The Idea of Intentional Parenting

IntentionalParentingOur Heavenly Father intentionally placed us in this mortal experience to give us the opportunities we need to return to Him. What an amazing idea he had for us to learn and grow! This life is full of hands-on experiences, consequences, and learning moments. On top of it all, we get to help some of God’s other children learn and grow as well: we get to be parents. We shouldn’t look at our role of helping with His work as any less important than He sees His own work. We are helping “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of ourselves, our children, and any other lives we may touch.

If this is true, the most important work of mothers and fathers is to bring our children to a knowledge of God and His Plan of Salvation, enabling them to return to their Heavenly Parents. As I think about this responsibility, several thoughts come to mind: if God is deliberate and intentional as he accomplishes His work, shouldn’t I be intentional in my own parenting work as well? And if my husband and I are to be successful in our parenting endeavors, shouldn’t our goals match His goals?

But there’s another side to our responsibility of raising good children: we as parents need to return to Him as well. Again, our Heavenly Father thought of everything. In all His wisdom, God made the benefits of parenting help both children and parents, allowing all of us to learn the most from our individual experiences. Helping God accomplish His goals for our children accomplishes His goals for us at the same time. No one learns better than when they are teaching it themselves. This means we, as parents, are enrolled in a sort of Parenting 101 class. We get our first taste or experience in parenting here which can continue into the next life if we are worthy.

The young men who were part of the Army of Helaman did not have the amazing spiritual experiences their parents had of being taught by Ammon, burying their weapons, and choosing to die rather than sin again. But somehow their parents were still able to pass on that knowledge to them. In other scripture stories this didn’t always happen.

What a difference between these young men and the ones who lived during the reign of King Benjamin who were too young to understand his great speech: many of that rising generation rejected his words. Of course there is no way to guarantee children’s testimonies will always grow the way we would like, but if parents couldn’t make a difference, then God wouldn’t bother designing parents and families into His plan. However, He did design it that way because parenting does make a difference and Intentional Parenting can make an even bigger difference.

Intentional Parenting can be defined as:

Deliberately choosing to raise children in an environment created to instill a desire for truth, a strong faith in Christ, and a determination to follow Him.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEIntentional Parenting means children are the priority. I once heard a popular conservative radio host ask parents to find out what their children have learned from them by asking one simple question, “What do we, your parents, most want you to be: successful, smart, good, or happy?” How many children would answer “good”? As it turns out not very many. In fact, most children choose all the other answers before selecting good. This is an interesting impression of parenting today.

Good parenting means making goals and, typically, goals we make are measured in the length of time it takes before they can be achieved. This goal of raising children to successfully return to our Heavenly Father is just about the longest goal imaginable. Often long-range goals can fall through the cracks when there are pressing short-term goals that need addressing. But when it comes to parenting, sometimes those short-term goals can actually get in the way or even hurt the prospects of achieving the long-term goals.

When my children reached an age to begin helping with jobs around our home, many times I told myself it would be a lot easier to just do it myself. My three-year-old helping empty the garbage often meant I was picking up dropped pieces of trash; my six- or seven-year-old helping me clean the bathtub or vacuum the family room meant spending time with touch-ups, pulling toys and stray socks out of the vacuum, or even vacuuming again which felt very much like wasting valuable time already in such short supply.

Two of my short-term goals, accomplishing these tasks quickly and efficiently and having a clean house, were being undermined by little helping hands. But while I was despairing of ever reaching these goals, my big picture, long-term goal of helping my children return to God was working great! My children were learning the valuable skill of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from it. Depending on which goal I focused on, I could either feel very successful or an abject failure. As I tried patiently and lovingly to teach my children these various tasks, I could just imagine the patience and self-control it takes for our Heavenly Father to watch and wait for His work to be accomplished.**

IMG_2358We’re not only working out our own salvation by following Christ and His teachings; we’re also trying to make sure, as much as we can, that our children will also follow Him and our grandchildren as well. It is a multi-generational goal which only God can ensure. I can do my part but then my children have to do theirs—which means they have to understand the multi- generational aspect as well—and their children and so on. This means not only are parents teaching their children to be righteous people, they are also emphasizing how important it is for them to teach their children to be great people too.

