Today’s society is all about my rights. Little is said about my responsibilities, but a lot about my rights. I would like to focus today about not just my responsibilities, but our responsibilities, as parents to teach the gospel to our children.
(This article was originally published in LDSBlogs.com)
This is not one of those articles where I run the gambit and tell everyone what lousy parents they are for deliberately neglecting their children. I won’t tell you that you have been derelict or malicious or anything of the sort. If I did any of those things I would have to be looking in the mirror when I said them, and I’m not so comfortable with the subject as to put myself through that kind of guilt trip. Instead, I would like to take a short behavioral inventory of my own life as a parent. My children are all grown and out of the house, so I am in a perfect position to play a little game of Retrospect.
In this day and age in America we tend to look at all institutions outside our homes as being responsible for the influence they have on our family. Unfortunately, we rarely hold them accountable for the effects of their influence. Examples include the power many of us give the public school systems to teach our children about life, behavior, attitudes, and about the world. We take our children to movies sometimes, because we believe it has a good message. But I would whisper in your ear, “But what about all the other messages that same movie teaches about attitudes towards values we as Latter-day Saints don’t accept?” We ship our children off to a sitter, in many cases, so we can earn that second income and have a better standard of living. We don’t always require a second income, and the Prophet has told us to stay home to raise our children unless we cannot survive without that income. But many times we convince ourselves that the cable, the second car, the Internet speed boost, the nicer clothing, or even the private school, whatever it might be, are all, basically necessary for us to live, and breath, and be happy.
These are excuses we make to ourselves about how we live our lives, and often they come, not because we are bad people, but we believe these things are necessities because the world around us tells us they are, and, well, how would it look if we actually didn’t have those things? What would the neighbors say? How embarrassing. I wouldn’t be able to hold my head up in the grocery store. We are not necessarily trite, but sometimes our excuses sound a little bit so.
Words of the prophets
I am a man, so I will focus my remarks to the men, trusting that the women who read this will already have their heads on straight. After all, it is usually the men who need to catch up with the women in spiritual things, right? (There is a wink that should be inserted in here somewhere.) The quotes from this article all come from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My father was the most tender-hearted man I ever knew. … Among my fondest memories are the hours I have spent by his side discussing principles of the gospel and receiving instruction as only he could give it.
I am sorry to say that example did not exist in the home I was raised in. We were active in the Church. We all held callings from the time we were old enough to have them. But what would I have given for my father to bring up a gospel-centered topic for discussion? My father was active, in more than one Bishopric, etc. But I never really knew where he stood in the gospel. I had no doubts about my mother. Everything I ever learned about the Church and kingdom of God was from her. My father never really participated in any gospel conversations. He was just in the room when they happened. I never realized how odd this was until long after I had grown and left home.
What a powerful example it must have been for young Joseph Fielding Smith to see that a man, such as his father, one accepted of God, cherishing the principles of faith and virtue he also learned about at Church. Isn’t it magnificent that he learned those things at home before Church taught it to him?
Brethren, how willing are you to let your children see you moved by the power of the Spirit or by tender feelings? When was the last time your children (or wife) saw you physically moved by someone else’s sorrows? What exactly are you teaching your children about the power of a man to be both strong and tender?
We cannot control which moments our children will remember when they grow up, but most of what they will remember are those moments that were most meaningful to them. What is important to your children? Do we read to them? I read to my children all the time. We read the cartoon scripture stories from the Church until the covers fell off, but when they got older one of them told me she was sad that I never taught her the stories of the Old Testament. I nearly fell over. Yet they all remember me reading the stories to them from some of the children’s books that meant a lot to me as a child. Perhaps that says something about how I approached the gospel back then.
He taught us at the breakfast table as he told us stories from the scriptures, and had the ability to make each one sound new and exciting though we had heard it many times before. The suspense I felt wondering if Pharaoh’s soldiers would find the gold cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain is real even today. We learned about Joseph Smith finding the plates of gold, and the visit of the Father and the Son. We walked past the [Salt Lake] Temple on the way to school and he told us about the Angel Moroni … He taught us by the things he prayed for in our family prayers when we knelt by our chairs before breakfast and again at dinner time. …
I’m not saying that we all need to learn to be storytellers, but what others remember about us comes from what we have the most passion for. The genuine concern for a topic makes a big difference in how a story is delivered. If we are bored with a story, we can’t expect our children to find it exciting.
The first duty pertaining to the training of the children of the Church belongs in the home.
We all have busy schedules, but we need to remind ourselves from time to time that when we accept the responsibility of having a child, we also accept the responsibility from God to train up that soul in the way he/she should go. We will answer to the Lord for how seriously we take that responsibility. The Church is a resource. The public schools are a resource. Unfortunately, the sitter is sometimes a necessary resource. Our children should be hearing about life, eternity, sharing, good behavior, the Savior’s love, forgiveness, and all things the Lord loves from us, before they hear it from someone else. No one else can do the kind of job raising that child the parent can do.
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