Sunday, February 26, 2012

Living the gospel

Full question: What do you think were the best things you did to help your kids live the gospel and desire to believe?

I have to say that of all the posts so far this has been the most guilt-inducing one for me. I'm glad to get the insights though and will just do my best!

"Best things" mentioned and common themes:

Church attendance, FHE, family scripture study, regular temple attendance and picture of temples in kids' rooms, honest communication and good relationship (with kids and spouse), high expectations, having gospel-related conversations

Full participation:
"Full participation in the gospel probably made the most difference in our home.  Our children were fully emerged in the whole structure, culture and instruction of the gospel within the organization of the Church as well as in our home.  It was our life." "We served in the Church and took the kids along with us." "We lived the gospel which was just a natural part of our lives.  We did the things we are all counseled to do.  We were happy about doing church work.  Going to church (as the kids got older) was never an issue.  We just always went as an ordinary occurrence.  I think if we would have skipped a Sunday here or there our kids might have gotten the idea that church attendance really wasn't that important."

Expectations:
"We have been so blessed to have children who love the Lord and want to be good.  But from their spouses we have heard how much they appreciate our strictness in doing the work of the gospel....I believe that it all comes down to expectations. I had someone tell me once that we were rigidly religious.  I stewed over that one for a long time and realized that we were indeed, rigid.  We expected our children to be in church with us; we expected them to behave in church; we expected them to live their lives as witnesses of God; we expected them to please Heavenly Father and Jesus who loved them so very much.  We decided that if that was rigid then we could live with that." "We had curfews.  One of us waited up when they were dating. We taught chastity and modesty from the time they were small.  We believe in agency and we expected our children to follow the teachings of the gospel and respect the values of the family."

Example:
"We think that the most valuable tool was simply example, example, example....Parents can teach all day long, but if they don’t live what they teach, it isn’t very effective." "The most important thing we did for our children was to go regularly to the temple and to have pictures of the temple in their rooms." "The most important thing I think was our example.  Our children knew we wanted to read the scriptures, we wanted to go to church, we wanted to hold family home evening.  They saw us fulfill our church callings, go to the temple, do service for others, and we tried to teach respect and kindness to neighbors and friends.  I believe you can only teach what you live.  I think it was our example and our conversations with them about our beliefs that made the difference." "We accepted callings and seldom expressed any negatives about leaders or assignments....As a couple we were always faithful to each other and showed and verbally expressed our love for each other and for our children. We valued attending the temple." "My children said they thought it was our example and teaching them correct choices.  They felt like home was a place of peace and comfort, which is because they felt the spirit in our home. They didn't really understand what a house was like without the spirit until they went to college and visited some apartments or homes that they could clearly tell did not have the spirit. They said that having the spirit in your home helps make you feel happy and safe, and makes it easy to turn to your parents when you need help."

Testimony:
"What surprised me is the discussion I just had with my daughter.  She said it was really my sharing my testimony with her all the time that had a great influence on her.  If you had asked me - I would not have known that I did that.  What she is referring to is my thinking out loud about the truths that guide me – not a formal testimony."

Parent-Child Relationship:
"The ability to talk openly and honestly with a feeling of trust is one of the most important and valuable qualities a parent can teach their children. It allows not only conversations about gospel topics but issues dealing with life and life’s challenges." "I believe that when children bond well with their parents they normally are open to adopting the parents’ values.  That’s why the relationship is so important.  This bonding takes place when the parents help the children feel loved, valued, appreciated and respected." "[From a child:] We always had VERY casual discussions about the Gospel and choices we were making....I could talk to you about anything without judgment." "We tried to listen to their doubts without criticizing or punishing  them for having doubts."

Agency and hope:
"We do pray for them to love God and keep His commandments and apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives.  Right now we are delighted with and proud of all of them and they are not all on the same page with us about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  We will continue to do our best to keep the commandments and love and support each of our children.  We have eternity ahead of us to be perfected." "The best we can do is try our best to influence well and since we are always just learning ourselves, we don’t always do it well."

Answers:

Kenneth and Catherine
The most important thing we did for our children was to go regularly to the temple and to have pictures of the temple in their rooms.  This was in addition to regular morning scripture reading and family prayer and weekly family home evenings.  Now our children are all married and they go to the temple at least every month and they do the other things we did as a family only they are much better at it.  These family traditions have great impact!

Sarah and Ryan
Of all the questions asked every two years, it seems the most difficult question to answer is the one inquiring about honesty and your dealings with your fellow man. Being honest in all your dealings requires that you are first honest, truly honest with yourself and that you communicate honesty in all your activities, your daily living, communications, church service and attendance, and friendships. Teaching honesty by example and communication with your children in a trusting and open relationship encourages your kids to talk openly and honestly in return. The ability to talk openly and honestly with a feeling of trust is one of the most important and valuable qualities a parent can teach their children. It allows not only conversations about gospel topics but issues dealing with life and life’s challenges.

Marsha (and Richard)
Full participation in the gospel probably made the most difference in our home.  Our children were fully emerged in the whole structure, culture and instruction of the gospel within the organization of the Church as well as in our home.  It was our life.

