So, last night Jess and I were up sighing about how our children (five and three years old) will never remember all the things we're doing with them (other than by the thousands upon thousands of 21st-century digital photos and videos we're capturing). We asked one another, for example, "can you remember ever going to the grocery store with your mom?" Neither of us could. It's kind of sad - parenting is a very low fan-fare job.
(Parenthetically, the fact that we can't remember our early years and yet they are real history is an understandable and practical example that can be used to help us understand the doctrine of a real, although temporarily forgotten, pre-earth life.)
We found solace in the fact that although our kids will never remember most of the trips to the water park, the bathtimes, bedtimes, stories, meals - although they'll forget most of the outings, books, haircuts, and trips to the grocery store - they will subconsciously remember and be crucially molded by these first eight years - even especially the first three years. Our efforts are not in vain. These are the years to teach responsibility, joy, and everything else they will need to be well-functioning, self-reliant adults some day. Even though they won't remember the details, they'll remember the feeling and they'll have the habits and abilities they'll have developed.
President Thomas S. Monson recently taught this at a CES fireside:
"In the wisdom of our Heavenly Father, you and I were born into mortality and welcomed into loving families.
"I pause to let you know how much your families pray for you. They worry about you. They wonder how you’re getting along. They love you so much. Don’t disappoint them.
"The Lord tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants that during the first eight years of our lives, power is not given unto Satan to tempt us as little children (see D&C 29:46–47). We had an eight-year head start on Lucifer.
"This information was given by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith back in 1830. In our own time Dr. Glenn Doman, a renowned scholar and scientist who has almost definitely never heard of the revelation quoted, has, through his research, come to the conclusion that “a newborn child is almost an exact duplicate of [a] computer, although superior to one in almost every way.
"'What is placed in the child’s brain during the first eight years of life is probably there to stay. If you put misinformation into his brain during this period, it is extremely difficult to erase it.' He believed that the most receptive age in human life is that of two or three years old.3"You might ask, 'Why is President Monson emphasizing this? Our first eight-year period of learning is long past.' But you, my brothers and sisters, are going to be parents one day, and you will want to emphasize the importance to your children and to your future generations of descendants of that first eight-year period."
So, what's the curriculum for parents. What are the most important things to teach? Has the Lord left us young parents alone as to what we should teach these absorbing little mimics?
Here are nine things I find in the scriptures that parents are to emphasize and teach:
- "We talk of Christ" (2 Nephi 25:26) - If nothing else, our kids must learn from us who Jesus Christ is and what he is all about.
- How to have "faith in Christ" (Alma 25:16) - Similar to the former, but distinct in that this is where the rubber meets the road - where we come in. This is the only way to have any enduring hope in life.
- How to repent and receive forgiveness (3 Nephi 9:13-14) - Kids need to know how to reconcile themselves unto God for the future day when they will inevitably "(go) astray."
- The necessity and purpose of baptism (Alma 7:11-15) - Commitment to a higher standard is what I suppose brings greatest relief to parents of young adult kids who eventually leave the nest. If the child is covenanted to the Lord and takes that covenant seriously, the parents primary role is complete and the continued parenting is between the child and their Father in heaven. Take-away: the parents' job is to sheppard their children to the covenant.
- The necessity and purpose of the Holy Ghost (John 14:26) - The Father's special messenger assigned to help us keep our covenants and become fully converted is less useful to the children who are not taught by their parents how to hear and heed the promptings of the Spirit. With that teaching, they're protected.
- How to pray (Doctrine and Covenants 68:28) - Spiritually self-reliant adults who can speak to God and receive answers to their questions and support to their problems, necessarily first learned how to pray. Parents stand in the ideal position to teach this to their children (as well as model the analogous experience in day-to-day life as kids ask mom and dad for stuff all the time).
- How to keep the commandments (Alma 37:35) - Disobedience to God's explicitly stated laws and joy are incompatible and cannot exist in the same person at the same time, any more than light can shine without electricity or fire. Our kids must learn "wisdom while in their youth," and how can they know except someone "should guide (them)."
- How to keep the Sabbath day holy (Doctrine and Covenants 68:29) - Parents must teach the kids how to rest, and how to renew the covenant, else the kids will be in danger of losing their spiritual stamina.
- How to work (Doctrine and Covenants 68:30) - Life is work. The terms of Christian discipleship present most demanding work - at home, in the professional workplace, in the Church, and in the community. It's in the work that we find the Master: "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served...?" (Mosiah 5:13)
I'm thankful for God's involvement in our lives, especially as parents, and I'm glad my kids will at least remember something.