Ever since they were old enough to listen, Moekore and Valencia Estall of Arue, Tahiti (French Polynesia), remember their mother, Rava, teaching them stories from the scriptures. In particular, they remember their mother talking about Nephi, who persevered until he obtained the brass plates of Laban.
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded,” said 14-year-old Valencia, quoting the familiar passage. “I think 1 Nephi 3:7 has become our family motto. Almost every day, my mother talks about Nephi and his willingness to follow the Lord.”
Hearing her voice
“When we were small, Mama would read scripture stories with us,” Moekore, 16, said. “We liked the pictures and we loved being close to her. Through the years, we have learned that when we read scriptures together in the morning the Spirit stays with us all day long. And when we read them together at night they bring us peace before we go to sleep.”
Today their younger brother Kimaru, 6, is learning the gospel as his sisters have, at their mother’s knee. “I love to hear Mama read,” he said. “I love to hear her voice.”
Rava Estall is not alone in encouraging scripture study in the family. Her husband, Henri Estall, loves the scriptures and shares them with his family all the time. Although he is often busy with work and with Church responsibilities as president of the Arue Tahiti Stake, he regularly joins the family for scripture study and prayers. And he’s always home on Monday nights, joining in family home evening lessons based on the scriptures.
Each parent has a personal style of teaching.
“Papa explains what the scriptures mean and how to obey the commandments,” Valencia said. “Mama helps us to see the Lord’s hand in all things, and that we need to have the scriptures in our hearts as well as in our minds.”
“As our children grew,” President Estall said, “it became apparent to me that Rava had great influence with them. I tend to be matter-of-fact: ‘Here’s a principle, and it’s what you should do.’ But she is with the children all the time, and in gentle, quiet ways she teaches them with stories and examples.”
“I try to pay attention to what is going on in their lives so that I can show them little by little how the gospel helps them,” Sister Estall said. “I try to adapt the teachings to their age and understanding, as well as to particular moments in their life.”
Most of all, she said, “I want my children to understand the blessings we have been given and that we need to have the Savior with us to win the battles of life.”
And so, almost from their birth, Sister Estall has taught her children from the scriptures. In so doing, she shares in a noble legacy.
Guided by the word of God
Evidence exists that from the earliest days of mortal history, righteous women have taught their children lessons based on the word of God. Adam and Eve, for example, “made all things known unto their sons and their daughters” (Moses 5:12). In the Old Testament we read, “Hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8).
Study helps say that at the time of Christ, “the divine law impressed upon parents the duty of teaching their children its precepts and principles. Up to six years of age a child was taught at home, chiefly by the mother” (“Education,” Bible Dictionary).
And we know that the Savior grew up in a religious home where he “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” and that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:40, 52). Surely Mary played a significant role in those early years before Christ, at age 12, astonished those in the temple with His understanding and answers (see Luke 2:46-47).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offers this insight: “I wish to praise those motherly hands that have rocked the infant’s cradle and, through the righteousness taught to their children there, are at the very center of the Lord’s purposes for us in mortality.
“In so speaking, I echo Paul, who wrote in praise of Timothy’s ‘unfeigned faith , which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and [in] thy mother Eunice’ (2 Timothy 1:5).
“‘From [the days when thou wert] a child,’ Paul said, ‘thou hast known the holy scriptures’ (Timothy 3:15). We give thanks for all the mothers and grandmothers from whom such truths have been learned at such early ages” (“Because She Is a Mother,” Ensign, May 1997).
The most detailed scripture story of mothers teaching their children is found in the Book of Mormon. Helaman speaks of young men known as “stripling warriors,” who volunteered to defend liberty.
“They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
“And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:47–48).
Church leaders often emphasize the vital role mothers play in teaching the gospel to their children.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsels: “A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children. Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances.
“In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship” (“The Moral Force of Women,” October 2013 general conference).
Mothers are often in a position to enable children to see the blessings of the gospel in practical, everyday situations. “As a mother takes small opportunities to explain or apply the gospel in a child’s day, she can have a profound influence,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president. “Teaching and testifying moments carry truth to the mind and heart of a child. I appreciate Alma’s counsel, ‘that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word’ (Alma 39:16).”
Women who have not had children of their own can also help to prepare the minds of children to hear the word of God as they teach and nurture children in their extended family and as part of their Church callings. Sharing scriptures with children at the level of their understanding is always an important part of gospel teaching and learning.
Forewarned and protected
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles tells how he was blessed by the teachings of his mother. “I was brought up in a home with very meager resources,” he said in an interview with Church magazines. “My father was a truck driver; my mother stayed at home to raise our family. I attended public schools and had great Primary teachers. My parents loved to build our home time around stories from the scriptures. But most of my religious learning came from my mother.
“She loved to teach me. She loved to read the scriptures to me. She was a Primary president, so she would teach me with the pictures that were in the meetinghouse library. She loved to tell me Old Testament stories, and I remember her teaching me about Joseph. She told me how he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. She used that Old Testament story to teach me that temptations were going to come, and I would have to be strong to withstand them. And they did surely come. But I was protected by those early life experiences sitting at my mother’s knee. My mother forewarned me about the future by teaching me gospel stories found in the scriptures.”
“I will go and do”
It’s Wednesday evening in Tahiti. Moekore and Valencia have just returned from a ward activity and both still have homework to finish. It’s not a lot, just enough to make them wonder if they have time for family scripture study and family prayer.
“ ‘I will go and do,’ ” their mother quotes, quietly. Because of years of love, those gentle words are just enough to remind them to put the Lord first. They know their homework can easily be completed after a few important minutes with the family.