My daughter and her husband have three children: Dallin, age 11; Eliza, age 9; and Spencer, age 2. No surprise, but each one has a very distinct and different personality from the others. Oh, and did I forget to mention, each one is delightful and loveable in their own way?
As with most siblings, Dallin is at the age where he loves nothing better than to tease his sister and push her buttons. Eliza is inherently sweet, a peacemaker who will take it for so long, but when she reaches the breaking point she pushes back. Squabbling ensues.
Spencer. Well, he’s oblivious to all this as he is more focused on reinforcing his sense that he’s the cutest kid on the planet and that everyone adores him. And he does command attention. Consequently he’s a ham, loves the spotlight and plays it to the hilt.
Is anyone surprised by the dynamic I just described? Not if you’re a parent.
All this sets the stage for the text message I received from my daughter, Emily, a couple of days ago:
"OK, just want to share this sweet story. Dallin ran in his first cross country race today. I have been after him for a week or so to practice but he didn’t. So it is no surprise that he didn’t do very well. I was waiting for him at the finish line and didn’t realize Eliza had left me. I guess she was getting worried because Dallin hadn’t crossed the finish line yet and some of his friends had. She decided to run down the trail and find him. When she found him he was walking. She said, 'Come on, Dallin, you can finish. I will run with you.' They ran the rest of the way together and crossed the finish line. I tell you, I think that’s the first time my kids made me cry. Love those guys."
Eliza’s actions so poignantly illustrated for me Matthew 18:1, when Jesus’ disciples came to him with a question. They were squabbling and sought to know, “... Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The Savior’s response was to call “a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:2). Then he answered, “... Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
A more detailed explanation of what it means to “become as a little child” is found in King Benjamin’s great discourse. Disciples of Jesus Christ are to be “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Eliza’s simple act was that of a child “meek, humble ... full of love” for her brother — genuinely concerned for his welfare. She sought him out and she helped him to make it across the finish line.
The Lord explains what often happens as we go through life and why childlike innocence is lost, “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:38-39).
Illustrative of two false “traditions” embraced by many in today’s world: 1.“Get even” with a person if they offend us and 2. a person can only succeed if others fail. Yet Eliza, as an innocent child, did what disciples of Christ do. She did not gloat when she found Dallin walking the trail. She did not heap scorn on him, nor did she seek revenge for his teasing. She did not seek success at her brother’s expense by finding him and then beating him across the finish line.
This is what the Savior requires of us, to reject the traditions and practices that the world often encourages, and thereby avoid “... drink(ing) damnation to (our) own souls...” (Mosiah 3:18). It is a large order, only accomplished with the aid and assistance of Jesus Christ. He pleads with us to “... humble (ourselves) and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child” (Mosiah 3:18-19).
As Dallin began to falter, his sister, Eliza, a sweet little girl acting with childlike innocence and love, exemplified what the Lord would have us do and have us become.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World."