It was another one of those mornings. Lying in bed, I could hear the children fighting, not remembering a word I had said the last hundred times this had happened. In moments like these, I felt the strain of being a single parent and wished that in an instant I could summon an honorable priesthood holder to come to my aid.
That morning, however, I felt inspired to say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father to help me show greater love and encouragement to the children, instead of flying out of my room like a magpie, chirping away the standard lectures on fighting.
After my prayer I calmly got up and readied myself for the day. As I was doing so, one of the children came into my room and rehearsed to me the unfair treatment one of her brothers had shown her. I began to tell her I would take care of it, just as I always had, but then I stopped, realizing I had to change my approach. I felt the inspiration of the Holy Ghost tell me that if I took care of all of my children’s disagreements, they would never learn how to deal with each other or with society in general. But to teach them that, I had to stop being afraid to take action.
When I walked out of the room, the fighting had not ceased. My youngest son was in the process of slamming the back door and going after my oldest son in complete frustration. I called for all of my children and asked them to come into the living room. They somewhat guiltily obeyed, not sure what to expect—and frankly, I wasn’t sure either. What should I say? I asked myself. How are we as a family going to turn this around?
I sat down, and as I heard my own calm voice start to speak, it appeared that the nagging magpie had flown away. I expressed my concerns about my children’s behavior and let them know that our actions, not our words alone, were going to change what was happening in our home. Unlike in the past, when I had kept the floor solely for myself, I listened to my children’s comments. The atmosphere was different—I wasn’t afraid; I wasn’t alone. And instead of looking at the faces of four frightened little rabbits ready to be pounced on, I saw the faces of my children, Heavenly Father’s children.
Then something of even greater significance happened. As we discussed consequences for the children’s behavior that morning, I thought of a general conference address by Elder Joe J. Christensen titled “The Savior Is Counting on You.”
The night before, as I was lying in bed, I had felt like reading. First I had picked up a novel, but I couldn’t seem to focus on it. Then I picked up the November 1996 Ensign. I began to thumb through it until I finally stopped at Elder Christensen’s talk and started to read. I knew I was being guided, and I felt there was an answer there, though I was not completely sure what it was for—until this morning.
On pages 39 and 40 the article stated, “The scriptures teach us that whenever we are abusive, thoughtless, or unkind to others, ‘the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice’ (3 Ne. 9:2); also, that ‘the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen [or the end] to the priesthood or the authority of that man’ (D&C 121:37).”
I read this passage to my children, and afterward my youngest son, Evan, commented thoughtfully, “I don’t like it when people laugh at me.” Stephanie said, “When we are acting that way we may not be able to hear the laughing with our ears, but we hear it inside when we feel guilty.” We began a meaningful discussion about our behaviors and about how teasing and fighting may prevent us from hearing the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The discussion ended with a prayer by my son Keane, who asked that “we be able to remember the things that we learned this morning.”
After I got the children off to school, I meditated about what had just come to pass. Suddenly I realized that there indeed had been a priesthood holder in my home—his name was Elder Joe J. Christensen. He had been right by my side, supporting me as I was teaching my children. I also realized that on another occasion it might be President Gordon B. Hinckley or perhaps Elder Neal A. Maxwell. There was a righteous army of honorable priesthood holders who could come to my rescue during even the most trying moments with my children.
It felt wonderful to know I could be inspired by the words of the General Authorities and that I could act instead of being acted upon. I felt a confidence I had never before experienced whenever I had faced challenges with my children.
There are living priesthood holders whose counsel and guidance can be in our homes daily as we study and pray. When we allow them in, we are not alone.