As a post-script to yesterday's post, today I was reading a wonderful article on the church website (lds.org) by Terry Warner and his wife on helping young children recognize the spirit. Among other things, they include this telling quote by President Joseph F. Smith:
“You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. … You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, and reason” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 317). This may require listening to children’s complaints or frustrations patiently while we fight the urge to force them to behave correctly. It may mean confessing our shortcomings to them and asking their forgiveness. It may cause us to weep with them over whatever has gone wrong. It may require that we leave what we are doing, however important we may think it is, and attend to our children’s needs.
Last fall I had a student in my class whose story broke my heart: he had grown up in an LDS home and then left the church, in large part (or so it seemed from his written descriptions) because his parents had tried to *force* him to church. Teaching my children to want to choose good through example and love seems infinitely harder than doing so by force, but the end results seem much more promising.