Young children will listen, learn

Parents must make efforts with children when they are young and pliable, when they will listen and learn, said President Gordon B. Hinckley during an October 1993 General Conference address titled, "Bring Up a Child in the Way He Should Go."

President Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency, said not long after he was married, he and his wife built their first home. Landscaping the home, he said, was entirely his responsibility.

"The first of many trees that I planted was a thornless honey locust. . . . I dug a hole, put in the bare root, put soil around it, poured on water and largely forgot it. It was a wisp of a tree, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was so supple that I could bend it with ease in any direction. I paid little attention to it as the years passed.

"Then one winter day, when the tree was barren of leaves, I chanced to look out the window at it. I noticed that it was learning to the west, misshapen and out of balance. I could scarcely believe it. I went out and braced myself against it as if to push it upright. But the trunk was now nearly a foot in diameter. My strength was as nothing against it.

"I took from my tool shed a block and tackle. Attaching one end to the tree and another to a well-set post, I pulled the rope. The pulleys moved a little, and the trunk of the tree trembled slightly. But that was all. It seemed to say, 'You can't straighten me. It's too late. I've grown this way because of your neglect, and I will not bend.'

"Finally in desperation I took my saw and cut off the great heavy branch on the west side. The saw left an ugly scar, more than eight inches across. I stepped back and surveyed what I had done. I had cut off the major part of the tree, leaving only one branch growing skyward.

"More than half a century has passed since I planted that tree. My daughter and her family live there now. The other day I looked again at the tree. It is large. Its shape is better. It is a great asset to the home. But how serious was the trauma of its youth and how brutal the treatment I used to straighten it.

"When it was first planted, a piece of string would have held it in place against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort. But I did not, and it bent to the forces that came against it.

"I have seen a similar thing, many times, in children whose lives I have observed. The parents who brought them into the world seem almost to have abdicated their responsibility. The 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 to be too late.

"Every individual in the world is a child of a mother and father. Neither can ever escape the consequences of their parenthood. Inherent in the very act of creation is responsibility for the child who is created. None can with impunity run from that responsibility.

"It is not enough simply to provide food and shelter for the physical being. There is an equal responsibility to provide nourishment and direction to the spirit and the mind and the heart."

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