Helaman 5:17-19)

When siblings are unified in the gospel, their shared background becomes a great strength.  One sibling will share a principle and the other will chime in as appropriate to witness to the truth of what was said.  Once the first has finished, the other one will think of something additional that can be added and what they say will spark an idea in the first one that they can add.  It becomes a mutually reinforcing, synergistic teaching process.

I’ve seen this occur in whole families as well.  My family had a reunion this summer and we all went to church together.  In Sunday school, I listened to my dad, his brothers, and his sisters fill the lesson time with insightful and profound comments that jumped between them almost faster than a hand could be raised.  The teacher actually had to say very little.  It was incredible.  When the lesson was over I felt like I had been at a feast.

Back to Nephi and Lehi.  This pair of brothers, when they were united, were so powerful, so spiritually unstoppable that when the Lamanites couldn’t stand them anymore, they sent an army to imprison them.  An army versus two men!  And once they put Nephi and Lehi in prison, the Lamanites were still so intimidated that they felt like the only thing they could do was to try to starve Nephi and Lehi into submission, and then, just to make sure, they sent an army of 300 men into the prison when they wanted to kill them.  This is the kind of thing that you can teach your children to show them what great power comes from being united and sharing the gospel together. 

On the other side, consider the story of chief judge Pahoran’s sons, Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni, who were all contending for the judgment seat after the death of their father Pahoran. Next to the story of Laman and Lemuel and Nephi, it ranks as one of the most effective warnings against sibling rivalry in the Book of Mormon.  We don’t even know what their birth order was, but we can imagine one of them as an oldest child seeking to keep the authority he has wielded all his childhood.  We can imagine the others seeking to gain some ascendency so that they can have some additional respect among all the sons of the great chief judge.  This sibling rivalry became magnified to national proportions, since it caused three divisions among the people.  And the sad thing is that two, if not all three, DIED because of it.  Paanchi was condemned to death for sedition (and probably executed, though the text doesn’t say), Pahoran was murdered by an assassin hired by his brother’s followers, and Pecumeni was cut down by Lamanites.  Most tragically, the rivalry gave rise to secret combinations. 

The single bright spot in this story is that Pecumeni, when he saw that he couldn’t win, united with the voice of the people and upheld his brother as chief judge.  There is a good example here of unselfishly celebrating the accomplishments of our siblings, even if it feels like it is at our expense. (If only Paanchi had decided to do the same.)

Let us pass on to another positive example of sibling relations.  Consider Nephi, who was the prophet at the time that Christ came to the Americas.  Both he and his brother Timothy were chosen by Christ to be His disciples.  The description of Nephi and his brother is interesting:  “…Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy…” (3 Nephi 19:4)  We get more of a picture earlier where it says, “And in the name of Jesus did he [Nephi] cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.  And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power..” (3 Nephi 7:19-20).

Once again, we see two brothers preaching to the people together and one of them (Timothy) incurs the wrath of the wicked, so they stone him.  But Nephi uses the priesthood and raises Timothy from the dead.  It is an act of spiritual defiance against the condemnation of the world that seems beyond duplication in our lives, UNLESS..  Unless we teach our children to encourage each other and hold each other up against the cruelty of the world.   For example, to this day I still remember when one of my teenage brothers told me I looked nice.  That meant a lot to me at that time in my life.  Siblings can encourage in special ways because of that shared background.  My little sister gave me some encouragement just recently when I was cast down about a problem I was having in my visiting teaching.  Her words were words of faith expressing that Heavenly Father knew what I was dealing with and that He would help me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  It brought my courage and determination back to life.  In other ways brothers might support each other through the priesthood. One of my brothers had the opportunity to baptize another of my brothers.

How does finding and teaching insight about sibling relations have anything to do with the Proclamation on the Family? 

“Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”  (Family Proclamation, emphasis added)

King Benjamin hit on this too:

14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
  15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. (Mosiah 4:14-15)

I know that there is much we can learn from the scriptures that can help us build successful and happy families.  What are some other stories in the scriptures that you can think of that can be applied to family?  Please share! 


Thanks again, Michaela!

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  1. what a great post and so true indeed.

  2. What a great post and very talented writer. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  3. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed this very much.

  4. lots of insight from the scriptures starting with Adam and Eve and their sons and even before that with God's children 1/3 of which rebelled. We are all bound to have problems to learn from...

  5. excellent...I just wonder how this works in today's framework. I am sure it should be the same...but I lack vision

  6. Oh, I think it totally works for our just takes a lot of emotional and spiritual maturity to apply this. WONDERFUL POST!

  7. Great post! I can use this with my boys!

  8. You've given me a lot to think about. I've always loved the father/son relationships in the Book of Mormon, but hadn't thought so much about the siblings. We just read that scripture about Ammon and Aaron last week (I should have read this sooner!).

    I think I have an idea now about a little sibling issue we've been having here at our house.

  9. This is a wonderful post! Like Charlotte, I usually see the father/son relationships and how they relate to the Father/Christ relationship. The scriptures are so full of family examples, especially about brothers. Which is lucky for me since so far I'm raising a house full of brothers. I love it:)

  10. That was a wonderful post. Thanks you Michaela for sharing the scriptural insights on siblings.
    I remember that I tried so hard to be a good mother and I read a lot of good books on rearing children. Later on I was a seminary teacher for 4 years and all of a sudden I realized the greatest child rearing manual is the scriptures. I wish I had thought of that sooner. I will be sharing some of these thoughts with my adult children who are raising their families now.
    Blessings to you! LeAnn

  11. I've really never considered this before, but it made me think about the temple interview question about our relationship with our family. SO. IMPORTANT. OBVIOUSLY. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I am really enjoying these posts! thank you!!