I am sensitive to those who have experienced heartache and disappointment in raising children. I am in the midst of rearing my own family, which is a work in progress, and I hope that I don’t come across as believing I have all the answers, because I don’t. Like you, I am just doing the best I can, and some days, weeks, and months in my family are better than others in raising our children in the gospel. I’m prayerful that what I share today will lift and bring hope rather than trigger guilt or discouragement. My hope is that you will instead take comfort in a scripture in Exodus…
“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:13-14.
What a privilege it is to teach and influence the spirit of a child. Whether a teacher, grandparent, aunt, uncle or parent, it is a sacred thing to touch the heart of a child and to show them the way they should go.
Elder Neil L. Andersen said “We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them. Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their pre mortal faith.”
#1. Teaching Reverence
I have learned that one important aspect of “fanning the flame” is teaching reverence. Reverence is not something that comes naturally to most children, but it is the way by which they can learn to access the spirit in their young lives. I have thought many times to use a “reward system” for teaching reverence. Throw out the sticker charts and teach to understand the ‘why’ of reverence might be more effective. Teach about how when they are still and quiet, they can feel Jesus’ love in their heart. “And when I am reverent I know in my heart Heavenly Father and Jesus are near.” Their spiritual core is already aglow with their pre mortal faith. The quiet stillness that comes from reverence allows these young children in our care to be reminded of the feelings their spirits hunger to remember.
#2 Finding the Still
Amidst our chaotic and busy schedules, there is often little time to feel the stillness or experience the quietness that reverence requires. The frenetic pace of life can make it harder for us to sense the needs of our children. President Uchtdorf has said, ” I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing,” and, I would add, more important or more urgent. This prioritizing problem is something I struggle with. The days in which I dedicate meaningful alone time with my Heavenly Father; personal prayer, reading my scriptures and especially attending the temple.
There comes a peace, a calm that settles into my day and week that allows me to, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This stillness enlarges my vision and helps me to see more clearly the needs my children have and remember the spiritual fundamentals that can be used to help them.
As a young mother, I felt overwhelmed at the task of teaching my children the doctrines of the gospel. Because of this I found myself almost paralyzed not knowing where to start. As I would look at what others were doing, my to-do list of being a “good mother” only grew, and discouragement and guilt began to set in. One of Satan’s most potent tools is to cause us to feel so overwhelmed that we do nothing.
A study was done that found that consistent family scripture study was one of the best predictors of sustained activity in the church. I felt great relief at the recollection of this study. I thought, “This is something concrete that I could focus my efforts on as a mother.” Alma the Younger reminds us that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”
The First Presidency has counseled parents and children to “give highest priority to family prayer, family scripture study and gospel study and instruction and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”
#3 Bearing Testimony
The Book of Mormon is replete with examples of father’s bearing testimony to their posterity. Symbolically in Lehi’s dream, we see an example of this. “Once [Lehi] had partaken of the fruit he beckoned unto them; [his posterity] and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.”
We can follow Lehi’s and Adam’s examples of bearing human testimony to those in our care. As we share our testimonies of the Savior and his Atonement with those in our care, our voice beckoning from the tree frequently can become louder than the world and all its noise and confusion. Our precious ones might not respond now or always to our beckoning, but the seeds of faith and inquiry will be planted in their hearts.
Elder Bednar has counseled us to be “vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to…children.” Verbally acknowledging, on a regular basis, the hand of the Lord in our lives to our children, will help them to look for it in theirs.
#4 Scripture Study
Joseph Smith has taught us that the Book of Mormon can help us “get nearer to God” than any other book. Its resounding theme invites all to come unto Christ. I would suggest that by reading the Book of Mormon with our children, we are helping them to know and understand their personal dealings with their Heavenly Father and Savior.
When we began studying the scriptures as a family, I found it difficult to be consistent. I learned, however, that reading just a couple of verses a day as a family was better than not reading any at all. We need to remember that there are no perfect families in the church, ours certainly isn’t, just those striving to become. If we stop reading, as a family, for a week, a month, or longer, all is not lost, we need but try again tomorrow. Trying again and again and again to be consistent can help to thwart Satan’s plan of discouragement and distraction. As we do this, the Lord will make up for our inadequacies and will help us in our righteous desire. Because of our efforts in having consistent family scripture study, our children will feel a greater personal connection with their Heavenly Father and Savior. This connection will be a protection to them against Satan’s counterfeit philosophies.
#5 Know the Doctrine
Many years ago, President Packer gave parents counsel on teaching their children saving truths to protect them in a wicked world. He stated, “true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the Gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” As we read and understand the scriptures together, these saving doctrines of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost will be illuminated. The power in the doctrine comes from helping them understand why obedience to a specific law or commandment is necessary and how it will bless them. It is no longer enough to just tell our children to obey because we say so. As they understand the ‘whys’ of covenants and the blessings that flow from them, we will see, through the power of the doctrine, their hearts turn toward God.
All of the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ point us in the direction of the temple. This life is a path of covenants, each one bringing us closer to Him and the protection He offers. When our children understand the doctrines and choose to keep their covenants, “Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.” Our children will find safety in the temple and in the ordinances and doctrines that lead them there.
If you are struggling on how to study so that it is more satisfying HERE is an excellent article with fabulous ideas.
#6 Knowing and Teaching the Enabling Powers of the Atonement
This concept of the enabling powers of the Atonement is vital for our children to understand from a young age. When adversity comes and struggles arise, we must teach them what to do and to whom to turn. We must help them learn that there is a way, a divine means of help or strength, available to them. They need to understand that the Lord usually does not remove our challenges from us, but that He can strengthen us and empower us to handle whatever difficult circumstance we may be in. I wonder if when we learn that our own strength isn’t enough and we reach for these enabling powers.
As our children learn to understand this doctrine and who to turn to, their loneliness and despair will diminish and peace from help and comfort will encompass them. As a child is taught to understand all that the Atonement covers, not only our sins but also all of our pain, suffering, humiliation, and disappointment, this peace can be greatly enhanced. We can teach them that “[t]he Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently besets us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our power.”
Our children are on the front lines of the final battle. Every child’s challenges are packaged differently. Our responsibility is to get to know their individual struggles intimately. The process of applying the healing balm will be different for each child. Yet, the source from which this salve comes will be the same.
I know that our Savior is there for us. He did not simply give us the task of teaching our children and then leave us alone to do it. Our responsibility is great and our challenges are diverse. As we find the stillness in our lives and regularly feast from the pages of the Book of Mormon with our families, we will find comfort in the power of the doctrine and the saving ordinances. We will know how to teach, beckon and testify of His glorious Atonement and the divine help it offers, and we will know how to invite His help and His blessing upon our posterity.
I look forward to the day when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ,”[xxxvi] when we will all fall down and worship him, our glorious Savior of the World. I look forward to that day when our King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign over all the earth. I pray that until then, each of us will feel His help as we continue in our sacred responsibilities of teaching children.
I received much of this from a talk written by a dear family friend Brooke Burton. I hope one day to be as spiritual and good as her.