Sunday, April 15, 2012

GCBC Week 3: “Teaching Our Children to Understand” & “Converted to His Gospel through His Church”

This week we are going to study two talks – both amazing talks – even though these two aren’t completely related. We’re doing this so we can fit in some talks from Priesthood and the YW broadcast. You could always read one in the next few days, and then study the other one later in the week, since they are both shorter talks.

Also, be sure to read the bottom of this post for information about how to engage in a General Conference chat in “real time”.

"Teaching our Children to Understand" - Sister Cheryl A. Esplin

“This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost…

Our role as parents is to do all we can to create an atmosphere where our children can feel the influence of the Spirit and then help them recognize what they are feeling.”

Sister Esplin’s talk was a great parenting mini-class. A lot of her thoughts were reminiscent of Elder David A. Bednar’s conference talk in April 2010: Watching with All Perserverence. He talked about bearing testimony spontaneously, and being aware of daily teaching moments to help invite the Spirit.

If there was one way I would sum up this talk it would be this: “The Spirit is the true teacher. Help your children feel the Spirit so that you and they can be instructed together by the Spirit.”

"Converted to His Gospel through His Church" - Elder Donald L. Hallstrom

“Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient.”

I think Elder Hallstrom’s talk was one of the most popular talks from General Conference. I loved the distinction he helped us make between the gospel and the Church – while noting emphatically that we, indeed, need both.

As I reread the talk I was reminded of the purpose of the Church as pointed out in the Church Handbook of Instructions (I think I have shared this beforeprobably multiple times):

“The Church provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. It provides the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to all who are worthy and willing to accept them.”

One part of Elder Hallstrom’s talk that I remembered from Twitter Stake, but did not remember it came from this talk was when he said, “Many of us are not being regularly changed by [the sacrament’s] cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance.” I remember people tweeting about having more reverence for the sacrament, but I didn’t remember that it came from Elder Hallstrom’s talk. I had a personal experience about the cleansing and changing power of the sacrament last week. “How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?” I wish I could say that every week was a good as last week, but it isn’t always. I, for one, need to be more deeply converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are your thoughts after studying these talks? Please share in the comments, and come back throughout the week to engage in the conversation!


To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.”  If you want more information about how it works, go here.  And then join us.


I have been forgetting to mention – I have teamed up with Dave from Downright Dave to coordinate our GCBC schedule with his Weekly #ldsconf Chat. Basically between 8-9pm MST each Wednesday, folks are getting on Twitter to “chat” about the talks from General Conference, and Dave and I have coordinated so that the talks each week are the same. That is, the talk I announce on Sunday will be the talks that they discuss on the Twitter chat on Wednesdays. So if you are itching for some more “real time” discussion format, I encourage you to head over to Twitter. Not sure how to participate in a “chat” on Twitter? Head over to this post from Dave’s website for more information. He gives some pretty good instructions after the schedule.


  1. I'll come back to comment on Sister Esplin's talk; right now I just want to talk about Brother Hallstrom's talk.

    I liked this:

    "Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.

    "By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?"

    This focus on our personal gospel study/observance versus our church observance is something I have been thinking about for awhile. In fact, my husband and I were recently talking about this and he commented that we talk a lot about church at the Sunday dinner table but not a lot about the gospel. (We have young children - 1 and 3 - and he's in the bishopric, I'm in the relief society presidency and often we finally sit down to dinner and it's the first chance that we have had to talk all day) We made a goal as a couple to change our Sunday dinner conversations to be more gospel-oriented and to save the other conversations for later when the kids are in bed.

    1. I tie this idea of gospel v. church conversion into Pres Uchtdorf's talk from the General RS mtg last fall--the why of the gospel. Sometimes the how of the gospel, especially with heavy callings like your family has (my husband's the bishop, believe me, I understand), can overshadow the why. I find, especially when my kids are missing daddy, that it is essential to tie what he is doing into why it is important, who (not really specifically who, just that it's someone we love) he his helping, and the blessings our family receives for loving and serving and sharing our dad with the rest of the ward. I have loved implementing a tradition from my family of origin to talk about what we learned in church during Sunday dinner. That is seeming to tie the what, the why the gospel and the church together for my family right now.

