From Generation to Generation

By Adam C. Olson

Church Magazines

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What will you do with the spiritual knowledge offered to you?

If you’ve read the first verse of the Book of Mormon, you already know something about 17-year-old Juan Ordoñez and his 15-year-old sister, Mayra, of the Pachitol Ward, Patzicía Guatemala Stake.

Juan, Mayra, and their seven older brothers and sisters were “born of goodly parents,” who have passed on skills the family needs to survive, such as the family trades of farming and tortilla making, as well as the language of their ancestors, Cakchiquel.

But those aren’t the only ways their family is like Nephi’s. Juan and Mayra have parents who understand that it is as important to pass on a “knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God” (1 Nephi 1:1) as it is to pass on physical survival skills.

While many teens don’t have Lehi- and Sariah-like parents to pass on the gospel (see sidebar on page 13), for Juan, Mayra, and others who do, the question is: Will we be Nephi-like learners, who listen, apply gospel truths, and pass them along as well? Or will we be like Laman and Lemuel, who heard the same information but didn’t want to find out the truth for themselves and couldn’t pass it on?

How Is It Passed On?

Juan can’t remember how old he was when he started working with his dad in the fields. “The children would start going with me when they were small,” Juan’s dad, Joel, says. “They learned by watching and then doing what they could, depending on their strength and capacity.”

Mayra learned to make tortillas the same way, watching her mom and sisters until she was old enough to pitch in and help.

But plowing, planting, and tortilla making aren’t the only things being passed from one generation to the next. As Mayra’s mother, Carmela, molded and shaped tortillas, she was also giving shape to her daughter’s character. As Brother Ordoñez prepared, planted, or cultivated the ground, he was doing the same for Juan’s heart.

As the family spent time together, the children could see not just how their parents worked but how they lived. And when the opportunity arose, their parents made the gospel a topic of conversation while they worked.

But observing—and even doing—isn’t always enough. In the Book of Mormon’s first family, Laman and Lemuel heard the same things that Nephi heard from their father, and they too even went and did what their father asked. But they were missing something important, something that Juan and Mayra have—a desire to learn.

How Much Do You Want It?

Juan and Mayra live in Patzicía, a Cakchiquel community a few hours from Guatemala City. Because many of those who buy their tortillas and seek their plowing services don’t speak Spanish, it was important to Juan and Mayra to learn Cakchiquel.

But not everyone feels that way. Cakchiquel isn’t taught in the schools. The language has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. However, in each succeeding generation there are many who don’t want to learn it or feel they don’t need it.

A desire to know is key in more than just learning a language. Lehi wanted his family to know for themselves that the gospel is true, but not all of his family wanted to know (see 1 Nephi 8:12, 17–18). In addition to hearing his father and doing what he asked, Nephi wanted to know for himself (see 1 Nephi 10:17). Laman and Lemuel, though they had obeyed their father, had done it grudgingly (see 1 Nephi 2:11–12). They weren’t interested in making the effort to find out for themselves, saying, “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (see 1 Nephi 15:8–9).

Don’t Break the Chain

As their children grew, Brother and Sister Ordoñez often wondered if their children would listen. Would they obey? Would they want to know, like Nephi? Would they pass the gospel on to their children?

It may be too early to tell. But Brother and Sister Ordoñez have reason to hope.

Their older children are starting to pass gospel truths on. And the younger children are recognizing the importance of passing the gospel on too. “It’s hard sometimes to take counsel from your parents,” Juan says. “But I’m grateful for their help.”

“They didn’t just teach me how to cook beans and make tortillas,” Mayra says. “They have taught me the right path—to follow God.”

Photographs by Adam C. Olson; far right: detail from Liahona, by Arnold Friberg

The things that Juan (bottom left) and Mayra (left) are learning from their parents (opposite page) are important not only to their physical survival but to their spiritual survival as well.

If Juan and Mayra don’t learn these important things for themselves, how will they be able to pass them on to their children?

From left: Nephi Rebuking His Rebellious Brothers, Abinadi Appearing before King Noah, and Alma Baptizing in the Waters of Mormon, by Arnold Friberg