In 1832, the Lord clarified some principles of caring for the poor and the needy. One of those principles was that parents have the primary responsibility to provide for the needs of their children. “All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:4).
Maintenance refers to financial support, but more broadly it means keeping something in good condition, taking care of it.
King Benjamin explained to his people that parents are responsible not only for the physical well-being of their children but also for their emotional and spiritual well-being:
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.
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
These instructions to parents mirrored his own service as their king:
- He had labored with his own hands to serve his people and to contribute to their material prosperity (Mosiah 2:12, 14).
- He had minimized unlawful behavior among them, not by punishing them, but by teaching them to keep the commandments of God (Mosiah 2:13).
- He encouraged them to serve one another and to avoid contention (Mosiah 2:17-18, 32-33).
In 1995, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reiterated the duty of parents to care for their children:
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.“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 23 September 1995
Today, I will strive to fulfill the breadth of my responsibilities as a parent. I will remember that providing for my children means more than giving them food, clothing, and shelter. I will do what I can to help them maintain their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.