LAGOS, Nigeria — It’s early morning, and Hilary and Patience Ekpo are going over the day’s plans. After reading scriptures and praying together, they gather their five children together and go through a similar exercise, this time with the whole family.
An important part of their family devotional is the compilation of a “to-do” list, so that everyone knows what needs to be done and who is doing what for the day ahead.
By 7 a.m. they have left home for school and work, but the family members also look forward to gathering later in the day for an evening meal and family-focused time.
Hilary Ekpo says that being Mormon in his country is most likely very similar to the experiences of other Latter-day Saints elsewhere.
“The difference is not much,” said Ekpo. “Whether you are in Russia, Nigeria or Utah, the gospel, the Church and the responsibility of parents to teach their children is the same.”
“It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the Lord’s help, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes,” suggested Elder M. Russell Ballard, Church apostle, in a recent general conference address. “This eternally important work,” Elder Ballard continued, “falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners.”
The Ekpo family, along with others in the Church, senses this responsibility and implements activities every day to teach their children. Morning and evening prayer, family scripture study and accountability for the day’s events take precedence in the Nigerian home.
Children learn principles and values that help them govern themselves, Hilary explained. “For example, Edidiong, our 13-year-old, takes a ready supply of water with him to school camp, where others offer him beverages not in keeping with our standards. We’ve taught him these problems have a solution and that we can find that solution when we work together. Good values taught act as a shield to family members and help the children to make good and right choices.”
Mbuotidem, Edidiong’s 11-year-old sister, cited another example. “It’s important for me to keep the commandment to wear modest clothing,” the young Nigerian girl explained. “Even though some of my friends don’t understand this principle, they know it’s important to me and they don’t tease me about it anymore.”
Working together in gospel study is the Monday night activity for the Ekpo family. Gathering weekly in a family home evening creates a spirit of love as family members take turns preparing and presenting gospel discussions. The regular family time often includes activities and refreshments as well as prayers and music.
As the week continues, family members participate in age-related activities with other members of the Church. They sandwich their schoolwork and social lives between family and Church priorities. Sunday worship provides further gospel discussion as well as opportunity to share common ground with friends and neighbors. Some Sundays may include visiting other members, researching family history or participating in missionary work.
Despite a loving focus on family togetherness, Hilary understands that problems arise. “I hope that my children know that challenges and obstacles are blessings in disguise and that we can’t be strong if we don’t face and resolve our challenges.”
“We try to apply the principles of the gospel to every issue,” Patience adds, “because we believe that every problem has a solution in the scriptures. There the children learn to do the things that help them live the gospel standards.”
Familiarity with those scriptural verses as well as the loving concern of parents fortifies the Nigerian children when they are faced with unexpected challenges. A regular schedule of study, prayer and loving communication serves as the ideal for Mormon families wherever they reside.
“If our children know where we stand, and we always stand on the Lord’s side, we know we are where we need to be,” counseled Cheryl C. Lant, general Primary president, also in the recent general conference.
“The important thing is that we consistently work to do these things. We will not be perfect at it, and our families will not always respond positively, but we will be building a strong foundation of righteous traditions that our children can depend on. They can hold to that foundation when things get difficult, and they can return to that foundation if they should stray for a period of time.”
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.