Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ministering to Our Children

This is mostly for me to keep handy, it's a talk I gave in sacrament meeting a couple of weeks ago. I cried pretty much the whole way through this talk, and looking back over it now, I still am getting teary. Parenthood is [tough/wonderful], isn't it?

The talks I referenced came from herehere and here.

The topic I was asked to address today is “ministering to our own children.” Truly, the care and nurturing of my children occupies most of my days, but in this particular season of my mortal journey, this topic is especially tender to me.

My three children are currently 6, 5, and as of tomorrow, 3 months. Although, I confess, if motherhood is in any way measured by the number of times I have found a dirty pair of socks on the floor *this far* from the hamper…I've been a mother since the day I married.

However, I can readily attest that motherhood has been the most wonderful, emotional, painful, rewarding, and miraculous blessing I have been given. As the author Elizabeth Stone so aptly put it, “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”

While I pondered over the topic of ministering to our children, I decided to further investigate the term “ministering,” and how it applies to us. I found an article on the church website that explained it beautifully. “To minister means to love and care for others. It means to attend to their physical and spiritual needs. Put simply, it means to do what the Savior would do if He were here.”

In the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi chapter 17 tells how, during His time in the Americas, the Savior invited the Nephites to bring their children to him. It accounts how Jesus prayed for the children and blessed them, and how angels appeared and ministered to them within the fire that encircled them.

Sister Michaelene Grassli, former General Primary President, says of these verses, “His invitation in verse 11 [3 Ne. 17:11] was neither casual nor inconsequential. “He commanded that their little children should be brought.” And notice what verse 11 doesn't say. It doesn't say never mind the little ones because they aren't accountable yet. It doesn't say the children were to be taken elsewhere so they wouldn't disrupt the proceedings. And it doesn't imply that the children won’t understand. But it does teach that children need to learn the significant things of the kingdom.”

“So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst.” (3 Ne. 17:12.) Sister Grassli asks, “Do any of us ever consider serving children to be beneath us? Clearly the Savior felt that the…children were worthy not only to be in his presence, but they were also worthy of his time and his attention. The children needed him, and he stood right in their midst.

Verse 12 also indicates that Jesus waited “till they had all been brought to him.” He wasn't looking for a representative sample, and he wasn't content with just some of the children. He wanted them all to be there, and he ministered to them all.”

“He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” (3 Ne. 17:21.) Jesus was ministering to a group of about 2,500 men, women, and children. Consider how much time it must have taken for him to bless and pray over each child, “one by one.” He must have held many of them in his arms or on his lap. And he wept because he was overcome with joy.

“He spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.” (3 Ne. 17:23.) Jesus specifically directed the attention of the multitude to the children. To me, the word behold is significant. It implies more than just “look and see.” When the Lord instructed the Nephites to behold their little ones, Sister Grassli states, I believe he told them to give attention to their children, to contemplate them, to look beyond the present and see their eternal possibilities.”

E. T. Sullivan once wrote these interesting words: “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn't stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home out of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother’s heart, and she puts it into the baby’s mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.”

President Hinckley said, “And those babies, I should like to add, will become forces for good or ill, depending in large measure on how they are reared. The Lord, without equivocation, has declared, “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth."

President Hinckley's next words stung my heart just a bit, "If I may be pardoned for suggesting the obvious, I do so only because the obvious is not observed in so many instances. (Anyone else feel a teeny ouch?) The obvious includes four imperatives with reference to children: Love them, Teach them, Respect them, Pray with them and for them.”

He continues, “There is a bumper sticker seen much of late that asks the question, “Have you hugged your child today?” How fortunate, how blessed is the child who feels the affection of his parents. That warmth, that love will bear sweet fruit in the years that follow. In large measure the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago.”

The story is told that in ancient Rome a group of women were, with vanity, showing their jewels one to another. Among them was Cornelia, the mother of two boys. One of the women said to her, “And where are your jewels?” To which Cornelia responded, pointing to her sons, “These are my jewels.”

Said President Hinckley, “How much more beautiful would be the world and the society in which we live if every father looked upon his children as the most precious of his assets, if he led them by the power of his example in kindness and love, and if in times of stress he blessed them by the authority of the holy priesthood; and if every mother regarded her children as the jewels of her life, as gifts from the God of heaven who is their Eternal Father, and brought them up with true affection in the wisdom and admonition of the Lord.”

Sister Margaret Lifferth, a former counselor on the Primary General Presidency stated, “Children are open to gospel truths more than at any other time, and…childhood is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach and strengthen children to choose the right.

It’s easy to know what to teach. The scriptures and our prophets are clear about what to teach our children. Nephi summarizes it in this verse, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).

Sister Lifferth then offers how we may teach our little ones, “Begin by following the counsel of our prophets and making time in our homes for family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Have we heard that counsel so often that it seems too simple? Or are we so busy that adding one more thing feels too complex? I testify that even when our family worship seems less than effective, obedience alone invites the blessings of the Lord."

"In fact, personal obedience and example in every part of our lives are the ultimate gospel lessons for children. So study, learn, and apply the gospel. We cannot teach principles that we do not know and that we do not live. Who we are and what is in our heart are discerned by children more quickly than we think.
So love the children. I remember feeling loved as a child, and because of that, it was easy for me to believe that the Savior loved me too. Children thrive in a home where parents understand their sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness.”

She then powerfully adds, “But all of us can help. Notice the children around you, and learn their names. And then invite, listen, affirm, guide, build, serve, and share testimony. Your love can help bring a child to the love of the Savior.”

Some of the sweetest and most humbling, tender moments I have experienced in my life have been times when I have made a mistake and found myself asking for forgiveness from my children. Without fail or hesitation, and certainly not due to any amount of deserving on my part, my children forgive and forget. Over and over again, they are so much more patient with me than at times I am with them. It is no wonder to me now that in the scriptures the Lord declares, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

One of my favorite songs is found in the Children’s Songbook. It is beautiful duet titled “Teacher, Do you Love Me?” I would like to share the lyrics with you, noting that the words “mother” and “father” are certainly appropriate as well- but each of us, whether we have children raised and grown, or whether our children are still waiting to come to earth- each of us, can minister to and behold these little ones that are so precious. It begins with a child asking questions, and is followed by the loving answers of the teacher or parent.

Teacher, do you love me?
Teacher, will you care for me?
Even if I turn away, or disobey, or go astray,
Then will you love me still?
Teacher, will you teach me?
Teacher, help me choose the right.
When I do not understand the Lord’s command, please take my hand
And lead me safely with his light.

(First time child only.)
I need your love, I need your light
To show me how to be like Jesus.
The Savior’s love will light the path
To lead me safely home.

(Teacher/Parent) Oh yes, my child, I love you.
My child, I’ll always care for you.
And with the Savior as our guide,
I’ll share the light I feel inside,
And you will feel his love for you.
Oh, yes, my child, I’ll teach you.
My child, I’ll help you choose the right.
And when you do not understand
The Lord’s command, I’ll take your hand,
And he will lead us with his light.

(Second time duet.)
I need your love, I need your light
To show me how to be like Jesus.
The Savior’s love will light the path
To lead us safely home.

I testify of the great blessing and responsibility of being a parent in Zion. I bear witness that our efforts to keep the commandments and raise our children in righteousness do not go unnoticed. The Lord is aware of and loves each of us, and even though we may feel inadequate and unprepared for the task of teaching and loving our children, I know He will guide, direct, prompt and inspire us though the Holy Spirit if we but ask in faith. I pray that today, and always, we can minister to our children and heed the Savior’s command to truly behold our little ones. I know Jesus Christ lives, and I bear this witness in His holy name,