Spiritual Collisions


Kids Sacred Grove

We teach our kids a lot of stuff. Saturday I taught my youngest how to trim some bushes with a hedge trimmer. Last night I taught him about Neil Peart. If you think about it, we are constantly teaching our kids new stuff.

This past week I saw a conversation where the question was asked, “What is the most important thing you can teach your kids?” We have given a lot of thought to that question over the years as parents, and we know what our answer is.

It isn’t to have them love their neighbor,. It isn’t for them to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. It isn’t even for them to have a personal relationship with the Savior – even though all of these things are terrific and important. Our answer is based on a warning the Lord gave the saints in 1831.

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25)

Yikes. Pretty direct. The Lord wants us to teach our kids the first 4 principles of the Gospel.

  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. Gift of the Holy Ghost

Well, one of those items is wrongly seen as a check-list item that can be marked off (baptism). IN essence, baptism is never really done, because of the weekly re-baptism through the sacrament. The others are more obviously seen as lifetime efforts. One of the four stick out to us, and has defined a lot of what we have done as parents. Here are our thoughts on what is the most important thing we can do as parents:

We believe it is crucial to teach our children to recognize and follow the voice of the Holy Ghost.

All of the other things I listed before – a testimony of the Book of Mormon, a relationship with Christ, a testimony of the Gospel, charity towards others, and so many more – all of those things happen through the Holy Ghost. The only real testimony of the Savior or his Gospel comes through the Holy Ghost. Any relationship with the Savior is communicated through the Holy Ghost. Any testimony of the Book of Mormon or the modern prophets is gained through the Holy Ghost. (Do you sense a pattern here?) He is at the center of the acquisition of all truth – religious or secular.

Even charity is a spiritual gift – brought to us from…you guessed it…the Holy Ghost. Here is Moroni’s take:

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.” (Moroni 10:5-8)

What more important thing can we try and teach our kids than to recognize and follow the voice of the Spirit? I can’t think of anything more important. I once heard an idea expressed and, for the life of me, I cannot find the reference. Here it is paraphrased, and un-cited: “Introduce your children to the Holy Ghost, ad He will lead them to the Savior.”  (If you know the actual quote, please help me!) I believe this to be true. All too often we think we need to handle the heavy lifting that the Holy Ghost is prepared and anxious to provide for our children.

“Several years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and shared this timeless counsel: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach [you what] to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 98). (Link)

I would like my family to “go right,” both in their childhood, as adults, and eternally.

How do we get there? By looking for and creating what we call “Spiritual Collisions.”

A “Spiritual Collision” is simply this: An opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost. We have made it a point, as parents, to find opportunities for our children to “collide” with the Holy Ghost. Of course, “collide” may not be the best word for the interaction, but it works for us.

Now I know your mind is already churning out ideas, and you are on the right track. Here are a few more thoughts about Spiritual Collisions that have been powerful for our family:

• The picture at the top of this post is my son Alex and me walking together through the Sacred Grove. With some preparation, and an open heart, it is  a perfect place to encounter the Spirit. Sure, we could have gone to Disney World that year instead, but I think the Holy Ghost ride at Epcot was down that year.

• We took the our young kids to temple open houses in American Fork, San Clemente and Gilbert. Whenever we travel we always try and stop by and see whatever temple is in that area. This was especially impacting before the kids were old enough to actually enter the temple and do temple work.

• Teaching them to do family history, and then taking the names to the temple for the ordinance work. This has been especially sweet with my youngest, because I wasn’t very into family history earlier in my life. All of our older kids have taken family names to the temple on a regular basis. The temple is a no-brainer for spiritual collisions.

• Musical firesides, Messiah sing-a-longs or any kind of religious music – even played at home. Music brings the Spirit. I would add visiting the Christmas temple light displays.

• Every time one of my boys turned twelve, I took them to the site of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration. The peaceful setting on the Susquehanna river is perfect for inviting the Spirit.

• Whether it is working at the church farm, fixing the neighbor’s fence, or taking in dinner, grab whoever you can to take with you so they can feel the spirit that comes with service.

