In our most recent general conference, Sister Cheryl Esplin stated “The divine privilege of raising children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost.
In a latter-day revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord instructs parents to teach their children to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Notice the Lord doesn’t just say we are to “teach the doctrine”; His instructions are to teach our children to “understand the doctrine.”
She continues, ”Teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It’s helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives.”
As parents, how do we help our children understand? How do we help them gain a testimony of their own?
To start, we can teach them the value of family and personal prayer. What is the right age to teach our children to pray? Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said it is as soon as they are old enough to kneel. In an article entitled Teaching Our Children to Pray he talks about his wife teaching their children. He said that along with praying for family members and the other usual things, she taught them to include these words in every prayer. “Heavenly Father, help us to be prepared and worthy to go on missions. Help us to be pure and worthy to be married in the temple. Heavenly Father, I love Thee and I know Thou doest love me.”
What an awesome thing to teach their children. It will help them understand and work towards the priorities of their future. It will help them to know and understand the love of our eternal father.
In the same article he suggests teaching our children through sharing our testimonies of a principle with them. He shares a story about the birth of their 5th son, Lawrence. His wife was having a very difficult time in labor and had had a dream about two men coming and taking her. She worried it may be a warning that she may not make it through her delivery. The doctor asked him to leave while they examined her. Elder Featherstone went into the hall and began to pray. A nurse was called to his wife’s room and then rushed out, returning with a cart of oxygen. Seeing this made him realize his wife was in danger and he said “Although I was praying with all my heart, I suddenly found that I could pray with even greater humility and pleading”. Shortly after she delivered a healthy boy and their prayers were answered. When their 7th child was born, Lawrence was 13. Again, there was concern about his wife making it through the delivery. He told Lawrence about the difficulties with his birth. After Paul was born he called and told them they had a new brother. When Elder Featherstone came home, Lawrence had a letter for his mom. Returning to the hospital Elder Featherstone gave it to his wife. With tear filled eyes she read “To my favorite and most loved Mother. Congratulations. When Dad phoned us and told us we had a little brother I just about freaked. After you left to go to the hospital I went in Dad’s den and knelt down to have prayer to ask Heavenly Father to bless you that you would be all right. Well my prayer was answered. After Dad came home he told how just before the baby was born you gritted your teeth and tears flowed down your cheeks but you wouldn’t cry out. I kind of got this unstuckable lump in my throat.
“I’m working on my hiking merit badge.
Another way to help our children gain a testimony is through FHE. Isaiah 54:13 reads “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” The home is a perfect school room for teaching the Gospel. Holding a regular weekly FHE provides us the opportunity to teach them about gospel principles and provides them with the chance to experience their own confirmation from the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of the gospel.
President Hinckley said of his childhood experience: In 1915 President Joseph F. Smith asked the people of the Church to have family home evening. My father said we would do so, that we would warm up the parlor where Mother’s grand piano stood and do what the President of the Church had asked.
“We were miserable performers as children. We could do all kinds of things together while playing, but for one of us to try to sing a solo before the others was like asking ice cream to stay hard on the kitchen stove. In the beginning, we would laugh and make cute remarks about one another’s performance. But our parents persisted. We sang together. We prayed together. We listened quietly while Mother read Bible and Book of Mormon stories. Father told us stories out of his memory. …
“Out of those simple little meetings, held in the parlor of our old home, came something indescribable and wonderful. Our love for our parents was strengthened. Our love for brothers and sisters was enhanced. Our love for the Lord was increased. An appreciation for simple goodness grew in our hearts. These wonderful things came about because our parents followed the counsel of the President of the Church”
We can look for other opportunities to teach as well. In Teaching, No Greater Call, there is a story about a father that set aside time each week to teach his children gospel principles about two months before they turned eight and were baptized. He gave them a journal and encouraged them to write and draw visual aids of the plan of salvation and he bore testimony of the truthfulness of what he was teaching. When his daughter recalled this experience after she was grown, she said: “I will never forget the love I felt from my dad as he spent that time with me. … I believe that this experience was a major reason I had a testimony of the gospel when I was baptized.”
Having daily personal and family scripture study is another way to help foster the testimony of our children. Growing up, I remember seeing my mom reading her scriptures every morning and every night. I always knew that they were precious to her. I never doubted that she knew the words were true. She not only made it a priority to have family scripture study every day, but she set a lasting example of personal scripture study.
Although we are not perfect, Derrick and I have tried to follow each of these basic principles in our home and in our family. Madi wishes that we could do family night every night. She loves to be the one that gets to pray. As soon as we say it is time for prayer, she starts out, Dear Heavenly Father and then quickly looks up at Derrick and I and says “Don’t do it ok?!”. Upon completing her prayers, she beams and tells us “That makes Jesus happy.” I can’t help but smile as I watch our two sweet children learn and figure out some of the basics of the Gospel. I am so grateful for it in my life.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He will never leave us alone, all we have to do is let him into our life. I am grateful for the blessings of the temple, that I have been sealed to my amazing husband and my two beautiful children. I know that we can be an eternal family. I am grateful for the atonement, for a testimony of the multiple ways it can help us to heal and be clean. I am so thankful for the ward we live in and all the help they are to our family. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.