Faithful parents can’t help but worry about their children. Some ask, “With so many temptations out there pulling at my children how can I effectively teach them?” It seems an overwhelming task at times. We Latter-day Saint parents take the Lord’s commands and counsels regarding teaching our children seriously.
Most of us have practically memorized the part of the Family Proclamation that says: “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wivesmothers and fatherswill be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).
Then there’s this scripture that is metaphorically engraved on the inside of our eyelids, and definitely into our minds, as it should be: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. . . . And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:25 & 28).
We get it. We want to be so effective in our teaching that our children also “get it”. We want the teachings of the gospel to dwell in their hearts and guide them in their minds so that when these temptations come they will have the power to resist them.
Help from the scriptures
With this in mind it seemed like a good idea to look into the scriptures and see how faithful parents did the job in days gone by. What was their formula? Let’s examine a few cases and see if we can discover some clues from these sacred records.
We are all familiar with the story of the Book of Mormon prophet Alma. Put yourselves in his shoes for a minute. Here he was, the prophet, and his son, his namesake, along with his friends, the sons of Mosiah, was going about tearing down the church and doing all kinds of mischief to turn the hearts of the people away from the church. He wasn’t just sneaking out having a beer behind his father’s back, not that this isn’t serious. Alma had gone far beyond that. He was blatantly rebelling against all the teachings of his father and the Church. We can only imagine the heartache and anguish this caused his parents.
To set the stage, let’s review exactly what this disobedient son was doing. In Mosiah 27:8 & 9 we read, “Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.
“And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.”
You know the story well, how an angel of the Lord appeared to these trouble-making sons, and chastised them: “and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood; And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, . . .” (Mosiah 27: 11-12).
Why did an angel appear to them in such an astonishing way? Here’s why: “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith (Mosiah 27:14, italics added).
There is no doubt that Alma’s prayers for his son were also offered fervently by his wife, the son’s mother. She would have been deeply concerned about what was going on. Someday we may have the opportunity to see how she mourned over his behavior and prayed without ceasing, along with her husband, for the Lord to intervene and save their son.
The prayers of these parents were answered. Every faithful parent who cries out in faith will received the Lord’s help. Probably not in such a dramatic way, but maybe. The Spirit world is filled with our departed loved ones who care deeply about their posterity. They may well be given the chance to visit our struggling children and cause them to repent. It may be in a dream, or an actual appearance.
Why not ask for the help you need when you’re dealing with children who are teetering on the edge. The apostle James said, “. . . ye have not because ye ask not” (James 4:2). Maybe we need to be more determined, more direct in what we ask of the Lord when we’re seeking help with our children. Maybe we need to be more diligent in teaching them the word of God so they will recognize truth when their minds are pricked by the Spirit. It need not be an angel that comes to them, but it can certainly be an experience that can have the power to change their hearts.
President Eyring told a story that shows how mindful the Lord is of our children and how he answers the prayers of parents through other faithful saints. He said, ” I received a phone call from a distraught mother in a state far away from where I was. She told me that her unmarried daughter had moved to another city far from her home. She sensed from the little contact she had with her daughter that something was terribly wrong. The mother feared for the moral safety of her daughter. She pleaded with me to help her daughter.
“I found out who the daughter’s home teacher was. I called him. He was young. And yet he and his companion both had been awakened in the night with not only concern for the girl but with inspiration that she was about to make choices that would bring sadness and misery. With only the inspiration of the Spirit, they went to see her. She did not at first want to tell them anything about her situation. They pleaded with her to repent and to choose to follow the path the Lord had set out for her and that her mother and father had taught her to follow.
She realized as she listened that the only way they could have known what they knew about her life was from God. A mother’s prayer had gone to Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost had been sent to home teachers with an errand.” The faith of this mother brought about a miracle in her behalf. (“Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times” CES Fireside for Young Adults September 10, 2006 Elder Henry B. Eyring)
While we may not know what happens as a result of all our prayers, we do know the outcome of Alma’s prayer for his son. He repented and became a mighty man of the Lord, serving Him for the remainder of his days. It’s safe to say that the early teachings of his father laid the foundation. He had something to return to. That’s what we parents do. We lay the foundation and then pray with all our might that these teachings will penetrate the hearts of our children.
How Alma the younger teaches his sons
Now let’s look at how this repentant Alma taught his own children many years later. Some of the most heartwarming stories in scripture are the chapters in the book of Alma that tell of his personal conversations with his sons. When we read them we can feel his love for them and learn how to teach through his example.
Here’s what he did. Notice in chapter 36 when he’s speaking to his son Helaman he makes him a promise. Right off the bat, in verse 1, he says, “My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.”
Then he testifies to him, “And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. And I would not that ye think that I know of myselfnot of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind but of God (Alma 36:3-4).
Share your conversion story
From there he goes into detail about how he was converted and testifies of the joy the knowledge of Christ brought to him. “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
“Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (Mosiah 36: 20-21).