    2. We had "Sacrament meeting report" during lunch/dinner after Church when I was growing up. We took turns reporting on what we heard/learned in Sacrament meeting from the talks. This was especially significant when we were in primary and when mostly just wanted to play and color during sacrament meeting talks. Reporting on sacrament meeting spurred a lot of really good gospel discussions during the meal.

    3. Thank you for your thoughts, Angie, this was very helpful and timely for me!

    4. and Becca too! Sorry, I had this up on my computer so I didn't see your comment, Becca, until after I posted my reply to Angie.

  2. And I want to talk about Sis Esplin's talk first :)

    While listening to this talk during Conference weekend, I was struck by the readiness component. In order for my children to be able to understand and live the doctrine, I have to be alert and ready to teach it in the context of our every day lives, I must prepare our home as a place of warmth and love so that the Spirit can be present to bring those teachings to my children's hearts and then I can help them recognize those feelings as the Spirit.

    I also tied this talk to E. Wilson's talk about unrighteous dominion, which was the subject of a talk in our sacrament meeting yesterday. I tied these two talks together because of Sis. Esplin's statement that:

    "We can know our children are beginning to understand the doctrine when we see it revealed in their attitudes and actions without external threats or rewards. As our children learn to understand gospel doctrines, they become more self-reliant and more responsible. They become part of the solution to our family challenges and make a positive contribution to the environment of our home and the success of our family."

    That is a beautiful indicator, to me, of progress. We're not exactly there in our family yet, some days I don't know if I'm there myself. Don't I look for the threats and rewards that come with obedience and disobedience? I don't know that I necessarily feel all that self-reliant or responsible some times. Regardless of my own weaknesses, this is the perfect indicator of progress. I'm really trying to pull back, to be more divinely inspired in my parenting (teaching correct principles and letting them govern themselves) and less nagging. Sis. Esplin helped me to see that it's the creation of an environment where the Spirit can teach that will most help the doctrine sink into the hearts of my children, into my heart and this will lead to the real and lasting change we need.

    1. I love your comment about "divine parenting" - teaching correct principles and letting our children govern themselves. I am trying to do this a lot more - and it is HARD. The desire to "control" our children can be overwhelming at times and sometimes I have to give myself a "time out" when I feel like being a controlling mommy and using unrighteous dominion. Because sometimes, let's face it, "gentleness unfeigned" and "persuasion" just don't seem to do the trick.

      But I bet Heavenly Father feels that way sometimes, too (like his gentleness and persuasion doesn't do the trick with us - and thankfully he doesn't send down lightening to destroy us when we decide to ignore his careful pleading with us)

      As a side note, I was going to put Sis. Esplin's talk and Elder Wilson's talk together, since their topics were similar, but I decided to just put all the talks chronologically instead and combine them with talks in the same session, or nearby sessions. It probably would have been better to combine talks with similar topics. Oh well, maybe someone is going to come up with an inspired connection between these two talks and I'll feel justified in this combination :)

    2. I vividly remember one of the teaching moments in my own life. One morning I walked into our sons' room after they had gone to school, saw the unmade beds and toys on the floor, and groaned "How many times do I have to tell them to clean their room?!" Immediately I heard a gentle voice inside saying, "How many times do I have to tell you to do something?" Our Heavenly Father is so patient with us, and that helps motivate me to be patient with my own children. (And, just so you know, all of the time spent reminding and teaching are totally worth it when you see them with their own precious children.)

    3. I surely found it tempting to do it Satan's way when I became a parent. It is so very hard to let them make bad choices and fail. I always have to keep Heavenly Father's parenting style in mind.
      How thankful I am for his infinite patience with me as I try and fail and try and fail to do what he has told me to do!!

