I remember a lesson in Young Women's a few years ago.
There was a sweet girl there this particular day who was a foster daughter of a couple in our ward. It was interesting that whatever our lesson was on during one of her few Sundays with us included something about the fifth commandment. It's the only one of the ten that has a promise attached for keeping it. It's found in Exodus 20:12 and says:
"Honour thy father and thy mother;
that thy days may be long upon the land
which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
This dear girl was in the foster care system for a reason and I felt these words fall like a lead brick on her poor head.
As we sat listening, I wanted to help her with this principle when it felt obvious she was not seeing much to honour in her parents.
And a thought occurred to me that has recently come to my remembrance.
It's that it's interesting to me what this doesn't say. It doesn't say to honour our parents if they make good choices.
If they're fun to be around.
If they treat you well.
If your mom makes you dinner every night (whew - I'd be in trouble here).
If you can count on them.
If they like you.
There are no contingencies here. Only a promise that our days will be long in the land when we honour our parents.
So then what does the word 'honour' mean?
I think that respect is a vital part of what it means to honour.
We show our respect by speaking kindly to and about our parents; We speak kindly when they are in the room and when they are not; We learn from their failures and resist our upbringing by propagating their serious mistakes. We can take negatives and turn them into our own positives.
Nowhere in honouring our parents are we asked to put ourselves in dangerous situations, whether that danger is physical or emotional or spiritual.
Of course not everyone has parents that are hard to honor. But when it's easy, we don't necessarily pay attention to the deeper meaning of what we're asked to do.
I sure wish I knew what happened to that girl. I do know that her time in Young Women's was well spent and that she heard what was taught.
Maybe it's as we get older that we're able to appreciate the promise of this commandment. Even light-heartedly as we realize our days are longer because our parents didn't throttle us when we were teenagers. :)
I believe our in-laws become another set of parents to us, making this commandment applicable to them as well as our own mom and dad.
And the same kind of 'ifs' are missing as we navigate our relationship with them.
What does it mean to you to honour your father and mother?