Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TFOT: Parents, the Primary Teachers of the Gospel

Little did I know while I was preparing this lesson that it would be my last TFOT lesson. During church on Sunday they released me and Hans and I are going into primary. I'm really sad to be leaving this calling - I have LOVED facilitating these discussions and learning with the sweet sisters in our ward. Not to mention how it has increased my personal study of the Gospel.

Still, I'm excited to be teaching little ones. It's a lot less pressure and it's been several years since we were with the primary, so it'll be a nice change of pace.

This month's assignment was two different talks: Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families By Elder L. Tom Perry and Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children By Tad R. Callister. There was so much material here, so I chose to narrow the scope and do a deeper dive, just focusing on motherhood. I feel like the lesson went pretty well - there was a lot of laughter and a few tears, which I think is an accurate reflection on motherhood. There were so many comments, though, that I only got to 50-75% of what I prepared. I should have moved the first section a long a little quicker to have more time for the priorities section.

A word of caution: As we talked about the influence of the mother, the conversation took an unintended turn that took us too far from the the topic, and possibly caused some contentious feelings. It turned into a bit of a debate about working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. I know that's a hot topic among moms so it was probably on people's minds, but it wasn't the intent of this lesson. If you see this happening, quickly try and grab it and steer it back to the relationship between mom and child. That's what this is really about.

Good luck!

*class comments in italics

Quote: “We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers” - L. Tom Perry

I will read a bit from their talks to give you some time to think, but I would love if some of you would be willing to share personal stories about the teachings you learned from your parents, or perhaps even spiritual experiences you have had in teaching your own children. So please be thinking about that.

Quote #1: “The scriptures speak of the role of parents—that it is their duty to teach their children “the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 68:25). As parents, we are to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children—not the bishop, the Sunday School, the Young Women or Young Men, but the parents. As their prime gospel teachers, we can teach them the power and reality of the Atonement—of their identity and divine destiny—and in so doing give them a rock foundation upon which to build. When all is said and done, the home is the ideal forum for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  • He calls it the ideal forum. Why is that?
    • who knows your child better than you do?
    • you see your child first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
    • you're the first impression they have of lessons, values, principles, etc.
    • home is a place where they feel safe, it's their refuge
    • there are more opportunities each day to teach. it's more organic, you can teach as situations arise as opposed to in a structured setting with a planned lesson
    • repetition. you can go over the same ideas over and over again to make sure they are sinking in
    • love and trust - your kids know you love them and want the best for them and that's the place things come from when you are teaching them. maybe you could say there's a personal investment
    • there are boundaries (not sure the context of this one...)
    • there's a natural connection with parents. one woman was saying that she was a foster parent and no matter how good a relationship she had with her foster kids, they always felt drawn back to their parents. Another said it was similar with adoption - the kids wants to know about their birth parents. There's an inherent bond there.
  • Why is it our duty to teach, besides just being commanded?
    • I feel often a sense of responsibility to my heavenly father. He entrusted me with this wonderful little spirit and I want to return it to him in the best condition possible.
  • Examples?

So that’s our responsibility. But we also have a power as women.

Quote #2: “Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. Who can put a price tag on the influence a mother has on her children, a grandmother on her posterity, or aunts and sisters on their extended family?” L. Tom Perry
  • Love that he included grandmothers, aunts, sisters. All women carry the role of a mother, even if it’s not your biological child. "Motherhood" is part of "womanhood" whether you bare children or not.
  • Pretty strong statement. What are your thoughts about it?
  • (this is where we got into the staying home vs. working mom. That's not what this is about and one sister very kindly pointed out that doing one or the other doesn't make you a "good" or a "bad" mom. I'm glad she did. I think the point of this quote was just to stress the magnitude of a mother's influence on her child. Immeasurable.)

Elder Callister, in his talk, told an amazing story that demonstrated the influence of a mother. Does anyone remember it enough to summarize?
  • Dr. Ben Carson and his mother, Sonya
    She was one of 24 children, had only a third-grade education, and could not read. She was married at age 13, was divorced, had two sons, and was raising them in the ghettos of Detroit.
  • The son, Ben, was the lowest in his class. He took a math test and got zero right.
  • Sonia realized that the rich people she worked for all read. She went home and turned off the tv and made the kids read. They were required to read twice a week and give her a report
  • He went on to attend Yale University on a scholarship, then Johns Hopkins medical school, where at age 33 he became its chief of pediatric neurosurgery and a world-renowned surgeon.

Elder Callister said: “How was that possible? Largely because of a mother who, without many of the advantages of life, magnified her calling as a parent.”

Like all callings, parenthood is one where we can do just the bare minimum - make sure they survive with food, clothing, shelter. Or we can magnify that calling and take every opportunity to teach, encourage, support and help them excel.

Quote #3: “We cannot begin to measure or calculate the influence of women who, in their own ways, build stable family life and nurture for everlasting good the generations of the future. The decisions made by the women of this generation will be eternal in their consequences. May I suggest that the mothers of today have no greater opportunity and no more serious challenge than to do all they can to strengthen the [home]” L. Tom Perry
  • One example I thought of was my great grandma Erma. I don’t remember much about her, she passed away when I was in my early teens and we didn’t see her often. But there are things I distinctly remember about her - that even in her 80s and 90s she still served in the temple multiple times per week. That she kept meticulous journals filled with personal details about her feelings about the Gospel. And what I am very sure of is that she raised six children in the Gospel and each of them had at least five, and most of those had large families, too. It’s a very real way I see how the teachings of this one woman didn’t just affect her six children, but also her dozens of grandchildren and probably close to 100 great grandchildren and great great grandchildren (our family reunions are ridiculous). The faith of my great grandma has touched several generations of family members.
  • One sister shared a story about her grandmothers and how they were both faced with the same choice: whether to give up their child or keep them. Her paternal grandmother sent him to be raised by family and her maternal grandmother didn't. She talked about the affect that this had not only on her individual parents, but on each grandmother's relationship with her grandchildren and other family members. She used it as an example of how one grandmother strengthened the family while the other did not and how she could see that so clearly.

