Our daughter got home from girls’ camp bursting to tell us about her first midnight hike. Dressed in their sweats and PJs, the girls had followed the beam of their leader’s flashlight as it cut through the darkness of the thick Tennessee woods. There were rocks, logs, and ravines—not to mention a pretty large population of raccoons, skunks, and bats—and even a distant coyote’s howl. When they reached a clearing by the lake, they all rested under the starry sky before heading back to their tents. So many things could have tripped them up, but everyone was safe. Their hike was a brilliant success.
Today’s children are taking their earthly journey when every day the world is becoming a little less filtered, a little cruder and more contentious. Morally, it’s a very murky time in the world’s history. And many are losing their way.
So parents need to be armed with a spiritual equivalent of the camp leader’s flashlight—the standards and teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel standards give children safety, security, and direction. They help them find their way to the temple. In the words of the Psalmist, they give them “a lamp unto [their] feet, and a light unto [their] path” (Psalm 119:105).
Here are six ways we can light our children’s paths with gospel standards:
We can only share a light that we already have. Our children watch us with unblinking eyes, and they know when our commitment to gospel standards is genuine.
Studying “My Gospel Standards” and For the Strength of Youth are good ways to begin. Evaluating needed changes can make our flashlight’s beam more powerful and reliable.
A revelation to the Church in 1838 urges: “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5).
Before we arise in the morning, we must be awake. Being awake implies being aware. We can’t be naive about the temptations our children face. We need to be aware of trends and technologies.
But children must feel safe before they will talk to us about how things really are at school and among their friends. Sometimes it might feel natural to react with alarm. But if we respond instead by listening carefully and asking the child about his or her feelings, we build trust. Then our child will more likely see us as an ally in dealing with challenges.
Gospel standards bless, empower, and protect children, now and throughout their lives, and the best time to begin teaching them is early on, when our children are eager to learn from us and less susceptible to peer pressure.
Talk about gospel standards. Celebrate them. Memorize them. Even sing them!
Cara Kennedy of Indiana, USA, hung a “My Gospel Standards” poster at eye level in her home so her children would see it often and learn the standards from a young age. Eventually she wrote a song about the standards, which includes the words, “When people say, ‘Why do you do this?’ When people say, ‘Why don’t you do that?’ I stand up tall and simply say, ‘These are my gospel standards!’” Some of Sister Kennedy’s nieces and nephews have also learned the song, and when they sing it, they shout that last line and throw their fists in the air!
Each gospel standard is rooted in eternal principles, such as the sanctity of the body and spirit. Each one leads toward the temple and is protective and empowering. As Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said of covenants, each one “elevates us beyond limits of our own perspective and power. It is like the difference between plodding through a muddy field and soaring through the skies in a supersonic jet.”1
Living gospel standards helps us in our striving to be the kind of person Christ is. Ultimately, they lead us toward “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Family discussions and role-playing can help children be brave and unashamed in living gospel standards and becoming a light unto the world. Consider these resources for upcoming family home evening lessons: “My Gospel Standards” poster (left); “Stand for the Right” poster (right, also page 20 of this month’s Friend); and “Aim for the Best!” (page 24 of this month’s Friend). Rather than compare clothing, music, and media with what others are doing, we can compare with what is truly virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy.
Lesson Idea: Discuss the different meanings of the word standard: (1) a banner carried at the top of a pole to serve as a rallying point; (2) a structure serving as a base or support; (3) something established as an example or a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, value, or quality; (4) a means of determining what a thing should be; (5) having recognized and permanent value.2