Teaching Children in the Nurture and Admonition of the Gospel
“Chapter 22: Teaching Children in the Nurture and Admonition of the Gospel,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 199
Parents, assisted by Church leaders and teachers, must labor diligently and unceasingly to teach children the gospel.
From the Life of Heber J. Grant
Much has been said of President Heber J. Grant’s personal diligence and obedience. But while he received many blessings as a result of his own faith and hard work, he was quick to point out his indebtedness to those who taught him the gospel in his childhood.
He often paid tribute to his mother. He said, “I, of course, owe everything to my mother, because my father died when I was only nine days of age; and the marvelous teachings, the faith, the integrity of my mother have been an inspiration to me.” 1 Referring to his decision to marry in the temple, he said: “I was very grateful for the inspiration and determination I had to start life right. Why did it come to me? It came to me because my mother believed in the gospel, taught me the value of it, gave me a desire to get all of the benefits of starting life right and of doing things according to the teachings of the gospel.” 2
President Grant also expressed his thankfulness for Sunday School teachers and others who had guided him in his childhood. He said, “I shall be grateful throughout all the ages of eternity to those men for the impression that they made upon me.” 3
Following the examples of the influential teachers in his life, President Grant worked diligently to teach the truth to his own children. His daughter Frances Grant Bennett told of his gentle way of helping her and her siblings live the gospel: “In matters of small importance, father seldom said ‘No’ to us. Consequently, when he did say ‘No,’ we knew he meant it. His training allowed us to make our own decisions whenever possible. He always explained very patiently just why he thought a certain procedure was unwise and then he would say, ‘That’s the way I feel about it; but of course, you must decide for yourself.’ As a result, our decision was usually the same as his. He was able somehow to motivate us to want to do the right thing rather than to be forced to do it.” 4
President Grant never tired in his efforts to teach his children, even when many of them were grown. At the age of 52, when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he listened intently to a general conference address in which President Joseph F. Smith urged Church members to “show forth their faith, their devotion and love for the principles of the gospel, by the manner in which they will rear their children and bring them up in the faith.” 5 Elder Grant stood at the pulpit later that day and said:
“One of the greatest desires of my life has been to live worthy of the father and the mother I have had; and one other of the greatest desires of my life is to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Gospel. One of the favorite themes I have ever had in preaching to the Latter-day Saints is derived from that revelation of the Lord which tells us that it is our duty to preach to our children and teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inspire them with faith in the Lord and Savior of the world, and teach them to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord [see D&C 68:25–28]. I believe this commandment has been much neglected, and I rejoiced exceedingly in the remarks of our President today, urging the Latter-day Saints to do their duty in this respect. I have endeavored to do it, but I have made a resolution to be more faithful in doing so in the future. I believe there is opportunity for improvement upon the part of all of us in this direction.” 6
Teachings of Heber J. Grant
Parents are accountable to teach their children the principles of the gospel.
I believe I am safe in saying that the most earnest desire of every true Latter-day Saint is that his children may grow up in the nurture and the admonition of the Gospel, keeping the commandments of God, so that they may be saved in His kingdom. It is simply absurd to imagine that if a child has the seed of falsehood and evil sown in its mind through life, you will all at once be able to sow in that mind one crop of truth and have it bring forth a harvest of truth. … We would look upon a farmer as a natural born idiot who would call upon everybody who passed his farm to throw in a few seeds of weeds, to do this for a period of twenty-one years, and then expect he could sow a crop of grain and expect to get a good harvest.
I may know the multiplication table, and my wife may also, but I cannot on that account expect my children to be born with a knowledge of the multiplication table in their heads. I may know that the Gospel is true, and my wife may know it; but I do not imagine for one moment that my children will be born with this knowledge. We receive a testimony of the Gospel by obeying the laws and ordinances thereof; and our children will receive that knowledge exactly the same way; and if we do not teach them, and they do not walk in the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life, they will never receive this knowledge. I have heard people say that their children were born heirs to all the promises of the new and everlasting covenant, and that they would grow up in spite of themselves, with a knowledge of the Gospel. I want to say to you that this is not a true doctrine, and it is in direct opposition to the commandment of our Heavenly Father. We find that it is laid down to the Latter-day Saints, not as an entreaty, but as a law, that they should teach their children:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her Stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents;
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her Stakes which are organized;
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands,
“And they shall also teach their children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” [D&C 68:25–28.] …
Every father who loves the Gospel is ready and willing to go to the ends of the earth to preach it, and one of the greatest joys that any man can have is to be found in bringing souls to a knowledge of the truth. It ought to be a greater joy to us to train our children in the plan of salvation. 7
Amongst His earliest commands to Adam and Eve, the Lord said: “Multiply and replenish the earth.” [Genesis 1:28.] He has repeated that command in our day. He has again revealed in this, the last dispensation, the principle of the eternity of the marriage covenant. He has restored to earth the authority for entering into that covenant, and has declared that it is the only due and proper way of joining husband and wife, and the only means by which the sacred family relationship may be carried beyond the grave and through eternity. He has declared that this eternal relationship may be created only by the ordinances which are administered in the holy temples of the Lord, and therefore that His people should marry only in His temple in accordance with such ordinances.