  3. Going to talk about Sister Esplin's talk first, because her talk--for me--was a huge answer to prayer. My oldest daughter is going to turn 8 this summer, and I have felt like it's really important to purposefully prepare her for baptism. But how do you do that?? I've had some little nudges, and read through various lessons and talks, but a lot of Sister Esplin's talk gave me the specific direction I was craving. I was able to put together a little baptism book for my daughter with a place for her to draw pictures and to write, then we're going to have my husband talk to her every Sunday and back up their discussions with Family Home Evening lessons. I just LOVED that something I was worrying about, thinking about, and praying about was answered so specifically. Fantastic. I also loved that she talked about some specific teaching moments:
    1. When they come to me with a question or worry.
    2. When they're having problems getting along with siblings or friends.
    3. When they're trying to control their anger.
    4. When they've made a mistake.
    5. When they need help to make a decision.
    I don't know about you, but often I find myself just trying to help my children (and myself, honestly) COPE through those situations. It's made me much more aware. Love it.

  4. DH & I watched and discussed Sis Esplin's talk last night. I felt like a common theme to it and Elder Packer's talk last week was family prayer. We often say prayers with our older kids after the younger ones are in bed and we are working on doing better at saying prayers as a whole family. I loved the discussion on baptism preparation. It is something I have been trying to figure out too and she gave some great suggestions and ideas that can guide us. I really loved how she said the father discussed the gospel with the child, didn't just lecture and that they shared feelings and drew pictures together.

    I just loved this talk because it pointed out that I could teach my kids all sorts of academic things about the gospel but I really need to teach them to UNDERSTAND and experience the principles.

    We are planning on watching Bednar's 2010 talk tonight too and to continue discussing it. We also noticed she quoted "Teaching No Greater Call" several times and it has been over a decade since either of us read that manual/took that class and we've been meaning to again so yet another reason to do so!

  5. I love these talks. I just gave a talk in Sacrament on Sunday using Elder Hallstrom's talk. I really like the emphasis on how the Church and the Gospel are two separate but interconnected things and how we need to be committed to both.

    Sis. Esplin's talk reminded me that I need to be more in tune with the Spirit when I discipline my children...especially my 6 year old. She respond best to discipline when I help her understand what she needs to change and how it relates to Gospel principles.

  6. Elder Hallstrom's talk was the basis for our high council talk last Sunday. I guess it's a pretty important subject. And I loved reading it again myself. Being converted to the gospel, and thereby understanding the importance of church activity, is one way to help with the balance President Packer mentioned of spending time as families. A LOT of our family time was spent serving in the church. However, you still need to find time for personal and family scripture study and prayer, because that's how you get converted to the gospel. And that was the emphasis our high councilor made.

    This talk reminded me of a couple of quotes. The first is from Elder Gene R. Cook (from the D&C seminary teach manual, page 81): “One time a man asked President Spencer W. Kimball, ‘What do you do when you find yourself in a boring sacrament meeting?’ There was silence for a moment and then President Kimball said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been in one.’ That’s interesting, isn’t it? That tells me that the real meeting was really between President Kimball and the Lord, in addition to what was happening in sacrament meeting. If you are just in [the meeting], you are in the wrong meeting, and you will miss most of what is said. The same is true of other meetings. If you enter a meeting with your heart prepared to be written upon by the Lord, then that will happen." Attending church meetings is a wonderful way to strengthen our gospel living.

    The other was by President Eyring: "The fruit of keeping covenants is the companionship of the Holy Ghost and an increase in the power to love." (October 1996 general conference). Brother Wright shared this when talking about Elder Hallstrom's suggestion to focus on our covenants, and it's something I needed to hear.

    All of Sister Esplin's talk was wonderful, especially this quote: "This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost." Even though our children are just about grown (six more months until the youngest turns 18), we will always be their teachers. And Heavenly Father will continue to help us know the best way to fulfill that divine calling. Talks like these are just one of the ways he helps us!

  7. I loved how Elder Hallstrom described his experience when he was 5 years old. It was a great spiritual experience and he remembered it! Even young children are not too young to have experiences in which the Holy Ghost testifies to them of truth and experience that can affect their lives.

