Raising a family in troubled times:
How to help children know the joy the Gospel brings
Teaching our children to recognize, understand and feel the true joy and light that comes from living the gospel will help them to withstand temptations as they learn to completely trust and rely on their loving Heavenly Father. Recognizing the language of the Spirit, understanding spiritual consequences to their actions and feeling the joy that accompanies charity will help them to govern themselves and allows us, their parents and teachers, to let go and watch them achieve their potentials.
What is meant by “troubled times”?
The Apostle Paul accurately described our day in his letter to Timothy: “In the last days,” he said, “perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, … despisers of those that are good, … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; … Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
· Troubled Society
o The moral fabric is thinning. We can no longer look to our society to teach correct values. Our society reflects violence, immorality and selfishness.
· Troubled Families
o Family members who deal with emotional or mental issues, unrighteous choices, divorce, death, illness, financial problems,
· Troubled Individuals
o Dealing with our own issues, abusive past, unfulfilled dreams, emotional or mental challenges, burdens,
We’re talking about teaching children (and ourselves) to find joy in the gospel! (not just joy, but joy in the gospel)
What is the gospel? We need to teach our children what the gospel is!!
The gospel is the source of all joy. The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan for happiness and joy. You and I are his literal spirit children. He knows us and loves us perfectly and unconditionally. As our loving Father, he wants us to become “perfect”…perfectly loving, perfectly joyful, our perfect selves. Knowing that we need to be tested and tried in order to grow and develop into our potential selves, he created this beautiful earth and provided us with physical bodies. And to truly test us, our memory of our pre-mortal life with Him was dimmed and he allowed Satan to tempt us because He knew we needed opposition in all things in order to grow and become stronger. Our sweet and perfectly loving Heavenly Father KNEW that we would make mistakes along the way. He knew that we would give into temptations, discouragement, selfishness, pride and that our souls would become stained with sin and that the effect or consequence of sin would make us unworthy or unable to dwell in our Father’s presence. All of our actions have consequences…I believe we are unaware of enormity of the consequences. Consequences for sins can affect generations and cause hurt and pain beyond our awareness. Each sin causes suffering...each sin has a price. We can suffer because of sins, but, because we are imperfect, we cannot suffer sufficiently to pay the price for that sin. We cannot remove the sin from ourselves.
In order to pay for the sin, our loving Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ suffered all the agony associated with our sin—that is the price of sin. Think of the amount of dark, awful and hellish sins committed in this world—and the hurt and sorrow associated with them. Our Savior had to feel the anguish associated with each awful act for each and every sin that has or ever will be committed. He literally paid the price by suffering the full effect of each of our sins and sorrows…something we are completely incapable of doing because we are imperfect. Because He suffered for our sins (paid the price), we don’t have to…if we repent and turn to Him and accept His precious offering. This is the atonement. This is the good news of the gospel: That through the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be cleansed of our sins and return to our Heavenly Father and receive a fullness of joy.
· What does that mean “finding joy”?
o When we feel joy, we are feeling the Spirit of God, we are feeling His love. Joy is being filled with love, light and peace. Joy is just another word to describe feeling the love of God.
Joy is feeling the love of God: We feel it whenever we are doing something that puts us on the path to becoming Christ like.
What sorts of things bring us joy? When we work hard at something and really stretch ourselves, when learn new things, when we’re full of gratitude, when we forget ourselves and serve others, when we form and nurture loving relationships, when we develop our God-given talents, when we acknowledge God in our lives.
· Does life have to be easy for us to have joy? Life does NOT have to be easy for us to be filled with joy. In fact, we sometimes have our greatest joy when we’re going through some of our most trying and difficult times
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no ; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no , for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no .
If ye my commandments, ye shall abide in my ; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
So, how do we teach this to young people (and old people)?
1. Help them understand the spiritual language of God...the source of all joy.
2. Help them recognize the spiritual consequences that come from their actions
3. Help them feel the joy that ALWAYS accompanies charity (Christ-like love) and true repentance.
Understanding the spiritual language of joy (which comes from God)
· How do you learn a language?
o Teachers, examples to point out meaning
o Need to immerse and practice in order to acquire
· What do we need to do in order to be effective language teachers?
o Need to know it ourselves
§ Are we allowing ourselves to feel joy—we need to realize that joy is not situational…it is a conscious decision on our part.
§ Are we recognizing the Lord’s hand in our lives?
· Start simply by always pointing out joy and the absence of joy:
o Point out joy—the sweet, warm, peaceful happy feeling
§ Sharing, thoughtful, working hard, creating, observing beauty, helping, serving, learning, loving, being honest, bonding,
· Interrupt your young children when they are playing nicely with each other and remind them how good they feel
· Point out joy when they see a rainbow or any beauty in nature: cloud formations, stars, a sunset, a beautiful waterfall, etc.
§ Teenagers are a little harder (but it’s ok if they roll their eyes): point out the beautiful feeling in the home when they’re helping, serving, creating, bonding…
§ If you have adult children who never “grasped” the joy that comes from the gospel, you can still teach by example.
