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Our Sacred Obligation

In the past 18 years since I’ve been married, my callings have most often had me serving and teaching the youth. Primary Chorister, Primary President, Young Women advisor, a member of the ward Young Women presidency, etc. Currently, I teach a 12-18yrs. combined Sunday School class in the ward, and serve as 1st Counselor in the Stake Young Women Presidency.

Naturally, childrens’ understanding of the gospel increases as they grow older and can more fully comprehend the things they are taught. But throughout the time that I’ve worked with the youth, I’ve noticed a disturbing yet common thing. Too many of our children do not know the gospel.

Other than simple immaturity as a result of age and inexperience, a large part of this lack of knowledge and understanding appears to be the result of too many parents leaving the responsibility of spiritual training (or at least the bulk of it) to the Church, rather than accepting and embracing that responsibility themselves, even within families that appear to be fully active. Little or no meaningful Family Home Evening. Little or no family scripture study. Little or no parental gospel instruction, but rather an abdication of that instruction to the Primary teachers, the YM and YW leaders, Sunday School and Seminary teachers.

Sure, nearly all LDS children and youth can tell you who Joseph Smith was, that we don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. They can tell you the story of Nephi and the broken bow, that Jesus died on the cross and that during the trek West, Primary children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked.

What seems to be lacking however, for far too many, is a true understanding of doctrine. They can tell you “facts” but seem to be without any meaningful comprehension of those facts. It’s like they’re simply regurgitating what they’ve heard a primary or YM/YW teacher tell them, but don’t understand what it all means.

As part of Youth Conference this past weekend, we took the youth on an all day guided Church History tour an hour and a half north of Kansas City. Since we’ve taken our own kids several times, I anticipated some whining from the youth. “We’ve already done this a million times!”
But to my surprise, I heard no complaining, and they seemed rather excited about the trip.

We visited Richmond Pioneer Cemetary, where Oliver Cowdrey and several other early Saints were buried. We then went to Far West and saw the cornerstones of the temple which had been laid there. The guide told the magnificent story of how after having already left the area because of persecution, and settling in Illinois, the Elders in the Church returned to the temple site at Far West after midnight, despite any possible danger and threat to their lives, in order to fulfill a prophecy by Joseph Smith, that the men would leave for their missions to Europe from the temple site. Such incredible true stories of faith and being steadfast and immovable!

We then drove to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, the place where Adam dwelt after leaving the Garden. The place of that great gathering where those with priesthood keys will “return and report” to Father Adam, before the Second Coming of the Lord.

Then during our testimony meeting, I learned why the kids were excited about the trip. At least half of the kids had never been there. I was stunned. Many of these kids have lived here all their lives. They come from active families. Many of their families are very well off. They’ve been to Disney World, Sea World and Six Flags. Their parents have taken them to Europe, Mexico or Hawaii. But they’ve never been an hour and a half north to visit some of the most sacred land on earth? Why did it take a Youth Conference for these kids to experience this?

On a similar note, I was talking with a parent several months ago who asked if I knew when the next youth temple trip was. Her daughter had missed the previous ones because of sport and family activities. She was 14 now and hadn’t been on a temple trip yet.

I told the mother I thought the next one was in November, but couldn’t say for sure without looking at the Stake calendar, and suggested she and her husband take their daughter themselves instead of having her wait so long for the next trip. She looked at me with a perplexed look on her face and asked “Instead of going on the trip?”
I said, “No, not instead of. I mean you know, the next time you and husband go, just take her with you.” She said, “But isn’t that what the youth trips are for?”

I was totally taken aback. Here’s a 14 year old girl, who’s never been to the temple. Her parents go often, yet it’s never occured to them to take their daughter in the 2 years since she’s turned 12?

Our son turned 12 on a Friday. At church two days later, he had his temple recommend interview. That Saturday we took him to the temple. He turns 13 in August, and has been to the temple 4 times. Once with the ward youth, and 3 times with us.

I don’t mean this as a self-engrandizing “Look what great parents we are” pat on my own back. I was honestly thrown for a loop with this mother’s response. Who’s ultimately repsonsible for youth having temple experiences? The Bishop? The YW/YM president? The Stake or the parents? Just because the church provides opportunities for the youth to go to the temple, doesn’t mean that it’s the the church’s responsibility. It’s ours.

Parents should not leave the training of children to others…
The Church auxiliaries are very important, and we should all partake of the blessings they offer. But we should never, never allow them to replace parents, to relieve parents of the responsibility to teach their children the gospel of Jesus Christ
.” Spencer W. Kimball

Do our children understand the nature of the Godhead?
Do they understand their relationship to Heavenly Father and Christ and their divine nature as children of Deity?
Do they comprehend their eternal potential?
Do they understand the relationship of faith and works?
Do they understand their baptismal covenants?
Do they understand the relationship between those covenants and partaking of the Sacrament?
Do they have a testimony of living prophets and the Book of Mormon?

