When Elder Foster gave this talk in October Conference, 2015,
I couldn’t get over it.
The story he told of Pablo is such a great example of starting when your children are young and protecting them against all of the harmful influences that are swirling about in our culture. When I asked several young mothers with children this age if they had heard Elder Foster’s talk, they couldn’t remember it. I wonder how many jewels I have missed at General Conference because I wasn’t paying attention, distracted, or plain too tired. This is worth listening to.
It is some of the most brilliant parenting advice on how to spiritually inoculate your children early, I have ever heard.
Elder Foster said,
“Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world. In the past, the world competed for our children’s energy and time. Today, it fights for their identity and mind. Many loud and prominent voices are trying to define who our children are and what they should believe. We cannot let society give our family a makeover in the image of the world.
“We must win this battle. Everything depends on it.”
In the book of Matthew, the Savior teaches us about lasting conversion. A large group of people had gathered near the Sea of Galilee to hear Him teach.
On this occasion, Jesus told a story about planting seeds—the parable of the sower. In explaining this to His disciples, and ultimately to us, He said, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” The message for parents is clear: there is a difference between hearing and understanding. If our children merely hear but do not understand the gospel, then the door is left open for Satan to remove these truths from their hearts.”
“I saw the results of another great teacher while serving as the president of a single adult stake at BYU–Idaho. That experience changed my life. On one particular Tuesday evening, I interviewed a young man named Pablo, from Mexico City, who wanted to serve a mission. I asked him about his testimony and his desire to serve. His answers to my questions were perfect. Then I asked about his worthiness. His answers were exact. In fact, they were so good, I wondered, “Maybe he doesn’t understand what I’m asking him.” So I rephrased the questions and determined that he knew exactly what I meant and was completely honest.”
“I was so impressed with this young man that I asked him, “Pablo, who was it that helped you come to this point in your life standing so uprightly before the Lord?”
“He said, “My dad.”
“I said, “Pablo, tell me your story.”
“Pablo continued: “When I was nine, my dad took me aside and said, ‘Pablo, I was nine once too. Here are some things you may come across. You’ll see people cheating in school. You might be around people who swear. You’ll probably have days when you don’t want to go to church. Now, when these things happen—or anything else that troubles you—I want you to come and talk to me, and I’ll help you get through them. And then I’ll tell you what comes next.’”
“So, Pablo, what did he tell you when you were 10?”
“Well, he warned me about pornography and dirty jokes.”
“What about when you were 11?” I asked.
“He cautioned me about things that could be addictive and reminded me about using my agency.”
Here was a father, year after year, “line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” who helped his son not only hear but also understand. Pablo’s father knew our children learn when they are ready to learn, not just when we are ready to teach them. I was proud of Pablo when we submitted his missionary application that night, but I was even prouder of Pablo’s dad.
When I drove home that night, I asked myself, “What kind of father will Pablo be?” And the answer was crystal clear: he’ll be just like his dad. Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” This is the pattern of how Heavenly Father blesses His children from generation to generation.
As I continued to think about my experience with Pablo, I felt sad because my four daughters were grown and the nine grandchildren I had at the time didn’t live nearby. I then thought, “How could I ever help them the way Pablo’s father helped him? Had too much time gone by?” As I offered a prayer in my heart, the Spirit whispered this profound truth:
“It’s never too early and it’s never too late to begin this important process.”
I knew immediately what that meant. I could hardly wait to get home. I asked my wife, Sharol, to call all of our children and tell them that we needed to visit with them; I had something really important to tell them. My urgency startled them a little.
We began with our oldest daughter and her husband. I said: “Your mother and I want you to know that we were your age once. We were 31, with a small family. We have an idea of what you might encounter. It might be a financial or health challenge. It may be a crisis of faith. You may just get overwhelmed with life. When these things happen, we want you to come and talk to us. We’ll help you get through them. Now, we don’t want to be in your business all the time, but we want you to know that we are always in your corner. And while we’re together, I want to tell you about an interview I just had with a young man named Pablo.”
The big secret sauce of this story is that you are teaching your children when they are still listening to you with all of their hearts. You are telling them, “Pay attention! This will come up and when you see the signs you will know how to act.” I love how Pablo’s father is so reassuring– “Now, when these things happen—or anything else that troubles you—I want you to come and talk to me, and I’ll help you get through them. And then I’ll tell you what comes next.’”–You are preparing them, or prepping them so they will not be scared, or confused or feel shame in any way and take the blame on them for coming on to a pornographic site or a harmful TV show. Forewarned is forearmed! Do you remember ever being spiritually inoculated for anything?
Matthew 13:19; emphasis added.