Teaching Children to Love and Serve by Example

African Family Praying

'Pray always.  Be believing.  Serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.'

By the time this article is published, Christmas – and the wonderful spirit we experience in that special season of giving, sharing, love, and service to one another – will be a distant memory for most.  Some of our New Year’s resolutions might still be in practice, but many may likely have been abandoned.  Yes, it is expected that life’s busyness takes over after the holidays, but I do hear – at least here and there – people who say, “I wish I could feel the Spirit of Christmas every single day”.

While thinking about how to keep that Christmas Spirit continuously, I was one day pondering on the Savior’s life: His example, teachings, love—and the mercy He extends to all.  During this quiet time of thinking about the Savior, I was reading the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).  By being anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, Jesus “went about doing good” – and these acts of “doing good” were His purpose, and His focus, and the legacy of His life.

Likewise, when we accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and are then baptized and confirmed by those holding restored Priesthood keys – we too receive this gift of the Holy Ghost.  In our families, our work, our Church callings – our relationships with friends and neighbors in our communities – we all can and should operate under the power and promptings of the Holy Ghost, to “go about doing good”.  Very simply then, extending the Spirit of Christmas beyond December 25 is a matter of living as He lives, doing good as He does, and loving others as He loves.

Keeping Christmas in our hearts means focusing our minds on the Savior and continuously following His example.  While His purpose is to bring immortality and eternal life to all of Father’s children, He does this in very personal ways by serving each one of us individually.  In similar fashion, we should reach out in very intimate ways of kindness and service.  As the Lord’s covenant people, we should be willing “…to mourn with those who mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in…” and why?  Alma gives the answer in that same verse of scripture: “…that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:9).  Those who have received the ordinance of baptism have made a covenant to do all we can, through service and example, to help others come unto Christ and partake of eternal life.

One of the statements in our Area Plan is to “Love and Serve One Another”. This includes “reaching out, one by one, to rescue those who are less active”, and “sharing the Gospel with others who are not of our faith”.  As members of His Church we, ourselves, should strive to live by this principle of service and then teach it to the next generations – our children and grandchildren – through action and example as we follow the Savior’s path. In April 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley issued a call for us all to try harder to live the gospel, to be kinder, and loving.  He taught, “[This] is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain.  It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike” (Liahona May 1995).

I have had the privilege to meet many faithful members of the Church who endeavor to teach their families these gospel principles both in word and deed.  And because children have a natural faith in their parents and grandparents, teaching them by example helps them learn and develop faith in Jesus Christ and instills in them lessons of love and service.

On one of my many business trips across Africa, I was fortunate to have met a family in Nairobi, Kenya, and with whom I have become friends – the Alumande family.  At that time – in 2010 – Brother Alumande was Bishop of the Upperhill Ward; today, he is the Stake Patriarch.  Brother Alumande strives to lift where he stands by serving and loving those around him and by inviting his family to do the same.  I have met his grandchildren, Amari (age 8) and Jabari (age 4), and I can see that they have been taught to be kind and to serve their friends and neighbors.  They have learnt this through the example of their grandfather.  With his permission, and the permission of those involved, permit me to tell about a recent experience that happened during the past (2017) Christmas season – an experience involving his family and others not of our faith.

Most recently I visited the Alumande family at their home, and while we were sharing a gospel lesson – and already well into it – a woman and her young son entered the house.  They were excited, reaching out and greeting everyone enthusiastically and happily.  They suddenly realized that we were having a lesson and as Brother Alumande explained what we were discussing, they agreed to stay and join our conversation.  I later learnt that this sister has been facing severe health challenges and other problems – during which time Brother Alumande and his family have been reaching out with love, kindness, and service to her and to her children.  They shared gospel lessons with the family and have invited them to various church services and activities.  Brother Alumande’s grandchildren, Amari and Jabari, have become friends with this sister’s children and enjoy playing together – and have learnt to share whatever little they may have.  It is easy to see the sense of care and kindness instilled at such a young age to the Alumande grandchildren through their being taught, in word and in deed, the principle of love and service to one another.

Our Church leaders continue to teach and counsel us to be more loving and kind.  In one of his last General Conference addresses, President Thomas S. Monson said, “Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable.  And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes-difficult journey back to our heavenly home” (Liahona May 2017).

Six months later, President Henry B. Eyring emphasized, “Pray always.  Be believing.  Serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.  We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts for the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ” (Liahona November 2017).

By doing these things – and teaching them to our children – we will have the Spirit of Christmas every day in our hearts.  We will also have the companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide us and bring us and others “home” safely.