What do you do in your family to develop strong young adults? Here’s what works for us…
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
(Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3, lines 217-223.)
One of the first things a little child learns in swimming lessons is the importance of the wall on the side. When kids swim out into the pool, whenever they flounder, they can always come back to the safety and security of the wall.
No matter where they go or how scary the open water gets, the wall never moves. The wall is always there. Gospel standards, the words of the prophets, the commandments of Christ: All provide my family with the safety and constancy of the wall in the water of the pool. These standards give us the confidence that we can manage things just fine, even when we get in over our heads and the water runs deep.
“…the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; … deep water is what I am wont to swim in.”
As my kids grew up, I knew that the unquestioning faith they had as children would be replaced by all the important questions of youth. As parents, Kim and I encouraged lots of intellectual exploring by reading widely, continually discussing and debating with our children. It helped that she and I are usually at opposite ends of any spectrum of opinion, so the kids grew up knowing the importance of disagreeing agreeably and of digging out answers that satisfied their individual concerns. But we united as parents as far as eternal truths are concerned, and it was important that our kids have confidence that they could get solid answers. They could get solid opinions from Mom and me, and they could get solid answers directly from God. It was especially important that they do so when it came to matters of faith, whether to live righteously, to keep commandments, to stay morally clean, or to follow the weightier matters of the law. When they were teenagers, we’d spend hours studying to master scriptures and to wrestle for gospel answers, making a game of it whenever possible. Bribing with Skittles candy made it fun — It was a game only when the kids felt it was fun. Tackle scripture chase, anyone?
In the process, our children learned not only to stand on their own but to fight for what they know is right. Generally speaking, they’ve made decisions worthy of any adult, even when they were teenagers. They continue to choose to keep their feet firmly planted on the strait and narrow path, teaching their families to do so as well.
What deep discussions have achieved really is pretty dang incredible – thoughtful gospel education has helped the young adults in our family to feel the right things. It allows them to take time out of their busy schedules, to rebuke the winds of change and to calm the sea of life. It gives them experience with spiritual feelings. It gives them experience with standing on their own.
“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
The opportunity to experience and experiment with spiritual feelings is essential to my kids, both as teenagers and now as adults with families of their own, as they come to know Christ and to learn the variety of ways by which He interacts with each of us. This training of their spirit with eternal communication processes is enhanced as they have consistent experience repeatedly hearing the words of the Prophets.
“But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.”
I have learned for myself that these things not only bring me joy. They bring me safety and security.
“And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.”
Elder Bednar on answers to every question and challenge:
“Acting in accordance with the teachings of the Savior invites spiritual power into our lives—power to hear and heed, power to discern, and power to persevere. Devoted discipleship is the best and only answer to every question and challenge.”
-David A. Bednar, Ensign, March 2014
The secret of strong young adults for our family? Start ’em young. Keep sharing with them what’s really important to you when they’re old. Works for us…
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1. A Change in Course: Watch the Hopf Family story. (Length: 4:06.)
2. An Incredible Meeting, an Answered Prayer: Watch François Verny’s Story. (Length: 4:03)
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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:
- Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print, “Great Wave Off Kanagawa”, Hokusai (1829-32)—en.wikipedia. org/wiki/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg, with further info at en.wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa
- Photo, “Learning The Importance Of The Wall On The Side”—www. eagerbeaverswimschool.com/
- Photo, “Start ‘Em Young To Have Confidence In The Wall”—www. examiner.com/article/study-swimming-lessons-appear-to-have-a-protective-effect-against-drowning-for-tots
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