Parents have the power to infuse their children with a love for the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so much so that they want to live them with all their hearts. We know that if our children feel it, believe it, and even know it, they will not depart from the Lord’s path. Or if they slip and fall, they will repent and get right back on it.
How does that depth of teaching take place? Here are 5 key factors to consider.
1. Involve them in spiritual experiences. Sometimes when parents are facing difficulties they shield their children from it, not wanting to worry them. Children are sensitive to what is going on. They’ll know there’s a problem and may imagine it to be worse than it is. Being in on it can actually bring peace to them. They can then lend their help.
I (Joy) remember a time of serious concern when I was about twelve years old. My father was a potato farmer and it was close to harvest time. That’s the time when the representative from the potato plant, in this case OreIda, would come and check the potatoes to see if they were acceptable for purchase. He would dig up potatoes from various places throughout the field, cut the potatoes open and see if they were free of any disease inside. If they passed the test, then the harvest could begin and they would buy all the potatoes from that field. A few days before the representative was to come and check the potatoes, my dad went into the field, as he always did to check the quality himself.
That day Dad came into the house, shaken at what he had found. His hands were full of potatoes he had cut open and every one had brown rotted centers. Everywhere he dug he found the same problem. He was devastated. The failure of this crop would be a huge financial loss. With two sons in the mission field, my parents could not afford this loss. In despair my dad looked at my mother and said, “What do we do?” My faithful mother said, “We’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll pray and the Lord will bless our potatoes.” Dad was a man of faith and knew this was the course of action to take. There is something very powerful about parents uniting their faith for the family.
Dad immediately gathered the children around and explained the problem, expressing his and Mom’s faith that the Lord would bless them. Then we all knelt in prayer. I remember the heartfelt, simple prayer where he asked the Lord to heal the potatoes. I sensed that their faith was implicit. They were accustomed to turning to the Lord and trusting Him. After the prayer we all went about the duties of the day, with a brightness of hope filling our hearts.
Dad did not return to the field and check the potatoes again. He simply called OreIda and said the field was ready. A few days later a representative came and checked several potatoes. All were clean and white, normal healthy potatoes. It was a bumper crop, one of the best potato crops my dad had ever harvested.
My parents told us the results and let us know how our faith and prayers had been answered. We were in on it. We knelt together in family prayer and thanked the Lord for his goodness to us and for answering our prayers.
When children are in on spiritual experiences they can learn how much the Lord loves us and will help us in all things. This can lovingly bind your children to the path the Lord has set for all to be able to return to Him.
2. Rely on the power of the Holy Ghost. Every night since we first had children we prayed for guidance from the Holy Ghost. We knew we couldn’t do this alone. Knowing how to guide them would take more than our mortal abilities. We believed the words of Nephi: “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).
So we prayed for the Holy Ghost to guide us and that we would hear these promptings. An experience we had when our eldest daughter was twelve years old showed us how the promise of this scripture worked. Our daughter needed a new swimming suit. We would occasionally receive hand-me-downs from a well-to-do family. They had daughters, too, so ours would delight in receiving these designer clothes.
On this particular day the box of clothes had arrived. Our two girls went through it like two desperate women at a sales table. The twelve year old found a swimming suit. With great delight she held it up and proclaimed, “A swimming suit! And it’s cute!” I was shocked at how immodest the suit was, and said, “But it’s not modest.” She replied with confidence, “Yes, it is. It’s one piece.” We had taught that two piece suits, which at the time were mostly just bikini style, were not modest. We apparently hadn’t covered the bases regarding immodest one piece suits. I knew I couldn’t let her wear it, but how was I to convince her?
I took the suit from her and was about to launch into my modesty speech when just at that moment our prayers for guidance from the Holy Ghost were answered. I knew what to say. I also knew it wasn’t my thought because I had never considered it before. It was new, an idea straight from heaven.
I said, “This idea of modesty is not your dad’s or my idea, though we agree with it. It’s Heavenly Father’s idea. So this is what you need to do. Take the swimming suit, go into your room and put it on. Then kneel down and ask Heavenly Father if it’s modest and okay for you to wear.”