Next let’s talk about what are the things we are supposed to teach and how.


Quote #4: “The greatest teaching of all must be done by righteous example. Our homes must be holy places in order to stand against the pressures of the world.”
  • Why is example the greatest teacher?
    • Children are amazing mimics. When Emma was around one, she started paying attention to our prayers and folding her arms, closing her eyes, and bowing her head. We were out at the park or something a few days later and she saw a woman standing with her arms crossed and Em looked around confused like “why are we praying? Who is praying?” but still crossed her arms and bowed her head. They may not understand what is going on, but they know to do what we do. First we have to get them to do it, and then understand it. It’s two part!
  • What things should teach our children, and they should witness us doing?
    • forgive and ask forgiveness
      • Someone told me this once, about making sure that if your child sees you have any kind of argument with someone, you should also make sure they see you ask for forgiveness for causing offense and say you’re sorry, and they should see forgiveness being freely given.
    • speak kindly
    • read scriptures
    • values like honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and charity.
    • how to be CHRISTLIKE
    • Be inclusive
    • FHE and seminary
    • the JOY of parenthood - one sister shared about hearing someone say that their brother was always complaining about his kids and it made it sound like parenthood was just awful. She shared how one of the greatest compliments she received from her daughter was hearing the girl say how she looked forward to being a mom. It's how this sister knew she'd conveyed to her daughter what a blessing and joy it can be.
    • pray (MEANINGFUL prayer)
      • Quote #5: “One of the most meaningful things we can do as parents is teach our children the power of prayer, not just the routine of prayer. When I was about 17 years of age, I was kneeling by my bed, saying my evening prayers. Unbeknown to me, my mother was standing in the doorway. When I finished, she said, “Tad, are you asking the Lord to help you find a good wife?” Her question caught me totally off guard. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was thinking about basketball and school. And so, I replied, “No,” to which she responded, “Well, you should, Son; it will be the most important decision you will ever make.” Those words sunk deep into my heart, and so for the next six years, I prayed that God would help me find a good wife. And, oh, how He answered that prayer. As parents, we can teach our children to pray for things of eternal consequence—to pray for the strength to be morally clean in a very challenging world, to be obedient, and to have the courage to stand for the right.
      • He particularly stressed morning prayers. “How many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer?”
    • bear our testimony
    • visit the temple often

So far we have talked about what our role is and what actions we can take to teach and lead by example, but there was one last area addressed in both talks that we should touch on - making our roles as teachers one of our top priorities.

Someone summarize the fruit story?
“Not wanting to be interrupted, the mother said very quickly to the boys, “Why don’t you just say your prayers alone tonight, and Mother will just keep working on the fruit?”
The older of the two sons firmly planted his feet and asked, “Which is the most important, prayers or fruit?”

Quote: “A successful parent should never be too busy to capture a moment in a child’s life when an important lesson can be taught.”
Love this cute sketch from Ty Hatch via Instagram
  • I think sometimes the lesson is that family is the most important thing, or just the lesson is that you love them. Maybe it’s not prioritizing fruit and prayer, but dishes versus play doh. I try to remind myself daily that as much as I would love a clean house all the time, my kid isn’t going to remember that the sink was full of dishes, but she will (hopefully) remember standing out on the driveway blowing bubbles. She won’t remember how often I vacuumed, but she will remember how often we read books or colored or played with her cars.
  • This is something my parents always did, a very important lesson that I took with me after I left their home. They always made time for their family, to show us they loved us and supported us. My dad worked his work schedule so he never missed a baseball game, a band concert, a ballet recital, anything. We always knew that family was the most important and I think that strengthened ours.
  • I think if your children feel your love for them and how important they are, that will lead to greater trust and more teachable moments.

Quote #6: “It is my firm conviction that there has never been a period in my many years of life when our Father in Heaven’s children have needed the guiding hand of faithful, devoted parents more. We have a great and noble heritage of parents giving up almost everything they possess to find a place where they could rear their families with faith and courage so the next generation would have greater opportunities than had been theirs.We must find within ourselves that same determined spirit and overcome the challenges we face with the same spirit of sacrifice. We must instill in future generations an ever stronger reliance on the teachings of our Lord and Savior.”

One of my favorite quotes from this conference:

“We might all ask ourselves: do our children receive our best spiritual, intellectual, and creative efforts, or do they receive our leftover time and talents, after we have given our all to our Church calling or professional pursuits? In the life to come, I do not know if titles such as bishop or Relief Society president will survive, but I do know that the titles of husband and wife, father and mother, will continue and be revered, worlds without end.”


  1. Any quote touting motherhood as being more positive than anything else will always cause some to create a question to the effect, "than why do anything else?" Or a comment, "therefore do nothing else." such a discussion was inevitable.

    It was remarked by many in my back corner that you controlled the conversation with confidence and grace. You started out this calling as a good teacher and you leave it a great teacher.

    1. Janell, thank you so much for your kind words. Really did make me feel a bit better about how it went.