Brothers and sisters, I love the Pacific Area and I love you! About 15 months ago I visited the Pacific Area with Sister Linda K. Burton from the Relief Society. It was a marvellous experience. Upon our arrival in New Zealand, the Area President and his wife drove us through the city of Auckland. I still remember the details of that drive. I noticed the Norfolk pines, and the sheep grazing in the city parks. We drove up to overlooks that allowed us to see the view below. It was breath taking. New Zealand is beautiful, and the graciousness of the people matches the beauty of the land.
While in Auckland, we went to visit the Starship Children’s Hospital, where I met 11-year-old Tristan, who was awaiting heart surgery. As I walked into his room I noticed his big, bright brown eyes. I wanted to give him a hug, but because of his sterile environment, I could not touch him; I could only talk to him from a distance. His father sat in a chair near his bed, and on the bed I noticed a Book of Mormon. Tristan was a brave young man. I asked him, “Where do you get your courage for the surgery you have ahead?” He paused, and then with tears in his eyes, he said, “The fear leaves when my dad and I read from the scriptures together.”
The example of Tristan that day taught me the importance of parents and children sharing their pure faith in the Saviour Jesus Christ, and the great value of reading the scriptures together.
Children have a natural ability to believe and to know Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us we would do well to be as converted and as humble as they are. One has only to listen to a child praying to confirm that truth. It is beautiful to witness a child’s naturally sensitive spiritual nature. As we watch children grow, we want to preserve that faith in Jesus Christ. We want them to remain just as converted and humble as they are while they are young, so we focus on their spiritual core. Alma tells us, “Learn wisdom in thy youth … to keep the commandments of God.” We put our trust in the words of Proverbs 22:6, which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Elder Neil L. Anderson said, “Fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their pre-mortal faith.”2 Elder Andersen is encouraging us to help children remain converted through their teenage years and into adulthood, by helping them remember what they once knew before they came to this earth. It takes all of us—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, and Primary leaders—to influence the children around us. Don’t underestimate the impact you may have on the lives of the children and youth you know, and don’t underestimate the impact they may have on yours. Listening is just as important as telling—and sometimes even more so. Their personal conversion to the Saviour strengthens ours.
Let me share three ways we can all help our children preserve their faith in Jesus Christ.
First, speak often of Jesus Christ. Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke to all of us when he said, “To fathers and mothers, to grandfathers and grandmothers, and to those without children of their own … , my counsel is to speak more frequently about Jesus Christ. In His holy name is great spiritual power.” He said, “To mothers who are raising their children without a father in the home, I promise you that as you speak of Jesus Christ, you will feel the power of heaven blessing you.”3
How do we do it? We can refer to Jesus Christ often as we speak to our children. We can share with our children how we want to better know our Saviour as our personal friend and how we can turn to Him when we are discouraged or afraid.
Children, have you ever been afraid of something? Are you afraid of the dark in your room at night? I know of a young boy who had that fear. He would lie awake at night, too afraid to even move in his bed. One day at Primary he received a small picture of Jesus. He had an idea. He decided to attach the picture of Jesus to a nightlight plugged into the wall of his room. When he would awaken at night, fearful of the dark, he would quickly look down at the nightlight and see the picture of Jesus reflected in the light. Looking at that picture of Jesus brought him the peace he needed to be able to go back to sleep.
I also know of a parent who taught his little two-year-old son the words to a hymn to help him deal with his fear at night. This father taught his son to softly sing the words, “O Saviour, stay this night with me; behold, ’tis eventide.”
Through our family prayers and our personal prayers we can come to know our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We can turn to Him with every need. As we kneel with our family to pray we can share the concerns of each individual family member, trusting that He is listening and He will guide us through our trials.
We can tell our children the stories of Jesus and the parables He taught. When they are faced with a choice to make we may ask, “What do you think Jesus would do?”
In 2 Nephi we read, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”4 Our speaking of Christ often, with comfort and reverence, may instil in our children a greater conversion to our Saviour—one that will remain throughout the years. It’s never too late to begin speaking of Jesus Christ in our homes.
Second, we read the scriptures with our families. Tristan’s family had created a pattern of reading the scriptures that blessed Tristan in his time of special need.
One mother of four young children said, “We started reading the scriptures when our children were babies. We would read out loud from the Book of Mormon two verses each night before we would kneel down for family prayer. When each child was old enough to talk, we would have him repeat back the words or phrases of two verses each night. When each child was old enough to read, we would have that child read two verses each night.” She said, “Our children became familiar with scriptural language, and they began to recognize the Spirit as we would read from the scriptures.”
Children and youth, have you ever sought the answers to your questions in the scriptures? Think about this: when you are faced with a difficult task ahead of you, try reading in the Book of Mormon about Nephi returning to Jerusalem for the plates. What can you learn from Nephi? If you feel you need courage to stand up for your beliefs, read about Captain Moroni and let him teach you about finding the courage to stand for truth and righteousness. Nephi said, “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”5 It’s never too late to begin reading the scriptures daily in our homes.
Third, bear personal testimony to your children.
Children and youth, do you know the story of how your parents received their testimonies? Do you know how they feel about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? Do you know their feelings for the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, or their feelings for our prophet today, Thomas S. Monson? Just ask them. Ask your parents to tell you about the first time they recognized the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. Elder David A. Bednar said, “Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children.” He continued, “Such occasions need not be programmed.”6
You may express your testimony to each other as you work together in your home. You may express your testimony as you share how you see the Lord’s hand in the events of your day. As we express simple gratitude to our Heavenly Father for a beautiful sunset or take opportunity to refer to the Saviour’s influence in our lives while we sit around the dinner table, we are bearing testimony. It’s never too late to begin to bear testimony of Jesus Christ in our homes.
When we speak often of Jesus Christ, when we make the scriptures a part of our day, and when we bear witness of our Saviour, we not only strengthen the faith and conversion of our children in our homes but we also strengthen our own faith and testimony.
I was taught valuable lessons that day in the New Zealand Starship Children’s Hospital. The Spirit of the Holy Ghost was prevalent as I watched a parent and a child rest their faith on the firm foundation of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Helaman said to his children, “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.”7
Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has said, “The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest.”8 We know when those lessons are focused on our Saviour Jesus Christ through prayer, scripture study, and testimony, we are creating a climate of a gospel-centred home. Like you, I share my testimony that He lives, and His Spirit is abundant in our homes when we build our foundation on Him, our Redeemer, who is Christ the Son of God.
 Alma 37:35.
2 Neil L. Andersen, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,” Ensign, May 2010, 108.
3 Neil L. Andersen, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,” 109–10.
4 2 Nephi 25:26.
5 2 Nephi 32:3.
6 David A. Bednar, “Watching with All Perseverance,” Ensign, May 2010, 40-43.
7 Helaman 5:12.
8 Thomas S. Monson, “Constant Truths for Changing Times,” Ensign, May 2005, 19.