Children should be taught when young and pliable

Exercise patience

Give encouragement- Pray for guidance

Decrying a "moral deficit, a decline in values in the lives of the people, which is sapping the very foundation of our society," President Gordon B. Hinckley declared Sunday morning that "the primary place in building a value system is in the homes of the people."

President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, displayed a picture of two butterflies around a flowering shrub. It had been painted by a 13-year-old girl who was struck by a car and paralyzed from the shoulders down when she was 4. Her mother and grandparents presented it to him.

"She had painted this picture holding a brush between her teeth and moving her head," he explained.

Acknowledging that some might say the painting is not a masterpiece, President Hinckley added: "But what is the test of art? Is it not the inspiration that comes from looking at it?"

He said he would hang the painting in his study and be inspired by the knowledge of its origin and the example set by its creator.

"When I think of those who carry heavy burdens, my mind goes to our beloved prophet," he said. "President Benson is now in his 95th year. He still wears the mantle of his sacred office. But his activities are seriously limited. He is unable to be with us this morning or to speak to us. We love him. We honor him. We pray for him. We sustain him. And we go forward."

The Church is established on divine principles, President Hinckley said. He testified that the Lord Jesus Christ will never let any man or group of men lead it astray. "His is the power to remove them if they should ever be found taking the wrong turn."

Critics will attack the Church because its responsibility is to do the will of the Lord, and that often is contrary to the ways of the world, he noted. "These worldly ways appear to be on a course that should be of concern to every thoughtful man and woman."

Mentioning the U.S. government's huge national debt, he said the moral deficit in the lives of people in most nations of the world is much more serious.

President Hinckley said society's moral decay is evident in easy breakup of marriages, widespread infidelity, prevalence of youth gangs, increased use of drugs, the AIDS epidemic, defacement of property with graffiti, foul language, sex and violence in entertainment and literature, and a breakdown of law and order.

"When all is said and done, the primary place in building a value system is in the homes of the people," he said, adding that the time to teach children is when they are "young and pliable, when they will listen and learn."

To illustrate the point, he told of a tree he planted which, when it was young, was so supple he could bend it with ease in any direction. But after years had passed, he noticed it was leaning, misshapen and out of balance. By then it was too large to bend upright. In desperation, he sawed off the major part of the tree, leaving only a branch growing skyward.

He said he has observed children who, like the tree, were neglected when they were young and results have been tragic. "A few simple anchors would have given them the strength to withstand the forces that have shaped their lives. Now it appears it is too late."

Parenthood carries the inherent responsibility to provide nourishment and direction to the spirit, mind and heart, as well as the body, he said.

God will hold accountable men who beget children and then abandon them, "for these are also His children, whose cries over what you have done reach up to Him," President Hinckley warned.

"I remind mothers everywhere of the sanctity of your calling. No other can adequately take your place. No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world."

Though the task may be fraught with disappointment and challenge, "love can make the difference - love generously given in childhood and reaching through the awkward years of youth," President Hinckley counseled. "It will do what money lavished on children will never do.

"And patience, with a bridling of the tongue and self-mastery over anger. . . .

"And encouragement, that is quick to compliment and slow to criticize.

"These with prayers will accomplish wonders. You cannot expect to do it alone. You need heaven's help in rearing heaven's child - your child who is also the child of his or her Heavenly Father."

President Hinckley concluded with a brief prayer: "O God, our Eternal Father, bless the parents to teach with love and patience and encouragement those who are most precious, the children who have come from Thee, that together they might be safeguarded and directed for good, and in the process of growth bring blessings to the world of which they will be a part. . . ."

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