How service and activities can help children stay on the covenant path

In his October 2018 conference address, Elder Quentin L. Cook stated: 

“The most important goal and ultimate blessing of deep and lasting conversion is worthily receiving the covenants and ordinances of the covenant pathway.”

As emphasized in the home-centered, Church-supported approach to teaching our children, we know that it is with the family that children can best learn and apply gospel principles. Wholesome family activities are a fun way to do just that. Support from Church leaders and teachers is a wonderful “second line of defense” and can also provide help for children who do not consistently have gospel study or gospel-oriented activities in their homes.  

As stated in “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” most children learn best when the five senses are involved. Teaching good values and principles using visuals and kinesthetics through activities can be a great way to make concepts “stick” (“10 Strategies for Teaching Children with Disabilities“). As you think of specific ways wholesome recreational activities can help children get and stay on the covenant path, here are some ideas to consider:

Connection and bonding

A small adjustment to the common phrase “the family who prays together, stays together” also has merit: “the family who PLAYS together, stays together.” With the constant pull of the world and competition for our children’s attention, fun family activities provide them with opportunities to make lasting and deep connections with their parents and siblings. In turn, when children have close family relationships, they are more likely to seek direction and support from parents or family members when facing problems or temptations.

The Primary general presidency: from left, Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor; Sister Joy D. Jones, president; and Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor.
The Primary general presidency: from left, Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor; Sister Joy D. Jones, president; and Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, has said: “I think we need to look in each other’s eyes more than we look at our phones. … [Children] need to see us looking in their eyes and showing that we really, really are aware of them and that we care about them” (“How can I build a gospel-centered home?” video, Childrenandyouth.churchofjesuschrist.org).  

Have you ever noticed how, even as an adult, you bonded with someone you didn’t know well while spending time serving together at day camp, youth camps or youth conference? Having fun together while learning creates bonds for children and adults that cannot be replicated in other ways. Many experts agree that the opposite of addiction is connection (“The Pornography Paradox,” by Stephen Moore, LCSW, CSAT and Mark Kastleman, BCC, BCPC, p. 34). Activities allowing children to connect with their families and Church leaders can provide stability and keep them on the covenant path.

Service 

Participating in service-oriented activities as a family or class can teach children that serving can be fun. Serving provides children with a glimpse into the lives of others and can help them be more grateful and satisfied with their own circumstances. Being aware of the needs of others and learning to serve helps children to better keep their baptismal covenants as they learn firsthand that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Time

As families, taking time to be with our children is vital to their physical, mental and spiritual well-being. One of the “plagues” of our day is busyness. Parents may need to make a more deliberate effort to put down their cell phones, turn off their computers and be truly “present” with their children.

Peter, a 9-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, practices reading and writing with his father. As part of the Children and Youth program, Peter set a goal to pass his reading test at school.
Peter, a 9-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, practices reading and writing with his father. As part of the Children and Youth program, Peter set a goal to pass his reading test at school. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, made the following observation in November 2007: “Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members — especially parents — vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time” (“Good, Better, Best,” Ensign, November 2007). This statement is even more applicable today.

Did you ever consider that Laman and Lemuel did not do a lot of complaining once they committed to help Nephi build a ship? They were actively engaged in construction with a purpose — there was no time for picking a fight (1 Nephi 18:1-2). Likewise, teaching children to use their time wisely and avoid excessive “idle” time may help them stay off of “strange roads and forbidden paths” such as pornography and reliance on social media and stay on the covenant path (1 Nephi 8:28, 32). 

Developing talents 

Exposing children to many different activities provides them with opportunities to increase their talents and to progress. As children develop skills and talents, the Spirit will help them know how to share their gifts through service to others. Giving service can also help them discover divine gifts that are uniquely their own.

A young boy in Columbus, Ohio works on his bicycle as part of the Children and Youth program.
A young boy in Columbus, Ohio works on his bicycle as part of the Children and Youth program. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Service and activities establish righteous daily habits, build family relationships, teach life skills, develop Christlike attributes and help children grow. Helping children connect with their Heavenly Father and Savior through gospel-oriented activities is an engaging way to teach them who they are so that they can live up to their divine potential.