One Simple Method For Instilling Christ-like Attributes and Values Into Our Children’s Hearts

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Book of Mormon, Alma 37:6).

Just like we have a physical body that needs to be nourished every day, we have a spirit that needs daily spiritual nourishment. It would be ridiculous to say, “Well, I ate yesterday. I really don’t need to eat today.” While it is true that you won’t die from missing one day of food, it wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience (unless you were fasting). Your spirit feels the same way when you miss a day of prayer and scripture study.

As parents it’s vitally important that we help our kids nourish their spirits every day. The first thing on my kids’ morning sticker charts is to make their bed and say a prayer. They think that I’m monitoring whether their bed is made or not, but what I’m really monitoring is whether or not they prayed. I don’t care about their bed. If their bed’s not made, I know they didn’t pray and I send them right back in there to do it. It’s becoming a habit for my older ones and they rarely forget, but for the younger ones it’s a good visual for me to see if morning prayers are done.

In our church we are counseled to have family scripture study every day. We also have a weekly family home evening (a family meeting) where we gather the kids together, teach them a gospel principle, and then have fun as a family. We always have a yummy dessert so my kids look forward to it! I know I have days when I wonder if our family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening are impacting our kids at all – especially when one of my kids hits an older sibling during the middle of a family scripture discussion on patience!

To any of the other families who are wondering if family scripture study and prayer are working, I say DON’T GIVE UP! We don’t do scripture study and prayer for short-term benefits, but for long-term growth.

Let me illustrate my point (the following analogy comes from Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect):

Would you rather have a million dollars or start with a penny and have your money doubled every day for 30 days? Let’s pretend you choose the penny and your friends choose the million dollars. At first, you are dirt poor and the progress is painfully slow. Your friends who chose the million dollars are laughing at you! On day 10 you only have $5.12 and your friends are mocking you while they sit and drink pina colodas on their yacht. On day 20, you wonder if you should give up. You only have $5,242.88. Is it really worth it? Should you keep going? Some people may quit at this point – the struggle and wait just doesn’t seem to be paying off. But what a tragedy that would be! On day 28 you would break the one million dollar mark and on day 30 you would collect an astonishing $5,368,709.12! This is called the compound effect. It is much more powerful than just getting a lump sum of one million dollars.

A one million dollar lesson on patience to our kids may not amount to much. A one million dollar lesson on faith or repentance or charity may not amount to much, but what if you had a short gospel lesson every day? The compound effect kicks in and pretty soon you have the equivalent of a 5-million-dollar lesson with several topics in your kids’ spirituality bank accounts. One family home evening may not make a difference that day or even later that week, but over time, what is the collective effect of hundreds of family home evenings? It is astonishing! The spiritual power your kids will have gained will plant their spiritual roots firmly in the ground. They will not be uprooted by doubts or fears or unbelief very easily because of the compound effect of the spiritual things you have done in your home as they were growing up.

It’s never too late to start a regular scripture study habit or family home evening. Our family has monthly themes/values that we want to teach our children. They repeat themselves every year. We do that on purpose. We want those 12 values deeply ingrained in our children’s hearts and behavior.

THE 12 EGBERT FAMILY VALUES

How did I come up with this list? As a young mom, I started making a list of all the spiritual things I wanted to teach my children, but it grew so long that I became overwhelmed and discouraged. How on earth could I possibly teach all of that to my kids? It seemed hopeless. I knew I needed some way to organize it , but I felt lost.

Shortly afterwards, I was preparing a church lesson for the youth and turned to the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet.  Have you ever wanted a list of all the Christian values we want our youth to understand and live by in a format that was clear, concise, direct, and short enough to finish in 30 minutes? In our church we have a pamphlet that is worth its weight in gold. It covers 19 topics from dating to honesty to work and self-reliance. You can check it out here. As I held that pamphlet in my hand, I thought, Duh! Here’s my list! I don’t need to come up with my own! Yes, I felt dumb, but I also felt empowered.

I immediately sat down with my husband and we combined some of the topics to come up with a list of 12 values to teach our kids. We assigned every value to a month of the year.

JANUARYPatience and Kindness (For the Strength of Youth (FSOY) “Language”)

FEBRUARY  The Law of Chastity (FSOY topics: Dating, Music and Dancing, Dress and Appearance, Sexual Purity). This topic corresponds nicely to Valentine’s Day and teaching children the true meaning of love.

MARCHTestimony (FSOY “Go Forward with Faith;” Preach My Gospel Chapter 4 “How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?” Preach My Gospel Chapter 5 “What is the Role of the Book of Mormon?)

APRILPlan of Salvation & Missionary Work (FSOY “Agency and Accountability” Preach My Gospel – 2nd lesson (Plan of Salvation) and 3rd lesson (Gospel of Jesus Christ); Preach My Gospel Chapter 9 and 10.

MAYHonesty and Integrity (FSOY “Honesty and Integrity”)

JUNEHard Work, Self-reliance, and Goal Setting (FSOY “Work and Self Reliance” Preach My Gospel Chapter 6 “How do I develop Christlike Attributes?” Preach My Gospel Chapter 8 “How Do I Use Time Wisely?” Preach My Gospel Chapter 11 “Keep Commitments.” We didn’t want our kids to be lazy and waste their Summer so we have them set goals at the beginning of the Summer and help them develop talents. They go back to school very proud of all they have accomplished.

JULYService and Being “Others” Oriented (FSOY “Service) When your kids are out of school, it’s the perfect time (because you have extra time!) to plan family service projects.

AUGUSTRelationship Skills (FSOY “Family” & FSOY “Friends). August is the month right before school starts and it’s important to sit down with your kids and teach them about how to be a good friend. With our younger kids, we role-played introducing themselves to new kids at school and how to make friends on a playground.

SEPTEMBERProphets and Obedience with an emphasis on courageously standing up for what’s right and being a good example; being in the world but not of the world (FSOY “Entertainment and Media” Preach My Gospel – 1st Lesson). This prepares our kids for a wonderful broadcast our church does every six months called General Conference

OCTOBERSelf Mastery and Moderation – Physical, Emotional and Mental Health, Education, Tithing, Finances, Being Thrifty. (FSOY topics: Education, Physical and Emotional Health, Tithes and Offerings) October comes right before the holiday season and this month’s theme is a good reminder to eat well during the holidays & exercise, be frugal and not blow all of your money during the holidays, and take care of yourself emotionally.

NOVEMBERCheerful Attitude and Gratitude (FSOY “Gratitude”) This month’s value corresponds well with the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday.

