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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 22: Bringing up Children in Light and Truth

During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Parents have the primary responsibility to teach their children the gospel.

One of the greatest and richest of all your blessings will be that which comes if you teach as you should, and train as you should these choice spirits that our Heavenly Father is sending to the world in this latter day. … Do not leave the training of your children to the public schools. Do not leave their training to the Primary, to the Sunday School, to the [Church’s youth organizations]. They will help you and make a fine contribution but remember what God himself has said, that parents who do not teach their children faith in God, repentance and baptsim and the laying on of hands when eight years of age, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. This is not a threat, my brethren and sisters, that is the kind and loving advice of our Heavenly Father who knows all things and understands and realizes what it means when children are allowed to grow up without this training.

We have assumed an obligation when we have been the means of bringing children into the world. We can’t place that responsibility upon any organization. It is ours. … First and foremost the obligation is upon you and upon me to not only advise and counsel but to train, by setting an example, by spending sufficient time with our loved ones, these boys and girls, that they may not be led into … forbidden paths.

This is a reminder that Christians too ought to take opportunities to train their children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I believe this ought to include manners, ethics, and theology. Remember, though, that the author of Proverbs was only advocating a general principle. Just because we train our children the right way does not necessarily mean that they will always listen or turn out right! Even within one family, it is often the case where one child is the proverbial “prodigal” and the siblings don’t follow suit when they see the mess brother or sister has created.

I challenge both Mormons and Christians to expose their children to all points of view. Considering other worldview opinions will help them decipher for themselves just what makes the most sense. I certainly hope that my three daughters choose Christ and Christianity, but I will love them the same even if they don’t. If we have the truth, we ought to be willing to let them see the options. Latter-day Saints, we invite you to visit and let your children be exposed to criticisms of their church. Or do you want them to see these criticisms the first week of their mission (now 18-year-old boys and 19-year-old girls can go) in the Deep South? They can only remain sheltered so long.

I think I would like to tell you a story. A number of years ago, there lived in Indiana two boys, young fellows who worked on farms—farms five to seven miles apart. They worked hard each day doing their chores, milking cows, etc. The first boy went to his father one day when he was about 13 or 14 years of age and said, “Father, I would like to go into the city. I would like to see the bright lights. I wonder if I could not go in some evening early, if I worked hard and got my work done?” The father said, “You can not do that because you can not do your work.” “If I am willing to get up at daylight and work all day, can I walk into the city? It is not very far, and I could be there for an hour or two and then come home early.” The father said, “Well, of course if you will do all your chores, then you can go.” Fathers, get this. The result was, he went in. He got in town when it was nearly dark. Stores and banks were closed. There were plenty of pool halls and gambling places open. All good people were indoors, most of them in their own homes. All the riff-raff was on the streets or in these places. They saw this young boy come in and they picked him up. It was not long until they had shown him some of the things no boy should see. That was his experience. It gave him a taste of something that was not good for him.

The second boy went to his father in the same way. He said, “Father, I would like to go into town sometime. Would you not like me to go and see some of the things I have never seen? I will have to go before dark to see anything.” “My boy,” replied the father, “I think you are entitled to go into town, and I think you are entitled to have your father go with you. You pick the day and I will help with the chores so we can go early enough that you can meet some of my associates.”

It is the same state I’m talking about—the two farms were not far apart. Within a week he had chosen the day. They did the chores, and went into town. They arrived a little before four o’clock. They got there before the banks were closed. The boy was dressed in his good clothes. His father took him into the bank and introduced him to the banker, who took him by the hand and said, “When you are in town, come and see us and we will make you welcome.”

His father took him to business houses where he had business, where people greeted him pleasantly. When they went home together, after they had remained to see a show, that boy had the acquaintance of some of the finest men in the community. The result was that when he grew older and went into town, his companionship was with fine people.

My experience says that maybe the second father was wise by going with him and introducing him to the good people. After the movie, though, perhaps he should have driven his son around and showed him the dangers of being in this place by himself. Just making something taboo is not good enough for curious teens, who might innocently wander into the wrong places.

I want to suggest to you … , there is no time that you can spend, no way in which you can utilize your time that will be of greater advantage than training your boys and your girls to be worthy of the blessings of our Heavenly Father.

Christian parents, let me repeat that there is “no way in which you can utilize your time that will be of greater advantage than training your boys and girls” to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and learn to walk in His ways. Besides making sure they get to church on Sundays, have studies with them, and  take them to weekly AWANA meetings and youth groups, be sure they don’t graduate from high school until they understand what it means to own their own faith.

A parent’s example can lead a child to safety, righteousness, and happiness.

Let us be examples of righteousness to our children, have our family prayers and ask the blessing upon the food. Let our children see that as husbands and wives we are affectionate with one another. While there is yet time take the opportunity as husbands and wives to bless each other with your love, with your kindness and your helpfulness in every way. Take opportunity while there is yet time to teach your sons and daughters how to live to be happy. … Let our homes be sanctuaries of peace and hope and love.

For Christian parents, the same applies to us. Let our homes be places where children are loved, which includes proper discipline, encouragement, and praise.

By loving and teaching our youth, we can help safeguard them from evil.

Latter-day Saints, teach your children to observe the moral law. Surround them as by the arms of your love, that they may have no desire whatsoever to partake of the temptations to evil that surround them on every hand. …

Once more, the same applies to Christian parents.

Studying the gospel as a family will help us keep our children close to us.

In our homes, brethren and sisters, it is our privilege, it is our duty, to call our families together to enjoy and strengthen and sustain each other, to be taught the truths of the Holy Scriptures. In every home, children should be encouraged to read the word of the Lord as it has been revealed to us in all dispensations. We should read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price; not only read it in our homes, but also explain it to our children that they may understand the … dealings of God with the peoples of the earth.

Let us see if we cannot do more of this in the future than we have done in the past. Let us commit ourselves to the principle and the practice of gathering our families around us in our own homes. Let each one of us ask himself: “Have I done my duty in my home in reading and in teaching the gospel, as it has been revealed through the prophets of the Lord? Have I kept my children close to me and made home a pleasant place and a place of reverence, love, understanding, and devotion?”

While Christians don’t hold the latter three books to be “scripture,” we certainly ought to encourage our children to read the Bible for themselves so they can become equipped inHis Word.

One way in which we can keep them closer to us is for us to meet together oftener in our homes. The Church has asked that there be set aside at least one home night each week for all the family to meet together and to enjoy each other’s company, to enjoy the simple pleasures of the family fireside, and to discuss with each other those things which are of great and lasting worth.

Mormons have what is typically called “Family Home Evening,” which is the family gathering together to do what Smith explained above. This is typically done on Monday nights. I think that’s a great idea for Christian families as well!

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