After Christ’s resurrection, He appeared to His apostles, for a third time, at the Sea of Tiberias. He asked Peter three times, “Lovest thou me?” Peter responded each time, “Yeah Lord thou knowest that I love thee.” The Savior’s simple response was “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Can you hear His voice, gently calling for us to feed His sheep? To reach out to those who need love or a listening ear, to those who need the Savior and the light of the gospel in their lives? Could He also be calling for us to feed our children who are ready to receive more light and to have their testimonies sink deep into their hearts?
President Russell M. Nelson has invited all of us to be engaged in the great work of salvation, to help others “Come unto Christ” (Jacob 1:7). Our children are covenant members of the gospel of Jesus Christ and need to be included in His great work. They can be taught by parents, grandparents, neighbors and teachers as they work side by side serving and loving together, as the Savior did.
A young mother was visiting with a friend in her large family garden. The friend noticed smaller sections that looked like they had been planted by each of her young children. The mother explained that it was their individual space to plant whatever they chose. They were taught how to prepare the soil and plant each type of seed. They were responsible to water and weed and care for the vegetables as they grow. When the time comes, they are taught how to harvest, enjoy and share the “fruit of their labor” (Alma 26:31).
What a beautiful example of a mother and father teaching their children step by step and in the process creating a garden. This family garden project can also instruct us on how to engage with our children in the work of Salvation. First, the parents led by example, doing the work together, shoulder to shoulder with their children. Second, they gave the children a smaller plot of land or task, appropriate for their ability. Lastly, they taught that as the children water and care for the seeds consistently, they will grow and produce nourishing, life-sustaining “fruit” that they can share with others (1 Nephi 8:10).
We don’t always need to produce big, complex experiences for our children. But being intentional will help us find simple ways to create shared experiences within the tasks of our everyday life.
For example, a young mother assigns a day each week where she will find a service to do with her children. On one of her assigned service days, she was particularly busy with preparations for an event that evening and did not have a service planned. As she was driving home from running errands with her children, she noticed an older couple in her neighborhood raking leaves and picking up sticks in their large yard. She stopped, the kids piled out, and they began to help with the work. After, they were invited to stay and eat popsicles together on the back porch, and a new friendship was made. This wise mother shared a lesson she has learned through experience, “If you put service on the calendar, the opportunity always shows up.”
“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate” (Sister Joy D. Jones, “A Sin Resistant Generation,” April 2017 general conference). Let them be with you and help in appropriate ways as you take a meal into a neighbor, as you comfort an ailing parent, as you invite and have a non-member family over for dinner, or as you help move a neighbor.
Small seeds will be planted as we tell our children stories of ancestors they have never known, as they see us spending time indexing or finding names, and as we share of our love of the temple and desire to be there. Those seeds are nourished as we give children the opportunity to tell a scripture story, share their testimony, or choose and lead a song during the family “Come Follow Me” time. There is so much our children can do. “They will feel the joy of choosing to engage in and sacrifice for the cause of Christ. His gospel will get deeper into their hearts and the work will move forward in miraculous ways” said Brother Douglas D. Holmes (“Deep in Our Heart,” April 2020 general conference).
Christ is the Good Shepherd, ever showing us the way to care for His sheep. He nourished, gathered, comforted and gently led His flock, caring for each one individually (Isaiah 40:11). We can do the same.