DECEMBERThe Savior with emphasis on His life, The Atonement of Jesus Christ, repentance, and forgiveness (FSOY “Repentance” & FSOY “Sabbath Day Observance” – a way to draw closer to the Savior every week)

DISPLAYING THE THEME IN OUR HOME

Our 12 monthly values are displayed prominently in our home, right on the item that gets the #1 use in our house: the fridge! I laminated four cute scrapbooking sheets, and I use the first sheet to display the monthly theme and the next three to put up quotes. It is easy to switch the theme and quotes each month because I’m using magnets (that’s why I chose to use the fridge instead of framing things on a wall). I try to change the quotes each week so my family doesn’t get tired of the same ones for the whole month! I love having my house help teach the gospel – even if the kids aren’t listening to me they can read a quote on the fridge!

Need help finding quotes? I found a blog called Spiritually Thinking. This amazing lady has posted all of her favorite quotes (there are hundreds of them). She makes them super cute and FREE to print off and use in your house. Every month I search her blog for quotes that are relevant to my monthly theme.

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

We have four weekly family home evenings a month on each value and really focus on LIVING that principle every day that month, setting some goals, and BECOMING better in that area.

At dinnertime we remind the kids what the topic is, discuss it, share experiences of how we’ve seen that value in action that day, or work on memorizing one of the quotes. We try to ask, “Hey kids, our theme this month is honesty – how were you honest today?” Of course, some of my kids are so little that we have to tell them how they were honest, but they love to hear their parents tell them how amazing they are!

I really love this system because of the compound effect. One lesson on anger management (aka kindness and patience) may not stick, but four lessons on it plus daily dinnertime discussions make a huge difference in behavior. As it repeats each year, we go into greater depth with the older kids and it’s amazing to see their progress from year to year – not just in their knowledge on the subject, but in their behavior and conversion to that value. It is literally becoming a part of who they are. My hope is that they will always associate January with kindness, May with honesty, and December with the Savior.

I make a lot of mistakes as a mom, but having a system in place that makes it easy to review spiritual topics gives me great peace of mind. Even when I’m dead tired, I can look at the fridge and lead a short family discussion on the monthly family value or on one of the quotes. It may seem like I only added a spiritual penny into my kids’ testimony bank that night, but I know the compound effect is in place and that penny will eventually turn into a $5 million testimony.
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The Secret To Why Teenagers Butt Heads With Their Parents

“Who plays soccer?” I asked. I picked a volunteer and I picked another volunteer who didn’t play soccer. My soccer star taught the non-soccer player how to pass a ball. After the drill, we had a class discussion about the role of a coach. My students clearly understood that a coach was supposed to teach, but I pointed out that it is critical that a coach CORRECTS. The players on a team will never improve unless they understand what they are doing wrong, how to fix it, and then practice the correct behavior.

I coached lacrosse for many years. One year I had a girl who was a natural. From the very start, she could catch sooner, pick up ground balls faster, and shoot harder than any of the other girls. However, as good as she was, she didn’t cradle correctly. In girl’s lacrosse, it is imperative to learn how to properly hold (cradle) your stick because the pocket is not very deep. If you change directions quickly with your stick, the ball will fall out unless you are cradling it. I gave the same instruction over and over to her, but as she could run past any of the other girls she never corrected it. My heart broke during the end of the season when she would drop the ball every time she made a sharp cut. She realized too late that the other players had now improved immensely in skill and the only way to get around them would be to cradle properly, which she had never learned how to do.

Another girl on the same team struggled with every skill. She dropped the ball every time I threw it to her and could never seem to pick up a ground ball on the first try. The difference, however, was that she listened to my corrections and did everything she could to follow my advice. It took her a long time, but eventually, by the end of the season she was the best player on the team, even better than the girl who was a natural at it! All because she was humble enough to make changes and worked hard to improve.

Humans are notorious for being defensive when criticized. We are quick to point out others’ mistakes, but we will defend our own to the grave! Never correcting, never looking for ways to improve, but going to great lengths to justify, rationalize, and excuse our behavior! That’s exhausting work! Instead of using our energy to change and improve, we use it to defend.

“‘Many will say they want to learn but feel threatened if there is the slightest element of correction in what they are given.’ Why does this seem to be a natural tendency? It may be because of our own personal pride and ego. It is an irony that we want to be viewed by others as competent and even flawless but can be resistant to suggestions that would help us get closer to that ideal. It’s almost as if we are willing to trade long-term growth for short-term appearances.”
–Paul V. Johnson, “Counsel and Correction,” CES Satellite Training Broadcast, Aug 2004

We need to be extremely careful not to trade long-term growth for short-term appearances! We need to be truly grateful for those who love us enough to correct us.

“In his last conference address, Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught us to “be grateful for people in your lives who love you enough to correct you, to remind you of your standards and possibilities, even when you don’t want to be reminded. We can each do better in this particular area in our lives. We can be more open and less defensive. We can make it easy for others to give us suggestions and be truly grateful for the help. It is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. In fact, defensiveness and unwillingness to take correction or even chastisement is a sign of weakness.”
–Paul V. Johnson, “Counsel and Correction,” CES Satellite Training Broadcast, Aug 2004

I love that last line: “defensiveness and unwillingness to take correction…is a sign of weakness.” Raymond Jones gives one of the best definitions of a fool that I have ever seen.

“Human beings don’t like correction.  They prefer to protect the position they have taken.  But, in reality, any response that takes offense to correction is inappropriate.  If the person who gives you correction is a fool, to be upset by a fool is to make yourself an even greater fool.  If the input is of value, then to not consider it places you once again in the position of a fool.”

Humility is the unique gift of not only being open to criticism, but SEEKING and being GRATEFUL for it. It is a striving and an inner desire to become better. More and more, I have come to understand that humility is an action word. It is not just a passive state. It’s not just turning the other cheek. It is swallowing our pride and, instead of defending our position, looking for ways to improve it!

The following story represents the true definition of humility

“If you were to take a long trip, say from San Francisco to Hawaii, aboard a 747 with several other people, you might be appalled if you knew who was flying the airplane.  It is not the pilots; it is a couple of guys named Fred and George.

Fred and George are two black boxes, and they really are referred to as Fred and George.  Fred is a gizmo called an inertial Navigation System.  Fred knows at every moment exactly where the airplane is and where it is supposed to be.  In the old days a human navigator took a look at his instruments and did some figuring, and by the time he had the position worked out the plane was long from that spot.  Fred knows NOW where the plane is.

George is the autopilot.  He moves the controls to guide the airplane this way and that, speed it up or slow it down.  He and Fred talk to each other constantly.  If their conversation were in English, it would sound something like this: Fred will say, “George, we’re off course two degrees to starboard.” And George will say, “O.K. Fred, I’ll fix it.”

