Some of my closest friends from my adolescence and during young adulthood have chosen to live outside the safety of the gospel. Of these dear friends, some seemed to have stronger faith, stronger testimonies and a firmer grounding in the gospel than did I. In fact, I remember getting a letter exhorting me to hold onto the gospel at a time when I was struggling mightily with gaining my own testimony. The author of this letter left the church only a few years later. Although we've spoken many times since, I still struggle with what has happened and why there could be such a change of heart.
Many of those who have turned from the gospel came from households seemingly similar to my parents' home. Family Home Evening, Family Prayer, Family Scripture Reading . . . These are all part of building strong testimonies among our youth. These were part of the lives my friends were leading. Something, however, changed and they decided other things were more important.
So, my thoughts have been more to instilling a foundation of faith, of personal revelation, and of following the guidance of the prophet and other church leaders. We've read about the "traditions of the fathers" in the scriptures.
Tradition can be a force for good or the foolhardy. Seriously, how many traditions have led to harm rather than good? We watch with awe every year as the running of the bulls takes a few more of the trailing runners down. The pain we endure to participate in some of these traditions is frightening. Even as dangerous as some traditions are to our physical welfare, other traditions can lead us away from our Heavenly Father. While many people will embrace certain beliefs because it was the way of their people, these beliefs aren't necessarily going to enlighten them or lead their posterity toward a better tomorrow. Conversely, tradition can also be a means for helping our children recognize how important the gospel is to our lives.
“I would invite all of us to take a moment to reflect on the traditions in our lives and how they might be affecting our families. Our traditions of Sabbath day observance, family prayer, family scripture study, service and activity in the Church, as well as patterns of respect and loyalty in the home, will have a great effect on our children and on their future. If our parenting is based on the teachings of the scriptures and of the latter-day prophets, we cannot go wrong. If every time there is a challenge our hearts turn first and always to our Father in Heaven for direction, we will be in a safe place. If our children know where we stand and we always stand on the Lord’s side, we know we are where we need to be.
“Now, the important thing is that we consistently work to do these things. We will not be perfect at it, and our families will not always respond positively, but we will be building a strong foundation of righteous traditions that our children can depend on. They can hold to that foundation when things get difficult, and they can return to that foundation if they should stray for a period of time.”Cheryl C. Lant, “Righteous Traditions,” Ensign, May 2008, 14
Ok, do these traditions guarantee success? No. These righteous traditions will only provide opportunities for our children to learn about Faith. They learn about the Gospel and see how important it is to their parents. What traditions are the most important ones; which will help the most in our efforts to bring a testimony of our Savior's love, the redeeming value of His sacrifice for us, and the importance of listening to His prophets?
I remember well the time we spent during my childhood and adolescence. I remember the efforts my parents made. My father is a meticulous man. Time is managed in everything he sets out to accomplish. Our Sundays were not an exception. Every Sunday had a schedule which focused the efforts and attention of the whole family on uplifting activities. The family always had family prayer before anyone of us had to leave. This meant even those who did not have early morning seminary got up early. After family prayer, those who didn't leave for seminary read the scriptures together. Dinner together every evening, or nearly so. I think all these traditions provided a foundation for successfully teaching my brothers and I the importance my parents placed on the gospel.
How dangerously close I came to rejecting everything! I do not wish my children to come to the brink of disaster before they turn to the Lord. It has been my greatest desire that each of my daughters find their own testimony through their own personal revelations. I can only speak to their minds. It is the spirit that brings the truth of all things to bear on their lives. Not the strength of flesh but the power of the spirit, through the power of divine revelation.
I've embarked on a journey, one that is not new or unusual. I've set out to bring my children to the knowledge of our Savior's love. I want them to know personally of His love for us. I want them to rely on their personal revelations. My testimony can only provide them with an example on which they can rely but it can do precious little in the face of the life they must live on their own merits. It is only through these Righteous Traditions that I can bestow on them an understanding of how important these things really are.