    From Sister Esplin's talk: "He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost." The scriptures, prophets and the Holy Ghost - our owner's manual for each of our children.

  8. ...and I'm back to talk about Sister Esplin's talk today!

    What a lovely talk and I'm in the mindframe tonight to appreciate it.

    I loved what she said, I believe what she said, but, well, truthfully, when I'm not in the right frame of mind, reading a talk like this can make me feel anxious - am I doing enough? am I in tune enough with the spirit to be the mom my kids need? what about those times when I lose patience or am tired... what about the fact that scripture reading in our house is sporadic at best or that my 3-year-old seems to be constantly saying, "We don't yell in houses, mom!" And I think there is a place for those questions, because I can do better. I need to do better.

    I read an amazing book recently - We Were Not Alone. It's a memoir of an LDS family that survived World War II Berlin. This book really touched me on a personal level. One experience -- they decided for awhile not to go to the basement shelter when the air raid sirens went off (for some good reasons, you'll have to read the book to find out). But one day as the mother and daughters were sitting talking and laughing during an air raid siren, the mother said, "We need to leave now." Everyone ran with her to safety just in time to miss an explosion across the street that caused shrapnel to fall where they had been sitting. I loved this experience, and I've been evaluating myself since then... Am I close enough to the spirit that if my family were in danger I could receive and follow a spiritual prompting in an instant? And do my children trust me enough that if I said we need to move they would obey?

    Another thing I loved is that the book recounts a couple not so great experiences - such as one where the mother sort of lost hold of her faith for a short time (she regains it through fasting and has an incredible experience).

    Today, I found myself walking through a daycare. I am a stay-at-home mom and I have to admit I have days when I wonder if my kids wouldn't be better off if I worked. I had a great career before I chose to stay home, I would have been able to afford quality day care and someone to clean my house and ice skating lessons and music lessons for the kids... So today as I was walking through this daycare -- where the kids were clean and well taken care of and the staff was kind to them -- but it just hit me what a privilege it is to be with my kids all day. Now, I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad that has their children in daycare - we all do the best we can as mothers for our children and we're all in different circumstances. I'm just feeling very grateful tonight that I can be with my children through the good days and the bad days, even when I'm tired and out of patience, because there are those teaching moments that come without warning and because they are learning about faith and my priorities and what really matters even during, maybe especially during, those hard days.

    So, that is the spirit I read Sister Esplin's talk in tonight and it was beautiful, and encouraging and just made me so grateful to be a mother and to have this time with my children.

    1. Wow, I love all of your comments, Megan - thank you for sharing!

      "And I think there is a place for those questions, because I can do better. I need to do better."

      As a mother, the most comforting knowledge and testimony I have is of the atonement. We can't get it right all the time, because we are mortal in subject to the effects of the fall. We can try as hard as we can, but we will never be a good enough parent on our own.

      Enter the atonement. There was a talk from last Conference (or maybe the one before that) titled "The Atonement Covers All Pain". The atonement covers more than we think it does. Wherever there are gaps in our lives between mortality and perfect, Christ's atonement bridges that gap. Whenever we feel like we are falling short in our purpose and duty as a mother (or whatever other duty we have) the atonement reaches where we can't. The atonement can accomplish what we can never hope to accomplish in this life.

      I love how Brother Stephen E. Robinson put it in his book Believing Christ - we can be perfect right now - not through our own efforts, but if we are actively and consistently partaking of the atonement, then through the atonement we can be made perfect NOW. I love that we do not have to wait until after Judgement day for the atonement to take effect. It is in effect now every day of our lives.

      When I get impatient with my children, or when I miss an opportunity to teach because I was being selfish or I was just ignorant, the atonement can make up for that. If we are properly using the atonement as a "daily-use" principle then every day we can be made perfect through it, and the Lord can pick up the slack and bridge the gaps that we leave between what we are doing and what we should be doing.

      Of course, we shouldn't say "I'm just not going to try very hard because I can just let the Savior pick up the slack." because that is a sin itself that must be repented of.

