In an extremely interesting conference talk in April 2010, Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve, told us that bearing testimony was a good way to gauge the spiritual well-being of our children.
We decided long ago that if we had to pick only one thing that we could do with our children to increase their spirituality, it would be have them bear their testimonies on Fast Sunday. Someone gave us this idea years ago and it was reinforced by Elder Bednar's talk.
We realized as our children were growing up that some were too shy to bear their testimony in testimony meeting and others were almost too boisterous about it. We thought it would be a good idea for them to hear our testimonies consistently and realized that a home setting was the only place where they would.
Every Fast Sunday after church and just before breaking our fast, we gathered in the living room for a short testimony meeting with our kids. We don't mind admitting that our kids all seemed to agree that we should break our fast fast — immediately after we got home, but as time went on, we all went into the family testimony meetings starving and we left them feeling well-fed. Even our 3-year-olds got to where they wanted to say something.
As we began our meetings, we carefully coached the small children, telling them that we loved hearing them express their love for each other, and that we couldn't wait to hear them share any spiritual experiences they had had that week. But we also told them that the most important thing to say before they finished their testimony was how they felt about the Savior (which might include stories about when they had a chance to be more like him by helping others.)
As they became more comfortable with bearing their testimonies, we heard some truly incredible stories and there was a lot of love flowing in that room by the end of the meeting each month. With nine kids participating, the testimonies were short but full of love, and as the Spirit filled the room, they forgot how hungry they were and began saying things like "I love seeing Saren in the halls at school because we have a secret sign that we flash to each other that means, 'I love you.' "
Stories emerged in children's testimonies that we would otherwise never have heard — about helping other kids who were being bullied or attempts to exclude certain girls for the "groups" and how they were able to intervene a little and help kids realize that being rude to people wasn't that fun.
Establishing a family testimony meeting every Fast Sunday may not be an easy thing to do, especially if you start when your kids are teenagers, but the more practice they get at home, the easier it will be for them to bear their testimonies as they grow up in the ward. It is our belief that kids don't really know how they feel until they verbalize it.
One final thought to underscore what a difference a family testimony meeting can make to the atmosphere of a home: When we first arrived to start our mission in England, I (Linda) thought the living room couch in the mission home was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. "How can I live with this couch for three years?" I thought.
By the time we came home, we had gathered on and around that couch for testimony meetings every month for three years, not only with our family but with our amazing missionaries, and I found that I wanted to take that beautiful couch home with me. I loved what it symbolized and what we had learned and felt as we had assembled around it and shared the feelings of our hearts.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.joyschools.com. Several of their books are now available for free on www.EyresFreeBooks.com.