Teenagers and Doctrine

Our little daughter turns 12 next month.  She wants to have her ears pierced.  Earlier this week, she had learned to put her hair up with knitting needles.  There she was sitting at the table, hoop earrings hanging around the tops of her ears (in anticipation of how they would look when they were pierced), her hair wrapped around one knitting needle, talking, talking, talking to me.  As I watched her, I saw it.  There she was, my young woman Sun, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be so fun!  We are friends!  I really love her!’

Speedy turned 14 last week.  He had to shave all of the fuzz off of his chin because he was beginning to look a little wooly.  He is concerned because he still doesn’t think he knows how to dance and he wants it to be right.  It doesn’t matter that we have given him a few instructions on slow dancing and explained that fast dancing is just moving your body to the rhythm.  His comment was, “It is so very strange to think that I can do things today that I couldn’t do yesterday” (like go to dances).  He will figure it out.

I love teenagers!!  They really are my very favorite!  I love how their thinking expands and they begin to discuss adult topics.  They have opinions.  They have experiences.  They are beginning to experience real life as individuals.  Many of their friends are having those experiences too and they are hard.  Really strong emotions are attached to their experiences and they are primed for greater and greater things.

After teaching our children the basics of the gospel, articles of faith, the scripture stories during their childhood, our teenagers are ready to discuss serious doctrinal principles and their applications.  We discuss real life situations and people and how the principles they have learned apply.  We can’t know everything, and we try not to be judgmental of people or make assumptions about their lives.  Anything that is public is fair-game, especially if we are discussing things in the news.  My husband is a political science guy so he is always in the news and aware of current happenings, especially political ones.  So we discuss policies, upcoming legislation, who is saying what and how those ideas/policies will affect us and others and compare those things with doctrinal principles and Heavenly Father’s laws and scriptural stories that coincide.  We have some very serious discussions.

People are really amazed at the depth our children can discuss something.  Sometimes people have accused us of writing our children’s talks for sacrament meeting.  We don’t do that…..ever!  It would rob them of the opportunity to express themselves and put together the doctrine for themselves.  We do discuss their topic and what the principle is, scripture stories that might illustrate that principle, or ask them if they have another story that might illustrate it.  Then we teach them this simple principle for giving a talk:

1.  Teach the doctrine you have been given–principles, scriptures, prophet quotes, that you can find to back up the doctrine.
2.  Share a story or two that illustrates that principle.  It can be from the scriptures, real life, personal, you name it.
3.  Testify of the principle you have taught.

That’s it.  Then we send them to go to work.  If they are preparing a primary talk, we teach them to do the same things, only on a smaller scale.  If they need help coming up with a story, I may remind them of a scripture story, or ask them to go and read the story, or remind them of something in their own life.  Then I ask them to tell me how they felt or the consequences/blessings they observed from their experience.

Elder Neil L. Andersen, in his conference talk, Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, shared these words:

President Thomas S. Monson has described the rising generation as “the very best ever” 1 and has said to our youth: “You have come to this earth at a glorious time. The opportunities before you are nearly limitless.” 2 But he also warned, “We have been placed on earth in troubled times.” 3 “It is a time of permissiveness, with society in general routinely disregarding and breaking the laws of God.” 4 We are surrounded by so much that is designed to divert our attention. “The adversary is using every means possible to ensnare us in his web of deceit.” 5

We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them. Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their premortal faith.

I shared this quote last week sharing my testimony in sacrament meeting.  I am sorry to say that since I did it from memory, I did it wrong, but the general message was correct (at least I can remember the meaning of what was said :-).  But this is so true.  Our children, the rising generation, do come with a ‘premortal fire of faith’!  It is already there.  We just have to fan the flames.

They are feisty spirits.  They are determined, head strong, full of boundless energy and they can argue, well, I might add.  Our job is to turn those characteristics into qualities that can and will be used in the service of the Lord, to remind them of who they are and who they are to become.

I would continue, but this post wasn’t suppose to be about teaching our children morals and doctrine.  That is the topic I will be writing to on Cocoa’s blog in April.  I guess you’ll just have to wait for the rest of it.  But if you want to know what the prophets are saying, check out this video:

Bringing up children in light and truth

I couldn’t figure out how to embed it in the post 🙂

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