      But if we are feeling anxiety in our roles as mothers, wives, daughters, and children of God, we can certainly take that anxiety to the Lord in humble prayer and ask for His strength and help as we parent - and ask Him to bridge that gap between what a perfect mother would do, and what we are doing.

      I truly believe that our children will be no worse for the wear if we miss opportunities or have outbursts of frustration and anger toward them if we partake of the atonement to cover that imperfection. And as I wrote before, our demonstration of the repentance process can be huge for our kids' spiritual development. I honestly believe that the reason children have imperfect parents is so that they can learn to repent of their own imperfections as they watch their parents repent.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts! They were really thought provoking for me (as you can tell :) )

    2. I so agree with you Becca about our children witnessing our demonstration of the repentance process. If we were perfect and never stumbled, what kind of expectations would our kids have for themselves as parents?
      I always make sure to apologize to them and ask their forgiveness when I lose my temper or am a less than stellar parent. That in itself is a good lesson for them as well.

  9. I really liked both of these talks. And I do think they go together. In our Sunday School class today we talked about the difference between what King Benjamin taught his children versus what the Mulekites taught their children. Because King Benjamin had the "Gospel" (the scriptures and all the ordinances) his children were converted to the Gospel. The Mulekites came without scriptures and may have tried to remember how things were done, but over time things were changed and the fullness was lost. They really only passed on to their children the 'traditions of their fathers'.
    We must be fully converted and active in the Gospel, not just the Church, to be effective teachers for our children, to be able to help them on their way to their own conversion. We must do more than just pass on the 'traditions'.

    A couple of things from each talk that stood out to me.
    Sis. Esplin; I was recommitted to continuing in diligence to teach my children. I sometimes think, after having a large family, that I have taught a particular concept, and then come to realize that because I taught it to my older children when they were young I may or may not have taught it to my younger children. I sometimes feel like I've said these things a million times, but I realize I still have to keep teaching. I also second what Becky said about we as parents always being our children's teachers.

    Elder Hallstrom: The questions he posed really hit me hard. I've always been extremely active in the Church but less diligent in being active in the Gospel. I'm trying to change that. Years of bad habits of not praying in the am and studying my scriptures daily are so very hard to overcome, but I am making progress. I know i have a long way to go and I'm so thankful for the patience and mercy of Heavenly Father and my Savior as I struggle to overcome my 'natural man' and do as they have asked me to do.

  10. I know I am super late one this one but I have had a very busy few weeks.

    I LOVED both of these talks. Sister Esplin talk really answered a ton of questions. Even though I have been at this mothering thing for over a year. I am still feeling overwhelmed and like life is out of control. So the quote from her talk that Heavenly Father guides us on what our children most need to know spoke volumes to me. Not only do I have the normal mother duties but the two girls I have right now have special needs and are at the age that their learning so much. So controlling what I am imputing into them has been something that has taken a lot of my thought.

    In Elder hallstrom's talk, the quote that hit me the most was "As we concentrate on the gospel the church will become more not less of a blessing in our lives."
    I have witnessed this first hand. For a long time I focused on being active and the social aspect of it. Frankly at the time that is what I thought I needed. Growing up with an inactive family there wasn't a ton of gospel teaching going on at home so I was reaching out to those around me to fulfill that. But this last year I have really focused on studying out the topics especially the lessons for the following Sunday. I have felt greater blessing coming from the church than I ever did when I wasn't focused on the gospel end of it.

    The last one that really touched me was "We need to establish the discipline to live faithfully to our covenants fully using the weekly gift of the sacrament. Many of us are not being regularly changed by its cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance."
    I know for me its hard with two kids two and under but since hearing this talk I have been doing a lot more to prepare myself and the children for this sacred time each week. We missed last week and I defiantly felt a hole in the week. Than this week I was a little less prepared and I saw a huge difference in my two year old. So I know a lot of the reverence we need to do is be prepared for that blessing each week.

  11. Good day! It was such a great pleasure to visit your personal blog and to read this blog post. Will you be so nice and answer my question. How do you feel about guest blogging?


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