We have the afternoon slot at church this year, which gives me lots of time to study and think in the morning. I spent most of yesterday listening to the conference address "The Music of the Gospel" by Elder Wilford W. Anderson. I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to write my thoughts about it here. And fair warning, I might do this with a different talk every Monday for a bit.
For the past year or so, I've felt like our family needed to form some better gospel habits. We needed to be more consistent with Family Home Evening, and better at our scripture study. We needed to improve our prayers. I felt like this was the time to cement these things in our family culture so that when hard times or trials come, we will be on solid ground. So when I heard this talk by Elder Anderson on teaching children the gospel, I took lots of notes.
He starts with a story of a young doctor and an old Native American man. When the old man comes to the hospital where the doctor is working, he is asked if he needs help. After some prodding, the old man asks the doctor, "Do you dance?" It took the young doctor a minute to realize that he was most likely a tribal medicine man who sought healing for his patients through song and dance. The doctor answered truthfully and said, "No, I don't dance. Do you dance?" When the old man nodded, the doctor asked, "Could you teach me to dance?" The medicine man responded, "I can teach you to dance, but you have to hear the music."
Oh! That went straight to my heart. I can teach my children the dance steps of the gospel - I can read the scriptures with them and go through the motions of family home evening, and call them for family prayer, etc, but am I teaching them to hear the music of the spirit while we do those things?
Elder Anderson says, "If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance." Isn't that true? It's embarrassing to dance without music. It is awkward and unfulfilling. I never want my children to feel that way. He continues, "Our children's happiness depends on their ability to hear and love the beautiful music of the gospel."
So how do we do it? How do we teach our children to hear the music? Elder Anderson gives us two important ways. First, as parents, we need to keep our own lives in tune. This means that I need to be solid in my own gospel habits. I need to be doing those things that invite the spirit into my own life. And then, when I feel the spirit, or when I can hear the music, Elder Anderson says I must try my best to perform it in my home for my children. That means that I need to invite them to participate with me in those activities. Maybe we can start our morning scripture study with a prayer. Maybe when I feel the spirit, I can be better at telling them about it. But none of this can be accomplished by force. Only through "persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and by kindness." (D&C 121:41-42)
This is something that takes time. It takes practice, and Elder Anderson admonishes us to keep practicing! He says, "If early efforts at making music seem dissonant and discordant, remember that dissonance cannot be corrected by criticism. Dissonance in the home is like darkness in a room. It does little to scold the darkness. We must displace the darkness by introducing light. . . So be patient. Keep practicing. With God's help, the day will come when the music of the gospel will fill your home with unspeakable joy."
Read, watch, or listen to the entire talk here.