“George, we’re off course three degrees to port.”
“O.K. Fred, I’ll fix it.”
“George, we’re forty knots below our airspeed.”
“O.K. Fred, I’ll fix it.”
“George, we’re three hundred feet too low.”
“O.K. Fred, I’ll fix it.”

This conversation continues all the way to Hawaii, and George and Fred bring the giant plane within a thousand yard of the runway in Honolulu within 5 minutes of the scheduled time of arrival.
The incredible thing is not so much the accuracy of Fred and George, but the fact that the airplane has been in error 90% of the time of its flight.  In error 90% of the time and still it lands on target and on schedule!

The secret is that George made thousands of errors in driving the airplane, but for each error Fred called out a correction and George corrected.  The flight line was made up of thousands of small jobs that criss-crossed the ideal straight flight line and still put the airplane at its destination when it was supposed to be there.  A rocket to the moon travels in exactly the same way.

If we human beings could see that we can get a 747 to Honolulu or a rocket to the moon even having been in error 90% of the time, we might be a little less uptight about being in error ourselves.”
–Raymond Jones

Raymond Jones goes on to list the fears that cause us to be so defensive:

“There’s nothing that kills performance like fear of failure, fear of being foolish, fear of being caught in error.  We are particularly prone to this fear when we contemplate the perfection of eternity, which we are endeavoring to attain.”

Raymond Jones also points out the secret to success – how Fred and George were successful in arriving at their intended designation, despite the fact they could not possibly fly the plane perfectly all the time.

“The secret to the success of Fred and George is correction.  They work as a perfect team.  Fred spots and error.  George corrects it immediately.  Some human beings work that way.  Most don’t.

To be in life means we are constantly off course.  What is important is not that we are off course, but whether or not we make the corrections that need to be made.  Human beings differ from Fred and George in one important and often fatal respect: the desire to protect one’s position.

Suppose Fred and George were human and Fred had just pointed out for the fiftieth time that George was wrong.  George, the human George, would likely reply, “Will you leave me alone!  I’m doing the best that I can.  If you think you can do any better, come and fly this thing yourself!” Fred and George, the machines, don’t do that.  They work together and get the job done.

Most people don’t make the necessary corrections because they are too busy being concerned with protection.  Most people’s failures in life are a product of protecting themselves when they should have been correcting themselves.
–Raymond Jones

The trick to achieving any goal is not flying there perfectly in one shot. Wouldn’t that be nice! The trick is to constantly make course corrections.

REPENTANCE

By definition, repentance is course correction. It is changing our sinful behavior and re-aligning ourselves with our Heavenly Father’s path. When we sin, we deviate from his path. In German the word for repentance is “umkehren” which literally means U-turn. We have strayed from our Father’s path so we must literally turn around and get back to it so we can continue making progress down it!

God has high expectations of us. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). “He knows what is required, and so, to make our transformation possible, He provides His commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and most important, the Atonement and Resurrection of His Beloved Son” (D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many As I Love I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign May 2011).

“Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler ‘who meets their needs when summoned’ or a therapist whose role is to help people ‘feel good about themselves.'”
–D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many As I Love I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign May 2011

As Brad Wilcox said, “A God who requires nothing of us is making nothing of us.” (Learning not Earning Heaven, Audio CD).

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is” (D. Todd Christofferson). Because God loves us and wants us to return to Him, He corrects us. Unless we get good at accepting correction (truly becoming humble), we will end up resisting the very things (trials, advice from Heavenly Father, etc) that will make us more god-like!

Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way. We clearly understand that an athlete who resists rigorous training will never become a world-class athlete. We must be careful that we don’t resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.
–Paul V. Johnson, “More Than Conquerors Through Him That Loved Us,” Ensign May 2011

The gospel of Jesus Christ is corrective in nature. It calls, encourages, and shows us a way to do better, live better, and become better. It is a gospel of constant improvement. If we resist correction, we will find ourselves off course, and we will miss our destination.

One of the many roles of the Holy Ghost is to correct us.

“Most importantly, we each have access to a powerful source of correction and counsel—the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost works on some of the same principles we have discussed. The Savior taught, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).

If we are defensive and ignore promptings from the Spirit, we become less able to receive further counsel. If we are open and willing to change and follow the Spirit, we become more familiar with the whisperings and can have the Spirit as a constant companion.

Elder Maxwell said: “As the Lord communicates with the meek and submissive, fewer decibels are required, and more nuances are received. Even the most meek, like Moses (see Numbers 12:3), learn overwhelming things they ‘never had supposed’ (Moses 1:10). But it is only the meek mind which can be so shown and so stretched—not those, as Isaiah wrote, who ‘are wise in their own eyes’ (Isaiah 5:21; see also 2 Nephi 9:29 and 15:21)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 90; or Ensign, May 1985, 71).
–Paul V. Johnson, “Counsel and Correction,” CES Satellite Training Broadcast, Aug 2004

PARENTING

Why is it so hard to be a parent? Why do teenagers and parents butt heads so often? The Lord has mandated that parents correct their children and children, as all humans, are resistant to correction.

Parents can and must correct, even chasten, if their children are not to be cast adrift at the mercy of a merciless adversary and his supporters. President Boyd K. Packer has observed that when a person in a position to correct another fails to do so, he is thinking of himself.
–D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many As I Love I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign May 2011

Trying to change my teenagers’ perspectives, I taught them that their parents were their coaches. And they would be horrible coaches if they didn’t instruct and correct their kids.

Being a parent, I realize we don’t always correct in the best way. Sometimes harsh voices or glaring looks are given. However, I testified to the youth that although they can’t control how their parents correct them, they can control their attitude – how they receive that correction. Even if criticism is given in a mean tone, they could sift through it, find ways to improve, and become a better person because of it. Realize it is your parent’s job, their God given DUTY to correct you. Realize any correction can be beneficial – even if it comes from our enemies. They often don’t sugar coat our shortcomings!

“Even when we encounter mean-spirited criticism from persons who have little regard or love for us, it can be helpful to exercise enough meekness to weigh it and sift out anything that might benefit us.”
–D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many As I Love I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign May 2011

Sadly, if we are resistant to correction, people will stop giving it.

“Remember that if we resist correction, others may discontinue offering it altogether, despite their love for us. If we repeatedly fail to act on the chastening of a loving God, then He too will desist. He has said, “My Spirit will not always strive with man” (Ether 2:15). Eventually, much of our chastening should come from within—we should become self-correcting.”
–D. Todd Christofferson, “As Many As I Love I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign May 2011

As humans we often equate mistakes with failure. That could not be further from the truth. A concert pianist doesn’t become perfect at the piano in one day. He makes countless mistakes. The mistakes are not failures. They are learning opportunities. They are chances for him to learn what he doesn’t know and see where he can improve. Failure only comes if you give up all together. Mistakes are NECESSARY. From them we gain experience. We learn what NOT to do, what the BEST way is, and hopefully, we learn resilience.

