My beloved brothers and sisters, it is a wonderfully significant thing that we are assembled in gatherings across this vast continent and beyond to honor children. Thank you for your presence, wherever you may be. May I say a few words as we go forward with this important religious service.
Is there any more touching or tender scene in all of literature than that portrayed in this Book of Mormon language?
“It came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, …
“And … said … : Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
“And when he had said these words, he wept, … and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
“And when he had done this he wept again;
“And he … said unto them: Behold your little ones” (3 Ne. 17:19–23).
Is there a miracle anywhere on earth more magnificent than the birth of a child?
Is there anyone among us who has not experienced deep and touching emotions at the sight of little children? Regardless of the color of their skin or where they live, can anyone doubt that they are our Father’s precious gift, that they are indeed His offspring? Have you wondered at the significance of our Lord’s declaration that if we are to return to the Father each of us must become as a little child?
Channing Pollock once observed: “Some of us must wish … that we could be born old, and grow younger and cleaner and ever simpler and more innocent, until at last, with the white souls of little children, we lay us down to eternal sleep” (Channing Pollock, “The World’s Slow Stain,” Reader’s Digest, June 1960, p. 77).
Children are the epitome of innocence; they are the epitome of purity; they are the essence of love; they are the essence of hope and gladness in this difficult and troubled world.
And yet there are millions who are abused, who are neglected, who become victims of anger and abject selfishness and evil of the worst kind.
Surely it is time to awaken within people everywhere an increased awareness of the terrible offense toward God, our Eternal Father, that is given whenever a child is made to suffer. Sad to say, evidence of that suffering is all about us.
There is tragedy in the land, much of it. I suppose there has always existed abuse of children, but it seems to have increased in tragic dimensions. Possibly it is because we are made more aware of it. Regardless, the time has come to do more than we are now doing. Look about us at children born of drug-addicted mothers, children who may never escape the terrible handicaps that have come with life itself; children, not a few, who are beaten, neglected, abandoned, sexually assaulted, who will never entirely get away from the trauma of their troubled lives; children who are the victims of famine and war. Only this past week the Children’s Defense Fund head reported:
“Our worst nightmares are coming true. … After years of epidemic poverty, joblessness, racial intolerance, family disintegration, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, the crisis of children having children has been eclipsed by the greater crisis of children killing children” (“A youth dies by gunfire every 2 hours,” Deseret News, 20 Jan. 1994, p. A-1). There then follows in this report a bizarre and tragic listing of offenses toward and by children.
Well did the Savior say: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).
For children of the Church everywhere, for the children of the entire world, we invoke the blessings of the Lord upon them that they may be in larger measure protected from evil, that they may grow in righteousness, that they may walk with love for God, who is the father of each of us. We invoke blessings upon their parents that they may protect their little ones, that they may nurture them, that they may teach them those truths which will bring them peace all the days of their lives. For, as the writer of Proverbs states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
“Behold your little ones.” God bless your little ones wherever they may be, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.