And Great Shall Be the Peace of Your Children

And Great Shall Be the Peace of Your Children

In the fall, I gave a talk in Stake Conference on teaching children, (especially young children) how to study the scriptures. 

 

Rose Park North Stake Conference, October 17, 2015

Laryssa Waldron

Good morning brothers and sisters. What a sacred privilege and honor it is for me to be with you for a few minutes today.

At the end of the Book of Mormon, father and son, Mormon and Moroni witness the decline and almost entire annihilation of their race. There are some gruesome scenes of terror, violence, and man’s inhumanity to man that they face and yet the two of them stay firm in the faith of Jesus Christ. Moroni tells us that “their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.” And then he boldly states, “And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ” (Moroni 1: 2-3).

How were they able to stay faithful at the worst of times? How did they stay true to their testimonies, even when their own lives were at stake?

May I submit that it was, at least in large measure, due to their callings as witnesses and historians. They spent many hours daily in the revelations of God – abridging, recording, and translating them, hoping that someday their records would benefit total strangers and even the posterity of those that were trying to take their lives. Every day, the word of God must have fortified their souls, even when the ferocity of brutal carnage was, as Mormon puts it, “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations [that had] been before [his] eyes ever since [he was old enough to understand] the ways of man” (Mormon 2:18).

This state of wickedness, unfortunately is not unusual to that time. Throughout the history of mankind there have been multiple periods when mankind has rejected and turned away from God.  Then God would set up a new dispensation in which a prophet would be called who had the holy priesthood, keys, and a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth. Through all of these times, the prophets looked forward to two events – 1) the birth, atonement, death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ, and 2) the dispensation of the fullness of times – the last restoration of priesthood, authority, keys, and missionary work. A time when the gospel would not be taken from the earth again and the people would prepare the earth and also be prepared to welcome the Savior to His millennial reign.  Which is a joyful thought, but it also comes at a very wicked time, a time called in scripture “the latter days” … our day.

Listen to these words that confirm this truth from President Russell M. Nelson from conference just two weeks ago  –

“Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women [and men] who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. President Russel M. Nelson, A Plea to My Sisters, General Conference, October 2015.

Like Mormon and Moroni, we need to have a group of people who remain strong in their testimonies, however this time instead of physical battles; it is during some of the worst spiritual battles the earth has ever known.  When many (even some of our own) will “call evil good, and good evil;” and will “put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).  How will our children know truth in the midst of such confusion? It is our sacred duty as parents, grandparents, and teachers to teach our children not only to LOVE the scriptures (as many of them do) but to understand and live them so that Satan will not have power over their hearts as is prophesied in 1 Nephi 22:15.

Our children cannot know right and wrong without us teaching them. They cannot know who the Savior is simply by our hoping that “somehow they’ll figure it all out.” They will not have spiritual experiences unless we teach them who they are, who God is, and how to approach Him and ask for those sacred blessings (Doc. & Cov. 93:19).

In Doctrine and Covenants section 93, the Lord chastises Joseph Smith, Jr., Frederick G. Williams, and Sidney Rigdon, (the first presidency at the time) because they had not been teaching their children “light and truth.” “Light and truth” they are told “forsake that evil one” and “that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience … and because of the tradition of their fathers.”

How will our children to have enough light and truth so that they will forsake the evil one? We teach them.

In the topical guide, there are 31 scriptures listed under “Children, responsibilities toward” and the vast majority urges parents to teach children the word of God through the scriptures. May I share three ideas that will help in our quest to teach the gospel using the scriptures?

  1. Teach the doctrine simply and plainly whenever you can –

When children are taught gospel doctrines simply and plainly, they will change. Let me share  a story that illustrates this. A few years ago, I went to pick up my daughter from her second grade class. As I walked up to the door, I saw a little boy hit my daughter’s friend in the face. No teacher was there to help, and after making sure that the girl was okay, I sat the boy down and taught him a doctrine from the Proclamation to the World on the Family. I told him that his job as a man was to protect girls and women, that he was never to hit one again, and that if he took on his role to protect them that they would always love and respect him. After that moment, every time I saw him that year, he would run up to me and say, “I’m doing what you told me to, I’m protecting women” and then he would go on to tell me about a time when he stopped his friends from chasing the girls or something similar.

Now, I didn’t know all of the background of this little boy, but I did know something about who he is, he is a spirit son of Heavenly Father and he chose to follow the Savior in the pre-earth life. True doctrine, taught in love, by the Holy Ghost has the power to change lives. Hopefully (now four years later) that little boy has not had that piece of “light and truth” taken out of his heart by disobedience, or worse for children, by the traditions and examples of his fathers (meaning the male figures in his life).

