Sunday, June 23, 2013

Teaching Gospel Principles to your children (Part 1)

I was asked to speak at enrichment at church.  The topic was teaching Gospel Principles to your children.  I was nervous to give my little mini lesson but I think it went well.  I thought I'd write here what I said, though I can be more detailed here because I cut out some in the interest of time for enrichment.  I have seven points so I'll have to do a few posts to cover all my points.


When I went to Brigham Young University I had so many things I was interested in.  I wasn't sure what I'd major in but I had a lot of ideas.  By the time my sophomore year came around I thought I ought to buckle down and finally declare a major.  I pulled out the catalog and went through it multiple times, reading the descriptions and trying to decide which major was right for me.  All the majors I was interested in kept feeling wrong.  There was only one major that consistently felt right and I didn't want to major in it.  It was Marriage, Family, Human Development.  

My reasons for not wanting to major in it were two-fold.  First, I had a few roommates who were only at BYU to find their husbands.  I specifically remember one night around the table talking and two of my three roommates telling me that they had no other aspiration that to find a husband and start their family.  These two girls did not major in MFHD but I knew the stereotype for MFHD majors was that they were looking for a quick, easy major and that they were the stereotypical Mormon girl hoping to find a husband and get married.  As judgemental as it sounds, I didn't want to be clumped in that group.  I wanted to be taken seriously as a person and an individual (with aspirations that included, but didn't stop at, having a husband and children). 

The second reason for not wanting to major in Marriage, Family, Human Development is that the last three years of my life spent at home I had taken on many of the mothering duties out of necessity.  It ebbed and flowed--some weeks and months I had a lot of responsibilities at home while my mom was at the hospital with my brother.  Other weeks or months we had long periods of time where life was mostly normal for me--weekends spent at dances or playing with friends, etc.  But I had done enough "mothering" to know that it wasn't something I wanted to focus on yet.  I wanted to major in something that was totally unrelated to taking care of families.  

So here I was, stuck trying to decide what to do and only feeling good about the one thing I didn't want to do.  (I guess that's not entirely true--I certainly didn't have any desire to major in anything math related either...)

I felt prompted to read my patriarchal blessing and after reading it I knew that I was supposed to major in MFHD.  Perhaps Heavenly Father knew I would need extra help in this area and while other people could get married and have kids and do just fine without all the extra help from classes, I would need all the help I could get.  I don't know.  What I do know is that while I didn't initially feel passionate about it, I do now.  I feel an immense interest and desire in building strong marriages and families.  

When I thought about what things were important for every parent to remember when teaching Gospel Principles to their children, I came up with seven things.  Of course, rarely is anything black and white so most of my points have a "but..." to them.  

So here is my first point:

1.  No one is better suited to teach your children Gospel Principles than yourself.  One of my favorite quotes of all time concerning this is from Boyd K. Packer.  He said, "our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.

The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.
It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.
In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis."
I really don't have much to add to his words.  I love his imagery "handcrafted to individual specifications".  Isn't that so true?  Each of our children have individual things they require and you as the parent are the best one to know what those individual needs are.  Next, "buckle on so firmly."  I think this is important because when we teach our children it is so important to be deliberate.  If we give a half-hearted effort in teaching our children, that shield of faith won't be buckled on firmly and can fall off or be penetrated.  Finally, I love his imagery of the "steady strength of a father to hammer" and the "tender hands of a mother."  Both fathers and mothers are essential in teaching and raising their children in the Gospel but each has a different part to play, suited best to their innate characteristics.  
Here's my "but..."
The great responsibility of teaching children lies with the parents.  However, there are times when help is needed.  I've talked about my friend Ali Walston who lived down the street from me in Oklahoma.  She would come to the house to hang out and let her son play with my boys.  Isaac was really difficult at that time--sick all the time and therefore, unhappy most of the time.  He cried a lot and threw a lot of tantrums.  I was already so overwhelmed being the Primary President while Mike was in the bishopric, the boys were so close together in age, and we had no family nearby to help.  Dealing with a sick, unhappy boy just added to my stress.  I found that while I loved him, I didn't always like him.  Ali would come over and if Isaac got hurt he would run to her.  Sometimes he even called her Mom.  It would have been easy for me to be jealous of their relationship--he loved her so much!--but instead, what I felt was so much love for Ali.  I wanted Isaac to be loved unconditionally.  I knew that I was struggling to give him the soft, loving responses that Ali, who didn't deal with him day in and day out, could so easily give him.  And I appreciated so much that she loved my son.  She was able to fill in the missing gaps when I needed help.   
 While this example isn't exactly about teaching a Gospel Principle, I think it can be related in a similar way.  Sometimes circumstances might make it difficult to give your complete attention--to be deliberate--in teaching your children.  Perhaps you find that a chronic illness hinders your ability to be completely present for example.  In those situations and times, don't feel guilty if you have to rely on the help of those that love you and your family to give support and encouragement when trying to teach your children to follow the Gospel.  
So, my first point is to take responsibility for the teaching of your children.  Be deliberate!  But also, don't feel discouraged if you need help.  


Bonnie Gutzman said...

I am excited to read all seven points (I stalked you and found your blog!). I wasn't able to go to enrichment that night so reading this can make up for it:):)

Gillian Mohlman said...

you are such a wonderful mom. I love reading all these points! hurry and post the next ones.