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.
- Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
- 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