Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Building Faithful Testimony in Children

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One of the scariest realizations you come to as a parent trying to raise your children to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the fact that your child might some day turn from it all. My children and your children all have the ability to choose what to in life, and despite our best efforts, they might reject it. This is simultaneously the greatest and scariest gift the Lord has given us all--free will.

I bet most if not all of us know someone who has strayed despite coming from a strong home. The whole thing is a very real reality. This of course has had me thinking, how can I best raise my children to want to choose to follow the gospel? As I was recently studying, I came across a great talk that gave me some direction.

I was raised in a home where my parents didn't go to church. I went on my own. I also, therefore, did my gospel studying primarily alone. I got some at church each week, but most of it was at home on my own. As hard as it was, it was also a great blessing because I grew to have my own testimony. It was mine. I wasn't leaning on anyone but the Lord for my faith. I have often wondered how I can allow my children to have that same experience while providing them with the home and family support and benefits I can give.

I believe if my children gain a strong and powerful personal testimony of their own, they have a better chance of sticking with their faith throughout their lives. I read The Power of a Personal Testimony by Dieter F. Uchtdorf that gave some great ideas for how to build a personal testimony. He said that the process of gaining a testimony is based on the law of harvest "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galations 6:7). So with real effort, our testimonies will be real and strong. Here are the steps Uchtdorf suggests for building a strong testimony:

1-Desire to Believe
I think as parents, this is completely in our favor. Children are trusting and believing. They are also highly emulating. Your child wants to be like you. If you believe, your child will want to, also. The desire will be there. Be sure you are as good of an example as you can be so your child doesn't grow to view the gospel as a hypocritical thing. You will make mistakes and that is perfectly normal--apologize when you do. Make amends when you do. 

2-Search the Scriptures
Uchtdorf says, "...through diligent study of the word of God, the good seed "will begin to swell within your breasts" if you will not resist with unbelief. This good seed will "enlarge [your] sould" and "enlighten [your] understanding (Alma 32:28)."

So we need to create situations where our children study the scriptures. That is one reason we have daily family scripture study. That is one reason I make sure my children see me study the scriptures daily (back to them wanting to be like me). 

There are two other things I can think of to do. One is to answer your child's questions with the scriptures. When your child asks you a question, even when you know the answer and can quote a scripture, say to your child, "Let's see what the scriptures say about that." Show your child how to seek answers to questions in the scriptures. This will teach your child where the knowledge comes from. You are awesome, but the knowledge isn't from you! It is from the Lord. Your child will learn to turn to the Lord with questions.

I also have my children who can read do personal scripture study each morning before they leave for school. I am trying to establish that habit now so that it will become as normal a part of their lives as brushing their teeth each morning. When we read the scriptures, we are then able to recall what we have read. We cannot remember something that was never in our minds to begin with.

3-Do the Will of God; Keep the Commandments
To gain a testimony of something, we have to live it. This goes back to being a good example. And this is a big part of our job as parents in these young years. We are teaching our children how to live right. We teach them to do what is right even when it is hard. Kaitlyn recently wrote on the neighbor's shed. When we found out, I walked her over to apologize to the neighbor and ask what she could do to make up for it. The neighbor didn't mind, but is a mother herself so she came up with a job for Kaitlyn did to make amends for her mistake. Kaitlyn was not happy about going to the neighbor and telling her what she had done, but I hope it was a lesson to her in the importance of keeping the commandments, including the commandment of making things right when we make mistakes and the commandment to be honest.

4-Ponder, Fast, and Pray
We need to pray for our testimonies. As parents, we should pray for our children. We should encourage our children to pray for themselves. We should encourage our children to think about the things they learn, seek answers to questions that arise, and pray to know if what they are learning is true.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you as you try to raise your child in the gospel. I obviously haven't been able to put these things to the full test, and the reality is my children will all have the freedom to accept or reject the gospel in the end. But I hope that I will be able to look back at the years I was given to teach them and know I did all I could do to help them come unto Christ. 

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