How to Help Our Children Gain a Testimony


How to Help Our Children Gain a Testimony

When we speak of testimony in the Church, we mean a spiritual witness of eternal truths. This encompasses a confirmation that God is our Father in Heaven, that he loves us, that he created us, and that he has a glorious plan for us made possible by the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. A testimony has been referred to as a spiritual bank account in which we invest or deposit teachings, experiences, and spiritual treasures in our minds and hearts that can be called upon when questions arise or when someone challenges the truths we hold sacred. A strong testimony can save us from being overly affected by discouragement, disappointment, or doubts; testimony can likewise fill us with appreciation, inspiring us to do better than we might otherwise.

“The possession of a sure testimony is the most valuable possession a person can have. It gives him the knowledge, the hope, and the assurance that he himself can, through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, become a partaker of all the promised blessings.” (Marion G. Romney, New Era May 1976, p. 9.)

The Need for Testimony

Elder Heber C. Kimball spoke of the need for each individual to have a testimony. “To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. … The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (In Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft Inc., 1945, p. 450.)

As children grow in faith, they rely on their parents’ faith. They lean on our testimonies or borrow light from the light of our lamps of faith. But as they mature and face life’s more challenging problems, they must gain light of their own.

Parents can help their children gain testimonies of their Heavenly Father and the Savior in many ways. For most, our example is the strongest teacher. As we use the Savior’s life as a standard for our behavior, we center our lives on him and show our children what power a living, vibrant faith can bring into their lives.

The light within us also will be reflected in the environment in our homes. One of the most important ways, in fact, to help children build strong testimonies is to build a spiritual, Christ-centered home.

A spiritual home is:

  • One in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is studied, discussed, and practiced.

  • A home built on the assurance that God the Father and Jesus Christ are real and that they live.

  • A home where the Holy Ghost is invited to be present.

  • A home where decisions are made according to principles of the gospel.

  • A place where happiness does not depend on material possessions but on love, unity, and sharing.

  • A home where the growth and development of each individual is valued and encouraged.

  • A place where people are accepted as they are and are lovingly encouraged to become their best.

  • A place where cooperation is more important than competition, where “you” is more important than “I.”

  • A place of order and cleanliness.

Such a list is not intended to discourage anyone. Most homes do not have all these characteristics in place all the time. But parents who desire to build faith in their children will work toward making such a home a reality.

Words of Faith

Though it is our actions that speak most distinctly to our children, our words are of great importance. How unfortunate it is when children do not hear their parents tell them of their love for them. When a parent says “I love you” to a child, that child’s feelings of self-worth and love for the parent are strengthened. Likewise, how unfortunate it is when children do not hear their parents tell them often of their love for Heavenly Father. When a parent speaks words of faith to a child, his love for his heavenly parents grows.

“Parents should bear their testimonies to their children in the home—actually express to your children exactly what it is about the Church you know to be true. If we think our children know these things just because they live in the same house with us, we are mistaken. We need to say the words so our families can feel the same spirit of testimony that we have felt. Family home evening is an ideal time for this to take place.” (Loren C. Dunn, Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 85.)

No matter what their ages, our children need to hear our testimonies and faith-promoting stories. And once we bear testimony of a principle, we must continue to live it. We cannot, for instance, testify about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy and then do something which would show our children that our words are empty.

Time for Testifying

Sharing spiritual feelings may occur in different ways. We can bear our testimonies as a normal part of special family times, such as home evenings, family scripture study, personal interviews, family prayer, or family gatherings. Following general conference or a fireside, we can testify of the truthfulness of what we have heard and felt. Some families have had rich experiences together holding family testimony meetings.

As children begin to feel comfortable expressing themselves at home, they can be encouraged to bear testimony in fast and testimony meeting. As our children hear us express ourselves, they will learn it is appropriate for them to do so also.

Less formal times for testimony bearing occur all the time. Often, “teaching moments” come up. We may see that our children are receptive and the time is right for teaching from our heart. Such times can occur, for example, when we read with them the journals of our ancestors. Sharing our own memories of important events in our lives can also provide opportunities for bearing testimony. Children will cherish descriptions of their mother’s feelings when each newborn child was placed in her arms. They will be strengthened spiritually by reading or hearing their father’s feelings about the spiritual significance of their baptisms and confirmations, their patriarchal blessings, or their temple marriages.

Often, we may be able to write what we cannot express as well verbally. One father who had never spoken so directly wrote to his son once a week throughout his mission, encouraging him to testify with all his heart as he served the Lord.

The Gift of a Living Testimony

A testimony requires nourishment and care, just as a physical body does. The Lord performed remarkable miracles for the children of Israel to keep them fed and clothed after they were miraculously saved from the Egyptians by crossing through the divided Red Sea. But it was not long until they were molding a golden calf to worship while Moses was on Mount Sinai. It is little different today. Anyone’s faith can weaken if he allows his testimony to lie dormant and unused. A missionary who has spent two years teaching others of divine truths can come home and lose that fervent testimony if he does not feed and nourish it as he did in the mission field. A newly baptized member must continue to participate and study if his testimony is to grow.

President Harold B. Lee observed, “The testimony you have today will not be your testimony tomorrow. Your testimony is either going to grow and grow until it becomes as the brightness of the sun, or it is going to diminish to nothing, depending on what you do about it.” (New Era, Feb. 1971, p. 3.)

A testimony of the gospel is a gift from God. It is available to anyone who strongly desires it and is willing to apply the teachings of the gospel. It usually does not come through miracles or visual manifestations. It comes to us quietly, from the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. And it is retained as we seek the constant companionship of the Spirit.

The scriptures and prophets assure us that if we seek earnestly, we will receive a witness in our mind and heart:

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.” (D&C 8:2–3.)

As parents, we want our children to receive their own inner light to guide their lives. The time we spend helping them gain that light is among the most valuable time we share with them.

Scriptural Patterns

The scriptures have much to say about rearing spiritually minded children who love the Lord. The following selections can give parents direction in helping their children gain strong testimonies that will lead them onto the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life.

Ex. 18:20

Teach them the laws of God.

Deut. 6:5–7

Speak of God’s commandments at all times.

Prov. 22:6

Train children when they are young.

Luke 15:11–32

Forgive them when they make mistakes.

Eph. 6:4

Do not provoke them, but bring them up into the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

2 Ne. 2:25

Help them to find joy.

Mosiah 4:14

Provide them with food and clothing; keep them from quarreling.

Mosiah 4:15

Teach them to love and serve one another.

D&C 68:25

Teach them the principles of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 68:28

Teach them to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord.

D&C 93:40

Bring them up in light and truth.

D&C 121:43

Discipline them with the Spirit.

[photos] Photography by Steve Bunderson