We did our best to live and love the gospel as a family.  We believed and enjoyed the blessings of the gospel and taught our children to live its precepts and partake of the ordinances.  I would guess that as they learned to live the gospel and were exposed to its teachings that the Spirit testified to their own hearts and they gained their own testimonies of it.  I wish that we had taught the doctrines more, along with the practices.  I believe it’s the doctrine that changes lives and builds testimony. It’s often the doctrine that they can hold onto when times get tough. The gospel is so filled with beautiful, applicable doctrine.  Missions were such a blessing also, as our children studied, taught and served, their own testimonies grew.

I believe that when children bond well with their parents they normally are open to adopting the parents’ values.  That’s why the relationship is so important.  This bonding takes place when the parents help the children feel loved, valued, appreciated and respected.  In the end, each child has to make some choices for himself.  The best we can do is try our best to influence well and since we are always just learning ourselves, we don’t always do it well.

Mary (and Robert)
Once again this comes straight from my in-law children.  We have been so blessed to have children who love the Lord and want to be good.  But from their spouses we have heard how much they appreciate our strictness in doing the work of the gospel. 

For instance, during General Conference we sat together to listen to the brethren.  There were soccer games and some other obligations that made it difficult, but we listened in the car or we taped the session and listened a little later.  What we didn't do was treat the time as a weekend off. 

We served in the Church and took the kids along with us.  When we lived far from a church building, we all came early so the boys could fulfill their sacrament preparation assignments and the younger ones found that it was a good time to memorize the Articles of Faith. 

I sit on the stand to lead music now and I have noticed one thing about the kids in the ward.  They all have something to do in Church; books, games, folding paper, etc.  These are harmless in and of themselves but it misses a point.  We had some of these things for the kids for Sacrament Meeting but they NEVER came out until the sacrament service was over.  We felt that the littlest of the children could be reverent and attentive for  at least half an hour.  When the deacons sat down they could have their pencils and notebooks.  By the time they were in school, we encouraged them to listen to the speaker and draw a picture of what they were talking about.

The little kids always have a greater challenge during the first part of the meeting so I would take the littlest and stand him or her beside me on the bench with my arm around them.  During the business portion I helped them raise their hand at the appropriate time.  During prayers we snuggled up and folded our arms together.  During the sacrament I whispered to them about Jesus and how much he loved them.  I also talked to them about what Jesus expects from the.  I also whispered to the boys  about the priesthood and that they would someday be able to pass the sacrament as a deacon.

As I look back at what I have written, I believe that it all comes down to expectations.  I had someone tell me once that we were rigidly religious.  I stewed over that one for a long time and realized that we were indeed, rigid.  We expected our children to be in church with us; we expected them to behave in church; we expected them to live their lives as witnesses of God; we expected them to please Heavenly Father and Jesus who loved them so very much.  We decided that if that was rigid then we could live with that.  Sometimes as a grandmother I see my children be rigid and I am momentarily sad that I taught them that.  But I look at how they live their lives.  They are much better parents than we were.  And though expectations are high,  they manage to be kind and loving in all cases. 

Brianne (and Spencer)
When my kids were little they will tell you I was the queen of guilt trips.  I think I pointed out to them what Heavenly Father expected and I had high expectations as well.  As they got older 9- 10- 12 we transitioned and they were making their own decisions.  With assurance that we knew they could make good choices – which they say was still playing the guilt queen. 

I asked my children about this question and will include a couple of their comments below.  What surprised me is the discussion I just had with my daughter.  She said it was really my sharing my testimony with her all the time that had a great influence on her.  If you had asked me - I would not have known that I did that.  What she is referring to is my thinking out loud about the truths that guide me – not a formal testimony.  She said, “Dad wrote his testimony and she has saved every card, and letter from girls camp, etc.”
   
Child 2 said, “I remember missing church once because I did not want to go. Dad said "fine!" I needed to learn from my mistakes. I remember feeling so guilty, that I walked and got there for 2nd hour. I never remember not wanting to go after that. We always had VERY casual discussions about the Gospel and choices we were making. I kind of felt like you were both rebels, so I could talk to you about anything without judgment.”

Child 3 said, “You always just led by example and were never afraid to share you testimony with me or let me know that I was in your prayers. I was able to gain my own testimony and desire to have the gospel as part of my life when I moved away to college. Since I was never forced into going to church it was not something I resented. I have many friends who were raised in strong LDS families who no longer are part of the church. Most of those friends that I talk to, express that their parents forced them to go to church until they moved out so they stopped going once they didn't "have" to. I really think if I had felt forced to go to church in High School then I would not have gone once I moved out and had the freedom not to go. I made my own decisions regarding the gospel and my testimony. I had such strong examples and parents who always shared their feelings and love for the gospel. I had a strong foundation to start with because I had been taught by example and going to church when I was younger, but ultimately, the choice to have the gospel in my life was 100% my decision.”

Anna and Gerry
First of all, we were very blessed to have five children who were born with strong spirits.  We really believe that every spirit is different, and we were fortunate to be blessed with children who were very obedient.

