With General Conference a few days away, let’s think seriously about our testimonies and just how we might strengthen our family against the evils in the world. “Brethren [and sisters], we need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord.” (President Nelson April 2019 General Conference)
Just as we have a plan to become temporally prepared, we should all have a strategy for ourselves and our family to become spiritually self-reliant. Will our spiritual preparedness also weather the storms that come in our lives? Just as temporal preparedness does not have to be difficult, spiritual preparedness can also be manageable and even simple. Temporal preparedness requires considering the needs of each individual in the family. Spiritual preparedness is the same. It requires considering the needs of each family member. Because this is true, I asked family and friends what they do to help strengthen their children.
A niece shared: “We are not doing anything amazing – just the basics: reading scriptures as a family, family prayer, and attending church.”
While these are basics, doing them consistently can have amazing results.
General Conference another basic:
“We make a special effort to watch all the sessions of General Conference together, and to listen to the words of our current prophet and apostles. “
Another said “We make General Conference watching fun and a priority.”
Yes, making conference fun also makes conference memorable and a time to look forward to.
Our family had several traditions surrounding General Conference helping to make it a time our family looked forward to. Our traditional breakfast, fruit, juice, breakfast casserole, apple bread and turnovers. We grazed as we watched. Another of our traditions was to invite others to our home to watch with us. We had an older couple join us for years. They became surrogate grandparents. It now feels strange if we are watching alone.
Come Follow Me, one thing everyone mentioned
Home is the primary place children learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be a theologian to teach your child about God. Our bishops, general authorities, mission presidents, apostles, relief society presidents, the vast majority of them do not have degrees or credentials in theology. We do have helps available in the form of hymns, church publications, videos, and of course the scriptures and Come Follow Me, to teach in our homes.
“We are diligent about studying the scriptures together with Come Follow Me”
“Recently we have started doing Come Follow Me with just one parent and a child on different weeknights instead of as a whole family. We are still working out the kinks on that one and aren’t consistent yet.
Bravo! They are gearing their study to the needs of each child.
“Oh, and I really love that Come Follow Me App that Dad shared with all of us.”
Sometimes it’s easier to have a podcast playing in the background to help a child feel the spirit than to read or lecture.
“We are increasing our temple attendance as individuals and as a couple. And I include our names on the temple prayer roll as needed.”
Be sure to share your temple experiences and the importance of the prayer roll with your children.
“Parents can show their children the importance of the temple by worshipping in the temple and by sharing their testimonies of temple work. Even in areas where frequent temple attendance is not possible, parents can instill in their children the desire to attend the temple.
President Howard W. Hunter taught parents: Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord.” (Teens and Temple Covenants: Gary and Susan Carter)
“This week while in the temple doing sealings with Todd (her son who has just left to serve a mission in Chile) I had the thought that I need to have Jeanne (daughter) get involved with Family History. I think that Todd serving as a Family History Consultant is a huge reason why he loves the temple so much and we have been promised all sorts of blessing for our children through their involvement in Family History.”
“I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.
As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.” The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn Elder David A. Bednar.
A cousin related a tradition they have in their family. Each year she makes a Christmas ornament for all her siblings and their children. The ornament represents an event or memory of her parents. Another sister writes the story explaining the significance of the ornament. What a great way to create a family history and ignite a desire to learn more, turning the hearts of the children to their fathers.
“We take the many opportunities that come up in everyday conversation to share our testimonies of the Savior, and different gospel principles. Opportunities come up all the time.”
Along the same lines: “I think just finding little ways to bring the Gospel into everyday life discussions is also HUGE. Keeping that Gospel perspective in all things.”
I remember a time when a grandson looked and looked for a lost wallet. We discussed it and I told him he should pray about it. He went in his room and prayed. A short time later the wallet was found.
On another occasion I drove right to the spot where a hubcap from a vintage car had been lost weeks before. My son asked me how I knew where to go and my answer, “the Holy Ghost told me”. Just simple statements are all that is needed, not lectures or sermons.
Answer questions. Affirm your child’s exploration of their faith by providing age-appropriate answers. If your child’s question stumps you, help them find the answer. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know but let’s find the answer together”.
Set aside uninterrupted family time. This is the time to put away cell phones and devices. Spending time together allows children to open up and just chat. Chatting often leads to comfort when there is an issue they may otherwise be hesitant to discuss. If you need to schedule one on one time, take a child or grandchild to lunch, out for ice cream, shopping, for a drive, whatever gives you time to talk.
Point out tender mercies as they happen each day. Truly, “the Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).
My children often asked me how I got good at something. My answer was always the same, practice. If your child (or you) questions something remind them to practice.
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” Alma 23: 26
In other words, live as though you believe it and Heavenly Father, thru the Holy Ghost, will confirm the truthfulness of every aspect of doctrine.
“We also include our kids on service opportunities to help them focus more on their neighbor than on themselves.”
Another: “We participate in the Light the World Campaign.”
“We can come to know the Lord and trust Him as we serve others.” Trust in the Lord and Lean Not Bonnie H. Cordon
When I began Operation Christmas Ornaments it was meant to serve survivors of disasters, to bring them hope and to let them know they have not been forgotten. What has really happened is families, church groups and collections of friends have come together to create. As they have worked together, they have expressed a new appreciation and love for those they have worked with. Most reported they now have greater compassion for those they are serving, and their intention to continue serving, not only disaster survivors, but also those they have worked with. If you want your family to feel the Savior’s love for every one of us, teach them to serve.
Brigham Young promised: “More testimonies are obtained on the feet than on the knees.”
“We have always had minimal artwork in our house – like just family pics and kid artwork. But I’m ordering scripture quotes to hang so we can fill our house more with God’s words. My parents were really good about that and I have scriptures memorized from when they would include it in artwork and home decor.”