We can’t fix the world or even our own communities, but we can choose to be Intentional Parents and raise our children with the long range goal of their becoming Intentional Parents themselves to continue the cycle another generation. Nothing else should matter as much. Then when my children (and their children) are asked if their parents want them to be successful, smart, good, or happy, their answer will be, “To be good; to gain eternal life and to pass this knowledge on to my children through my own Intentional Parenting.”

By: Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents”

* We will always discuss the God-ordained traditional nuclear family with His ideas of their various responsibilities. We might not all have this family form but we can work towards it and we can teach our children to aim for this as well.

References:
1 Moses 1:39
2 Alma 53:21, 56:47-48, Book of Mormon, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016. 3 Mosiah 26:1-4, Book of Mormon.
4 Telushkin, Joseph. “What Did Your Parents Most Want You to Be?” YouTube, uploaded by PragerU, Mar 17, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5adJxEWLFKU. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.
**story from anonymous contributions by parents of GatheringFamilies.com

Back to School Concerns: Ensuring Accurate History is Taught

usa-1779925_960_720The first article in this series discussed the absence of God in public schools. When belief in God is removed, another belief system must take its place, and secularism has done just that. A secular belief system posits that events have no religious or spiritual basis. This point of view is completely antithetical to the reality of our nation’s history and spiritual origins. Because of the domination of secular teachings, there is a significant concern that we are losing the divinely inspired founding principles of our country.

Consider the following quotes:

“I believe we are paying a very high price for our increasing secularism. Jefferson said, ‘God who gave us life, gave us liberty.’ Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?”
– President Gordon B. Hinckley, Address given at Provo Freedom Festival, 1997

“As a result of misunderstanding the importance of religious liberty in our Constitutional order, many citizens and even some educators have come to consider it bad taste or even illegal for public school teachers even to mention religious influences or commitments. No wonder we suffer an appalling ignorance of our political and cultural origins.”
– Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, July 1990

When religious influence is not considered or discussed while teaching history in the classroom, fundamental truths are left out of our children’s education. God established this nation. He raised up the Founding Fathers for the purpose of writing our Constitution. His influence was seen throughout the Revolutionary War which was prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. Not only do we as Latter-day Saints believe this, but the Founding Fathers believed it! Prevailing wisdom today paints the Founders as wealthy, elitist slave owners who served their own interests by establishing our government. History books written by authors like self-proclaimed socialist Howard Zinn are widely used and rarely questioned. Much of the spiritual influence that the Founders felt and acted upon has been erased. History has been rewritten.

Character of the Founders
Fortunately for those seeking truth, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have said much about these great men. Here are just a few examples:

“I [look] upon the Founding Fathers as men who believed in God, as men who prayed to God, as men who recognized God and wished to do His will. What a singular and remarkable group they were! As I look across the world today, I search in vain for such a group as walked together across the stage of history when this nation was born.”
– President Gordon B. Hinckley, Address given at Provo Freedom Festival, 1997

“The Founding Fathers understood this country’s spiritual heritage. They frequently declared that God’s hand was upon this nation, and that He was working through them to create what Chesterton once called ‘a nation with the soul of a church.’ While they were influenced by history and their accumulated knowledge, the single most influential reference source for their work on the Constitution was the Holy Bible.”
– M. Russell Ballard, “Religion in a Free Society,” Ensign, October 1992

“Other nations might boast of their kings, but the King of America, proclaimed by the patriotic fathers who founded it and established it, is the great God of Heaven.”
– Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1928, p. 109

“I have resolved to do all that is within my power to keep alive the same faith which existed in the hearts and souls of our early founding fathers. It was George Washington who declared, ‘The people know it is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible.’”
– L. Tom Perry, Conference Report, October 1975, p. 130

wilford-woodruff-82910-galleryIn the April 1898 General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff had this to say about the Founders: “Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men.” He then goes on to relate the occasion when many of the Founding Fathers appeared to him in the St. George temple and insisted that their temple work be done. Said he, “Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”

From these teachings of modern prophets and apostles we can be assured of the noble character of our Founders.

