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Mormon Parenting: Teaching children about Christ, Part 3

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Joao Oliveira and his son Thomas, both of Brazil, stand in front of the Christus statue on Temple Square during the morning session of the 180th general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2010.

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Third of four articles

As a child and as a teenager, I (Linda) don’t remember much being said about Jesus at church. I’m sure it was there. I guess I just wasn’t listening for it, and even though I faithfully attended sacrament meeting, Mutual and seminary, I just didn’t get the significance of the Savior in my life. What I heard in those years was to be chaste and virtuous and a lot about not smoking or drinking — and I had a testimony of all that.

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York with my 63-year-old mother. We traveled there on a sweltering bus that broke down at the top of Parleys Canyon before we even got out of Utah.

I learned so much as I bravely served as a missionary and placed copies of the Book of Mormon in the crowd before the performance each night. I was part of the scene that showed Nephi’s vision of the birth of the Savior and his ministry on the earth. The vision effect was created by water shooting up over us through pipes around the scene as we knelt on the hillside and listened to the Savior as he delivered the fabulous Sermon on the Mount.

As the actor who represented Jesus walked past us with his voice booming through those 30-foot-high speakers that could be heard all the way to Rochester 30 miles away, I was born again. While getting soaking wet from the water, suddenly I realized that the church was not just about what not to do but about following the magnificent words of Jesus Christ. And more importantly, I realized that Christ’s Atonement was real, and that it was for me.

After the performance, I went off and cried in the nearby woods for about an hour. At first I was angry that someone hadn’t told me that sooner — or made me understand it. I’m sure my wonderful parents just assumed that I knew, or that I would absorb it from my Sunday School classes and from their example. My mom was about the most enthusiastic Mormon and follower of Christ you would ever want to know and went about doing “what Jesus would do.” My father was truly a saint and a walking example of so many of the Savior’s qualities, but I just didn’t get the fact that Jesus was the center of our lives.

Although we believe that the church today does a much better job of helping kids focus on the Savior and relaying the message of his Atonement to our youths, the importance of talking about the Savior in our homes can’t be overstated. Asking children what they did today that the Savior would be proud of and talking about our own love for the Savior have more impact on their future lives than we will ever know.

We have mentioned having a family testimony meeting with our children when they get home from fast meetings on the first Sunday of every month. (It cuts down for at least a few minutes on the arguing and bickering as a result of their rumbling tummies.) Although this may not work with rebellious teenagers or in families where one parent is not a member or is less active, it has been an enormous help for us to teach our kids about loving Jesus. We instructed them from the time that they could talk that they could say anything they wanted in their testimony, but the main thing they should tell us was how they feel about Jesus.

There are no guarantees that children will all grow up to be valiant Christians even when we do our best to teach them to love Christ while they are in our homes, but it can form a foundation that they will never forget as all their lives they recall talking, hearing and thinking about the importance of loving Jesus as they grew up in their childhood home.

Tune in next week for the final article in this series in which we will explore some misconceptions about Christ that can exist even in good LDS homes.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.

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