Few are open to criticism and even fewer seek it, but if our goal is to become a concert pianist, it would be pretty foolish to become angry with our piano teacher and refuse her advice! God has blessed us with many trainers throughout our lives – Jesus Christ, prophets, parents, church leaders, inspired friends, etc. Let us always be open to receiving the advice from trusted sources and be humble enough to improve. As D. Todd Christofferson counseled, hopefully, with time much of our chastening will come from within. We will become self-correcting.

24 Hour Challenge to Revolutionize Relationships

Have your family try to guess what goes in this blank :

The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is _______.

You may get a variety of answers from scripture study to church attendance. What is the real answer?

“The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”
–Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1992

Hopefully, all the great things we DO (read our scriptures, say our prayers, go to church, serve, etc) are causing us to BECOME as Christ is – to put on his character and attributes.

“We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ,” is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes.”
–Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000

The attributes of Charity (charity suffereth long, is kind, envieth not, etc) are really attributes of Christ – it is a description of His character and what we should try to emulate. How closely a person is emulating Christ is easily discovered by how he treats other people.

“Would you consider this idea for a moment – that the way we treat the members of our families, our friends, those with whom we work each day is as important as are some of the more noticeable gospel principles we sometimes emphasize…
Imagine what could happen in today’s world – or in our own wards, or families, or priesthood quorums and auxiliaries – if each of us would vow to cherish, watch over, and comfort one another.  Imagine the possibilities!…
If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.
If the adversary can influence us to pick on each other, to find fault, bash, and undermine, to judge or humiliate or taunt, half his battle is won.  Why?  Because though this sort of conduct may not equate with succumbing to grievous sin, it nevertheless neutralizes us spiritually.  The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell where there is bickering, judging, contention, or any kind of bashing…
Once again may I emphasize this principle that when we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gently acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives.  This is the beginning of true conversion.
Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing.”
-Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1992

HOW CAN WE BECOME KINDER? WATCH OUR TONGUE!!!

If the most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people, what is one step we can take to treat people better? Watch our tongues!

For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2)

James contends that if a man can control his tongue, he is a perfect person! Why? Because being the master of what comes out of our mouth requires a tremendous amount of self discipline. If we can conquer that one habit, we are truly the masters of ourselves and will be able to control all of our other actions and passions.

“The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”
–David O. McKay

James continues his sermon and gives us this warning and admonition. Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes:

“Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
Behold also … ships, which though they be … great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm.”

Then James makes his point:

“The tongue is [also] a little member. … [But] behold, how great a [forest (Greek)] a little fire [can burn].
… So is the tongue [a fire] among our members, … it defileth the whole body, … it is set on fire of hell.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, … hath been tamed of mankind:
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:2-10)

Jeffrey R. Holland’s explanation of this passage is insightful:

“Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is ‘full of deadly poison.’ But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. ‘Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,’ James grieves. ‘My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.’

So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be ‘perfect’ men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.”
–Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007

24 HOUR CHALLENGE

  Have you ever wanted a list of all the Christian values we want our youth to understand and live by in a format that was clear, concise, direct, and short enough to finish in 30 minutes? In our church we have a pamphlet that is worth its weight in gold. It covers 19 topics from dating to honesty to work and self-reliance. You can check it out here.

Before I gave this 24 hour challenge to a class of teenagers, I would ask, “What is the very first thing listed in the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet about language?” They answered in unison, “Don’t swear!” It always surprised them to learn that’s NOT the first thing it says. It doesn’t even come up until the second paragraph!

How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandments to love one another. When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you.
Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misuisng their names is a sin…

I love the first sentence: How you speak says much about who you are. People should be able to tell, just by how we talk, that we are Christian. Like James directs, let’s not have the same tongues that praise God, demean and criticize His other children.

The 24 Hour Challenge is simple: for 24 hours you may not say anything negative to anyone including yourself! This includes your tone. You may not criticize, gossip, yell, be sarcastic, make fun of someone (even in joking), or do anything like unto it. If you catch yourself saying something negative or saying it with an unkind tone, you must start the 24 hours over again. If you THINK something negative about someone, you do not have to start over as long as you push that thought aside. If you dwell on it for a long period of time, you must start over. One other rule if you are doing this challenge with other people: you may not tell somebody else they need to start over otherwise YOU have to start over. The only person who decides whether she has to start over is herself (This idea comes from John L. Lund, a marriage counselor).

The motto for the next 24 hours is “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” You can even watch the clip of the movie Bambi where Thumper is reminded of this important lesson (especially if you are doing this challenge with young children – it is helpful to have a visual for them). We have a code word at my house: “Thumper.” If my kids ever say something unkind, I simply say “Thumper” and they know what I mean. That way I don’t have to lecture them (especially in front of other people at the store, at their friend’s house, at church, etc).

When I did this challenge with some teenagers, the results were amazing. Sometimes it took my teenagers a week or two to complete it, but eventually everyone came back with eye-opening outcomes. They said, “Wow, I never realized how negative I was…” or “I didn’t notice how much I gossiped” or “I used to be so mean to my mom….”

I’ll never forget one young woman’s report. When I issued the challenge,she immediately protested. The first words out of her mouth were, “If you knew my brother, you’d know this will be impossible. He always….” I finally convinced her to try it out and I was eager to see what happened. To her credit, this stalwart young woman resolved to be kind no matter what her brother did. And her brother tested her to her max! At some point he figured out she wasn’t going to argue with him so he pushed her even harder to see if he could get her to! A lot of the time she just had to bite her tongue and not say anything! Change didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, her brother started reciprocating. When she was finally able to complete the challenge, she came back, tears in her eyes and said, “I always thought my brother was the problem, but as soon as I changed MY behavior, I realized that a lot of the fighting between us was because of me. My brother and I have actually started hanging out together and having a great time. I never knew that my brother could be my best friend.”

This challenge really helped these teenagers focus on what was coming out of their mouths! And that is an important step to conquering our thoughts:

“Check Your Words-If you first gain power to check your words, you will then begin to have power to check your judgment, and at length actually gain power to check your thoughts and reflections.”
–Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 6:98

Anger can sour a relationship quickly. Learning to control our words (and our tone) is a very important step in learning to deal with angry emotions.

“Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything….To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can MAKE us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.”
–Thomas S. Monson, “School thy feelings, O my brother,” Ensign, Nov. 2009

Originally posted on January 17, 2013 at Raising Temporally, Spiritually Self-reliant Kids

The Secret Of Not Yelling When You’re Having An Awful Day

During a dangerous war between the Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon, supplies and soldiers were at a critically low level for the Nephites. Captain Moroni, leader of the Nephite armies, assumed the government was to blame and wrote a stinging letter to the governor, Pahoran.