The Lord has told us that it is the duty of every husband and wife to obey the command given to Adam to multiply and replenish the earth, so that the legions of choice spirits waiting for their tabernacles of flesh may come here and move forward under God’s great design to become perfect souls, for without these fleshly tabernacles they cannot progress to their God-planned destiny. Thus, every husband and wife should become a father and mother in Israel to children born under the holy, eternal covenant.
By bringing these choice spirits to earth, each father and each mother assume towards the tabernacled spirit and towards the Lord Himself by having taken advantage of the opportunity He offered, an obligation of the most sacred kind, because the fate of that spirit in the eternities to come, the blessings or punishments which shall await it in the hereafter, depend, in great part, upon the care, the teachings, the training which the parents shall give to that spirit.
No parent can escape that obligation and that responsibility, and for the proper meeting thereof, the Lord will hold us to a strict accountability. No loftier duty than this can be assumed by mortals.
Motherhood thus becomes a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord’s plans, a consecration of devotion to the uprearing and fostering, the nurturing in body, mind, and spirit, of those who kept their first estate and who come to this earth for their second estate “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” [Abraham 3:25.] To lead them to keep their second estate is the work of motherhood, and “they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” [Abraham 3:26.] …
Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels. To you mothers in Israel we say God bless and protect you, and give you the strength and courage, the faith and knowledge, the holy love and consecration to duty, that shall enable you to fill to the fullest measure the sacred calling which is yours. To you mothers and mothers-to-be we say: Be chaste, keep pure, live righteously, that your posterity to the last generation may call you blessed. 8
I have heard men and women say that they were going to let their sons and daughters grow to maturity before they sought to teach them the principles of the gospel, that they were not going to cram the gospel down them in their childhood, before they were able to comprehend it. When I hear men and women say this, I think they are lacking faith in the principles of the gospel and do not comprehend it as they should. The Lord has said it is our duty to teach our children in their youth, and I prefer to take His word for it rather than the words of those who are not obeying His commandments. It is folly to imagine that our children will grow up with a knowledge of the gospel without teaching. Some men and women argue, “Well, I am a Latter-day Saint, and we were married in the temple, and were sealed over the altar by one having the Priesthood of God, according to the new and everlasting covenant, and our children are bound to grow up and be good Latter-day Saints; they cannot help it; it is born in them.” … I want to tell you that our children will not know that the gospel is true, unless they study it and gain a testimony for themselves. Parents are deceiving themselves in imagining that their children will be born with a knowledge of the gospel. Of course, they will have greater claim upon the blessings of God, being born under the new and everlasting covenant, and it will come natural for them to grow up and perform their duties; but the devil realizes this, and is therefore seeking all the harder to lead our children from the truth. 9
I pray that the Lord will give to the parents of the youth an understanding and appreciation of the dangers and temptations to which their children are subjected, that they may be led and guided to encourage their children, to direct them, to teach them how to live as the Lord would have them live. 10
What are we working for? Wealth? Riches? If we have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we are working for eternal life. Then we are laboring to save our souls. And after saving our own souls we are laboring for the salvation of our children. … I want to say that the best inheritance that you can leave to your sons and daughters is an investment in the kingdom of God. 11
Church leaders and teachers help parents teach their children.
The teachers of our children are assisting parents in shaping the lives of their children. Great is their responsibility, also, and their accountability, for all that they teach. 12
There is no question but that impressions made upon the minds of little innocent children and young boys and girls have a more lasting effect upon their future lives than impressions made at any other time. It is like writing, figuratively speaking, upon a white piece of paper with nothing on it to obscure or confuse what you may write.