Why Our Country is Unique
The next question is – why does it matter? Why is our freedom so essential to understand and maintain? The answer is very simple and Elder Mark E. Petersen explains it this way:

“Free agency is part and parcel of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, free agency was required here in America so that God’s work could move forward; and so it must, for the day of the Lord draweth nigh and the ultimate destiny of the United States is rapidly emerging.

“Here in the USA the Lord’s latter-day Zion has been established already. Here in the USA his latter-day New Jerusalem will yet be established. Here in the USA the Lord will preside during the Millennium” (BYU, 7/4/76).

This is not just one of many nations. Our Father in Heaven needed a free land to restore the gospel. Our country has a destiny to perform, and it is not finished yet. From this free land the gospel has gone forth to the world and must continue to go forth until the time when we again welcome our Savior. Freedom is essential to the spread of the gospel. Knowing this, we cannot fail to teach the rising generation the truths that they will need to carry on the Lord’s work.

Our Responsibility
It is up to us as parents to know the history of our nation, the Constitution, and how it relates to the gospel. It is our responsibility to make sure our children are taught these things. Ezra Taft Benson said:

“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

“Have we read The Federalist Papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?

“As Jefferson said, ‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, . . . it expects what never was and never will be'” (October 1987 General Conference).

Abraham Lincoln declared at Gettysburg that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. An apathetic and ignorant citizenry cannot possibly uphold the divinely-inspired Constitution and ensure that our freedoms are protected. We are incredibly blessed to live in this promised land, and we must remember that “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). The blessings of freedom come with the responsibility to preserve that freedom for future generations. We need to commit to teach our children the noble character of our Founding Fathers and the Biblical principles upon which our government is based. Most importantly, we need to teach them that our Father in Heaven was, is now, and will forever be blessing this land according to our righteousness.

Written by Stephanie Gifford
Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her wonderful husband, Jared, and their beautiful daughter. She enjoys horses, baseball, reading, and spending time with family.

Back to School Concerns: Addressing the Absence of God in Public Schools

School busesSummer is coming to a close and it’s almost time to send our children back to school. This is a perfect time to think about education and what it means for our children. What is true education? What do we want our children to know and to be by the time they leave our homes and go out on their own?

My favorite definition of education comes from Orson F. Whitney: “[Education] is the expansion of the soul – the body and the spirit – to the fullness of its capacity” (“What is Education,” 6/19/1885). What a beautiful way to look at it! This is education from an eternal perspective – allowing the mind and the spirit to expand in wisdom and knowledge to the fullness of their capacity. Education needs to include our whole soul.

What is the goal that we have for educating our children? Certainly we want them to learn and gain skills that will allow them to provide for their future temporal needs. Financial stability is important. However, there are other areas of life that deserve even greater attention. Isn’t the ultimate goal to give our children a strong spiritual foundation so that they can help grow the Kingdom of God in these latter days? All of our spiritual and temporal learning should work to serve that goal in some way.

Usually when we speak of education and learning, our minds go to the learning done in a classroom. Approximately 90% of school-aged children attend public schools – usually for about seven hours a day, five days a week, for nine months every year. That is a significant chunk of time to send our children anywhere, and parents should be keenly aware of how the time spent there can affect them. The public school system is not perfect and we need to take an honest and open look at it. This series of articles will examine some of the concerns of public school and how parents can deal with them.

The Absence of God in Public Education

The biggest concern I see is the absence of God in public school. Through Supreme Court decisions and the misapplied doctrine of separation of church and state, prayer, biblical teachings, and discussion of God are not allowed in school. How do we balance sending our children to school to learn the secular things they need to know with also ensuring that their spiritual needs are being met?

