Monday, May 3, 2010

Acting on vs. Hearing the word (LDS post with lots of jargon --beware!).

How do you teach spirituality with a language barrier?

A couple of weeks ago, after the stellar April General Conference, I realized I needed to do a little more with teaching my children about the spirit and cultivating their own testimonies. I was in charge of the lesson for Family Home Evening, and decided that this time, I was going to share how I got my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. I got out a couple of pictures of him, and after a nice song and prayer, spoke about my experience in the MTC. I had a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon already, but during the course of study there in the training center, found I could use a little more assurance about Joseph Smith himself. I shared the subsequent experience I had with my family, and really felt the Holy Ghost as I was speaking. Maybe it was just because it brought back the feelings I'd had before. At any rate I felt like it was a good lesson. It seemed like Tia and Jeff were touched. OK Kai was a little young, but when I asked Ari some questions, I could tell that next to none of it had gotten through. I don't know if she really heard or understood what I had said. I'm pretty sure that a LOT of what happens in Primary goes right over her head. This was so discouraging to me. I felt like I had really given all I had and it didn't work.

I have to give Ari credit. When she understands a rule she tries so hard to be obedient (--and make everyone else around her obedient too!). She wants to please and do what is right. She seeks and wants approval from authority. However, when teenagerhood hits, limited personal experience tells me this will probably go by the wayside for a few years as she figures out who she is. "We are not in the business of giving our children fish --but teaching them how to fish" Elder Eyring said in conference, and I think this is why. I know the only thing that will get her through teenagerhood clean and unscathed will be the few principles that she's internalized and is willing to fight for completely independantly.

This happened on my mission too, I vaguely remember (I tend to vividly remember only the good experiences or shockingly bad ones). I would bear my testimony to an investigator pouring my whole soul into it, only to have them say --thanks for coming over. Here's your book back. I have to assume that some of those experiences happened because my accent or grammar was so distracting they couldn't pick up on the message I was trying to convey. Other times we'd be reading a powerful section of scripture with them, and they would feel nothing, because their reading skills were so primitive they simply couldn't understand. I know the spirit is supposed to communicate directly to the heart when someone speaks by the spirit, but I also know that with myself, my body gets in the way sometimes and I'm distracted with worry for the people around me, or the room I'm in is too hot or too cold, or I'm tired and just can't push through the accent or language choices of the person speaking to get to the spirit of the message. I think this happens to most of us under certain circumstances.

We got our ward newsletter yesterday, and there was a message from the Primary president in there that gave me some hope. In the message she also mentions Elder Eyring's talk and how important it is for our children to gain spiritual strength early in their lives. Then she gives an alternate idea for teaching it. This is the Faith in God program for Primary and Personal Progress program for Young Women. These programs are sets of small goals to help kids learn to act on the gospel. The scriptures mention this too: testimony comes from hearing the Word of God (Alma 31:5); but Jesus also says testimony comes from acting (John 14:21) on the word. This might work out better for my little girl. I have a hard time communicating feelings and principles to her through words, but acting on those principles may bring the spirit to her in a way I can't.

We haven't been great about helping her with her program in the past, mainly because Tia's spoiled us, and done it completely on her own (just like she gets up on time, showers, makes her bed...who's child is this anyway?). I'd be interested to hear how any other family sets aside regular time to work on personal progress, faith in god, duty to god etc. instead of just hit and miss once in a while times. Bedtime won't work for us, Sundays are a little tricky but we may be able to squeeze something in there, family home evening doesn't work: I tried that for a while, but it's hard to make time for one or the other let alone both in one evening. Maybe at the dinner table? What do you do?


Deja said...

This is lovely, Am. And I think we all have "language barriers" of some sort, although I can see how Ari's would be tough to work with. But what I know about Ari is this: She has a good, good heart. I think she'll pull through fine.

belann said...

I think casual, but directed conversations at the dinner table are best. I think that is one of the reasons we are told to eat as a family.