If the answer is yes, where did they learn these things?
Do they know and understand these things because we taught them, or because someone else taught them? Where has the bulk of their spiritual training taken place? At church once a week for three hours, or within the walls of our homes?

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World we read,
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Children are an heritage of the Lord ? (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness,to provide for…their… spiritual needs, to teach them to…observe the commandments of God… Husbands and wives mothers and fathers will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”

How are we doing?

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • jennycherie July 14, 2008, 10:00 am

    great article, Tracy! This really hits home because we have really been struggling to stay faithful to the things we know we need to do even when it seems like they just create one more event to fight over. FHE is usually easy. For whatever reason, the kids are excited and enjoy it. Family prayer and scripture study are another matter. While they are quick to catch us if we try to skip (we’re too tired, it’s too late, whatever) they are also SO uncooperative and it is so hard to see any benefit to it. But even as I type that, I remember, the biggest benefit to it is in being obedient and establishing a pattern of family worship.

    Honestly though, it also reminds me, that there are still many adults who do not understand pretty basic doctrine, despite lifelong (or many years) membership. We have a responsibility to teach our children AND to take responsibility for our own learning/understanding as well.

  • Naismith July 14, 2008, 11:17 am

    I honestly didn’t know parents could take their youth to the temple. I’m a convert; I’ve never done baptisms myself, and it all seems very intimidating to figure out the procedures.

    A few months ago I was with a youth group when some random parents showed up with their daughter; they turned her over to our group and left. So I’ve assumed the only way to do baptisms was with a group. We have to provide our own priesthood; temple workers don’t do that at our temple.

  • JustRandi July 14, 2008, 12:28 pm

    I, too, had never really thought about taking my teens to the temple to do baptisms. I guess I could call the temple and see if it’s a possibility, but they make such a big deal about bringing all our own priesthood and adult sisters when the youth go, that I just assumed there is not an option to just show up, like we do for an endowment.

    Wow. There was lots to think about in that article. Thanks Tracy.

  • facethemusic July 14, 2008, 1:00 pm

    Jenn– you’re still dealing with littler kids. And at least you’re attempting to do it.
    After years of working with the youth, having class discussions with them, firesides, youth conference seminars, late night talks at camp, Bishop Youth discussions, etc, I keep finding myself amazed at the number of teenagers from seemingly active families who don’t understand basic gospel principles. The number that don’t have FHE, no family prayer or scripture study, etc. One didn’t even know we were Christian. Remember that?

    Naismith and JustRandi–honestly, the first time we took him, we didn’t know what the process was either. We didn’t realize there WAS a “process”. You want to do endowments– you just show up!! My husband is a convert, and I was never allowed to go on youth temple trips as a teenager and only did baptisms for the first time myself just 6 years ago at Timpanogos. We happened to be with my brother and his wife–it was just the four of us. Maybe he set an appointment for us? I don’t know. But, that first time we took our son, neither of us knew anything about a procedure for youth baptisms, either.
    When we got there they asked if we were part of a ward group. When we told them we weren’t, but that our son had just turned 12 and we wanted him to be baptised for his great-grandfather (who he was named after) they were more than happy to accomodate us. They just put us with another group that was coming in. (And frankly, they were very happy to have my husband there as another priesthood holder!)
    To be honest– I’m not sure why they need so many priesthood holders anyway. I should ask m hubby when he gets home! I’m sure he knows now. But what would it actually require? One to baptize, 2 to witness. I don’t know why you’d need more than 3. It may be BECAUSE they go in large groups– maybe they don’t need that many if it’s just a few people. …. Ray??
    Anyway–since then, we just call ahead, let them know we’re bringing our son, and they’ve always accomodated us.

  • jennycherie July 14, 2008, 1:09 pm

    Posted By: NaismithI’m a convert; I’ve never done baptisms myself, and it all seems very intimidating to figure out the procedures.

    Naismith – I think that happens to a lot of people. I was fortunate that one of my sister missionaries absolutely insisted that I *MUST* get to the temple to do baptisms IMMEDIATELY after my baptism. I’m SO glad she did. If she had not made such a huge deal out of it, I’m sure I would have thought it was no big deal and that the temple was too far (8 hours at that time). I really think doing baptisms helped me to have testimony of the temple and gave me the strength to insist on a temple wedding, even when it caused all sorts of heartache in our extended family. I’ve heard now from so many adults that have never done baptisms in the temple that I think it must not be a part of the new member lessons (or maybe it’s just not as forceful as my sister missionary made it!).