With God removed from education, a vacuum is created which must be filled by another belief system. Our schools now embrace a secular viewpoint which posits that God and his divine influence are of no consequence. Ezra Taft Benson explains why this is a concern: “I would have you consider soberly how this secular influence has affected the treatment of our nation’s history in the textbook in the classroom. Today, students are subjected in their textbooks and classroom lectures to a subtle propaganda that there is a ‘natural’ or a rational explanation to all causes and events. Such a position removes the need for a faith in God, or belief in His interposition in the affairs of men” (BYU, 3/28/76). The secular influence naturally extends beyond history to other subjects like science and philosophy.

Another caution on this subject comes from Bishop Keith B. McMullin: “Because secularism typically ignores the eternal perspective, it can in time lead to unbelief” (BYU, 11/5/06). This seems quite logical when you think about it. We teach our children at church and at home that God’s influence is seen in everything; that a sparrow cannot fall without his notice. We teach our children that their Father in Heaven knows us each intimately and has a grand plan for all of his children. Then they attend school and are taught nothing of God’s influence and instead given alternate secular explanations in all subjects. This will surely lead to confusion for some of our youth.

This dichotomy makes it critical that we examine what is being taught so that we can combat false philosophies and help our children find truth. Ezra Taft Benson said, “As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. . . It is important that you stay close to your children, daily review, if possible, what they have learned in school, and go over their textbooks” (October 1970 General Conference). We must be truly vigilant to ensure that the righteous goal of gaining an education doesn’t result in the negative consequence of having faith weakened or destroyed by those who teach theories as truth that are contrary to God’s laws.

In addition to monitoring what is taught, how can we give our children a strong spiritual foundation to support them through school? Here are some suggestions:

Pray for Discernment
Both we and our children need the gift of discernment. The adversary is subtle and cunning, but the light of the Holy Ghost will illuminate truth and allow us to navigate a world in turmoil.

LDS Seminary Class
Attend Seminary and Institute
These programs have been established to help our youth and young adults understand the teachings of Jesus Christ and how to apply them in daily life. Attendance will provide a daily source of spiritual strength for our children.

Make the Gospel a Priority
Family prayer is a wonderful way to begin our day and invite the Spirit to guide our actions. Reading and discussing the scriptures together each day will help our children learn true principles and how to apply them in their lives. Spending quality family time together is essential. We need to be available for our children when they’re home so that they can come to us with cares and concerns. It really is the basic things that can make all the difference.

Teach Children How to Recognize the Spirit
We often discuss the Holy Ghost and we know that he can communicate with us, but each person receives inspiration in different ways. We need to teach our children from a young age how it feels when the Holy Ghost is present in our lives. Point out times when you feel the Spirit. Teach them to pray to know how the Holy Ghost speaks to them. Teach them that the Holy Ghost sends feelings of peace and assurance that can help them know they are doing what is right.

Avoid Overscheduling
It is always wonderful to have hobbies and to participate in wholesome activities that build talent and character, but we have been warned against participating in these things at the expense of gospel learning and study and quality family time. In the October 2007 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave this counsel: “The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.”

Later in that talk he makes this clear statement: “Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.” Keeping our families too busy (albeit with good things) and our priorities off-balance can certainly result in weakening the spiritual foundation of our families.

In an increasingly secular world where God is irrelevant and belief in absolute right and wrong is fading, our children need to be strengthened at home more than ever before. Kim B. Clark said, “Brothers and sisters, you and I need to be much better than we are now. The scriptures teach us that the world is now and will be in commotion. Wickedness and darkness will increase. Yet in that darkening world there will be increased divine light. The Lord Jesus Christ has a great work for us to do with the rising generation. It is a greater work than we have ever done before. The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in His true and living Church. He is hastening His work, and He is preparing the earth and His kingdom and us for His return” (“Encircled About with Fire”, 8/4/15).

Our youth have a marvelous work to do on the earth and we have the critical role to prepare them. With so much of their time spent away from home and family, we need to do all we can to strengthen our children and provide a strong spiritual foundation so they may face the world with courage and faith.

Written by Stephanie Gifford
Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her wonderful husband, Jared, and their beautiful daughter. She has a passion for learning about God’s hand in American history and how it ties to the restoration of the Gospel. Stephanie enjoys horses, baseball, reading, and spending time with family.