Teaching Your Children to Obey Their Conscience

mormon-parentsWe all want our children to make wise choices and stay out of danger. God put into each person what the world calls a conscience, and what we know is the Light of Christ to help us make the best possible choices and stay safe. It’s important to teach children how to recognize that “still, small voice” and to obey it without fail.

Learn how to have a family night.

Begin by sharing the following story with your family. It is by Ed J. Pinegar and is excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do” By Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen.

“Don’t Do It”

My father died on Mother’s Day 1947.  I was a 12-year-old boy. I was the baby of the family. My mother, a living angel, became the true matriarch of the family. She taught me to live by high principles, including never taking anything into my body that would be harmful. I remember making a promise to her and to Heavenly Father that I would never do anything to hurt her or bring shame to her. It was sealed in my mind and my heart.

I went through the teen-age years without too many problems.  Still, I recall the time when my values and standards that my mother had taught were put to the test. Our high school football team, on which I played end, had just won a game, and we were having a party at a friend’s house. Everything was great. We were having a great time. No one was doing anything wrong. A friend asked the host for a drink of water. He was directed to the kitchen cupboard for a glass. As he was getting a drink, he noticed a big dark bottle of cherry cooking wine. It was almost full. He suggested we should all have a sip of alcohol to prove ourselves. They all came in for a little drink. Something in my heart and mind (my conscience) said, “Don’t do it,” and then I became bold and told them, “Don’t do it.” They said that one little drink wouldn’t hurt. I told them no, and if they did that I would leave the party. They said, “Go ahead. We don’t like babies anyway.”

So I left. I was hurt because of their standards and their apparent lack of concern for me as their supposed friend. As I walked home, a good feeling came over me. I had listened to my conscience. I had obeyed the inner voice – my conscience. It had saved me from disappointing my mother. The memory lingered. Obeying your conscience brings peace to the soul.”

Invite your family to discuss the story, which is true. Do they think he made the right decision? Why or why not? Were his friends correct in saying one drink couldn’t hurt?

Help them realize one drink would set a pattern. Having taken the first drink, it would be easier to take the second one. Having broken an important rule, it would be easier to break future rules. Few people start sinning by doing something huge. They make small bad decisions that make it easier to make larger bad decisions. In time, they’ve become comfortable doing wrong and they may find themselves doing very bad things.

God gave them a gift to help them avoid doing even the first wrong thing. Ask your family if they know what that is. They may say it is their conscience, the light of Christ, or the Holy Ghost. Tell them the world often calls it a conscience, and that is a good term, but our conscience is really from God, and is the Light of Christ or the Holy Ghost telling us what is right or wrong, true or false.

Tell them in the story they just heard there were several lies told to the boy. What were they? (That having a drink would prove themselves, that not drinking would make him a baby, and that one little drink couldn’t hurt.) How did he know those things weren’t true? (He remembered the teachings of his mother and also listened to his conscience.)

Ask your children how listening to your conscience could help you. (It can keep you from making choices that will hurt you later, and help you to obey God’s commandments.)

Ask them to help you make a list of things they could do to become better at listening to their conscience. This will allow you to find out what they already know. Possible answers might include:

Learn right from wrong from parents, church, and the Bible.

Pray before making choices.

Before making choices stand still and be quiet for a few moments to see if God has anything to say about the subject.

Stay out of dangerous situations to begin with because God can’t be with you if you’re intentionally choosing to be where evil is. (This is why the boy in the story left the house.)

Have your family sit in a line and play Telephone. This old-fashioned children’s game requires the person at one end of the line to whisper something to the person next to him. That person whispers what he thought he heard, even if it makes no sense. No one may repeat what they whispered. You get only one chance to hear it. Usually, the sentence is scrambled by the time it gets to the end of the line.

Try it again, allowing people to talk softly instead of whispering.

Next, play it again, but with loud music playing in the room. Even if sentences got scrambled the first time, ask them if it was easier to hear when the room was quiet or when it was noisy. It’s possible that when it was noisy, they couldn’t hear the whisperer at all.

Tell them the Holy Ghost will whisper advice into their hearts. They will feel a warm safe feeling when they are making good choices, and uneasy feelings when they are making bad choices. Once in a while, specific words will come into their minds. Only rarely, and in great emergencies, will they hear a voice. Because the Holy Ghost is speaking softly, they must learn to listen—not with their ears, but with their hearts. The more they practice listening, the better they will get at doing it, just as if they practiced playing telephone for a long time, they’d improve.

How can they listen to a whisper from the spirit if they’re in a noisy place? Talk about this as a family, helping them to come to the conclusion the quiet must be in their own hearts. They have to shut out distractions and the arguments of others and only listen to the Holy Ghost.

Ask them who is most likely to benefit from the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is those who are doing the most for God—keeping His commandments and giving Him love. We must be worthy of His help. It is not fair to ask Him to help us when we do nothing to help Him. As Christians, we work hard to be fair. Those who are living in purity are better able to feel God’s presence in their lives.

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