  • jennycherie July 14, 2008, 1:11 pm

    Tracy – I just thought of this, but while I knew you took James to do baptisms soon after he was 12, I didn’t realize it was SO soon. Since Jarom will be 12 very soon, I think I’ll talk to my hubby about doing the same. I actually wonder if we might enlist my father-in-law’s help for that, if he thinks he could corral three girls while the rest of us are inside! Then again, maybe I should call my brother. . . hmmm. . . which one of THOSE options if preferable? Yikes!

  • Ray July 14, 2008, 4:53 pm

    The requirement for 7 brethren to go with youth is so that baptisms and confirmations can run simultaneously. They fill the following roles:

    1) Recorder (handle the name cards for the baptisms);
    2-3) Witnesses for the baptisms;
    4) Baptizer
    5-7) Confirmers (3 so that 2 can perform at any time and the other can witness – and rotate in to give the others a break).

    If you have family file names, your kids can go on about any Saturday any time. If you just show up, you’re taking a bit of a chance with timing, since a very large group might not be able to accommodate your child(ren) – so you might end up having to wait for the next session. If you don’t have family file names, I’m not sure you can do them outside a group – at least in the smaller temples.

  • facethemusic July 14, 2008, 7:18 pm

    5-7) Confirmers (3 so that 2 can perform at any time and the other can witness – and rotate in to give the others a break).

    So this seems like something specifically for large groups, then. If you only have a few names, there isn’t the need for so many brethren– there isn’t a need for the “break”. The same ones who witness the baptism can help with confirmation.

  • Ray July 14, 2008, 7:29 pm

    Exactly, face.

    Honestly, if the temple isn’t busy with group baptisms, and if you had at least 4 men available to help, I’m sure you would be able to do family file names even if it was only one youth being baptized. If it was a slow time, they might even provide one or two men to help. I just wouldn’t count on it. Often they are understaffed and filling multiple roles.

  • shanant July 14, 2008, 8:19 pm

    Calling ahead really helps. We have done baptisms at the temple with my daughter and her cousin and another time with my daughter and a friend. If it is only 1 or 2 youth they will try and fit you in. At the Idaho Falls Temple we had to go at an assigned time when a group was going through. It was more flexible at the Utah temples I called, Bountiful, Salt Lake, and Jordan River. At Jordan River you just walk in, the only problem is there you might wait for a long time. My daughter goes fairly often to the Jordan River Temple I usually just drop her off and wait since she has to wait so long if I do an endowment session. I have not gone with her to do baptisms because I heard that they wanted adults to have family names. I can’t remember if I asked the temple about this or not. Does anyone know? We are saving the family names for my children and their cousins so they all have the experience of doing baptisms for their ancestors.

    When I first called the Idaho Falls Temple (where my daughter went with her cousin) the first lady I talked to made it sound like a huge inconvenience, however the second person I talked to was very helpful and I am so glad I called back and tried again because they had a great experience.

  • Rachel July 14, 2008, 9:59 pm

    Amen, Sister! I am always appalled when dh comes home from teaching the 14 yo SS class and reports that no one knew the story of Abinadi! Even kids in their quorum or class presidencies. (I teach the same story in Primary and have a 5 yo remind me that King Noah ended up dying the same way as Abinadi, as prophesied–what happens in those 9-10 years?!)

    So what is up with a bishop who won’t allow a teen to go to the temple apart from the ward group? It broke my heart to have one of my YW be denied for a recommend because he insisted she go with ward youth leadership. This is in a ward that only gets to go once a year, not because it’s so far (it’s 15 minutes away), but because the temple is so busy with ward groups it can only accommodate us that infrequently (or at least that’s what our leaders told us). I can only hope there must have been something I didn’t know going on for him to tell her no. At the time I assumed there had been a change in policy since I’d been a teen and went with my mom several times.

  • nanacarol July 14, 2008, 11:27 pm

    Here is another thought about kids who you think that don’t know the story of Abinadi-sometimes they don’t want to speak up. They feel embrassed!! They don’t want their friends to think they know everything!!!! kids have us fooled more than we think.
    When we were at our son’s ward a couple of months back I filled in for missing Primary Teachers. Having taught Primary for so many years it is easy to pick up a Primary manual and give the lesson. I was truly amazed by the 5 year olds I was teaching. They were so knowledgeable and were willing to tell me more than I asked for. Now I wonder in 10 years, will they be that willing to answer the same questions!!!! I think not unless we teach them not to be ashamed of the gospel at their age!!!!
    Tracey, loved your article. Much to think about. Even as grandparents who are with our granddaughters at least 5o hours a week, there is so much to be teaching them. Mandi who is 3 loves to look at the Ensign with me and points out who the Brethern are. She loves to point to the prophet. But in 5 years, will she be that eager or will the ways of the world take over?

