“Behold Your Little Ones”

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    When the resurrected Savior visited the Nephite people, “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 … ;

    “And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

    “And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Ne. 17:21–24).

    Following are excerpts from a Church fireside entitled “Behold Your Little Ones,” which was broadcast by satellite from the Salt Lake Tabernacle 23 January 1994.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley,
    First Counselor in the First Presidency

    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? (see Matt. 18:1–4).

    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” (“The World’s Slow Stain,” Reader’s Digest, June 1960, page 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. …

    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.

    President Thomas S. Monson,
    Second Counselor in the First Presidency

    I had a marvelous [Primary] teacher. She was newly married; she was young; she was vivacious. We ten-year-old boys looked upon her as an ideal. She knew how to motivate boys.

    She talked to us about our bandolos which we wore about our neck, representing our Trail Builder classification and our accomplishments and our objectives. We were dedicated to that teacher. I look back upon that year as my finest in Primary, and I must say it was because of my wonderful teacher. It wasn’t the old chapel; it had inadequate classrooms. I think we met in the kitchen and used a dilapidated chalkboard. It wasn’t necessarily that our teacher was well educated or had a lot of degrees after her name; she had none of those. It wasn’t because the boys in the class were particularly enlightened or unusually well motivated and well behaved; on the contrary. But that which cemented the relationship between the teacher and her boys was the fact that she loved us, and she taught us the gospel. …

    At home in a hidden-away corner, I have a small black cane with an imitation silver handle. It once belonged to a distant relative. Why do I keep it for a period now spanning sixty years? There’s a special reason.

    You see, as a Primary boy I participated in a Christmas pageant in our ward. I was privileged to be one of the three wise men. With a bandanna about my head, Mother’s precious Chickering piano bench cover draped over my shoulder, and the black cane in my hand, I spoke my assigned lines: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). I don’t recall all of the words in that pageant, but I vividly remember the feelings of my heart as the three of us wise men looked up, saw the star, journeyed across the stage, found Mary with the young child, Jesus, then fell down and worshiped Him and opened our treasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I especially liked the fact that we did not return to the evil Herod to betray the baby Jesus, but we obeyed God and departed another way.

    The years have flown by. The events of a busy life take their proper places in the hallowed halls of memory, but the Christmas cane continues to occupy its special place in my home—and in my heart is a commitment to Christ.

    President David O. McKay counseled: “Three influences in home life awaken reverence in children and contribute to its development in their souls. These are: first, firm but Gentle Guidance; second, Courtesy shown by parents to each other, and to children; and third, Prayer in which children participate” (Improvement Era, December 1956, page 915). …

    The love our Savior has for children knows no bounds. When we as parents, as priesthood leaders, as officers and teachers in the Primary follow His example and heed His words, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15), boys and girls blossom before our very eyes and grow “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

    Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

    The Savior tearfully urged his Nephite followers to “behold your little ones” (3 Ne. 17:23). Notice that He didn’t say “glance at them” or “casually observe them” or “occasionally take a look in their general direction.” He said to behold them. To me that means that we should embrace them with our eyes and with our hearts; we should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father, with divine attributes.

    When we truly behold our little ones, we behold the glory, wonder, and majesty of God, our Eternal Father. All children are His spirit offspring. We have no more eloquent testimony that our Heavenly Father lives and that He loves us than the first raspy cry of a newborn child. …

    Clearly, those of us who have been entrusted with precious children have been given a sacred, noble stewardship, for we are the ones God has appointed to encircle today’s children with love and the fire of faith and an understanding of who they are.

    How can they know of these most important matters unless we teach them? According to the scriptures, parents should teach children “that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Moses 6:57). Children should learn “to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28), and “to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; … to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15). Our children should know “to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Ne. 25:26), and they should learn that they are to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5).

    Quoting Isaiah, the Savior told the Nephites: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (3 Ne. 22:13).

    Peace. What a marvelous, desirable blessing to bring to the souls of our children. If they are at peace within themselves and secure in their knowledge of Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for them, they will be able to cope better with the unrest in the world around them and be prepared better for reaching their divine potential. …

    Leaders and teachers … need to make sure that they are not simply preparing to teach a lesson, but rather they are preparing to teach a child of God. Every lesson, every meeting, and every activity should be focused on bringing these little ones to Christ. …

    Remember, every individual child of God is equally important to Him.

    His love is not predicated upon membership in the Church. His love for His children knows no bounds and is absolutely unconditional. Likewise, our loving service to His children should be freely and fully extended to each child.

    Sister Michaelene P. Grassli,
    Primary General President

    Understand Children. Although it is challenging to teach and nurture children, they bring with them joyous delight, spontaneous energy, uninhibited curiosity, and seemingly limitless faith. I often suggest to someone who is discouraged to “Find a child and play awhile. You’ll feel better.” And it really works!

    The people I see who seem to have the best relationships with children are those who understand that children grow and develop. They treat children in ways that are appropriate for the child’s age. …

    We need to discover who our children really are. We need to know what interests them, what worries them, and what they would do if they had their fondest dreams come true. … We can let children be their own selves and not expect them to be reproductions of their parents. Give them varied experiences so they can discover what interests them, and then encourage their appropriate interests and talents—even if they are not the same as yours. Embrace your child’s real self.

    Listen to Children. Sometimes we are so busy regulating children that we don’t take time to listen to them. If we would listen more, we could discover how to be successful with them. They are more likely to listen to us when they know they are listened to and understood. Listen with your heart, and listen for the unspoken message. … Ask for their opinions, and then listen. … Then you can respond in a way that will help [them]. Many times it is only their lack of experience that causes children to make mistakes.

    Be Kind to Children. Whenever I ask children what they like most about their best friend, a favorite teacher, neighbor, or relative, they usually will say, “She’s so nice,” or “He’s nice to me.” …

    Kindness to a child can be expressed in so many ways by anyone. You don’t have to be a child’s parent or teacher. You don’t have to add kindness to a list of things to do later. You can be kind to a child today with something as simple as a kind look or gentle touch. The tone of your voice can be kind, even when you’re correcting a child. And there are times when they do need correcting. …

    Share Your Understanding of the Gospel and Your Testimony with Children. … Sharing your testimony gives a child the feeling that you care about her or him enough to share something dear to you. When you teach the principles of the gospel, you have given the child one of the greatest gifts you could give—standards to live by, or, in the words of Helaman, “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12). …

    I hope you can see that it really isn’t very hard to develop a relationship with a child. Anyone can do it! … You don’t have to do it perfectly every day. It does take some time and some patience and many prayers. Some days are really hard. But it’s worth it. Just trust God to help you. Trust the feelings and impressions that come to you and act on them, and you will bless the life of a child, and the child will bless yours.

    Photography by Craig Dimond, Marvin K. Gardner, Peggy Jellinghausen, David Mitchell, Richard M. Romney, Scott Van Kampen, and Alfred W. Walker