  1. Teach the scriptures consistently in daily devotionals and with questions and discussions, not just reading –

Teaching children to read out of the scriptures can be a monumental task. It is easy to find excuses and reasons not to, but like everything worthwhile in life, consistency and training will pay great rewards. Please note that I give the following simply as ideas to help the Holy Ghost springboard personalized revelation of how you can implement scripture study into your own family and circumstances.

When my children were very young (before they could read) I read the scriptures to them

183040_NT_Stories_Beg_Reader

Scripture Stories for Children can be read online or purchased at low costs.

out of the scripture stories for children. These can be found online at lds.org or purchased at the distribution center in many languages for under $10 each. We read out of them every night beginning with the Old Testament, New Testament, then the Book of Mormon and finished with the Doctrine in Covenants. This did two things, it taught an overview of the scriptures and it gave a consistency to our scripture reading (they knew that every night before bed, we would read and pray).

As we got to the final scripture story book, I found that asking questions was essential in making sure that they understood what they were learning. For example, in teaching about the first vision I could ask questions like, “What did Joseph Smith go into the grove to do?” That would help me learn whether or not they understood the story line. At some point, they would discuss the fact that Joseph went to seek an answer to prayer (if not, I could point that out to them). Fact finding questions can be very helpful and necessary questions, but it’s even more important to connect scripture with their experience.

Asking connecting questions like, “Have you ever had a time that you wanted the Lord to answer a question for you? Tell me about it?” will give them these connecting opportunities and allow for beautiful moments of testimony.

Finally, to help them apply the teaching into their lives, I could ask something like, “Will you think of a question that you would like the Lord to answer?” and then testify that if they will search out the answer from Him, that they will find it. With experience and follow through at our daily devotionals, I can gauge how my children (or grandchildren, or students, as the case may be) are internalizing gospel truths. It adds to deeper learning and shared family experiences.

After we finished all of the scripture stories, (again, before my children had learned to read) I read the scriptures to them and they would repeat the words and phrases. That continued the consistency of daily study, but also introduced them to the beautiful (and challenging) language of the scriptures. As the children got older we begin reading together as a family, but always, we continue to discuss what we are reading and how it applies to our lives.

Even the very young children can relate their few precious life experiences to the gospel. Last week, in Primary we talked about times when they had scary experiences and needed to talk to Heavenly Father in prayer to help change the thoughts in their heads. After thinking about it for a while (and long after the conversation was over), a sunbeam [aged 3-4] wanted to share her experiences of being scared in the night. Sharing time was due to end and so I asked her to wait until after the closing song and prayer. Then she told me about waking from a scary dream and we discussed that the next time it happened she could pray and ask Heavenly Father to give her peace and comfort.

It is so important to have frequent conversations with your children about the gospel. Listen to the command of the Lord –

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul … And 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.

“And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20, 22).

And then the scriptures go on to promise that if we teach and speak with our children about the gospel that we will have many mighty blessings, some of which are that we will not be deceived by falsehoods [teachings, people, ways, patterns of living], and that our days and the days of our children will be multiplied in the land.

President Benson (13th President of the Church) said that youth who participate in daily family devotionals [prayer and scripture study] will have hearts that are freed from evil intentions and will be the restraining influence in a group when temptations arise (President Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 2: Pray Always, (2014), 46–57).

Now, I know some of you may be saying, “It’s too late, my family is already grown.” But take the advice of Elder Foster from last conference who taught, “It’s never too early and it’s never too late” (Elder Bradly D. Foster, General Conference, October 2015). Text, Facebook message, or call your children and grandchildren. Share a scripture that you have been studying and your testimony, do it often. Teach, testify, and talk with them.

Some of you may be saying, “It’s hopeless, I don’t know, can’t learn, and don’t understand the scriptures. My kids will just have to learn it at Church or at Seminary.” To you, my dear brother or sister, may I testify that you know enough to start (see Elder Neil L. Anderson, You Know Enough, General Conference, October 2008).   You are here, aren’t you? You chose to follow the Savior before you came to earth, and you are a covenant child of God. You have access to the Holy Ghost who can “teach you all things” and “bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). Have faith in the Lord’s faith in you. You are part of the chosen generation, just as the youth are. At this age and stage, your responsibilities are different than they were when you were a youth, but you are still chosen. You will learn, you are able to do it, you have been chosen, it is prophesied that you will do it, and you must do it! Who better to prepare your children for their future gospel responsibilities and experiences than you? Your children are counting on you. The Lord is counting on you and He will not fail to help you.

