My stake president called me last week and asked me to share with him a few thoughts about teaching the gospel to my children. His point was that we keep hearing about ‘hastening the work,’ and we think about the full-time missionaries. In reality, he was saying, we are the full-time gospel teachers and the missionaries, though they are full-time during their service, we are full-time in our lives. I was trying to put Spike Spike to sleep when he called, so I sent him my response a little later in an email. I thought it was good enough to stick out here on the blog. Here is my response to his question:
As I have thought about my feelings as a full-time teacher of the gospel in my home a few thoughts come to mind:
First, the Lord has sent to my home my primary investigating pool. The children who come to my home are my primary responsibility. Besides myself, they are the most important converts I will ever have in time or eternity. The Lord has sent them to me because He trusts me enough to teach them, mostly through my example and behavior, to the very best of my ability the importance of the doctrines of the gospel. It is my job to help them understand WHO they are, WHY they are here, and WHAT the Lord expects them to do.
Second, they are each different. No two are alike. Teaching strategies that work for one, most likely, will not work for another. The Spiritual Armor of God must be tailor fit to each individual, which means seeing where their strengths and weaknesses are and emphasizing their strengths with humility, while helping them to strengthen and overcome their weaknesses.
Third, as a gospel teacher in the home, I need to be ready every day. I cannot slacken my spiritual learning and training because I am teaching every minute of every day. My children see me reading the scriptures and saying my prayers. They know what TV shows and movies I watch, what books I read, and what internet sites I visit, who I talk to, and what I say. My life is the example they will turn to when they are wondering where I stand and how they should behave.
Fourth, I am not enough to do this by myself. Even with training and gospel understanding and study, I do not always know what my children/investigators are struggling with, because sometimes they just don’t tell me. I have to rely on the Spirit. When I feel a strong impression to spend time with a child, ask them specific questions, or talk to one of their friends, I follow those promptings. Sometimes I have thoughts about teaching specific doctrines or sharing specific experiences that I have had with them. I plead with my Father in Heaven to make me equal to the tasks before me of helping these children gain deep and abiding testimonies of the Atonement, knowledge of how repentance works, how to pray, how to listen to the Spirit, and all the other doctrines we believe and try to live.
Fifth, one of the greatest gifts I can personally give to my children/investigators is to understand how to apply the doctrines of the gospel to their personal lives. When there is conflict in the home, or when someone is struggling with a decision about behavior, we teach them to think about the stories in the scriptures and what some of the prophets have done in those very situations. We teach them to read the words of the prophets from General Conference and how to search lds.org
to find out what the prophets have said on a particular topic and how they have applied those doctrines to their lives. When they learn where to turn to for help and answers, we have provided them with knowledge beyond their own and ours.
I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. But I know the Lord does, so if I can tap into that source, listen to it, and follow it, I know I can be successful in helping my investigators desire to choose righteousness and understand its importance in their lives.