In April 2019 general conference, President Henry B. Eyring talked about the differences between a family being spiritually minded and having spiritual decline. Being spiritually minded simply requires faith in Jesus Christ and through that faith, we can feel the Holy Ghost guide us. Spiritual decline, on the other hand, comes in many different forms and branches us off onto all sorts of different paths. President Eyring used the example of the spiritual decline in the Book of Mormon 200 years after Christ visited those ancient people (see 4th Nephi):
- Pride crept in.
- The people stopped sharing what they had with each other.
- They began to see themselves in classes above or below each other.
- They began to diminish in their faith in Jesus Christ.
- They began to hate.
- They began to commit all kinds of sin.
Anyone can look at personal examples of spiritual decline and fit them into one of the above categories. President Eyring said that the underlying cause of spiritual decline is “Satan trying to lead good people down a path to sin and thus to lose the influence of the Holy Ghost.” No matter which category spiritual decline starts in, it all ends the same with losing the influence of the Holy Ghost. How can we prevent that from happening? How can we bring back spiritual mindedness if decline does happen?
Faith in Jesus Christ is the key defense against spiritual decline. All other defenses are connected to this faith and when we utilize them our faith in Christ is preserved and strengthened. My favorite message from this talk is:
“As you help them grow in faith that Jesus Christ is their loving Redeemer, they will feel a desire to repent. As they do, humility will begin to replace pride. As they begin to feel what the Lord has given them, they will want to share more generously. Rivalry for prominence or recognition will diminish. Hate will be driven out by love. And finally… the desire to do good will fortify them against temptation to sin.
So building faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning of reversing spiritual decline in your family and in your home. That faith is more likely to bring repentance than your preaching against each symptom of spiritual decline.” (emphasis added)
Those words really hit me hard. We have often been told that missionaries don’t convert, the Spirit converts. I think that repentance is the same. I can’t make someone else repent, but I can show my faith in Jesus Christ, and the Spirit will work on the rest.
Study the scriptures
President Eyring promised that studying the ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum will help build faith in Christ. I can testify that this is true. My family is young, and this is the first year that my children have been interested in the scriptures. They ask questions and talk about what we read. We have already had many great family conversations and learning opportunities. How wonderful to have started this new way of learning the year we are in the New Testament and getting to know Jesus Christ. We can also continue to read and reread the Book of Mormon.
Praying for our family members is incredibly important. We can pray for them during family prayer where they can hear us pray for them. We can also pray for them privately, and when inspired, put their names in the temple.
In the text version of President Eyring’s talk, the section header is “Teach Early Repentance.” The word “early” sticks out to me because my children are young. As I have taught my children to apologize, I have noticed the biggest teacher has been me as an example. As much as I wish I could be the perfect mom, I’m not, and sometimes I do have to apologize to my children. I have noticed that their apologies have become more sincere and heartfelt since I’ve swallowed my pride and started apologizing to them. Also, their ability to forgive me so quickly never ceases to amaze me and serves as a wonderful example for me to follow when I am in the position to choose to forgive. Repentance and forgiveness go hand in hand. If our children don’t know if they’ll be forgiven, why would they want to repent?
Be a missionary
The joy that the gospel brings, should create a desire to share the gospel with others.
Visit the temple
“For both parents and children, the temple is the best opportunity to gain a feeling for and a love of heavenly places…Every parent can bear testimony of what a temple has meant to him or her.”
My children love watching my wedding video, which has a lot of footage of the temple grounds. They love looking at pictures of the temple. They love driving by the temple. They love when we visit the grounds as a family, and they are constantly asking when they can go inside with us. When my husband and I go to the temple for date night, we always tell our children that is what we are doing and appropriately answer their questions about what we do in there. I hope that their love of the temple remains as they get older.
Since my children are so young, the things I do as a mother are not bringing them back from spiritual decline, but rather the attempt to prohibit spiritual decline and instill spiritual mindedness. Everything mentioned by President Eyring falls under “gospel basics” and yet they are so important and vital! Isn’t it interesting that following Jesus Christ is very simple and clear while giving into the enticings of the adversary leads us into complex, and sometimes dangerous situations?
Being a good example is the best thing that we can do. President Eyring said,
“Your example of growing in faith may not be followed by all members of your family now. But take heart from the experience of Alma the Younger. In his painful need for repentance and forgiveness, he remembered his father’s faith in Jesus Christ. Your children may remember your faith in the Savior at a moment when they desperately need repentance.”
There may come a time where we have to respect a family member’s agency, but let’s make our example of faith in Jesus Christ so obvious and profound, that no matter where they are on their journey, they have no doubt of where we stand.
What are your thoughts on President Eyring’s talk? Do you have a personal example of spiritual mindedness replacing or combating decline that you would like to share?