Go to lds.org. Read the seminary and institute teacher manuals ahead of when you are going to share them with your family, even if you are a chapter ahead of them. Find out what the scriptures mean! Petition the Lord for help in this, your greatest calling, being a mother or father.

  1. Don’t just preach! We must allow our children to have their own experiences with the Holy Ghost who will lead them to the Savior.

A few months ago, my seven-year-old daughter was preparing a talk for primary and I decided to try some of the gospel teaching techniques that I had been learning with her. Her talk was on the Holy Ghost and so I sat her down at the kitchen table, we prayed, and then I asked her to read three verses about the Holy Ghost and write down what she thought they meant. Then, I asked her to write about how she could put those teachings into her life. When she excitedly called me back to her she started to tell me what she had learned. I went to stop her because clearly she hadn’t understood the main point of the verses – that the Holy Ghost would speak in her mind and heart – but I felt the Spirit hold me back. She’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn more about those verses, Laryssa, listen to what I taught her, was the impression that I got. She told me that from the verses she learned that even though she was only seven; she could have the Holy Ghost in her life, giving her promptings and encouragement. Yes! That was much more important than what I was going to teach her at that moment.

I know that teaching children, even young children the gospel out of the scriptures will work. I’ve been teaching the scriptures with your teenagers in Seminary and I’ve been teaching your children out of the scriptures in Primary. We are all capable of understanding and doing much, much more with the gospel. Let us have faith in our children, faith in ourselves, and faith in the Lord who was the one that gave the commandment to teach our children the gospel through daily scripture study. Let us, even in times of peril like Mormon and Moroni  raise a “sin-free generation”, “a peculiar treasure … a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5) that will be ready to greet the Savior at His second coming which, given the state of the world, looks to be closer every day.  May we capture the promise of the Lord given through Isaiah, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13). This is my prayer. My testimony is that the gospel is true and that the Savior lives and loves us. I close in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 


 

Notes: *Photo 1: courtesy of LDS.org, Congo Priesthood Father; *Photo 2: picture of Children Scripture Stories, the author of this article does not receive any monetary remuneration for this, it is simply presented as an option.

 

 

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For Mother’s Day – Love your daughter’s Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just found a beautiful message for this holiday, based on a talk by Elaine Dalton.

Here is the transcript of the entire talk, and one of the quotes that I love the most –

You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian. (Love Her Mother, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, General Conference, October 2011)

Mormon Messages Channel

When I was young, my Dad had a projector that he would haul out for FHE (as I mentioned in the previous post).  We watched shows like;

  • Man’s Search for Happiness
  • Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts
  • One
  • Johnny Lingo
  • The First Vision
  • The Restoration

I loved them.  Each one had a profound effect on me.

For example, in Worthy Music Worthy Thoughts, then Elder Boyd K. Packer talked about our minds being a stage and that thoughts were players on that stage.  If we didn’t want certain thoughts to be on that stage, then all that we needed to do was to banish those players and put new, good thoughts on stage.  He stated that we are the ones in control of what is played out on the stage of our minds.  That idea was brilliant, and has helped me through out my life.

The problem is, there is no projector now that I am raising my own kids (plus, I’m sure that the films are quite out-dated).  How do I give them the rich, gospel, media experience that I treasured?

Enter, youtube – the LDS page with Mormon Messages.  I have an app on my phone for The Mormon Channel, and it comes with those Mormon Messages Videos available on the phone.

On Sunday, my daughter (age 6) found those videos, and was mesmerized.

The one that she loved the most was this –

She watched it repeatedly, and then wanted me to watch it with her.

I’m not sure whether she was fascinated by the gospel teachings, or the desire never to wear flip-flops again. 🙂  Either way, I really believe that media is a powerful tool that can be used to teach these children (that are in a media-saturated society) ideas and principles that can help guide them.

Now, if only I can find the movie – The Phone Call.

Internet Safety For Our Youth

'J' getting her first taste of technology

My daughters are already learning their way around technology.  My five year old can connect to the internet and I have an account for her with some of her favorite little games (sesame street ABC’s, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) and my two year old is now trying to figure out how to send a text to her grandma.  🙂

So, in the midst of this unprecedented technological era, I’ve been worried about teaching, training and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting my babies.  I came across a fantastic article in BYU’s Alumni Magazine entitled, THE DANGEROUS DIGITAL VORTEX, with the byline; Savvy parents connect with their children to build powerful family firewalls.

The author interviewed BYU associate professor of computer science, Charles D. Knutson who stated; “Increasingly, technology is the air we breathe. … We have to acclimate our children and teach them and train them how to live in a world where that is their reality.”