• Once we took a right turn in Flagstaff and ended up taking an unplanned trip to Nauvoo. Visiting places like the Liberty Jail, Carthage, Andam-Ondi-Ahman we drenched in the Spirit. I specifically remember the sweet, peaceful feeling at those places, and helping my kids recognize what the Spirit can feel like to them.

• One of the most obvious collisions my sons experienced was actually a non-collision. It was enlightening for them to sense the difference in what they felt in the de-commissioned Kirtland Temple, vs. the Gilbert Temple where they participate in ordinance work.

You might be thinking, “Sure, I would love to go have Spiritual Collisions in places like that.” True, we have been very fortunate, but it has also been a matter of choice as to what we do with our time and resources.

Thankfully, you don’t have to even leave home for you or your kids to have a spiritual collision. Family Home Evenings, watching General Conference, family scripture study and prayers, family councils – all of these events can be prime opportunities to cause a collision.

Not far from our home there is a chapel and a temple which provide an abundance of opportunities for spiritual collisions.

I know that some of you won’t agree with this next part, and that is okay. In our home, we believe in mandatory Church, Mutual and Seminary attendance. Why?  Let me put it this way…

If my son wants to stay home from church and play video games, there is 0001% chance that he will have  any sort of spiritual collision with the Holy Ghost. BUT, if he attends Sacrament meetings and his classes, there is at least a chance that something just might click, and a chance encounter is greater than no encounter  – even if that chance is small. I know from personal experience that the Holy Ghost can push his way through reluctance, given the opportunity.

Most of my kids are now out of the house and off being adults. I do believe that each one of them has grown to understand how the Spirit communicates with them, and are doing their best to follow that voice. (Note: The manner in which the Spirit communicates can differ wildly from person to person. It is an incredibly individual, and sometimes tricky thing to learn.)

It is not merely enough to arrange the collisions, we must be at the ready to help point out when these collisions are happening. This requires us to be in tune as well. If we can sense that our child is feeling the Spirit, and can point it out to him/her, it will help the child learn to understand the method the Spirit uses to communicate with them.

If my children maintain the voice of the Holy Ghost in their lives by staying worthy and responding to Him, we, as parents, can breath a bit easier, and also feel that the Lord is not gonna smite us for not doing our parental duty.

Start while they are young, and find any and every opportunity you can to help your children have spiritual collisions with the Holy Ghost. Whether at home or on the road, there is nothing you can do as a parent that can make a greater impact in their lives – both mortal and eternal.


Great talks on the subject:

“Receive the Holy Ghost.” Elder David Bednar.

“An Unspeakable Gift From God.” Elder Craig C. Christensen

“Guided by the Holy Spirit.” President Boyd K. Packer




  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I just wanted you to know you’re not alone in your thinking. I was fortunate to realize before I left home that the greatest thing my parents taught me was to know how the Spirit spoke to me, and that became my goal for my own children. That meant family prayer, family scripture study, church attendance (including Mutual and seminary), time together, lots and lots of conversations, and just living by example were non-negotiable. When “but I have my agency” was brought up, the answer was “but you chose to be a part of our family and we do certain things” (something my cousin taught me).

    I also love this quote from Sister Linda Burton that goes along with the topic: “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” (April 2010 General Conference)

    When our son blessed his son in church this fall, he blessed him to “gain a testimony early and permanently.” I love that phrase – early and permanently. If they follow the principles you’ve outlined above, I know that blessing can come true, for them and for others as well.

  2. I love your article. It’s exactly what I have tried to do as I have raised my boys – to create as many “spiritual collisions” as I possibly can for them, AND ME – we all need them, often. But I would like to take the opportunity to make an extremely important change on one thing you said in your article by way of sharing a conversation I had with my son, who is in prison.

    You said, “Well, at least one of those is a check-list item that can be marked off (baptism),” as if that’s all that we as parents need to do with our children regarding baptism. They turn eight, we get them baptized, done, check that one off the list.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with that mentality.

    One of the consequences of serving his prison sentence also included that he was excommunicated from the church – one of his (and his fathers) most heartbreaking days – even more harrowing than the day he was sentenced.