There is great power in sharing our own conversion story with our children. Tell them your personal spiritual experiences. They don’t have to be as dramatic as Alma’s was, but they can be every bit as powerful. The testimonies of our own parents run deep in our hearts even though they departed this earthy life many years ago. Nothing is more important for your children to hear than you bearing a sincere testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.
In chapter 37 Alma continues to testify to his son Helaman, repeating again and again of how important it is to keep the commandments of God. Read this chapter with eyes to see how he taught this principle to his son. This is where he gave this heartfelt admonition: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.”
Teach with sincerity and frankness
Imagine the scene of Alma with his son. He repeats his name as he teaches these important principles. It’s almost as though we can see him sitting near his son, looking into his eyes, and saying these words of counsel with all the love and testimony he can muster. This was not a casual conversation. This was well thought out and filled with the Spirit. You can feel the trust he had in his son as you read his counsel to him.
We learn an important teaching principle as we read the next chapter as he talks with his son Shiblon. He must have been very pleased with this son as well. He said, “I say unto you, my son, that I have had great joy in thee already, because of thy faithfulness and thy diligence, and thy patience and thy long-suffering among the people of the Zoramites (Mosiah 38:3).
There’s a clue for parents. Praise your children. Let them know that you are noticing their righteousness and that you are pleased with them.
Then comes Alma’s biggest challenge. His son Corianton, who had been involved in sexual sin. And on his mission! Oh, my. Think of the sorrow and concern that brought to his father. Read and see how patient and loving he was with him, even in his sinful state. However, he didn’t sugar coat the seriousness of his sin. “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost? . . . Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things” (Mosiah 39:5 & 9).
Then in the next four chapters he teaches him the plan of salvation in exactness. We learn from this the importance of teaching the doctrine, and doing it with love and certainty. He then held out hope for his son. He taught him the principle of repentance and expressed faith in his ability to go forth and make things right. The story confirms that he did repent and served an honorable mission. We can learn a lot about parenting from Alma, the younger, and his father.
Enos and his father
That brings us to Enos. This short one chapter book gives a mighty lesson on parenting, and in such few words. We don’t know much about this young man’s father, but we learn one very important thing as we read his account. It appears that Enos was troubled over sins he had committed. We don’t know the seriousness of them, but we know he was very troubled by them.
Before he gets into his personal struggle in seeking help from the Lord, he clearly lets us know of the gratitude he had for his father.
He said, “Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just manfor he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lordand blessed be the name of my God for it
“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart” Enos 1:1-3).
He believed the words of his father. They gave him the courage to plead for forgiveness of his sins. This is a touching story of a young man who received a confirmation that his sins were forgiven. It’s worth reading again to see the process he went through. The point we’re making here is that this never would have happened had his father not taught him the doctrine of Christ and repentance. It had “sunk deep into [his] heart.”
We never know at what point the teachings we give our children will penetrate their minds at just the right moment. All those family home evening lessons, those family scripture times when you bear witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon, all those family prayers when your children heard you pleading for their safety and faithfulness will pay off. You will most likely not know that moment when it happens in their lives, but it will happen. As long as the teaching is done in a spirit of love and testimony.
The 2,000 stripling warriors
There are many other scripture examples we could discuss, but for now we will skip to the last: The 2,000 stripling warriors and their parents. These young warriors were witnesses to the conversion of their fathers and knew of their fathers’ determination to keep their covenants with the Lord. What an example these fathers were. And then their mothers these devoted, faithful mothers taught their sons (and surely their daughters as well) with a power so real that they could not deny it. In fact, it was the teachings of their mothers that gave them the foundation of faith that protected them in deadly battles to defend their country. “Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21).
Helaman reported about their miraculous faith when he wrote to Moroni regarding the state of the war. “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:47-48, italics added).
Try to picture in your mind the many times these devoted mothers took advantage of opportunities to teach these young men about God. Was it around the dinner table? Was it as they tucked them into bed when they were young? Was it as they went about doing their daily chores? Was it as she prepared them for Sabbath day observance? Was it when they heard their mothers pray for them in family prayer as they expressed gratitude to God for the blessings of the gospel? It’s a pretty safe guess that these mothers used every precious opportunity to fortify their sons and daughters and strengthen their faith. They lived in troubled times, as do we.
We must do likewise
Can we do any less for our children? Of course not. We are preparing them for battles that pale in comparison to those on the battle field of wars, though they may have those, too.
If we as parents pray with all our hearts for guidance in teaching our children, the Lord will bless our efforts. As we study the scriptures and learn His ways, we will be prepared to teach and lead our children safely back to Him. As we live true to our covenants they will see what it means to be faithful. Our teachings and example will bless our children and our grandchildren.
We conclude with the comforting words of Elder Robert D. Hales: “Parents are never failures when they do their best to love, teach, pray, and care for their children. Their faith, prayers, and efforts will be consecrated to the good of their children”(Gen. Conf. April 2004).
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