The article pointed out that dangerous areas such as pornography and predators in chat rooms are not the only thing to worry about.  “Sexting”, cyber bullying, Facebook, video games, and even too much texting can be areas that, if left unchecked, can become major problems.  Prevention, and frank discussion is vital to training our children and youth.

Under a section entitled –  Internet Filters and Computers in the Kitchen Are Not Enough, the author stated;

Responsible parents know not to put a computer in a child’s bedroom, but Knutson has found that some don’t think twice about handing their son or daughter a cell phone with a browser, messaging, and a camera. “You give your kids iPhones and they have the entire world at their fingertips. They’re taking it to bed with them, and maybe they’re accessing porn or maybe they’re just up until 4 in the morning texting their friends.” Parents who do this “have an absolute disconnect” about what they’ve done.

The solution is for parents to keep up on the latest technologies. They must investigate thoroughly and put limits on any devices they buy. That means adding filters, disabling questionable features, and controlling access. Some parents keep custody of the devices; the children check them out when it’s agreed they’re needed and check them back in at specified times, such as during homework hours or bedtime.

I think that is SOOO important to remember.  Technology for teens is a privilege – NOT a right.  Just like driving the car.  We need to teach our children responsibility, and intelligence.

For example –

  • Texting language is not correct;  just because your friends type “thru” and “C U L8TR” doesn’t mean that it is accepted as proper English. (When one uses texting language in his/her college papers, it only makes that person look illiterate.  And, please don’t think it hasn’t happened, I have graded too many of these papers during my six years teaching on the college level.)
  • It’s important to have conversations.  The art of conversing will allow one to go far in life.  A lot further than those who only know how to text their thoughts and feelings.
  • There are many AMAZING activities in life that can be done without technology.  In order to learn those skills, one needs to unplug!

The author also states that not allowing any technology in the home is not a good idea.

Some parents are so terrified by the prospect of their children having access to the digital world that they “pull the plug”—they forbid any and all technology in their homes. “That solution creates a false sense of security,” says Knutson. “Your children still have access to computers at the library, at school, and at their friends’ houses. And they’re going to leave home. If they go to college, now they have a laptop for the very first time, and they’ve never had to contend with what that world looks like. It’s like tossing a kid into a swimming pool who’s never seen one before.”

Pulling the plug also denies children and families the positive connectivity of the digital world, which includes Church websites, General Conference, and valuable instruction of many kinds.

The most important thing to do is to make sure that families have good communication about the world in which they live.

Knutson says that when there’s emotional connection in the family, there’s a huge amount of protection. Add to that gospel teachings, and you have what amounts to a near firewall against harmful technology.

“I really believe that this is the fire this generation has to pass through,” says Knutson. “It’s the river of filthiness in Lehi’s dream. He said the iron rod was on the riverbank, so when you’re clinging to the rod, you’re very close to the river. It’s muddy, and you get splashed. But you can’t let go and move further from the filthiness. You’re where you’re supposed to be. It’s not your location that’s safe or unsafe—it’s how you behave despite your proximity to temptation. We cannot withdraw from the world but instead are called to be in it while we hold on to the scriptures, good parents, others who are godly, and, most of all, the Savior.”

You can read the entire article here.  Also, the BYU professor has a website dedicated to Internet Safety which can be found here.

 

The First Amendment in the Classroom; or Is it Constitutional to Teach about Religion?

I recently read a book called, Religious Literacy: What every American needs to know and doesn’t (Harper Collins, 2007), which I enjoyed very much.  It really made me ponder a lot of things and I wanted to share a few notes. 

The author, Stephen Prothero is chair of the religion department at Boston University, and he has authored many nonfiction books on religion  and writes many reviews and articles for various journals and newspapers.  He treats religious beliefs with a great deal of respect and he discusses the history and ideas that support his thesis in a very scholarly way.  His website can be found here.

The basic premise for the novel is (from his website):

Do you get tongue-tied when asked to name the Twelve Apostles? Do you think Adam’s wife was Joan of Arc? If so, join the crowd. The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of religious illiterates. Many Protestants can’t name the four Gospels, many Catholics can’t name the seven sacraments, and many Jews can’t name the first five books of the Bible. And yet politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed, or misinterpreted, by the vast majority of American citizens. This is in my view a major problem in contemporary civic life. “Religious Literacy,” … explores this problem, pinpointing key moments in U.S. history that spawned our current epidemic of religious illiteracy and offering practical solutions to remedy this problem, including mandatory religion courses in the public schools. The book also includes a Dictionary of Religious Literacy with key terms, beliefs, characters, and stories that every American needs to know in order to make sense of religiously inflected debates: from abortion and gay marriage to Islamic terrorism and the war in Iraq.