· Some children have a harder time grasping this than others. For some, they might not understand it until well into their adult years.
o Point out absence of joy—hardness, darkness, anger, emptiness,
§ Fighting, gossiping, cheating, lying, hurting others physically or emotionally, being lazy, indulgent, self-absorbed, angry, full of self-pity, etc.
§ With little ones, ask “Do you like how your feel right now?” “Do you feel happy and calm?”
§ Explain that the Holy Ghost won’t stay with us when we make bad choices. He goes away to help to teach us that when we don’t keep the commandments, we won’t feel happy/joyful inside.
§ Teach by example: Point out times when your heart was hard and you felt selfish or angry and then how you did change, or want to change, because JOY is always your goal.
o Joy is the Goal!! “Men are that they might have joy”
§ Joy must be taught! We need to dwell on joy!!
· If a child feels joy, stop and help her make the connection: Her loving Heavenly Father is the source of that joy. This will help her feel just how “real” her Heavenly Father is. And because joy is joyful, J she will also understand just how good and loving he is.
§ Explain that this joyful feeling comes from the Holy Ghost as he is able to fill her soul and witness God’s love to her. The Holy Ghost is teaching us that if we keep the commandments, we will be happy.
§ Bonus to teaching joy: The more you point out joy, the more YOU will appreciate just how much our Heavenly Father loves you and more joy YOU will feel.
· Once you understand what “joy” is and can recognize it when you feel it, then you are able to recognize good and bad consequences.
o Point out/recall behaviors from the past and presence or absence of joy
§ Share these examples with your children!!
§ Have kids share similar experiences (around dinner table, FHE, after school, etc).
· Did you have to make any hard decisions today?
· When they make good, hard choices, ask them how they feel?
o How did that make you feel? (Help them to correlate their feelings with their actions)
· Teach that Obedience brings joy!
o Joseph Smith taught that “in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness…he never has–He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 256-57).
§ What a wonderful promise! There couldn’t be a more wonderful reward for keeping the commandments. The Lord promises us joy. Satan tries to lure us with riches, fame, beauty and prestige, but he cannot promise joy. –point this out to your kids!!
o Teach the joy that comes from living the standards in “For the Strength of Youth”. This pamphlet could also be called “For the JOY of Youth, Children and Adults”.
§ Obedience and compliance with each of these standards will result in increased joy and decreased regret…
§ Ask teenagers to picture their lives in 10 or 20 years. Talk about regret versus joy. Will they look back on their teen years and wish that they had had more inappropriate and serious relationships? No. Will they wish they had dressed more immodestly and objectified themselves, or that they had watched more explicit or violent movies? Will they wish they had been more dishonest or selfish? NO!! These are things that cause regret, despair and darkness.
§ If our teens understand what joy is and what it feels like, then they’ll understand that God’s standards aren’t restricting, they are enabling them to feel joy!!
· Teach that repentance brings joy!
Elder Craig C Christensen, April 2006
When we understand that being filled with joy involves being filled with the Holy Ghost, we realize that true happiness comes from repenting of our sins and living worthy of the Spirit. In addition, when feeling the Spirit, we can find great joy in knowing that we are being sanctified before God.
The joy that comes from repentance is evident on many levels. First is the joy and comfort that come to the heart of a repentant soul as the burden of sin is lifted. Second are the deep feelings of joy and love that come to those who help others work through the repentance process. And finally there are the joyful feelings of a loving Savior as He sees us follow His admonitions and rely upon the healing power of His atoning sacrifice.
o Practice repentance with young kids. Always point out the joy they feel after they repent…in contrast to the yuckiness they felt beforehand.
o Repentance isn’t here to shame us or to make us feel guilty. Repentance is about restoring JOY to our lives.
As we are filled with charity—the pure love of God, our joy will be full
What brings joy??
§ There are the lies that the world tells us: more money, nicer house, designer clothes, a skinnier body, whiter teeth, less wrinkles, more friends, nicer car, more toys, fabulous vacations, etc.
§ Then there are the things that we know are good: Working hard, getting married in the temple, taking care of our bodies, going on a mission,
getting an education, learning new things, going hiking in nature, holding your newborn baby, spending time with family/friends…
· Has there ever been anyone with lots of money who was miserable?
· Has there ever been anyone with who worked hard who was miserable?
· Do any of these things guarantee joy???
o There is only ONE thing that guarantees true joy in our lives. And that is being filled with the Love of God…the only guaranteed source of joy!
§ When we are filled with God’s love, we are never miserable…we can’t be! When his love fills our hearts, we are always filled with joy and peace.
§ How do we allow His love for us to fill our hearts? (He will never force us to feel the constant, perfect love that he has for us)
· Love Him
· Love our neighbor
· Matthew 22:37-39
· Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
o I am so profoundly grateful for the gospel and its teachings. I am so grateful for the knowledge of a loving, perfect Heavenly Father and that so much love and joy can be found in this imperfect and confused world.
The Love of God https://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/11/the-love-of-god