Pahoran could have chosen to be severely offended. He responded with forgiveness, compassion, and helpful information for Moroni. He explained that there had been a rebellion against the government that Moroni was not aware of. He told Moroni:

“Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

Captain Moroni and Pahoran devised a successful plan to overthrow the rebellion, restore peace in the capital city of Zarahemla, and then send soldiers and supplies to fortify all of the Nephite armies. Moroni and Pahoran could have ended up enemies, but Pahoran waved away the offense and fostered a spirit of cooperation.

“One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, ‘it mattereth not.’
…it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
…You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act.”
–David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Ensign, November 2006

Pahoran was a master of his anger. It did not control him. He consciously controlled it. How can we teach our children (and ourselves!) to respond in positive ways when we are angry?

How To Teach Children (And Yourself!) To Deal With Their Anger In Positive Ways

It is okay to feel angry. It is a healthy human emotion.Someone enraged by an unjust circumstance in the world can be motivated to start a charity, create awareness of the problem, right a wrong, etc.

It is NOT a sin to feel angry. It’s what we choose to do when we feel angry that counts.

We had a family meeting to discuss how to deal with our anger. A common American phrase “He made me angry!” is a lie. No one can make you angry. It is a choice. We can choose to be kind even when someone is being mean (ever notice how we never lose our temper with a boss, but we often do with family?). Satan would have us believe that we have no choice. But yelling is simply a learned behavior, a negative type of coping to deal with anger. Again, we emphasized that it is okay to feel mad, but it is not okay to yell, hit, throw things, or say unkind words. Those are negative ways of dealing with our frustrations! We need to train ourselves to deal with it in positive ways!

I came up with a list of 20 ways to calm down when you’re angry. We read every one and I asked my kids to raise their hand when they heard a strategy they wanted to try. Each of my kids picked 5-10 strategies and we wrote/drew them on a piece of paper. We had fun practicing different techniques. At the end, we placed our hands over our hearts and promised that when we got angry that week, we would choose to do one thing from our list (no one could say they were too angry to pick anything!).

What did we learn from that week? I thought that the “Movement” category would be the best at getting rid of anger – after all, doesn’t exercise release natural endorphins that help calm us down? Yes, but I have found that sometimes it doesn’t release them fast enough! We discovered that THE ABSOLUTE best way to get rid of anger is LAUGHTER. Our favorite tool has been staring contests. It causes you to focus so intently on the game that you completely forget everything else! And there’s something about staring into the eyes of someone you love (especially your kids) that melts your heart and puts things back into proper perspective.

“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a child to be loved.”
–Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, August 2011

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed singing about what I’m angry about. There’s something inherently funny about someone singing, “I can’t find my keys! Where did they go? I need to remember to put them in the same place….” It cracks my kids up every time (yes, I lose my keys a lot!). Sticking your tongue out while you’re talking works wonders. You can go ahead and say EVERYTHING you’re angry about and you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings because no one can understand you! So, the next time you’re angry, simply stick your tongue out and keep talking! It will make you and your kids laugh as you listen to how ridiculous you sound!

How To Stop Being The Referee And Teach Kids How To Resolve Their Own Problems

“I need two volunteers!” As my two volunteers came up to the front of the room, I took out a full-sized candy bar and a tootsie roll. I explained, “These are for the two of you. Both of you need to decide who gets what. The only rule is that you cannot break the candy in any way.” I stepped back to watch how they would handle it. How would you handle it?

A FAMILY FIGHT IN THE SCRIPTURES

What does this object lesson have to do with Genesis 13:5-7? Abraham and Lot had too much substance to live on the same piece of land. It was starting to cause contention between Abraham and Lot’s herdmen.

How did Abraham solve it? Did Abraham say, “I’m the uncle. I’m very rich and have more stuff. I need the bigger land.” No. He decided to let Lot choose which piece of land he wanted (Genesis 13:8). Lot chose the land that was “even as the garden of the Lord.” He picked the candy bar and left the tootsie roll to Abraham!

One Saturday when I was younger, my mom wrote down a bunch of chores she wanted us kids to do before we could play. My older brother held out the slips of paper and let his younger siblings choose which ones they wanted to do. It was a race to get the easiest chores! I vividly remember picking the 2-3 easiest chores I could find and being slightly annoyed when my younger sister beat me to the simplest one! I remember looking at the chores my brother held in his hand. They were hard and I knew they would take a lot more effort. He didn’t utter a word of complaint. He said, “Let’s get them done fast and then we can play!” As I recall, he finished his chores before we did and then he came to help us. I always remembered that – how happy he was to sacrifice for us.

This was exactly how Abraham felt towards Lot. He didn’t hold a grudge. He meant it when he said, “Let there be no strife” (Gen. 13:8). As a result of his generosity the Lord poured out special blessings for Abraham including land and endless posterity (Genesis 13:14-18). I used to think this was just a lesson on karma – you are generous and the Lord is generous to you, but there is more to it. The Lord blessed Abraham with prosperity because he knew Abraham would use it to bless all the people around him (as we will see shortly). The Lord is more willing to bless those who are eager to bless others.

What did Lot get? Yes, he got the better land, but that was definitely only a short-term advantage. Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). He was selfish and ended up living by (and eventually with) selfish, evil people. We need to be very careful with our thoughts, words, and actions. We end up becoming friends with the people we are like! And that can have dire consequences. People often end up doing things they never dreamed they would do because of the influence of bad friends and they sometimes get the consequences of their friends’ bad choices. Because of Lot’s proximity to Sodom, he was captured in battle. He hadn’t done anything wrong, but he fell victim to the wicked kings in that area.

Lucky for Lot, Abraham truly didn’t hold grudges. He “armed his trained servants (Abraham was always prepread!), born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14). Abraham raises an army and rescues Lot! He risked his life to save a man who had taken the better land. Abraham also ends up rescuing all the prisoners of war and their goods. The King of Sodom was so grateful he told Abraham to keep all the goods and just return the people. Abraham replied, “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Genesis 14:23). Abraham understood that all the earth belongs to God and any wealth we obtain comes from Him.

“We are here on His [God’s] earth, we breathe His air, we behold His sunlight, we eat His food, we wear His clothing. ‘Our own’ property belongs to Him.”
–Joseph F. Smith, “In The Presence of the Divine,” Ensign June 1979

Abraham wanted the glory to go to the Lord. He wanted people to know that the Lord had blessed Him with victory and with riches, not the King of Sodom. Abraham didn’t want anything to do with wickedness. He stayed as far away from it as possible. He wouldn’t even accept a shoelatchet from the King of Sodom! Abraham didn’t get anything of worldly value for himself in rescuing Lot. Truly, Abraham was the epitome of unselfishness.

