Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith manual lesson 16 - Bringing Up Children in Light and Truth
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“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. In this way the foundation for my own knowledge was laid in truth, so that I too can say I know that my Redeemer lives, and that Joseph Smith is, was, and always will be a prophet of the living God.”
First - Can our children say of us that we are the most tender man they know? Is that important?
Second - How much time do we spend discussing gospel principles with our children, especially compared to the time we spend playing sports, watching TV, doing hobbies, or even doing extra things for our employer.
“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."
I am terrible about having meals at the table, because I want to multitask or everyone is going in a million directions, but it has occurred to me that this would give me a captive audience to instruct. What are your thoughts on this?
President Smith said, “[Satan] is using every clever device, influence, and power within his control to undermine and destroy this eternal institution. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ applied in family relationships will thwart this devilish destructiveness.”
So, if only the gospel of Jesus Christ applied in the family relationships can stop Satan and protect our children, then Satan is going to present us with things that prevent us from applying the gospel sufficiently in our home. He is going to talk to us about all the things we want to get done on our agenda. Work, hobbies, movies we want to watch, TV shows we have to keep up on, or ball games we want to see. He’s going to propose to us things we want to do on our vacations where we will feel we need to use the Sabbath to do them. After all vacations don’t happen very often, so we have to use every moment we have, right? He will press at us about work that we just have to get done and help us to justify procrastinating meaningful conversations with our children.
“Our children will have to be taught to discern between good and evil, otherwise in many respects they will not be able to understand why they are not permitted to indulge in practices that are common with their neighbors. Unless they are instructed in the doctrines of the Church, they will not, perhaps, understand why there is any harm in the Sunday concert, a Sunday theatre, picture show, ball game, or something of that kind, when their playmates, without restraint and with encouragement, indulge in these things forbidden of the Lord on his holy day. The parents are responsible for the proper teaching of their children, [and] the Lord will condemn the parents if their children grow up outside of the influence of the principles of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Children must be taught that Sunday is a different day. They must be taught that at some times and in some places we stop and give reverence. Extra reverence. Sometimes for a long period of time, like an entire day.
ISAIAH 58:13 - Please read somewhat deliberately, paying special attention to commas and semicolons.
13 ¶ If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Call the sabbath a delight. Most times I hear people talking like treating Sunday like the sabbath is drudgery. “What am I supposed to do read my scriptures all day?” Oh to have time to really dig deep into the scriptures and words of the prophets and inspired scripture scholars!
ELDER CHARLES DIDIER Of the Presidency of the Seventy in the October 1994 Ensign said, “Now is the time to ask ourselves: Is the Sabbath a holy day or a holiday? Shall I worship the Lord or worship pleasures and recreation?”
Do sometimes we spend time with family on the sabbath because that is a worthy sabbath activity, only to engage in activities that are not worthy sabbath activities in the name of spending time with family? While spending time with family can be pleasurable and sabbath worthy I think that we have to be deliberately mindful. We don’t need to be like the extra laws of counting how many steps we take on the sabbath, but we should be focused on our sabbath worship once we leave our Sunday meetings.
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“The first duty pertaining to the training of the children of the Church belongs in the home. It is the responsibility of the parents to bring up their children in light and truth, and the Lord has declared that wherein they fail to do it, they will stand before the judgment seat to give answer.”
“We must shelter [children] from the sins and evils of the world as much as we can so they will not be led away from paths of truth and righteousness.”
Whoa! We must shelter our children? Don’t people often use that as a phrase that a child is unprepared for life? “Oh that child is so naive. She has been sheltered her whole life..”
What are some possible techniques to shelter our children from evil and yet make them intelligent and of strong character?
It goes back to the concept presenting by President Smith earlier, teaching them to discern and to understand, as much as is possible, why this is right or why that is wrong. They understand through knowledge that you teach them and by being taught what the Spirit sounds like and how to bring the spirit into their lives every single day at every single moment.
“We ask parents to set an example of righteousness in their own lives.’
In many ways I have many tendencies of an irreverent teenaged boy. As much as I need to teach my teenaged boys to get a grip and be men, I also need to better hold the reins on myself.
1 Corinthians 13:11
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
When we were kids did we have a different expectation of maturity from fathers than from our peers? Did we have a different level of expectation of maturity from grandfathers than we did from fathers?
As life moves on we gradually realize childish things about ourselves and we set them aside or at least temper them. I propose that in the time we live that process happens way too slowly. We find way too many people that seek to have everything their parents have worked 30 years to obtain immediately. We find too many that want the things of adulthood without all of the responsibility. There are consequences to what it takes to live that way: debt(which is just another word for bondage) and lack of respect to and from others, just to name a couple.
“Parents must try to be, or at least put forth their best efforts to be, what they wish the children to be. It is impossible for you to be an example of what you are not”
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“The child who is taught in righteousness from birth will most likely follow righteousness always. Good habits are easily formed and easily followed.”
Children can be taught to pray perhaps before they can talk, just by setting the standard when they are young and being consistent.
This is also true for reverence. A child can be taught to sit reverently at a very young age, but it takes setting the standard and being consistent. It is very difficult, the older a child gets, to try to pull them back to reverence if we have gone many years with the attitude that they are too young to understand and so we allow, or even encourage irreverence by what we bring with us to our meetings for the child.
Yes, it is hard work to get a child to sit quietly, but if we consistently require that as the standard, within a time shorter than we think the child will begin to sit quietly a little more. It will not be minutes or even hours, but in a matter of a few months if a child is required to sit with a limited amount of toys and snacks they start to get it. But it is hard. We get exhausted and often we would like to just pacify them and relax for a few minutes. As soon as we do that, we pretty much start over, because they have found a crack in our defenses and they will realize that if they are persistent eventually they are not restricted. If we are consistent, they soon begin to restrict themselves.
This principle applies all the way until the child is grown. Be firm in what are standards are in raising our children and be consistent in enforcing those standards. Have family home evening. Have family prayer. Have scripture study. Have time to stop frequently and explain gospel principles. Satan will tell you that you are too busy and too tired at times, but he is a bad counselor.
What would we do if a human came up to us and said “you are more important than your daughter you deserve to rest”? Or if they said, “This TV show is more important than your son. You should make him be quiet and watch. You can talk to him about what he thinks is important to him later.”? Would you let someone talk about your kid that way and would you take their advice? Do we take advice like this from Satan?
What if a person said similar things about your wife, like, “Your wife is rambling on about something trivial again. Why can’t she just let you alone for five minutes?” Would you agree with them or would you defend your wife?
These are extreme examples, but do we let Satan say stuff to us about our family that we would not let another person say to us? And do we something act upon what he is saying instead of defending our family? Or do we ever let what Satan said come out of our mouth?
I challenge each of us to pick at least one thing from this lesson that we can adjust in our lives to be stronger fathers and men. I do this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.