“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” -Hosea 11:1
The greatest example was and is Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, when children were brought to Him to be blessed, his disciples try to turn the children away. The Savior rebukes them telling them saying: “Permit the little children and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19: 14).
Likewise, when the Savior came to the peoples of the Book of Mormon He “commanded that their little children should be brought” to him (3 Nephi 8:12 RAV/17:11 OPV). Then he blessed them and prayed with them. We can see and know by his example how important children are.
Pondering on this topic, I came up with 5 points on setting a good example for our children.
1. Love Our Children
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” –Psalms 127:3-4
We should take joy in our children—love them, and make time for them. Learn what is important to them, make it important to us. Relate to them, for the scriptures tell us that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We should learn from our children with patience and long suffering just as they should be learning from us.
Time is so valuable. It is such a precious commodity that we trade it for money. Our economy is made up as much as it is our time we trade for dollars. But no monetary value can be given that would equate to the time we spend with our children and our families. They are our greatest commodities. We should never forget this. Brothers and sisters, I implore you to make time for your children. When you do, to see themselves more as the precious gifts that they truly are. Teach them, play with them—love them.
2. Show Our Children that we Love the Lord
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells Joseph Smith that the revelations are given to him so that we “may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.” (DaC 90:3b CoC/93:19 CJCLdS)
It is important that we instill this understanding in our children. They should see God’s light in our countenance. When we look at others, our children should see HOW we see them—as children of our Heavenly Parents. They should see in us our love for all mankind, our desire to help and to serve.
The Savior has admonished us to “Pray in [our] families unto the Father, always in [His] name, that [our] wives and [our] children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 8:52 RAV/18:21 OPV). Conversational prayers should be deep, meaningful conversations calling upon the Lord seeking the will of the Father, speaking to Him as both a Father and as a friend. Other prayers should be recited in ways that deepen our connection wit the divine. Scripture study should be a diligent search for the Lord’s will with examples of Him working in our lives. Miracles should be pointed out and identified so our children know to see and to seek the Lord in their own lives.
As a child, my parents had me recite the Lord’s prayer. Gradually they had me replace what the Savior said with my own words. This was a great example. Both reciting written prayers and speaking to God one-on-one helped me build a lasting relationship with God as an actual being, rather than an abstract notion. However, my greatest example of prayer was listening to my parents pray.
Likewise, when I needed priesthood blessings, as a child my faith was not yet in Christ, but in my own human father. I didn’t fully understand where the power came from. I just knew that if I was sick, my father could lay his hands on my head and pray over me and I would be healed. Seeing him fasting, praying, building his relationship with the Lord let me know I needed a relationship with the Lord of my own.
3. Love Our Spouses
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Ephesians 5: 25
Through Jacob, in the Book of Mormon, polygamy was ended for the Nephties; not because polygamy is a sin, but because the way the men were treating their wives was a sin. This goes for both men and women. When we honor our spouses, we honor our covenants with God as disciples. As ministers, honoring our spouses honors our priesthood. This is one of the greatest examples we can set for our children. Our sons and daughters should learn from us to respect and cherish their husbands or wives, as they see their parents respect and cherish each other.
Likewise, what example do men set for their daughters and mothers set for their sons? Our daughters will seek men like their fathers. Our sons will seek women like their mothers. And our LGBTQ children will seek spouses like their parents. If we want our children to marry well we must ensure our spouses married well.
4. Honor Our Discipleships and Ministries
“Whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit” – DaC 83:6c CoC/84:33 CJCLdS
Our call from Christ to be disciples and ministers should be done in a way that teaches our children the importance of doing the Lord’s work. If we see our call as a chore to be completed or as something done merely to mark something off a check list, our children won’t understand the importance of their own call to Christ. All things should be done in a way that makes time for our families and teaches them that the Lord has a place in their family life.
Seeing my father fulfilling his callings dutifully, doing his home teaching—even going with him at times—helped me to learn the importance of doing the work of the Lord. My father worked in the clerks office for the denomination I grew up in. This kept us at church for an extra hour—sometimes more. Living about 45 minutes away from our congregation meant for very long Sundays. As children, we complained. But he never complained. He explained to us how important it was to fulfill our duties to the Lord to the best of our abilities.
If time and opportunity permits, parents should take their children out when ministering. The work they see us do will one day be their work to do. Be sure they understand it is the Lord’s work and that as priesthood holders we, and eventually they, will represent the Lord as his holy angels when we are about our heavenly father’s business.
5. Teach Our Children All Things in Righteousness
The Book of Mormon opens with Nephi telling us in his own words, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1). Lehi was clearly keeping the commandment found in Deuteronomy:
“Ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” –Deuteronomy 11:19
The example to teach our children came from Adam and Eve. Their “children were taught to read and write” (Moses 6:6/Genesis 6:6 JST/IV). And even today the Lord has commanded us “to bring up [our] children in light and truth.” (DaC 90:6d CoC/93:40 CJCLdS). The Lord gave the original Church of Chrsit established by Joseph Smith Jr. in this dispensation a commandment “to do the work of printing, and of selecting and writing books for schools in this church, that little children also may receive instruction” (DaC 55:2a CoC/58:4 CJCLdS).
It is the Lord’s will the we learn, and who better to teach children than parents? We should take full advantage of state schools and every opportunity we can offer our children, yet we must never forget that learning begins in the home. The Lord has warned us that there will be consequences if we do NOT teach our children, pointing and leading them in the right path.
“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 (teshuvah), 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” –DaC 68:4a CoC/68:25 CJCLdS
In our modern society, parents seem intent on blaming teachers when students do poorly. And it is true that it is their job to teach. But this is not their job alone. We must help public teachers teach our children the math and science they need to learn, and be the primary source of religious education for our children. And, we should support leaders willing to fund and support education.
The state shouldn’t be relied of for everything. There is a growing movement in the United States to teach religion in schools. This is a tool the devil would use to give parents false security, a belief that the burden of religious education should be on the state. Not only is this idea unconstitutional, but who better to invite children to Christ than parents?
We should echo the sentiment of John when he said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).