THE UNHAPPY ENDING OF LOT’S STORY

Sadly, Lot doesn’t learn his lesson. Some time after the battle, he ends up living IN Sodom! Many a righteous person has declared, “I can be around these people. I can choose to be righteous even if they do wicked things. I’m just having some fun. I want to enjoy life.” But the words and actions of those we associate with rubs off on us.

Lot learned this lesson the hard way. He reaps the consequences of living among the wicked. The city is destroyed and although he escapes with his life and two daughters (but none of his possessions), he loses his wife and his married daughters. He could not convince his sons-in-law to leave the city (Genesis 19:14). Yes, Lot didn’t succumb to wickedness, but he paid a heavy price for living among the wicked. Let us be diligent in teaching our children what good friends are, what bad friends are, and the dangerous consequences that come from choosing bad friends. We are nice to everyone, but our close friends should influence us for good. The definition for a true friend is someone who makes it easier to live the gospel and become like Jesus Christ.

THE DANGERS OF SELFISHNESS

Neal A. Maxwell described the dangers of selfishness. They are much more potent than meets the eye.

“Selfishness is much more than an ordinary problem because it activates all the cardinal sins! It is the detonator in the breaking of the Ten Commandments.
By focusing on oneself, it is naturally easier to bear false witness if it serves one’s purpose. It is easier to ignore one’s parents instead of honoring them. It is easier to steal, because what one wants prevails. It is easier to covet, since the selfish conclude that nothing should be denied them….
The selfish individual thus seeks to please not God, but himself….
Selfishness has little time to regard the sufferings of others seriously, hence the love of many waxes cold.”
–Neal A. Maxwell, “Put Off The Natural Man And Come Off Conqueror,” General Conference October 1990.

One of the greatest hindrances to peace in our homes is selfishness. How many of our disagreements could be solved if we took a step back to think about the other person’s perspective?

TEACHING CHILDREN TO RESOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS

In the book Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors talk about having problem solving sessions. We have used this technique and love it. We had to use it a lot at the beginning, but as we’ve used it more and more our kids have discovered, developed, and invented more ways to solve problems and they can work out many more problems by THEMSELVES! My favorite thing is to hear them talking out a problem in a different room. Music to my ears!

What is this technique? You simple call a family meeting (or call a meeting of the disagreeing parties) and lay down some ground rules. Each child gets to talk about the problem and describe their feelings (without any interruptions). Then, they get to list all the solutions they can think of without any fear of their idea being rejected or ridiculed. It is imperative that ALL solutions are written down (no matter how ridiculous!). If ideas are immediately vetoed, kids are less likely to offer solutions and they learn that their ideas don’t matter. Some may conclude, “Mom or an older sibling get to decide my problems for me. I’ll just sit here and let them solve it.” That’s a sure way to get more future fights because if you have a child who doesn’t know how to solve a problem, there will be endless fighting exactly because they don’t know how to end it!

I let my kids exhaust all possible solutions before I offer some of my own (sometimes I don’t need to, but for younger kids or tougher problems, I do step in and offer some solutions). The next step is to decide which solutions will work for everyone. If someone isn’t happy with it, then we move on to the next possible solution.

This has been a marvelous opportunity for my kids to learn to listen to each other, understand the other sibling’s feelings and perspective, and use critical thinking skills and creativity to develop some pretty awesome problem solving skills! They have come up with solutions that I never would have dreamed up! Never underestimate children’s abilities to work out problems. My three-year-old has come up with some impressive solutions. If mom always steps in to solve problems, the children never learn how to communicate, cooperate, compromise, or negotiate. Their only solution is to run to mom. And as fair as mom tries to be, there is often one kid who feels like the winner and another one who feels like he lost which can create resentment and bad feelings toward their sibling or mom. But if the kids work it out, they find great joy and pride in coming up with their own solutions and there is often a mutual feeling of fairness – they both win!

This strategy also works well if mom (or dad) is having a chronic problem with a child (for example: child A isn’t getting ready for school on time or child B resents practicing the piano). I’ve found it works much better to sit down with that child and work through this process. Child A is much more likely to follow through (and have a better attitude!) with a solution that he/she helped come up with.

Russell M. Nelson has given great advice about teaching children.

“The family has been under attack ever since Satan first taunted Adam and Eve. (See Gen. 3) So today, each must guard against the hazard of contention in the family. It usually begins innocently…In a large family of boys, those with the longest reach were the best fed. In order to avoid obvious contention, they adopted a rule that required them at mealtime to leave at least one foot on the floor.
The home is the great laboratory of learning and love. Here parents help children overcome these natural tendencies to be selfish.”
–Russell M. Nelson, “The Canker of Contention,” Ensign May 1989

I echo his statement: the home really is the great laboratory where we TRAIN our children to be selfless and Christ-like. I used to despair that there were so many problems every day, but now I see that it is, in large measure, a good thing. Where better to learn how to deal with the challenges of life than in a home where you are loved? The next time your kids start arguing, take a deep breath and remember that this can be turned into a great learning opportunity for them!

What Satan Doesn’t Want You To Know About Sin

climbing-1512132_1280The journey back to our Father in Heaven is much like climbing a mountain. God is the perfect mountain climber. He knows how to conquer the mountain and lead us safely back home to Him. We are down on earth to become like our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:48).  When we are born we start at the bottom of the mountain and our goal is to learn to become like Him as we conquer and climb this mountain before us.

Our Heavenly Father has not left us alone in our journey up the mountain. He knew it would be difficult. He knew there would be obstacles, frustrations, sadness, and even pain. But he knew the vital, transformational life’s lessons we came down to earth to learn were to be best learned on the mountain – not in the meadow down below.  Heavenly Father has given us mountain guides – prophets – who have traversed the mountain and conquered it. He had them write down their journey (we have a guide book!) and had them build sign posts to warn us of dangers.

God knew we wouldn’t learn how to be perfect mountain climbers in a day. He never expected us to race up the mountain in record time with a perfect score. He knew we’d mess up. He knew we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. That is why He sent the Savior to atone for the mistakes we would make.

We are going to fall down as we climb – sometimes we’re going to skid half a mile down the mountain!  It doesn’t matter how many times we fall. Heavenly Father is not keeping track of our failures! When we get to the top, He isn’t going to say, “Well, my daughter, you messed up 1,543,678 times. There’s no way I’m letting you in to heaven! Sally only messed up 876,393 times so I’m letting her in instead!”

