Watching with all Perserverance
The Godhead is comprised of three separate beings, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. To know God is to have life eternal, to be removed from the presence of God is spiritual death. Furthermore to be closer or further from God is to be better, or worse spiritually.
The three members of the Godhead have three distinct roles. God is the father of our spirits, Jesus is the Savior of the world, and the Holy Ghost is our teacher. Consequently, the ways that we can draw closer to God come in sets of three, each one reflecting one of their roles.
Being given a spiritual responsibility helps us to be closer to God the Father, because we are accountable to him for this responsibility,
Learning the word of God helps us draw near unto the Savior because he is the Word, and he is the truth.
Finally having a friend in the gospel helps us draw near unto the Holy Ghost, because you can share your experiences with them and help each other to recognise the spirit.
So we have a first set of three things to help us draw nearer to God, A Calling, A Friend, and Nourishment From The Good Word of God. President Gordon B. Hinkley told us that these are the three things that all converts should have to help them stay active in the church.
David A. Bednar in his 2010 general conference talk Watching with All Perseverance notes that a child’s attitude and behavior around these ways we draw closer to God is a good indicator of how well they are doing spiritually. This would make sense, if someone is a stranger to God, then to do something that brings them closer to him might make them uncomfortable, but to someone who is well acquainted with God, to bring that person closer to him would make them feel more at ease.
Boyd K. Packer had an experience which he relates to this. He was in the army, and he and some of the other soldiers came into a nice restaurant after being a little muddy. One of the other people in the restaurant looked at them in disgust because they were getting everything dirty. After noticing the woman looking at him in that way he suddenly became very self conscious, and decided to go elsewhere. Just as it was uncomfortable to be dirty in a clean restaurant he explains, it is uncomfortable to be spiritually dirty in the presence of someone as spiritually clean as God.
The point of David A. Bednar’s talk Watching with all Perseverance was to give suggestions of things that parents could do to help bring their children closer to God, while at the same time using these things to look for warning signs their children would naturally show that would suggest that they need additional help. If parents can do this for their children they would not be caught by surprise if a child’s spiritual well being took a turn for the worse.
He suggests a set of three ways to come closer to God that parents can use to help their children. They are 1: Giving them a chance to act on the gospel, 2: Bearing testimony spontaneously, and 3: Reading and discussing the book of Mormon with them.
1. Opportunities to Act
Giving someone the opportunity to act on the things that they know to be true is very important to their understanding of that truth. For example, you can know that it is possible to juggle three balls with two hands, but until you try it yourself you will never actually know how to do it. As we learn a spiritual skill we have the chance to both become more like our Savior, and also to be accountable before God for how we use this skill. This brings us closer to our Heavenly Father.
I saw this myself as I started my mission, I was given the task of sharing the gospel with the people of Jamaica. As I acted I was accountable to God for my efforts, and I realized that I needed to improve, especially with being bold about the gospel, and inviting others to act. So, my trainer helped set goals with me, and everyday I would work on them. It started with talking to everyone, we would see someone walking down the street, and my trainer would tell me to go up and talk to them. I did not really want to talk to the people on the streets, because they were strangers, and I felt like I was intruding, but I would get up the nerve to start talking to them. Eventually I was challenged to always invite a person to act on the gospel in some way when I talked to them.
Another barrier that I faced was that I didn’t understand anyone. In Jamaica they speak a dialect of English called Patois. If you tried speaking it here people would think you were using really bad English. My trainer helped solve my language barrier for me by letting me be in charge of the phone, thus forcing me to try very very hard to understand some people. At the start I would ask them sometimes three or four times to repeat themselves. I learned to look for keywords in their phrases, and then ask yes or no questions to see if I understood correctly. I eventually got a lot better at both talking to people, and understanding them.
After about a year I could talk to anyone on the street without hesitation, and I would always try to leave an invitation to act on the gospel. By this time I also could not just understand, but also speak, bad English goodly. It was only because of this calling, and the accountability that I had before God that I knew that I needed to improve, and it was only through faith, and the help of my companions, that I did.
When a child is given a spiritual responsibility their faults will become more apparent. It is the responsibility of their parents to to notice these faults and help them, so that through their faith they can overcome them.
2. Sharing Spontaneous Testimony
Preach my Gospel states:
“A testimony is a spiritual witness and assurance given by the Holy Ghost.
“Sharing your testimony often is one of the most powerful ways of inviting the Spirit. and
“For your testimony to have convincing power it must be sincere."
When we bear testimony spontaneously it gives the impression that we can be trusted with spiritual things at any time. It helps others to trust us with their spiritual experiences. And to open up to the spirit of God.
An example of the impact of a sincere testimony is the conversion of the second president of the church, Brigham Young. Brigham Young was not baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the first year of his learning about the restored gospel. But of his conversion he said: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true” Brigham young accepted the truths of the gospel and acted on them only after hearing them from a sincere unscripted testimony.
Elder Bednar, in his conference talk explains that parents should always be looking for opportunities to bear their testimony when these opportunities arise. Just as the scripture says: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85). He goes on to explain: “The reactions of children to such impromptu testimony bearing and their eagerness or reluctance to participate are potent sources of spiritual early warning signals. A child’s expression about a lesson learned in family scripture study or a candid statement of concern about a gospel principle or practice can be most illuminating and help parents better understand a child’s specific question or needs. Such discussions—especially when parents are as eager to listen intently as they are to talk—can foster a supportive and secure environment in the home and encourage ongoing communication about difficult topics.
3. Reading and Discussing the Book of Mormon
Lastly, The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book, and will bring a man closer to Christ more than any other book on Earth. As we both read and discuss the Book of Mormon as families we will draw nearer to Christ, and the Holy Ghost will bear witness of its truth to us. This gives children the opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost, and hopefully also to recognise him better.
As a missionary my companion and I would read the book of Mormon with those we taught, and discussed it to make sure that understanding was clear. In one of our areas we tried reading an entire chapter as some of our lessons. We were surprised to see that this, more often than not, inspired those that we were reading with to recognise something in their life that they needed to change. We would then help them to set goals to change it. Sometimes this desire to change seemed to have nothing to do with what we were reading, but because the Holy Ghost was there to confirm this truth to them they realised how they could become better.
When a child reads and understands the Book of Mormon, they will gain witness from the Holy Ghost that Jesus is their Savior, and they will want to use his atonement to become more like him. If we are faithful in identifying the things they can improve on with them, then we may help them to become more spiritually healthy.
In conclusion we should do all we can to help the people around us to come closer to God. Each member of the godhead has a unique role, and a unique way that we can come closer to him. To draw closer to God is to get better spiritually, and also helps us to know how we can become more like Christ. As we and those around us come to realise our faults we need to help them to have the faith to continue on and overcome them.
I know that God lives, and that he loves us. I know that our Savior died for us and made it possible for us to return to live with him in