Children have a great capacity to build the kingdom. Let me share some examples.
World War II was raging in Europe, but peace was in the heart of 8-year-old Otto Dräger as he accompanied his grandmother every Sunday to church. They attended meetings with a small gathering of Saints in the city of Stettin, which is now called Szczecin and is part of current-day Poland.
Full-time missionaries had all been pulled out of the area because of the war, but missionary work was alive and well with Otto. He invited his best friend, Kurt Kopischke, to come to church with him and see what it was like. Kurt asked for permission, and his parents agreed he could go.
Otto’s grandma took both boys to church. During Sunday School, Kurt learned he was a child of God. Otto and Kurt sang hymns and learned how to pray. Kurt loved going to church with his friend because he felt something special there, something that was missing from his life. He felt peace and joy.
When Kurt invited his older sister, Anni, to come with him, she agreed. So Grandma picked up Otto, Kurt and Anni. Kurt soon extended the invitation to his parents to join them at church.
On Sept. 26, 1942, Kurt was baptized along with his parents and Anni. The Kopischke family will always be grateful for little 8-year-old Otto, who had the heart of a missionary and courageously invited his 9-year-old friend to church. Their lives are changed forever.
Temple and family history work
Jarret Jones’s love of temple and family history work ignited when he was only 9 years old. Jarret’s father began teaching him how to research on their family computer after church on Sundays. Jarret was instantly attracted to what he felt as he searched his family tree. He now says it is his favorite thing to do on Sundays.
Jarret, asked what he feels when he finds an ancestor needing temple ordinances, said, “It makes me really happy and anxious to go do the work.” He has found 303 family names so far.
What an exciting and fulfilling time for Jarret when he turned 12 and could personally go to the temple and do the work for his deceased ancestors. Jarret’s love for this great work of salvation has now been extended to his younger sister since he has taught her how to find family names. What a blessing Jarret has been to his family on both sides of the veil.
While on assignment in Mexico, I met a wonderful man who told me how sweet it was to be back in full activity in the Church. He recounted that the year before he had stopped going to Sunday meetings. He had his feelings hurt, and little by little, he filled his Sundays with other activities. His family had also stopped going to church, but his young, 9-year-old daughter, Maria, was soon to have a birthday. I could tell as he spoke of his daughter that she held a prominent place in his heart.
He shared, “The key person in my return was my little Primary-age daughter. The only present she wanted for her birthday was to attend church and go to Primary.”
He suggested that she think of something he could purchase from the store. But she was resolute. She just wanted to attend church and be with her Primary teacher. He mentioned he was anything but thrilled to step foot in the church, but if going to church was the desire of her heart, he was going to make it happen. They got dressed and headed for the chapel. He said, “As I sat singing the songs of the Restoration, my heart began to soften. I felt at home.”
What a wonderful present of activation Maria gave her father.
Engaging children in the work of salvation
What are the connections between these three stories? They demonstrate the great impact children can have when they are engaged in the work of salvation.
When we make covenants at baptism, and for many children that is at age 8, we become participants in the work of salvation. That engagement in the work will flame and intensify the spiritual light of our children and youth. Their conversion will deepen as they have the spiritual experiences that come with doing the work of salvation. What a joy to have our children be active in such a great cause.
Research shows that children are happier and more successful when they feel that they belong to something larger than themselves. The work of salvation is certainly something larger than themselves; it’s Heavenly Father’s work, as described in Moses 1:39: “Bring[ing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Let’s engage our children in this work so that “the devil [will] never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). Instead, our children will have the light of the gospel in their hearts, and we know “that which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). The power, protection, capability and light we desire for our rising generation are found as they — and we — engage in God’s work of saving His children.