Behold, your little ones

During His earthly ministry, the Savior had only a few recorded dealings with children. But those encounters, as found in the scriptures, provide some of the most powerful gospel examples of how we should treat one another.

The Savior not only took time to greet, bless and show forth love for the children with whom He came in contact, but He also took time to listen, instruct and pour out blessings. Both Mark and Luke record an incident wherein the multitudes "brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

"But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." (Mark 10:13-15.)

Sometimes, as adults, we may be quick to dismiss children as bothersome or not worthy of our time, but as the Savior showed, everyone — no matter the age — deserves our consideration and respect. Jesus made time for each child, showing by example to His disciples, that no matter the urgency of the errand, the kingdom of God is composed of people who love one another.

In His visit to the Nephites following His Resurrection, the Savior "took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again; and he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold, your little ones.

"And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them." (3 Nephi 17:21-24.)

How precious, then, are children in the sight of the Lord? How much we take for granted their innocence, and how little we regard their contribution to our lives. As the Savior demonstrated, we all need to show forth love to all and fearlessly guard and protect little ones from danger and abuse. Only then are we as little children ourselves ready to receive the full blessings of the kingdom. If we don't see ourselves reflected in the faces of our children and grandchildren, we have failed both them and us.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, "Nor let us ever forget the need to respect these, our little ones. Under the revealed word of the Lord, we know they are children of God as we are children of God, deserving of that respect which comes of knowledge of that eternal principle. In fact, the Lord made it clear that unless we develop in our own lives that purity, that lack of guile, that innocence of evil, we cannot enter His presence." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 51.)

The Proclamation on the Family states: "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives — mothers and fathers — will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations."

President Joseph F. Smith counseled, "Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient and united with you, love them! And prove to them that you do love them, by your very word or act to them." (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Deseret Book Co., p. 316.)

President Hinckley in his address to the children of the Church on Feb. 8 exhorted them to be obedient, loving and respectful of each other and of their parents, siblings and neighbors. But mostly he encouraged children to draw close to their Father in Heaven and stay true to gospel principles. That is wise counsel for Latter-day Saints of all ages.

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