Thursday, May 10, 2012

Teaching Our Children to Understand

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Teaching Our Children to Understand, by Cheryl A. Esplin
Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

As full-time missionaries, we would sometimes visit families who had stopped coming to church but who had children who were eligible for baptism. These could be great opportunities to show love to a whole family and help them come back to church. However, I met some missionaries who used a scripture to get the "job" done quickly:

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 (D&C 68:25).

These manipulative missionaries, more concerned for numbers than in being representatives of Christ, would pressure parents with the "sin be upon the head of the parents" line to quickly get the child into the waters of baptism. Too often, these families did come back to church, but only for the baptism and they were not seen in meetings afterward.

I once asked one of these less-effective missionaries for advice on helping a family come back to church. Their response was, "All you need is 68:25; make the parents feel guilty and move on."

Intrigued, and quite disgusted, I read the scripture I quoted above. The part that stood out to me was that I needed to help others "understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost." Doing this helped families come back to church, and more than for one event!

Sister Esplin likewise focused on the understanding portion of the scripture; she didn't even mention the "sin be upon the heads" part. She taught about creating "an atmosphere where our children can feel the influence of the Spirit and then recognize what they are feeling," about teaching spontaneously, and emphasized the importance of being examples.

We had a touching experience with this recently: after arriving home from her grandmother's funeral, my wife was telling our family about the tender experiences she had during the services that warmed her heart. Suddenly, we realized that our six-yr-old daughter had tears streaming down her cheeks. While her older brother asked, "What's wrong," we knew that she was experiencing the powerful feelings of the Holy Ghost. The narrative was paused as we helped all of our children feel and recognize the influence of the Spirit. It only took a few seconds, but it helped us all to share something meaningful together and hopefully cement a useful understanding for the future.

As I read Sister Esplin's talk, I thought of a song. No, it wasn't "I Am a Child of God," like she quoted at the end of her talk, but a song by Taylor Swift, "Never Grow Up."

We borrowed the Speak Now album from the library and I put it on last evening as we were cleaning up before bedtime. I was having an especially great time watching my one-yr-old bounce and dance around each time I put him on the floor. My wife asked about "Never Grow Up," so we did. Sure, no one cried or had a recognize-the-Holy-Ghost moment as we listened to the song, but we did dance a bit (a little slower than before) and give big hugs and kisses to our growing-like-weeds brood.

I love many things about having small children. As much as I would love for them to never grow up, I know that they will. Probably sooner than I think! In our family we try to have fun together, and part of our fun routine is helping each other "understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost."

It's great: we have lots of fun and an all-around good time! And my wife and I don't have to worry about any sins being on our heads. Except for our own.

Well, mostly mine, because my wife is mostly perfect.

Here's the "Never Grow Up" video if you're curious:

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