Our challenge is not just to follow the rules and go through the motions of climbing up a mountain (and try to make the least mistakes we can!), but to BECOME a master climber and to help others on their way up the mountain. The final judgment won’t be a weighing of our good deeds on one side and our bad deeds on the other. I used to think that. I used to just hope I did more good than bad and that the scale would be heavier on the good side!  No, the challenge of this life is not just to do good, but to BECOME good. Dallin H. Oaks put it best when he said:

“The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.

Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.

A parable illustrates this understanding. A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:

“’All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.’”

–Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000

Heavenly Father doesn’t care how many times we fall down – He only cares about what we do after we mess up. Do we learn from it? Become better because of it? Make less mistakes in the future because of it?

We can’t change the fact that we fell down. That is in the past. The only question now is, “What are we going to do about it?” The only productive thing you can do from the past is learn from it. Once we learn from it (and fix anything we can) we need to move on. We can’t allow ourselves to dwell on past mistakes. That will ruin our future.

FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY

Paul teaches us 3 key ingredients that are crucial to our success in climbing up the mountain: faith, hope, and charity.

The greatest act of charity ever performed on the earth was the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There was no greater, more unselfish, more loving act ever done. Satan did everything in his power to prevent Christ from following through with the Atonement, but he failed. The Atonement is real and available to all of God’s children. Satan knows that. He knows he can’t destroy the Atonement – so what does he do instead? He attacks our hope in the Atonement.

When we fall down, Satan whispers:

  • “See? You fell again. You’ll never make it to the top. You’re not mountain climber material.”
  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “What’s the point of all this? You’re just going to fall again. Give up.”
  • “Why don’t you just go play in the meadow down below? It will be more fun down there.”
  • “Look at everyone way up there. They think you’re dumb. You’ll never be as good as they are.”
  • “God will never forgive you now. You’ve fallen way too many times.”

Boyd K. Packer taught, “The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of them) makes it everlastingly too late, does not come from the Lord.” (General Conference April 1989)

plane-50893_1920Dieter F. Ucthdorf shares his experience of being an airline captain and a lesson it taught him about sin and the Atonement of Jesus Christ:

During my training to become an airline captain, I had to learn how to navigate an airplane over long distances. Flights over huge oceans, crossing extensive deserts, and connecting continents need careful planning to ensure a safe arrival at the planned destination. Some of these nonstop flights can last up to 14 hours and cover almost 9,000 miles.

There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return.

Satan, “the father of all lies…” uses the forces of evil to convince us that this concept applies whenever we have sinned….Satan wants us to think that when we have sinned we have gone past a “point of no return”—that it is too late to change our course.

Christ came to save us. If we have taken a wrong course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can give us the assurance that sin is not a point of no return. A safe return is possible if we will follow God’s plan for our salvation.

–Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Point of Safe Return,” General Conference April 2007

How Satan wants us to react after we have sinned is completely opposite of how the Lord wants us to react. Satan wants us to beat ourselves up, dwell on the past, and make us feel like a terrible, awful person who is damned and has no hope. God whispers encouragement to us. He whispers, “I love you. You can do this. You can change. I will help you.” He wants us to feel godly sorrow for the sin and repent, but He doesn’t want us to hate ourselves and lose hope. We need to be extremely careful about whose voice we are listening to after we have sinned. If we feel deep shame, want to give up, feel damned, despairing, and hated of God, that voice is not from God! It is from Satan!

“We need to remember that Satan seeks to discourage us and dissuade us from righteousness every chance he gets.  Feelings of discouragement never come from God: they are always of the devil.  President Brigham Young once remarked:  ‘Serve God according to the best knowledge you have,…and when the Devil comes along and says, ‘You are not a very good Saint, you might enjoy greater blessings and more of the power of God, and have the vision of your mind opened, if you would live up to your privileges,’ tell him to leave; that you have long ago forsaken his ranks and enlisted in the army of Jesus, who is your captain, and that you want no more of the Devil’” (Discourses, 82) (Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 144)

On one occasion, the prophet Joseph Smith told Elder George A. Smith “Never be discouraged…If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.”

Nowhere, in all of scripture does God tell any one of His children that they have messed up too many times and that He doesn’t love them anymore. His message is the exact opposite!

  • “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right….None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:14, 16)
  • “Yea, as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.” (Mosiah 26:30) There is no limit to how many times God will forgive you!
  • “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) Look at Christ’s counsel to his disciples. Surely, he wouldn’t have a lower standard for Himself!

It is NEVER too late to repent. You have never sinned too much or too often that you are beyond Christ’s reach or His love.

yellow-flower-cloud-sun“…however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

–Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” General Conference April 2012

Christ loves you. He is standing there, with open arms, waiting to help you. But sometimes we stubbornly refuse to reach up our hand. We sit, miserable and hurt, down in the dirt, with our arms folded across our chest and our head hung down. If we would only look up, we would see Him there with His hand stretched out to us, waiting for us to grab it. He won’t force us to stand up, but He will help us EVERY time ask.

Satan knows THE ONLY way to stop us from getting to the top of the mountain is for us to give up. But he can’t MAKE us give up. He can put obstacles in our way, whisper discouraging thoughts, and try to make the climb more miserable, but he cannot stop us. He doesn’t have the power. He can’t bind us with ropes or break our legs. All he can do is tempt us to give up.

person-1245959_1280On the other hand, God will not force us to the top. We need to understand our own power. We are THE ONLY ones who can prevent ourselves from reaching the top of the mountain! We make the trip seem so complicated, but the key to success lies in ONE fact and it is SIMPLE: If we never give up, we will eventually reach the top of the mountain! Think about that. That is powerful. No matter how many times we fall, if get up each time and refuse to quit, we WILL conquer the mountain! It is guaranteed!

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Nobody becomes perfect in this life. . . . Becoming perfect in Christ is a process. We begin to keep the commandments today, and we keep more of them tomorrow. . . . We can become perfect in some minor things. . . .If we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. . . . If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course.

“All faithful Latter-day Saints – those who chart their course toward eternal life, receive the ordinances of salvation, and strive with all their hearts to be true to their covenants – will gain eternal life. Even though they are certainly not perfect when they die, if they have sought to stay on course, in covenant, in harmony with the mind and will of God, they will be saved in the highest heaven….We ought to have hope, [and] we [need] to be positive and optimistic about attaining that glory.”

–Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, by Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 20

Sometimes we make life so complicated. We think the list of commandments is so long: we need to pray, study the scriptures, go to church, serve others, be honest, not swear, control our thoughts, etc. But it just boils down to this: those who will make it back to God are those who refused to give up. They are those who kept going no matter how hot it was, how tired they got, how impossible it seemed, or how many times they fell.

