A year ago I attended a workshop on religious diversity. There were many different people there, such as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and even people who didn’t know what they believed or what to believe. At the beginning we were asked, why did we come? What did we hope to get from this session?
Of the many answers, the one that touched me the most came from a man who said he attended the workshop that day because he wanted to know how to raise his children in terms of religion or spirituality. The question has stayed with me ever since. How do we raise spiritual children? How do we help children develop faith in God, and to make their own faith-based decisions?
Children look to their parents as examples for faith and how to live a faith-based life. I am reminded of the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon. He comes to a critical point in his life: he is deciding what to believe. He turns his thoughts to his father. He says, “I, Enos, [know] my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it” (Enos 1:1). Enos was grateful that his father taught and exemplified principles of faith.
I was teaching a lesson in church last month; the bishop asked me to lead a combined meeting at which the whole adult congregation would be in attendance. This was my chance to learn from the wisdom of everyone I worship with. I gave everyone a card with the following question:
What did your parents do to help you develop faith in God?
All of their responses showed a gratitude for the spiritual foundation their parents gave them. With their permission, I have included some of the responses below.
- My mother talked to us about God, took us to church.
- My parents taught me the importance of prayer. They taught me that we speak to someone who hears us and listens to us.
- My parents showed consistency in their faith. They had us read the scriptures every morning, pray in the morning and night, and spend time every Monday evening meeting as a family. This consistency showed me how important the faith was to them in a real sense. James 1:22 - “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
- Had me go to repent in Confession, go to church every Sunday, be honest all the time.
- Even when other things were going terribly, my mom made sure that we always read from the scriptures as a family. As a kid, I hated it, but now I really respect her for soldiering through.
- I had witnessed my mom wake up early at 4 a.m. to attend church service. I saw her pray and sing along all day. I saw her example of treating others with kindness, and forgive those who took from her what was most precious.
- Doing activities around the house that doubled as object lessons.
- Personal interviews. Having formal conversations was really helpful.
- When I was a child and throughout her life my mom used to go to church every morning before going to work. It helped me to develop faith in God.
- My parents encouraged me to live the commandments and find out for myself whether the teachings of Jesus Christ are true. We held family scripture and prayer every night, attended church meetings every week, and my parents set a great example by living very righteous lives.
- My parents made sure I was heavily involved in church activities, which helped my social life and self-esteem. I always attended EFY [Especially For Youth, a church summer camp], youth group, church, and service activities. It taught me that God loves everyone and I shouldn’t be so selfish. Mosiah 2:17 - “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
- My parents helped me by teaching me how to read the scriptures and how to pray. They prayed with me and helped me look for the answers God gives us.
- I think the biggest thing my parents did to help me was walking past my parents’ room late one night and seeing my dad on his knees praying. I knew then, that if he believed it enough to do it when no one was watching, then I could try it too.
- My parents liked me to be with them at their church. I do go with them still as long as I have time.
- My parents-in-law invited some Christian friends to our home to share their ideas about God and sing songs and pray.
- Fostering the desire to seek truth and understanding. Working through doubts in an open, honest way.
- Shared with me their journey to the faith and issues they struggled with, supported me finding my own path and asking tough questions.
- My parents’ true love between themselves, the great love and respect. They both told me over and over about Father and Lord and Savior and Redeemer, not only with words, but with deeds of true love and compassion for others, so I do the same with my children and grandchildren.
- They let me choose for myself. Doctrine and Covenants 121:37 - “…when we undertake to … exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men in any degree of unrighteousness, behind, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved…”
- They taught me the love of learning about everything: all religions and all points of view. This helped when it came to hearing about the LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] and feeling the truth of it.
- They taught me to love the scriptures by quoting them – sometimes humorously, but always respectfully – and by applying them to real-life situations.
How my parents helped me develop faith
How did my parents help me develop faith in God? They took me to church, they taught me at home, and they set an example of belief. They made sure I had the opportunity to attend church evening activities with others in my age group. I was given nice, leather-bound scriptures and encouraged to study them. We focused on Jesus at Christmas and Easter more than on the presents or colored eggs, and we focused on Jesus every day, not just on religious holidays. We have many pictures on our wall, all of family members, and included on that wall is a big painting of Jesus Christ. The focus was always on Him.
So, now it’s your turn. How did your parents help you develop faith in God? Please share your comments.