  • delmar July 14, 2008, 11:38 pm

    in the ward nana is talking about i taught ctr 5-6 last year. we had one little boy who knew his stuff and knew it well. i’m glad to say at a young age if they know it, it does seem like they speak up. as they get older they seem to want to be quieter. then they hit that precocious age and want to be know it alls again. its great isn’t it.

    yesterday in rs we were talking about being member missionaries. who are we supposed to be missionaries to? the biggest thing adults forget about is that we are to be missionaries to our family first. if our children and spouses don’t know the gospel….then whats the point of trying to teach outsiders? this really hit home for me, especially as a convert. i HOPE my hubby considers me his biggest and greatest missionary experience, EVER. i was friends with so many members in jr high and high school yet nobody ever reached out far enough to take me to church…oh and growing up un-knowingly in a partial member family was interesting as i now understand some of the things i’ve believed all along. it took me 5 years of being married and at least 12 years of SLOW investigation to finally join. now knowing the gospel myself i need to continue studying and make sure to give my children the knowledge they need and keep giving it to them. if anything i will be held responsible for their knowledge. it interesting this was posted today after we talked about this so in depth yesterday.

  • nanacarol July 15, 2008, 11:09 am

    Delmar-what a great point about being missionaries. We have so many inactive members in our extended families. Wouldn’t it be great if we worked on them too!

  • Ray July 15, 2008, 5:08 pm

    “Wouldn’t it be great if we worked on them too!”

    I don’t want to offend you, nanacarol, especially since I’ve heard plenty of members use that phrase, but I wish we would stop talking about people as if they were projects to be “worked on”. I know it’s said innocently enough, but it just bugs me. I agree that it would be great if we could find a way to share the Gospel with our extended family who aren’t members, but I just don’t like that way of describing the effort.

  • nanacarol July 15, 2008, 6:57 pm

    Excuse my not so proper speech vernacular, Ray. However, all you have to do is sit in Welfare meeting and know that people “are projects” in the church!!!!!!!! because we want them to be just like us!!! Next time I will say let us all pray for divine inspiration so that we can know the proper way to activate a person. Just a matter of semantics my dear!!!! It still means the same in my book.

  • Naismith July 15, 2008, 7:25 pm

    Also, I have to say thanks to you and everyone who ever has and will work with my children in youth programs. All of mine have gone through a phase of eye-rolling and disdain of every word that proceedeth forth out of mom’s mouth. At times like that, is great that they can still learn from other people who have more “cred” with them.

    (Until they grow up and decide that maybe their parents weren’t so stupid and embarrassing after all.)

  • jennycherie July 15, 2008, 7:29 pm

    Posted By: NaismithAt times like that, is great that they can still learn from other people who have more “cred” with them.

    so true!!!

  • Michelle D July 15, 2008, 11:41 pm

    Great post, Tracy! Very thought-provoking.

    My parents are huge believers in family history and temple work. They did what Tracy did with her son – they gave their kids the opportunity to attend the temple as frequently as possible and gave them family file names to make the experience more personal. I still remember going on a ward youth temple trip when I was about 13 and being surprised that some of my friends had never done baptisms before! I had never before thought about me being the unusual one… There are an awful lot of wards to accommodate in some areas, and that means not very many ward youth trips. Like Rachel’s ward – she said they only have 1 youth trip a year. If parents don’t make an effort to set up a time to take their kids to the temple, they won’t get to go very often. I have always been grateful for that opportunity as a youth.

    Our ward/stake have worked hard to increase the number of trips our youth can have (based on YM/YW attendance). Our ward used to have 3 trips a year, now we have 4. Our bishopric has been very supportive of temple work and getting the youth to the temple. They have worked hard to eliminate the previously popular last minute temple rec interviews in a classroom 5 min before the vehicles leave for a youth temple trip. The kids were treating it as a fun 2 hour opportunity to talk with friends, with youth baptisms in the middle before another 2 hour drive home talking with friends. Our bishopric wanted to shift the emphasis to the temple, not to the drive. They assumed that if adults need to have interviews in advance, so should the youth. The bishopric hasn’t usurped the parents’ role to teach their kids; they are supporting them and encouraging them to get their kids to the temple.

    In many of the small temples, you need to call in advance for an appointment. Even for endowments. You can’t just walk in at our temple and be guaranteed the opportunity to do a session. There are certain days and times that are available for baptisms, initiatory, endowments, and sealings. Except for the temple pres/matron, our temple is completely staffed by local members. The temple workers come from all over the temple district, and work at least twice a month. For a ward youth baptism trip, you bring 7 brethren and 2 sisters because there is usually only 1 brother and 1 sister temple worker there to help. The other temple workers are helping with other ordinances.

    Anyway, Tracy, this is a wonderful article on the need for parents to step up to the plate and make sure they are teaching their kids with assistance from the Church, and not the other way around. Although, like Naismith said, it’s really nice to have youth leaders whom the youth will listen to at those times when the parents seem to have lost their previous level of “cred.”

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