There are many who have made a wonderful record in the battle of life even after they have done things in their youth that were not pleasing in the sight of our Heavenly Father or for their own good; but it is far better if it is possible for us to start the children out in the battle of life with nothing recorded on the pages of their years, except good deeds and faith-promoting thoughts. There is a saying that “As the twig is bent the tree is inclined.” You who teach our children are engaged in the labor of bending the twig. …
There is no dividend that any human being can draw from bonds or stocks, or anything in the wealth of the world, that compares with the knowledge in one’s heart that he or she has been an instrument in the hands of God of shaping some life for good; and I can promise the righteous teachers of our youth that as the years come and go they will gather dividends of thanks and gratitude from the children whose lives they have been the instruments in the hands of God of shaping for good. …
We may think that the impressions we make may not be lasting, but I can assure you they are. I am sure that a testimony borne by a teacher to little children, under the inspiration of the living God, is a difficult thing for them to forget. …
Each and every one of our teachers has the opportunity and the power under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, to make an impression upon the hearts and souls of little innocent children and young boys and girls who are starting out in the battle of life. I pray with all the fervor of my soul that God will help you in your labors; and I can promise you that He will help you. The important thing for you is to have a love of your work and to do your work under the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God. 13
In [a] Sunday School Union conference … , we had one of the most glorious meetings I have ever attended. Several of the speakers were given four minutes each, and they were four minutes of gem thoughts, every one of them. The great burden of the remarks of all … who spoke to the subject, “The Needs of Our Sunday Schools,” was not the need of more system, more of this, that or the other. But the great need is more of the Spirit of the Lord in the hearts of the teachers, to give that spirit to the children. 14
Children learn from the examples of their parents and teachers.
Can we hope that our little ones will grow up to believe in the principles of the Gospel unless we teach them by example? I do not think we can, by a simple profession of faith, convince our children of the truth of the Gospel; our lives must be in keeping with our professions. 15
I say to parents, seek for the Spirit of God. Make impressions upon the minds of your children by the humble, meek and lowly lives that you lead. 16
Faith is a gift of God. If we seek for faith the Lord blesses us with that faith. It becomes a gift from Him, and we are promised that if we will do the will of the Father we shall know of the doctrine [see John 7:17]. If we as parents will so order our lives that our children will know and realize in their hearts that we are in very deed Latter-day Saints, that we actually know what we are talking about, they, by seeking after the Lord, will get that same testimony. 17
I know nothing of course of the advice and counsel of a father because mine died when I was a baby, but I have learned of his reputation from others. People assure me that Jedediah M. Grant was one of the noblemen of this Church.
I remember at one time asking Captain William H. Hooper to sign some bonds for me, when I was a youngster of twenty just starting in business.
He said: “I never do such a thing; never do such a thing.”
I had no more than returned to my office when a young messenger came from the bank and told me the captain wanted to see me.
I said: “I don’t want to see him.”
“Well, he sent me to bring you to the bank.”
I went back, and he said: “Boy, boy, give me those bonds.” I did so, and he signed them. Then he said: “When you went out I turned to Mr. Hills and said, ‘Lew, who is that boy? He has been [greeting] me on the street for years. I don’t know who he is. I never sign a bond for somebody I don’t know. Who is he?’ He said, ‘Why that is Jeddy Grant’s boy, Heber J. Grant.’ ‘Jeddy Grant’s boy? Bring him back. I would sign that bond if I knew I had to pay it.’ ”
I am mentioning [this] in the hope that parents will realize that the example of integrity, of devotion, of loyalty to the Gospel, and the disposition not to find fault, but to labor diligently and unceasingly for the advancement of truth, is a marvelous heritage to leave to their children. 18
[Captain Hooper] related a number of incidents about my father which showed the captain’s love for, and confidence in him.
What the captain told me filled my heart with gratitude to God for having given to me such a father, and Captain Hooper’s remarks have never been forgotten. They impressed me with a strong desire so to live and labor that my children would be benefited, even after I have passed away from this life, by the record which I shall have made. 19
I would rather die in poverty knowing that my family could testify that, to the best of my ability with which God had endowed me, I had observed His laws and kept His commandments, and by my example, had proclaimed the gospel, than to have all the wealth of the world. 20
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• What can we do to be a righteous influence in the lives of children and youth?
• What can parents do to teach their children to obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel? What can parents do to invoke our Heavenly Father’s blessings on their children?
• Why do some children go astray despite their parents’ efforts to teach them the gospel? What can parents and others do to help children who go astray?
• President Grant said to parents, “The best inheritance that you can leave to your sons and daughters is an investment in the kingdom of God.” What does this mean to you?
• How can we help children recognize the influence of the Spirit?
• What blessings have come into your life as you have taught the children and youth of the Church?
• Why is it important for parents to understand that Church leaders and teachers are called only to assist them in teaching their children?
7. In Brian H. Stuy, comp., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 4:34–35; paragraphing altered.
8. Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 12–13; read by President J. Reuben Clark Jr.