I was buffeted by images of people recoiling in their living rooms, glancing sideways at one another and rolling their eyes, as Elder Christensen told the story of his young son’s experience at a temple open house. The tender innocence was almost painful to consider; I felt almost protective. Intellectual arrogance is such a staple of our age.
My thoughts rolled on: a great but unintentional violence we do to our own children in our homes is to allow a sarcastic media culture to make our tender ones proud and condescending toward wide-eyed innocence. I wondered at the blunting that our conversations, dripping with little ironies, do to the fragile receptors of the spirit we otherwise try in all our family activities to keep sensitive. Are the staged conversations we merely overhear, perched on the edges of our seats to be entertained, a subtle acid eating away at their spirits?
What is the first reaction our children have toward innocence, cooked in a culture of sour savor?
A sure witness from the Holy Ghost carries far more certainty than a witness from any other source. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “the Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings.”
Will our children be able to hear the voice of the spirit over the inner voice of a jaded sarcasm?
The Holy Ghost is also known as the Comforter. During times of trouble or despair or simply when we need to know that God is near, the Holy Ghost can lift our spirits, give us hope, and teach us “the peaceable things of the kingdom,” helping us feel “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
When they need help, will they be able to accept a gentle voice, or will it not be sharp or acid enough to make an impression, even in their profound need?
The Holy Ghost is a teacher and a revelator. As we study, ponder, and pray about gospel truths, the Holy Ghost enlightens our minds and quickens our understanding. He causes the truth to be indelibly written in our souls and can cause a mighty change to occur in our hearts. As we share these truths with our families, with fellow members of the Church, and with friends and neighbors in our community, the Holy Ghost becomes their teacher as well, for He carries the message of the gospel “unto the hearts of the children of men.”
I suppose this seemed so profoundly important to me because I will send two of my sons on missions in the next six months. Will they teach with power? Are they stripped of pride, or does it hang on them like a cheap sitcom or a Saturday matineé?
A friend today commented that “words are a distillation of the spirit of the person who wrote or spoke them.” I find great truth in this. Indelibly stamped into our words are our attitudes, spoken or not, the dust of many thoughts clinging to our ideas, our judgments of each other bleeding through, even as carefully as we may try to mask them. I think it’s unlikely that we can teach with power when our thoughts are polluted with sarcasm and disdain, a willingness to mingle our devotion with our embarrassment that our leaders are naive or simple. I think it likely that we offend the Holy Spirit when we try to minister with condescension.
Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, we receive added capacity and spiritual gifts, increased revelation and protection, steady guidance and direction, and the promised blessings of sanctification and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. All of these blessings are given as a result of our personal desire to receive them and come as we align our lives with the will of God and seek His constant direction.
My word for this year is meekness, and this business of aligning our lives with the will of God has been foremost in my mind for some time. I realize that I’m better at working on this in my own life than at teaching my children to do this. As we entered the new year, I thought long and hard about our culture at home. I decided that although we don’t have television, seldom attend movies, and we aren’t given as a family to sarcasm in our interactions, I wasn’t sure that the dust of our thoughts that clung to our words was always pure.
I also wasn’t sure that we were good listeners. Do each of us engage in conversations with our minds already decided, merely waiting for opportunities to prove our opinions? Have we created a culture of exploration, or surety? Will my children fail to hear the Holy Spirit when another speaks, because we are in the habit of valuing our own thinking so highly?
We made some changes, including Sunday Evening Devotionals, which are our quiet time to discuss things of the spirit all together, especially things I’ve taught earlier in Sunday School. No activity sponsored by the Church will take precedence over our family SEDs. And a staple response to a conversation that is quickly going south is, “Could the Spirit get through to you now if the Lord needed to message you?”
As I reflect back on my experience with Ben in the Bountiful Utah Temple, I have many sweet feelings and impressions. One clear recollection is that while I was absorbed in the grandeur of what I could see, a small child near my side was recognizing the powerful feelings in his heart. With a gentle reminder, I was invited not only to pause and kneel down but also to heed the Savior’s call to become as a little child—humble, meek, and ready to hear the still, small voice of His Spirit.
This is what I want for my family. Wide eyes and all.
Cross-posted at Real Intent.