Having said that, we think that the most valuable tool was simply example, example, example.  We never “sent” our children to church, we took them with us.  We tried to live the gospel, not just talk about it.   We had family home evening, family prayer, and scripture study - at least we tried our best.  We always attended church, and it never seemed to be a big issue for any of our kids, it’s just something we did - always.  It wasn’t a matter of whether or not it was convenient.

Filling our home with pictures of Jesus Christ and temples created good surroundings, but that by itself does not teach gospel principles.  Children learn what they live, and in the case of children, they learn and do as their parents do.  Parents can teach all day long, but if they don’t live what they teach, it isn’t very effective.  I would like to think that because we served, our children serve - that because we prayed, they prayed, etc.

We believe the counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who said “We teach correct principles, and they govern themselves.”  We found that our children made good decisions when they were given our guidance, then our confidence and trust.

Because of agency, there is no guarantee with any children, no matter what takes place within their families.  Wonderful parents have children who go astray, and wonderful children and adults come from homes where they were not taught the gospel. 

Jane (and Samuel)
We always went to church with them.  We expressed our testimonies. We had family prayer. We read the Book of Mormon togehter....not always but frequently enough that I think they knew it was important to us.  We tried to have Family Home Evenings even though they were not always fun.  We tried to listen to their doubts without criticizing or punishing  them for having doubts.  We accepted callings and seldom expressed any negatives about leaders or assignments.  We lived in places where we were surrounded by people who generally lived the gospel. As a couple we were always faithful to each other and showed and verbally expressed our love for each other and for our children. We valued attending the temple.

We didn't have a lot of money when they were teenagers so we couldn't spoil them the way we might have....no one had their own car until they got married.  We had curfews.  One of us waited up when they were dating. We taught chastity and modesty from the time they were small.  We believe in Agency and we expected our children to follow the teachings of the gospel and respect the values of the family. When our chlldren made mistakes it was not the end of the world and we did not compare them to each other (much).  Our children came with wonderful spirits and we respect and love each of them.  They don't have to be like us.  We do pray for them to love God and keep His commandments and apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives.  Right now we are delighted with and proud of all of them and they are not all on the same page with us about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  We will continue to do our best to keep the commandments and love and support each of our children.  We have eternity ahead of us to be perfected.

Karen and Lance

We had FHE each week, we served in callings in the Ward, we encouraged them to go to their meetings (didn't let them stay home), they had good friends/peers, we kept them busy in sports and early morning Seminary (too tired to stay up late and get into mischief), never used discipline to keep them from a church function. I think that lessons would also keep them busy (just don't overdo it). We ate dinner together so we could plan the week and check on problems they might be having. They knew what the "standards" were and were good about not balking.

Tamara (and Lewis)
This was a tough one, because I couldn't think of any one thing we actually did, and so I asked my kids!  (Cheating?)  I just thought that we lived the gospel which was just a natural part of our lives.  We did the things we are all counseled to do.  We were happy about doing church work.  Going to church (as the kids got older) was never an issue.  We just always went as an ordinary occurence.  I think if we would have skipped a Sunday here or there our kids might have gotten the idea that church attendance really wasn't that important - or that they could skip here or there when they wanted to.  The same with seminary - the option was you could go to Seminary happy or you can go to Seminary grumpy - but you are going. (We have early-morning Seminary.)  I believe children don't have the cognitive reasoning skills (frontal lobe development) until they are in their 20s - hence, important decisions were made for them - in a kind, loving way.  Basically, we just lived as we were commanded. It's important to note that they all said they don't remember ever not wanting to go to church.

My children said they thought it was our example and teaching them correct choices.  They felt like home was a place of peace and comfort, which is because they felt the spirit in our home. They didn't really understand what a house was like without the spirit until they went to college and visited some apartments or homes that they could clearly tell did not have the spirit. They said that having the spirit in your home helps make you feel happy and safe, and makes it easy to turn to your parents when you need help.

Rachel (and Bennett)
We did have family prayer, read the scriptures together, and held family home evening (sort of).  My husband was most often not home, so it was hard for me to keep the attention of my children, but I tried.  The most important thing I think was our example.  Our children knew we wanted to read the scriptures, we wanted to go to church, we wanted to hold family home evening.  They saw us fulfill our church callings, go to the temple, do service for others, and we tried to teach respect and kindness to neighbors and friends.  I believe you can only teach what you live.  I think it was our example and our conversations with them about our beliefs that made the difference.

Marianne (and John)
I was on a conference call with my married daughters and asked them the question.  They said consistent family prayer, scripture study, and FHE.  (Imagine that - what a novel idea.)  I remember reading that when the family had scripture study it was like putting on a cloak of protection against worldly influences.  That greatly motivated us during those cold, early mornings with complaining kids.  One said they felt like we taught more by example and expectations than anything.  The other said that we seemed to love our church callings and service.  (She couldn't wait to be a YW's leader because it looked like so much fun.) Of course they have rosy memories and nothing was easy but we have always been committed to following the Lord, his prophets and "building the kingdom".

Next week's question: Did you have a rebellious or unbelieving period when you were growing up? If you did, how much have you told your kids and what age were they? What do you recommend for parents in these circumstances?

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