Visual reminders are amazingly effective at bringing the spirit. I was amazed when my children asked for a plaque we had hanging in our kitchen. It said “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” I had no idea the impact that had until they requested it. One child asked for the framed print of the Lord’s supper that hung in my grandmother’s room. So many of us are visual learners.
Share your testimony:
When our oldest grandson was ordained a deacon, I wanted him to have a reminder of the day and also to understand how we all felt about the gospel. I purchased a photo album and asked each family member to write down their testimony and/or experience with the priesthood. I printed out their responses and added them to the album. My hope was that as he got older and faced challenges, he would read our testimonies and understand the family’s commitment to the gospel and also our love for him.
Since we also have many granddaughters, I decided from that point on I would do the same for all the baptisms. I have expanded and now ask for testimonies and/or experiences with the Holy Ghost from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the family. It is still my hope when our grandchildren face difficult times, they will read their books and feel the spirit.
Share your testimony. Share your doubts and how you resolved them. Everyone has doubts. Children and even adults need to know doubts and questions are fine and even healthy. Teach them where and how to find the answers from reliable sources.
“I received a prompting in the temple for W and Elisabeth. They have yet to receive their blessings and are working on setting up their appointments. I reviewed my blessing a lot as a 15-year-old and beyond and it really helped me.”
“Have you ever wanted to know what the Lord would have you do with your life? Have you ever contemplated what you could do that would be of most worth to you? Have you pondered what life holds for you? If you have, you are not alone. It is a natural thing to wonder what is the purpose of your life and where it will take you. Our children have these feelings as well.
“The Bible shares that patriarchs, under inspiration and by the laying on of hands, revealed to certain persons the will of the Lord and what life had in store for them.” The Lord Blesses His Children through Patriarchal Blessings Elder Richard D. Allred
“Patriarchal blessings contemplate an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient. A patriarchal blessing also includes an inspired and prophetic statement of the life possibilities and mission of the recipient. It may include such blessings, promises, advice, admonitions, and warnings as the patriarch may be prompted to give. It should always be made clear that the realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness and the Lord’s will”” (Information and Suggestions for Patriarchs , 3–4).
“FSY was a huge blessing this year. Elisabeth cried for an entire day after being home. She really loved it.”
“FSY was the highlight of our girls’ summer. They really loved the spiritual day”.
I remember when I was asked to provide dinner for 450 Laurels and Priests for a regional activity. A boat had been rented to cruise San Francisco Bay for the evening. Since I was serving food at the dinner bar, I heard many conversations and even more as I wandered the decks following dinner. I heard the same sentiment over and over, “I can’t believe there are so many others who believe as I do”. FSY is an opportunity for kids to learn that there are others their age with similar challenges who have testimonies of the gospel.
“Family prayer is huge for us. Hearing your family pray for you is big.”
A few years ago, our ward adopted a “small and simple” challenge each month. They say doing something for 30 days establishes a habit. Our first challenge was to hold family prayer before leaving the house each morning for an entire month. We made signs to hang on the doorknob saying, “Did you think to pray?” to remind families as they left the house each morning. Moms began to tell me their children were now reminding them to pray each day. One mom related that her children would not leave until they had prayed. Another mom said her child would insist on praying in the car as they drove to school if they were running late and missed prayer that morning. When we pray for family members by name, it gives them the confidence to face that exam or reminds them they have a support group who will always be there for them, mom, dad, siblings and Heavenly Father.
Make Sunday a Sacred Day
“We try to make Sunday a sacred day through music, good food and quiet time….we try to keep the TV off on Sundays.”
“On the Sabbath the kids don’t play with friends, it’s a family day. We refuse invitations to go out to eat or boating with family who are not members or who are inactive.”
Do you remember the Primary song Saturday?
Saturday is a special day.
It’s the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won’t have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes, and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work-done day.
Then we trim our nails, and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday.
“I had a lot of faith in those (father’s blessings) as a youth.”
“I felt a real emptiness now that I’m divorced and the kids don’t have a faithful dad to give them blessings. I’m glad for a great ministering brother and my father and brothers to fill the void.”
“A priesthood blessing each year when school started was something I looked forward to”
“We have devoted people around our children so it’s not just us.”
“We know all our kids’ friends and their parents and we invite them to our house. The kids invite them to activities and their baptisms.”
There will be many who influence our children. Choose to have your family surrounded by likeminded people. It takes a village, choose the members of your village. I am so grateful for the seminary, YM and YW leaders, Bishops and others who loved and guided my children. Don’t ever be jealous of those relationships, be thankful for them.
Celebrate the holidays
With Christmas coming soon, one last thing, celebrate the Savior’s birth, not Santa and all the hype. Santa and all the glittery lights are great but how many nativities do you have? How many pictures of the Savior’s birth do you have? What percentage of the Christmas music you play is of a religious nature?
Easter is not about bunnies and chocolates. Do you have pictures of the resurrection or models of the empty tomb? Do you play Easter hymns?
When our kids see our devotion to the Savior and commitment to follow Him it bolsters theirs. You can’t fake this, at least not with those who see you day in and day out. When our children see us humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness when we fail, follow Christ as we live our life, and feel our unconditional love for them, their love for you and their devotion to the gospel is strengthened.
Carolyn is always available to answer questions and share tips at Totallyready.com and on Facebook. For those wanting information or to participate creating Christmas ornaments for disaster survivors visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook and on Carolyn’s blog.
Catch Carolyn on Annette on America:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kLaXgPacxE (school safety)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrFKyecixeo (prepping for blackouts and civil unrest)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO_XUJMC008 (prepping for recession)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjtEdX0h2OA&t=2507s (prepping for inflation)