Mormon Parenting: Teaching children about Christ, part 4

Published: Friday, March 30 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Editors note: This is the last article in a four part series

In the previous three columns, we have written about the importance of teaching our children about Christ. We have also commented on the common Christian misconceptions about Jesus and about the Godhead that the Restoration corrected and clarified.

Today, in this final part of the series, we want to touch on some other misconceptions — but in this case, they exist within rather than outside the culture of the LDS Church. As you read, keep in mind that these thoughts are ours personally and that we do not pretend or intend to speak for the church.

The first potential misconception goes back to a talk I (Richard) heard by a young boy in Primary a few years ago. This little fellow was well-prepared and gave quite a dynamic talk that included the visual aids of a hammer, a nail and a board that he brought to the podium with him. With the rapt attention of the entire Primary, he pounded the little nail part way into the board. Then he held it up, board with nail, and said, “This is sin.” He then turned the hammer around and dramatically pulled the nail out of the board, announcing, “This is repentance.” He then held up the board again, pointing to where the nail had been and said, “But the hole is still there!”

It was one of the most impressive talks I had ever heard in Primary, or anywhere in the church for that matter. Only one problem: The little fellow was preaching false doctrine. The only way he could have made his metaphor more accurate would have been to bring some putty or plastic wood and to have filled that hole so perfectly that the board was exactly like it had been before the nail.

We must strive to teach our children how complete and total Christ’s Atonement was and testify to them that when someone really repents, Christ removes the offense to the degree that it is exactly as though it has never happened.

The second potential misconception was illustrated by another church talk we heard, this one in a sacrament meeting, where the speaker spoke of her love for Christ and said, “I’m so glad we know that Jesus is just our brother, and that he is not that different from us.” We are not being critical, and we know what this speaker meant, but how careful we have to be not to humanize the Savior and God of this world too much. We cannot compare our imperfection with his perfection, and we would do well to remember what C.S. Lewis said: “Beware of professed Christians who have insufficient awe for Christ.”

The third potential misconception is that Christ may have seriously wanted to shirk the Atonement at the last moment. Would it not perhaps be more logical, given all we know about his majesty and perfection, to believe that when he said, “May this cup pass,” he was not looking for a way out but merely asking if the unfathomable suffering he had undergone all night in the garden was near its end?

Finally, the fourth potential misconception has to do with how we perceive what happened that night in Gethsemane. Most of us try to imagine the unimaginable by thinking about how incredibly heavy the burden of all men’s sin must have been on the Lord — the enormous, collective weight of all sins of all men of all time all bearing down on Christ at the same time.

While this may be a useful and humbling image to adopt, it may also contain a basic misconception. We know that all ordinances in the church and the gospel happen individually, never collectively. Whether it is baptism, confirmation, blessings or temple ordinances, everything is one at a time. We don’t go through the temple for several people at once or do baptisms or any other ordinance for groups.

Might it not also be the same with the Atonement? Might it be that Christ, unbound by the constraints or limitations of time, actually at one specific and precise moment atoned for your sins and none other; and at another exact moment atoned for mine? And might that awesomely personal thought help give your child a more intimate testimony of the Lord and of what he has done for each of us?

Richard and Linda 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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