I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

What should I teach my children about bearing their testimonies?

Susan Zmolek, mother of five, Denver Colorado Stake Relief Society education counselor I think it would be wise for parents to teach their children what a testimony is, why it should be shared, and when to share it.

To members of the Church, a testimony is a very personal expression of what one individual knows to be true, specifically bearing witness of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ, of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet, and of the present prophet’s divine calling. The General Handbook explains: “Every encouragement should be given to the bearing of brief, heartfelt testimonies and the relating of faith-promoting experiences. Preachments; travelogues; long, drawn-out narratives of experiences; and routine, repetitious statements should be discouraged” (General Handbook of Instructions, no. 21 [1976], p. 23).

Children cannot learn these true principles just by listening to the varied expressions of adults in testimony meeting. Parents need to use family home evening and private conversations to teach children about testimonies. An easy way to begin is to ask—perhaps at bedtime—what a testimony is. Parents have a responsibility to help their children enlarge their understanding, year by year, until they know what is appropriately included in a testimony.

A six-year-old can learn simple concepts—for example, that it is not appropriate for him to bear his testimony every fast meeting. A child can understand that the phrase “I love my Mommy”—however pleasing the thought—is not a testimony of the gospel. A child can also learn to say what is in his heart, rather than use routine expressions which lose meaning through repetition. If taught since childhood, a youth can understand the difference between a faith-promoting experience and what “really went on” at camp.

Children can also learn why they should share their testimonies. They can learn at an early age that they should bear testimony because the Holy Ghost prompts them to say what they know to be true. Ideally the agenda of a fast and testimony meeting is directed by the Holy Ghost. Parents and teachers should therefore be cautious in challenging their entire family or class to bear their testimonies at a meeting. Children should never be taught to bear their testimonies because of peer pressure, or to impress grandma, a boyfriend, or an idolized instructor.

When should a child bear his testimony? Many children mistakenly believe that fast meeting is their only opportunity to bear testimony. By example, parents can show them many other private opportunities. If parents frequently bear testimony to particular gospel principles in the course of family conversation, children likely will also express their feelings in conversations about the gospel. If dad relates at the dinner table how he bore his testimony of living prophets to a coworker, his children will be encouraged to share what they know with their nonmember friends. Parents can also provide regular opportunities to bear testimony in family home evening.

As in all gospel teaching, parents should strive to teach correct principles positively. They can emphasize what the child is doing right, even as they are working to enlarge his understanding. They can allow him to learn how to bear testimony, in the privacy of home. In this manner, a child will learn how and when to bear testimony in private conversations and in more formal church meetings.

How can we obtain good art for our homes without spending a fortune for it?

Brent Laycock, artist, president of the Alberta Society of Artists, Alberta, Canada Your specification of “good” art is an important one to make. Much “good” art is available—art which can contribute to the spirit in our homes and inspire and edify our families. When searching for art appropriate for Latter-day Saint homes, I believe that a good rule to go by is to choose that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”

With this ground rule, our family has discovered ways of obtaining good art—without breaking our budget:

1. A vast number of original signed prints are available at low cost. The term “fine print” includes lithographs, etchings, woodcuts, and silk screens produced and signed by the artist. These differ from drawings and paintings in that they are produced in multiples. Many people overlook them because of the mistaken notion that they are just reproductions of original work. Fine prints are originals, but because they are produced by the artist in many copies, they are usually much less expensive than unique works. Most art galleries have a wide selection of prints. If you are not sure what to buy, you can usually rent a piece of art for a month or two while you decide if it is appropriate for your home.

2. For those with taste but not much money, full-color reproductions of noteworthy art make good substitutions for the real work. For five dollars anyone can have a reasonable facsimile of a five-million-dollar Rembrandt. Reproductions of art from any period of history are available at art galleries and at many other stores.

3. To those interested in collecting Mormon art: don’t think that it’s all in museums or that if it’s not, it’s not worth collecting. There are Mormon artists almost everywhere there are Mormons. Each geographical area has its own circle of Mormon artists at varying levels of proficiency whose work can be purchased and appreciated.

And Church magazines often reproduce Mormon art—from illustrations to major works. The Ensign sponsors the Gospel-in-Art program through which beautiful color reproductions of religious art can be obtained at a very reasonable cost (one dollar!).

4. Check your public library. Many public libraries have collections of framed reproductions and originals that can be borrowed for limited periods of time at little or no cost. Some libraries even lend sculpture. And while you are there, check out some large art books on your favorite artists.

5. All the good art for your home does not need to be on the walls. Your living room table is a good place to display magnificent books filled with breathtaking reproductions. Much of the literacy needed to understand and enjoy art can be acquired from studying books of pictures. Young children should need little encouragement to look through them. Art books come in every price range from small paperbacks to large bound volumes and are available from the public library as well as the bookstore.

6. You don’t always need money to obtain art. We have traded our own art for a surprising variety of items and services, including used furniture, tropical plants, dental work, haircuts, pottery, photography, and food. If you know an artist, use your imagination, and make him an offer.

Above all, it’s important to be selective in your choice of art by recognizing the artistic judgments of the Spirit within you.