She snatched it from my hands and, with total confidence that she would come off the victor, said, “I’ll do it!” Then I began to pray.
A few minutes later she came out of her room, tossed the suit to me and said. “I can’t wear it.” I don’t know what happened in her room, but whatever it was she received her answer. It was never an issue again. She chose modest swim suits from that time on.
How blessed we are as parents to know that “the Holy Ghost . . . will show unto you all things what ye should do.” We need him as our constant companion. With the help of the Holy Ghost we will know how to guide our children and help them gain their own witness of the truth.
3. Let your children see you reading the Book of Mormon. This is a little different than family scripture time. It doesn’t replace it. Family scripture time is powerful and vitally important. But this is a private study time we’re talking about. When we study the Book of Mormon and other scriptures on our own, privately, we are laying a foundation for our own staying firmly on the path.
I realized how important this is when I was asked to write an article years ago about helping children choose to be sexually pure. As part of my preparation I asked our bishop if he could point me to a young man or woman whom he knew had always remained sexually pure. He said there were several, but led me to one young man specifically, an 18 year old preparing for a mission.
When I asked this young man what had caused him to remain sexually pure he said, “That’s easy. I know exactly what helped me.” Then he went on to explain that he admired his parents’ relationship and wanted a marriage like that. When he was 14 years old he began watching them closely to see what it was they did that helped them be who they were, particularly he watched his father.
He said, “I decided that if I wanted to be like my dad I needed to watch him, and do what he did.” He said he became aware that every morning his father went into his study and read the Book of Mormon. That’s when he decided to do that, too. “From that moment on,” he said, “I read the Book of Mormon every day. I never missed even one day.” He then soberly said, “That’s how I came to know Jesus Christ. That’s when I really learned what He did for me, how he suffered in Gethsemane for my sins and hung on the cross and died so we, I, could live again.” Then with, all sincerity, he said, “I knew then that I would be morally clean all of my life because Jesus had already suffered so much for me and if I violated that commandment it would hurt him more. I could never hurt him after all he’d done for me. That’s why I’m morally clean.”
Seeing his father faithfully reading the Book of Mormon every day was the key to helping this young man do the same and gain his own love for the Savior. What they see us do can rivet them to the path of joy and happiness.
4. Let them see you serving the Lord. As our children see us joyfully serving the Lord in our callings they will want to do the same. If we complain or are less valiant in our service they will begin to believe that service is a burden instead of a blessing.
When they see us preparing a lesson, doing our home teaching or visiting teaching, and attending the temple they will begin to see that serving is a happy part of living the gospel. Along with doing the service we need to share experiences we have from doing our callings. When a special something happens that can strengthen their testimonies, don’t forget to share it with your family. Sometimes we forget to do that important part. Dinner time and family home evenings are good times to do this. When they see you enjoying your callings, in spite of feeling inadequate at times-and it’s okay for them to know that part, too-they can see how it’s done and follow your path. Their service in the Lord’s kingdom will help them stay faithfully on His path.
5. Love them with all your heart. That kind of love includes being gentle to them, noticing the good in them. Ignoring unimportant mistakes they make. It means putting your arms around them and giving them plenty of hugs. It means saying the words, “I love you.” And “I’m proud of you.” Feeling your love will help them feel the love of their Heavenly Father. It will motivate them to follow His teachings.
Conclusion: Words of the prophet
These 5 key factors can help you become the parent your children need you to be in order for them to stay on the Lord’s path. President Thomas S. Monson sums it all up with this statement: “As parents, we should remember that our lives may be the book from the family library which the children most treasure. Are our examples worthy of emulation? Do we live in such a way that a son or a daughter may say, I want to follow my dad,’ or I want to be like my mother’? Unlike the book on the library shelf, the covers of which shield its contents, our lives cannot be closed. Parents, we truly are an open book in the library of learning of our homes.” (“Dedication Day,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 65.)
[For more helps in creating happy family relationships visit the Lundbergs’ website ]