Sister Cheryl A. Esplin: 'Teaching our children to understand'

"Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3), quoted Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency in her remarks Saturday morning. "What a sacred responsibility Heavenly Father places upon us as parents to partner with Him in helping His choice spirits become what He knows they can become."

Referencing a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sister Esplin pointed out that the Lord doesn't just say to "teach the doctrine," but to teach children to "understand the doctrine" (see Doctrine and Covenants 68:25, 28).

"Teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It's helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives."

Noting that the role of the Holy Ghost is to carry the truth unto the hearts of the children of men (see 2 Nephi 33:1), Sister Esplin said the role of a parent is to create an atmosphere where children can feel and recognize the influence of the Spirit.

"Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment," she said. Because these moments are spontaneous and can come and go quickly, parents need to be alert and recognize a teaching moment when it presents itself.

"If we are ready and will let the Spirit guide in these situations, our children will be taught with greater effect and understanding," she said.

Teaching moments can also come during regular occasions such as family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening and other family activities.

Sister Esplin said she first learned to pray by listening to her parents pray and as they helped her say her first prayers. As a family, they prayed every morning, at every meal and in the evening before bed.

"Although there was much I didn't understand about prayer as a child, it became such a part of my life that it stayed with me. I still continue to learn, and my understanding of the power of prayer still continues to grow."

As children begin to understand gospel doctrines, "they become more self-reliant and more responsible. They become part of the solution to our family challenges and make a positive contribution to the environment of our home," she said.

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