    But thankfully God is merciful, and repentance and forgiveness is a true doctrine my son can and does avail himself of, and looks forward with great anticipation to the day he will be re-baptized.

    Which brings me to the conversation we had just yesterday. I had sent him some information about baptism that he had never known before. After reading and studying it thoroughly he said to me, “Dad, had I known the true importance of baptism, I mean, really truly understood in my heart the doctrines of baptism, I might not have done what I did. How I wish I would have known. But the good thing is, now I do know, now when I enter the waters of baptism again, I will enter them with an eternal determination and commitment like no other. Because now I know.”

    The scripture you quoted to set the premise of your article says, “inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, AND OF BAPTISM…”

    I checked baptism off the list for my son when he was eight years old, but obviously, I hadn’t taught him to understand the doctrine. To my utter heartbreak I feel the eternal weight of that “sin being upon my head.”

    And so, please, don’t make the same mistake and fail to help your children completely understand these extremely important doctrines by constantly colliding with the spirit.

    • I completely understand your point and agree. I was going to launch into a discussion of how the sacrament is essentially a weekly baptism, but didn’t want to run that tangent – but I did go back and tweak that paragraph to support what you are saying.

  3. I read this post and loved it and then read an email I got from a mom blog and in her email she warned about the dangers of crockpot parenting. As in, don’t “set it and forget it” but be proactive about what we have our children learn/do/experience/feel etc. It all went together very nicely.

    This was very timely for me today, thanks very much. After reading it, I sent my son into his children’s choir rehearsal for our stake nativity tonight with the words, “Pay attention to how you feel when you sing! Have fun!” Wish I’d been saying that the last few weeks and not just “You need to memorize your music!” 🙂

    • We had planned a trip to Salt Lake and had made all of our arrangements. We stopped at McDonalds and were eating breakfast and I had the crazy notion. I asked my EC, “Hey, what do you think about going to Nauvoo.” She said, “When?” I said, “Right now!.” SHe said, Sure!” It was completely spontaneous and wonderful.

  4. I read in a previous post you wrote about how you take your sons to the priesthood restoration site when they turn 12. That post/idea started stewing in my brain and I shared the idea with my husband. We only have daughters and decided that when they turn 12, I’ll take them on a church history trip, just the two of us. My oldest turned 12 a year and a half ago and we went to Nauvoo/Carthage together. My second turns 12 in 6 months and I am really excited for our trip this summer. My oldest still talks about our trip fairly often and especially how much she loved going to the Chicago and Nauvoo Temples. Such special experiences. We are currently participating in the Light the World service challenge and that has been a great opportunity to point out how service helps us feel the spirit…and also to listen to the spirit to know who to serve and how. Thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with every single word of this idea you have shared. I follow an almost identical ethos in raising my one daughter. It seems a natural evolution from having served a righteous mission.
    I also make my 8-9 year olds work hard in Primary Sunday School and investigate for themselves the scriptures, the promises and how they receive answers to their prayers. We read first and often role play if they’re behaving… and the action, the act of being the story sticks with them just like you are saying the act of service generates the feelings which can be identified as the spirit.
    If someone has come through my class or my life and isn’t closer to figuring out for themselves the way that they personally feel the Holy Ghost, I haven’t worked hard or smart enough and must do better with the Lords help.

  6. I’ve had some success reminding my kids Sunday morning or Saturday night to say a “review of the week” prayer before they take the sacrament. Also, we have mandatory Sabbath day activities that include a prayer asking for revelation on what God wants you to accomplish for Him that day/week, 20 minutes of church reading (New Era, church books, etc), a family history minute, and then working on all the mandatory stuff like personal progress, faith in God, and scouts. It takes a lot of energy to make that happen, but every once in a blue moon one of the kids is in a sincere mood and has a real spiritual collision, so it is worth it.

    Oh, another Sabbath day activity that I try to make happen at least once a month is to add to our small plates by recording any new spiritual experiences anyone in the family has had. The kids love to read through the small plates during Sabbath reading time.

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