He begins by talking about a quiz that he made for his students (which can be found here if you’d like to take it) and proving that Americans fared very poorly on their knowledge of  things that they profess to believe.  (No small surprise there, simply because we live in a society of entertainment, and to become literate in Culture or Religion is usually only done if one is self-motivated.)

Prothero goes on to give the history of Religion in the USA and how it was the Believers and not the Atheists that led to the secularization of  American schools.  At the beginning of the public schools in the US, readers like Noah Webster’s Spellers, and the McGuffy Readers were pious schoolbooks and were slanted toward Protestant teachings.  Roman Catholics took opposition to these teachings in the schoolhouse (and rightly so, considering that many were aimed at teaching against Catholicism).

Now, I’m summing up a great deal of highly interesting information here, but eventually, the first amendment was invoked and religion began to take it’s place out of the schools and the responsibility for religious instruction fell largely on the American Home and the Sunday School.

Prothero then suggests a remedy  – which is to bring religious studies back into the Public School.  This of course, as a teacher, is the part that intrigued me the most.  His main premise is – Religious people make huge life decisions based on their beliefs.  Since most news stories are about religion (Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc) and many major political decisions are based on religion, then we need to do a better job of understanding faiths, our own and others.

But the question is, can we talk about religion in schools?  Is it Constitutional?  Many teachers are fearful to even mention the subject at all.

The answer, that the Supreme Court has given, is  – yes. It is Constitutional to teach about religion in the Public Schools.  WHAAAT??? 🙂

What is illegal is to teach “Sunday-school-style religious instruction” (Prothero, p.128) or in other words, a school teacher cannot proselytize his/her pupils into a religion, but s/he may teach about religion.

Prothero gives  five different quotes from Chief Justices that very clearly outline the Court’s decisions about teaching religion.  I will repeat those ideas here (more detail can be found on p.128-129 of this text or from the court rulings themselves).

  • Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson (McCollum v. Board of Education, 1948) –  “Music without sacred music, architecture without the cathedral, or painting without the scriptural themes would be eccentric or incomplete, even from a secular point of view. … Certainly a course in English literature that omitted the Bible and other powerful uses of our mother tongue for religious ends would be pretty barren.  And I should suppose it  is a proper, if not indispensable, part of preparation for a worldly life to know the roles that religion and religions have played in the tragic story of mankind.” Jackson also stated,  “The fact is, that, for good or ill, nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything which gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences.”

 

  • Justice Thomas Clark (Abington v. Schempp, 1963) – “[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.  It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.  Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistent with the Fist Amendment.”
  • Justice William Brennan (Abington v. Schempp, 1963) – “The holding of the court today plainly does not foreclose teaching about the Holy Scriptures or about the differences between religious sects in classes in literature or history.  Indeed, whether or not the Bible is involved, it would be impossible to teach meaningfully many subjects in the social sciences or the humanities without some mention of religion.”
  • Justice Lewis Powell (Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987) “Courses in comparative religion, of course, are customary and constitutionally appropriate.”  and The Supreme Court (Stone v. Graham, 1980)  –  “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.”

Prothero states:  Few school administrators understand the crucial disctinction that these justices have repeatedly made between studying the Bible academically (which is constitutional) and reading it devotionally (which is not). He says that schools that educate teachers don’t understand or teach the distinction that the First Amendment makes in teaching religion, and so the teachers remain silent.

But, [s]ilence can lie as well as words, of course, and in the case the lie is that religion doesn’t matter: it has no social, political, or historical force so students can get along just fine without knowing anything about it.  This approach flies in the face of decades of Supreme Court rulings.  It also lends credibility to the complaint, common in conservative Christian circles, that public schools, far from being religiously neutral are actively promoting a ‘culture of disbelief’.

… the First Amendment requires of state governments not just neutrality among religions but also neutrality between religion and irreligion.  The current state of  obeying the law by avoiding religion may well be violating the Constitution, by indoctrinating students into a secular world view.

He goes on to say that when we don’t teach the youth about religion in general, it fails to prepare students for citizenship in a world in which religion matters.

At the end of his book, Prothero gives a Dictionary of Religious Literacy that covers topics from Abraham, to Buddhism, to yoga,  Zen, and Zionism.

I highly recommend this book, both for it’s historical account of religion in education and it’s very informative section on what we can do under the Constitution.  As a teacher, I find it encouraging to know that I will not be “put in the stocks” for saying the words Bible or Jesus Christ in my classes.