KAYSVILLE, Utah — Sandy Bentley doesn't believe boys are helpless, nor does she believe that mothers must wait until sons are called on missions before they develop some sense of responsibility.
"Years ago a lady heard we had five boys in our family and offered condolences for having a house full of children who couldn't work," Sister Bentley mused. "But it doesn't have to be that way. Boys can be responsible."
In the rearing of their eight children, which includes six boys, the Bentley's have made a focused effort to prepare their children for missions and for life by training them to cook, wash clothes, care for their possessions and budget money — as well as know the gospel.
The call by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to send better prepared young men on missions includes a call to parents to train their sons in the temporal matters of caring for themselves.
"We aren't perfect by any means," Sister Bentley is quick to say. "We have our moments like every family. But we try to keep the yelling down so we don't bother the stake president next door."
The Bentleys are members of the Farmington Oakridge 5th Ward, Farmington Utah Oakridge Stake. Their children range in age from 21-year-old Brad, recently returned from his mission in Australia, to 2-year-old Savannah. Blake, their second child, is serving a mission in Brazil.
Each of the older children plays a musical instrument, knows how to sort socks and is assigned one night to cook the evening meal each week. In the process, they are making memories and having fun.
"Our plan began 11 years ago," Sister Bentley said. "We had five boys who needed to learn responsibility. And because of the schedule of my husband, Clark, I needed help around the house."
One way they motivated their children to care for their responsibilities was to base each child's allowance on the quality of the work they performed. An 80 percent effort earned an 80 percent allowance.
"Each Monday the younger children sort the weekly wash. The older children wash and iron their own clothes. I'm confident they won't wash reds with whites on their missions," she said. "Each is responsible for cleaning and washing dishes after cooking their meal."
For a recent meal, 17-year-old Brian cooked chicken fajitas. He knew right where to find the pan under the cupboard and the knives in the drawer and the chicken in the freezer. While slicing the peppers, his mother walked by and suggested how to add the spices.
"Brian is one who never complains," Sister Bentley said.
"Sometimes I complain in my head," he countered. In addition to his chores and homework, Brian teaches his younger siblings, like 11-year-old Blaine, how to play the piano.
Day after day for 11 years the Bentleys have spent some time helping each child learn a new skill. Sometimes it was cutting an onion. Sometimes it was folding a shirt. Other times it was scouring a toilet.
They now enjoy some of the fruits of their labors. They see a confidence emerging in their children that they can care for themselves. "They are responsible, dependable and are willing to work. They know that everything doesn't come easily, and they exercise some personal initiative," Sister Bentley said.
Fourteen-year-old Brady, for example, working on a fitness merit badge in Scouting, is the first to arise each morning to rouse his father out of bed to walk with him. When Brother and Sister Bentley returned home recently after being away for several days, they found the home in better order than when they left.
"It's not always that way," Sister Bentley said, "but they are willing to do what's asked."
The secret, she said, is patience, consistency and the "ability to live with disorder."
"It would be easier and sometimes better to do everything myself," she said. "If you want your home to be perfect, don't let your kids do the work."
"If you looked in the cupboards you'd see the pans aren't stacked correctly," said Brother Bentley. "We sacrifice perfection to help the children learn."