What Are “Goodly Parents?”

Note: a reader of this blog asked about the meaning behind some of the unusual verbiage in the Book of Mormon. For the next few days, I’m going to look for unusual words and phrases and try to understand the significance of those passages.

The first Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi, opens his record by telling us that he was “born of goodly parents.” What did he mean by “goodly?”

In the next phrase, he provides some context: “Therefore,” he says, “I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1). So he attributes his education and training to his parents’ “goodliness.”

The Oxford Dictionary provides two definitions of “goodly:”

  1. “Considerable in size or quantity”
  2. “Attractive, excellent, or admirable”

The first of these definitions explains the other appearance of the word in the Book of Mormon: “There were a goodly number gathered at the place of Mormon” (Mosiah 18:7). But every other appearance of the word in the scriptures appears to relate to the second definition. For example:

  • Ezekiel speaks of a vine planted “in a good soil and by great waters…that it might be a goodly vine” (Ezekiel 17:8).
  • Joseph was described as “a goodly person, and well favoured” as he served in Potiphar’s house in Egypt (Genesis 39:6).
  • Samuel warns the people that, if they choose to have a king, he will take “your goodliest young men…and put them to his work” (1 Samuel 8:16).

In every case, the meaning appears to be excellent, and recognizably so. Why “goodly” and not “good?” Apparently for emphasis. The vine was really impressive, not just above average. Joseph was highly effective, not just passively obedient. The king would take only the best of the young men. And so on. By the same token, Nephi’s parents weren’t merely capable; they were engaged, they were conscientious, and they were dedicated to their children’s growth and development.

Elder L. Tom Perry listed five things that parents can do to be “goodly:”

  1. Pray in earnest, asking our Eternal Father to help them love, understand, and guide the children He has sent to them.”
  2. “Hold family prayer, scripture study, and family home evenings and eat together as often as possible, making dinner a time of communication and the teaching of values.”
  3. “Fully avail themselves of the Church’s support network, communicating with their children’s Primary teachers, youth leaders, and class and quorum presidencies.”
  4. Share their testimonies often with their children, commit them to keep the commandments of God, and promise the blessings that our Heavenly Father promises His faithful children.”
  5. Organize [their] families based on clear, simple family rules and expectations, wholesome family traditions and rituals, and ‘family economics,’ where children have household responsibilities and can earn allowances so that they can learn to budget, save, and pay tithing on the money they earn.”

(“Becoming Goodly Parents,” General Conference, October 2012) [bold added for emphasis]

Today, I will strive to be a “goodly parent.” I will renew my commitment to the growth and development of my children and will participate in activities which contribute to their learning.

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