John Thelwall, a 19th century English radical, thought it was unfair to influence a child’s mind by inculcating any opinions before the child should have come to years of discretion, and be able to choose for itself.
A contemporary, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, told of showing Thelwall his garden. “How so?” said Thelwall, “it is covered with weeds.” “Oh,” Coleridge replied, “that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries.”
Thank heavens for wise parents who teach correct principles and help their little ones pull the weeds so that they might sometime have roses and strawberries.
My friend Neill Marriott, currently serving as a counselor in the Young Women General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a righteous mother of 11 children. A few years ago she shared some parental insights for mothers during a women’s conference at Brigham Young University: “Our own secret prayers,” she said, “will open our hearts, enabling us to receive this gift: to understand and love as God loves. Let me share with you what works for me in praying,” she offered.
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“First, I go into a quiet room and lock the door behind me. In my home are several little people who like to come into the room and watch me pray. While I do believe in being an example to my children, this young, solemn audience can be comical and distracting, so I lock the door and then don’t worry about being interrupted. Next, I kneel down. For me kneeling is important. Choosing to act in meekness opens the way for the Holy Ghost to influence my attitude. I then pray out loud. I find that when I pray silently, I communicate clearly for a while and then I lapse into telling Heavenly Father such things as the price of lettuce. When I pray out loud, I stay focused. My prayers begin with what I suppose you could call a private testimony meeting, in which I share with my Heavenly Father all I know and love about him. As I do so, my weaknesses become very clear. I am acutely aware of my need for a Redeemer. I thank him for listening and simply pour out the feelings of my heart, fears, doubts, hopes, needs, failing, and gratitude.
“My faith is stronger after these special prayers,” said Sister Marriott. She then described her feelings at these times “as though a thick, soft, warm shawl has been gently placed around me. The feeling around me is tender, comforting, soft, reassuring, and warm. Sometime my spirit feels filled with light, and then I see more clearly what Heavenly Father wants me to do or I understand another’s feelings and needs correctly. Little by little, through prayer, I am gaining light and feeling nearer to my Father in Heaven.”
From Neill’s perspective, the Heavenly Father who has given earthly parents the sacred responsibility to raise children in righteousness will honor the prayer of a righteous mother.
How noble the virtuous mother, as the writer of Proverbs penned, “her children arise up, and call her blessed….” (Proverbs 12:28). Of course, that praise may come only later. And while Sunday church meetings with small children may not be the most spiritual time of a mother’s religious life, it has proved time and again to be worth the effort. I am amazed and impressed with the young families that fill the pews at my church during our worship services, in a congregation with almost 80 children under the age of 12. Where there are many mothers there is caring and understanding.
God bless you mothers everywhere as you teach your children well, have a believing heart with regard to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and trust in the enabling help of a loving Heavenly Father.
On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.