This life is not so much a test of how many commandments we can keep. It is a test of our determination and loyalty. Will we be loyal to the Savior no matter what storm or obstacle comes our way on the mountain? Will we utterly refuse to give up no matter how difficult the way?

D.H. Groberg wrote a poem that beautifully depicts the race of life, our role, and our Father’s encouraging role. Every time I feel discouraged, I re-read this poem and rekindle my hope.

The Race

attributed to Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO SET GOALS

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded.”(2 Chronicles 15:7 King James Version)

Once upon a time there were two boys: Caden and Darko. Both had been taught by their parents to set goals and they were excited to set some of their own.

Caden with goals around himCaden was so excited he set 8 goals! He knew it would be too hard to do all of them at once so he chose 3 to start with. As soon as he accomplished one, he would start working on the next goal on his list. Caden worked hard to achieve his goals, never gave up, (no matter how boring or hard something was) and got all 8 talents – he learned how to swim, sweep, play basketball, play piano, do his best work on all his homework, do push-ups, cook, and memorize scriptures.

Darko with one goalDarko quit when it got hard or when he thought something was boring. He started a goal with enthusiasm, but didn’t put in the work necessary to get good at anything. Of the 10 goals he set, he only ever got good at one – running – because it was easy for him and he liked it.

Because Caden knew how to swim, he could go in the deep end with his friends, dive underwater to pick up pennies on the pool floor, and he learned how to dive. Darko didn’t work hard at swimming and he always had to wear a life jacket. He wasn’t as fast as his other friends so it was hard to keep up and play with them. He also couldn’t play any games where he had to go under the water. Swimming was not very fun for him.

Caden often got frustrated with his piano pieces, but he kept practicing every day no matter how hard the pieces were or how boring some of them seemed to be. In time, he got to be really good and he found that playing the piano helped him feel happy and peaceful when he was angry or sad. He was also able to teach piano lessons when he needed some extra money as a teenager.

Darko loved how the piano sounded, but it was too hard to get all the notes right. Playing video games was more fun than practicing piano so he spent his afternoons playing video games. His piano teacher wasn’t happy that he hadn’t practiced and he rarely passed off his pieces so he quit.

Caden made it a goal to read his scriptures every day and memorize one scripture a week. He found the scriptures helped him make good decisions and not give in to peer pressure. They also helped him have good, uplifting thoughts during the day. Caden decided to serve as a missionary for his church. He served many people and when he found out their struggles in life, he was able to share scriptures with them and explained how those very scriptures had helped him in his life. He was also an excellent cook so he ate well on his mission and was never hungry.

Darko also served as a missionary for his church, but he was constantly hungry because he didn’t know how to cook and buying prepared food was expensive. He ended up eating the same, cheap foods every day which, after a while, didn’t taste very good and didn’t help his body feel good. He didn’t know the scriptures well and it was hard to help people with their problems.

After their missions, Caden got into medical school because he had always worked hard in school and listened to his teacher. He signed up for honors classes and college-credit classes.  Darko just goofed off and only half tried on assignments. He always signed up for the easiest classes.  Darko wanted to be a doctor too, but they told him he couldn’t go to medical school because he didn’t know enough. He became a garbage man (at this point in the story, my second oldest felt bad for him and asked if he could become a fire fighter, but I said, “No, he didn’t work hard enough to become a fire fighter. He was lazy. He was a garbage collector.”  I think it’s important that kids have a HUGE contrast in consequences to clearly drive the point home).

DISCUSSION

Who had a happier life? Who was able to help more people? Who was more proud of themselves (had a higher self-esteem)? Caden! The one who set goals!

Darko had a very low self-esteem. He didn’t feel proud of himself because he had never worked hard to accomplish anything to feel good about! All he could do was run and collect garbage. He wasn’t able to help many people because he didn’t have the skills to help them. He didn’t even have the skills to help himself for that matter. When he turned 18, he was, by legal definition, an adult, but he couldn’t hardly do any of the things we would consider basic fundamentals of being an adult.

OUR SUMMER TRANSFORMATION

I told this story to my boys at the very beginning of the Summer because my husband and I didn’t want them to be lazy and just waste their Summer away. We wanted them to go back to school feeling proud of all they had accomplished and learned this Summer.

After hearing the story about Caden and Darko, my boys were excited to set some goals. I had them draw the goals they wanted to accomplish and we hung them up on a poster.

IMG_0285

This Summer my oldest (who is 7) can jump rope 52 times, do 67 push-ups (not all at once – he does 3 sets of push-ups, but he can do 30 push-ups in a row!), learned how to swim, has memorized 5 scriptures, has learned how to find scripture references and mark scriptures, and has set a goal to read the entire Book of Mormon before his 8th birthday.

My second oldest (age 5) has learned how to swim, play soccer, and play basketball, At first, he couldn’t even dribble the basketball 5 times in a row, but now he can dribble it 100 times in a row. He is working on his running goal – he wants to be able to run for 1 mile without stopping. He has memorized one scripture.

My two-year-old got a free pass this Summer. We’ll try and see if she can set some goals next Summer.

My boys didn’t accomplish all of their goals. My oldest still doesn’t know how to ride a bike and we didn’t have time to work on his running goal. He also set a goal to learn how to make pies, but we are waiting for Grandma to visit for Thanksgiving =) She’s the master pie maker.

OWNERSHIP

The BEST part, by far, is to see the joy on their faces when they can swim the length of the pool or dribble the basketball 100 times. The joy is even greater when they had to work extra hard or long to accomplish it. They have developed many new talents this Summer and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I was pleasantly surprised at how motivated they were to accomplish their goals. It wasn’t very hard to make them practice (I basically just set a timer for 10 minutes a day and had them work on a goal) because they had ownership. It wasn’t MY goal. It was THEIR goals and they were internally motivated to accomplish them.

There were times, of course, when they complained their goal was too hard or when they asked if they could watch a movie instead. At those times, we re-visited the story of Darko and Caden. My boys have really learned that hard things will always remain hard if you don’t practice and that hard things will eventually become easy if you do practice.

I made sure the goals were their own ideas. I gave suggestions, but didn’t push anything on them.

I did, however, make them do math and reading every day. They didn’t set any educational goals so I set a goal for myself to help them not forget everything they had learned in school this year =) It’s funny because, although they are much better at reading and math, they don’t feel any sense of accomplishment, but I DO!!! They have fought me much more on doing math and reading (so next Summer they’ll be required to set some educational goals =), and seeing their lack of enthusiasm and lack of excitement about their progress has really driven home, for me, the crucial need for having ownership of your own goals.

Our Summer goal chart has worked so well that we’re going to keep the goal poster and set some goals for this Fall.