By Valerie Steimle
Most parents want the best for their children. Parents want to provide a better life in many cases than what they had growing up. But some parents have come to realize that those who shield their children from sacrifice and trials do a great disservice in their own children’s lives. Preparing our children for a life’s work for church and career means teaching them sacrifice and hard work. This understanding even includes experiencing trials as we live the gospel in our modern society.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints our youth have the privilege of participating in a conference each summer. Every 4th year the local church leaders plan a Pioneer Trek which consists of walking usually 20 miles in the wilderness (with some pushing handcarts) in remembrance of the early Mormon Pioneers. This helps our youth learn to appreciate what they have and the trials the early pioneers experienced crossing the plains.
There were several parents in our Pioneer Trek group who refused to let their children participate, saying it was too hard for their children to experience and accomplish this task. The time came for all those youth to start their walk. In talking with all of those who participated and experiencing some of it myself, there are just no words to describe how we felt after it was all over.
The experience of walking for four days was unforgettable for all the youth who participated. Never did those teens experience in their real life anything close to what they had experienced on the trail of the Pioneer Trek. Their testimony of the gospel and the lessons they learned along the way were extraordinary. It took sacrifice on everyone’s part and a willingness to pull together to make it successful.
As parents, we can teach our children about sacrifice. It is part of learning faith. Russell M. Nelson said in General Conference in April of 2011 that we should “start with your children. You parents bear the primary responsibility to strengthen their faith. Let them feel your faith, even when sore trials come upon you.”
While adults can take on trials as part of life, children and youth must learn how to handle difficulties in life. If our Father in Heaven sheltered us from our learning experiences, what good would earth life do us? It is difficult to see anyone experience trials in life, but by the same token, we need these experiences to help us grow. It is especially uplifting and helpful for youth to learn about trials and work through difficulties as they grow to maturity. This will help them in their adult life. Young men are better prepared for Mormon missions, if they learn to take on chores, sacrifice, and work hard. For these, adjusting to adult life is not so shocking.
An experienced missionary mom in Utah, Betty Pearson, tells us: “Missionaries have a lot of adjusting to do when they enter the MTC (Missionary Training Center). If they are new at doing their laundry on a weekly basis, or being away from home, plus the stress of a new environment away from family, and perhaps learning a new language and stressing about it, missionaries have a lot of adjusting to do. It’s best to have them consistently doing laundry before they enter the MTC so they have less “new” to experience. Being away from home for the first time adds to their stress and anxiety. The more your sons or daughters do this BEFORE their missions, plus working a job, the better. Can you imagine how stressful it is for new missionaries to handle the stress of a new language, culture shock, how to cook and clean, doing laundry, and working hard, all at the same time?”
We can teach our children from an early age of what it takes to be a good steward and worker when we do not shelter them from difficult experiences. We can strengthen our children with our testimonies of the gospel. We can teach them that experiencing trials is a part of everyone’s life and let them experience in small ways through church activity and other experiences that Jesus Christ is our Savior.
Remember the words of President Boyd K. Packer who told us in his talk “How to Survive in Enemy Territory” at the Centennial Seminary Celebration on January 22, 2012: “Do not fear the future. Go forward with hope and faith. Remember that supernal gift of the Holy Ghost. Learn to be taught by it. Learn to seek it. Learn to live by it. Learn to pray always in the name of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord will attend you, and you will be blessed.”
As parents from all walks of life, we will be blessed with strong children, who are able to overcome life’s difficulties, and they in turn will strengthen others around them.
Visit my website: Strengthen the Home – A look at strengthening the American Family
Check out my blog: The Blessings of Family Life
Valerie Steimle is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (ʺMormonʺ woman). She has been writing as a family advocate for the past 20 years. She is the mother of nine children living in southern Alabama and is the author of four books and a weekly newspaper column, Thoughts from the Heart.