Children at risk

Ours is a most beautiful world with many wonderful people living in it. Unfortunately, in this potentially happy situation are certain grim realities. Such things as never mentioned in sensitive, reverent homes must in this day be directly addressed to protect our children. While children under 8 years of age are insulated from the temptations of Satan, they are not protected from evil. Little children, we are told, "are not capable of committing sin" (Moroni 8:8) yet they become innocent targets of those most capable of committing evil.

As many agencies report increases in sex offenses, including those by relatives, parents must again increase their vigilance. One very frequent factor in criminal offences is consumption of pornography. Pornography has become almost as frequent as profanity and it proliferates among all ages. Few informed people expect any child to grow toward adulthood without viewing lewd images. Such images come in any direction on any electronic screen, passed along on any electronic storage device.

The days when parents could avoid the subject in the hope of not fostering curiosity are gone. Indeed, avoiding the subject has brought with it a generation of addiction. The posting, and consumption, of pornography is beyond anything imaginable before the Internet.

Parents remain as the last bulwark to protect the home.

What should parents do? They must be the best parents they can be. First, they must be personally righteous. Children perceive hypocrisy at 50 paces, and they imbibe error and weaknesses as through a fire hose. Parents must always cleanse the inner vessel and face their children as transparent disciples of Christ.

In His address to the Nephites, the Savior is specific: "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.

"Behold I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;

"For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell" (3 Nephi 12:28-30, italics added).

In the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 16:26, Jesus explains that "For a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments."

The importance of reliance on Jesus Christ, our Savior, Friend and Protector, cannot be overstated. Being in a position to hear and courageously act upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit will "level the playing field" and help us to rear children of strength in these troubled times.

Emphasize the basics, as are constantly mentioned by Church leaders and included in Church publications: personal and family prayer, scripture reading, regularly attending Church and the temple, fulfilling Church callings and keeping the commandments. If a family is struggling, nearly always a re-emphasis of these basics will improve the situation. Observing these basics will also help a family hold the bar high regarding what is viewed in the home.

Parents must spend time with their children. They must nurture so close a relationship with each child that the child will confide in the parent when some immoral conduct is encountered. Frequently ask about their day, their friends, good things that happened and if something bad came along.

If a response seems to warrant further questions, they needn't foster curiosity, but should reflect on what has happened with the intent of having a prevention and escape plan in place. Teach children that confiding in their parents is Step 1 in combating negative influences. Teach children that inappropriate viewing is evil and dangerous.

Questions for young children may be: Did you see something that should have been covered up? Did you feel uncomfortable? Did you see something your mother would not want you to see?

Older children might be asked more specific questions to learn if viewing occurred, when was the last time, or if someone acted out or hoped to lead them into sinful actions.

When parents discover something, they need not show surprise or act horrified, but take it in stride to the degree that communication lines remain open, and the issue is properly addressed.

Emphasizing personal responsibility is more effective than preaching in these situations. Nurture the Spirit, in such ways as listening to conference talks, good music, reading inspiring literature or serving others. In family discussion, apply gospel truths to current situations, teach by example about meaningful prayers and discuss the workings of the Holy Spirit.

These are important ways to combat the fiery temptations that increase in strength as children increase in years.

Mothers are effective at communicating with children about avoiding temptations. A mother's intuition and relentless love are important tools in helping young men — and to a lesser but nonetheless real degree, young women — avoid or recover from addiction to pornography. Fathers also play an important role in helping children navigate mortality and avoid the devastating consequences of pornography, especially by their example.

Protect against abuse by knowing your children well enough to notice a sudden change in behavior. When a happy, outgoing child becomes silent and inward, an investigation is warranted. Physical threats almost always accompany abuse.

To protect their children from the adversary, parents must have such a close relationship with God and each child that they will know what is happening in that child's world, inculcate prevention against pornography and sex crimes as you would with drugs, and be eternally vigilant.

Parents, our precious children are at risk.

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