The Importance of Teaching Children the Gospel

A Minnesota highway patrolman came upon a motorist whose car was stopped along the side of the road. Although not a mechanic, the officer gave the vehicle a once-over. Sitting behind the wheel, he turned the key and saw the fuel gauge was solidly buried in EMPTY. When he shared the problem with the motorist, the fellow furrowed his brow and asked, “Tell me, will it hurt the car if I drive it home this way?”

Fortunately, you and I understand better than that motorist how important it is for a vehicle to have some gas in the tank. The same is true when it comes to faith. You’ve got to have something — the right something in the tank — or you’re not going anywhere, at least not anywhere you want to go.

So maybe that is take-home message number 1: You have to put gas in your tank.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told this story in General Conference a few years ago:

During a severe winter several years ago, a good number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay. In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed. Regrettably they had fed the deer but they had not nourished them.

I’m going to call this our take-home message # 2: It not only matters what you fill your own tank with, but it also matters what you feed those you are responsible for.

President J. Reuben Clark said, of our youth:

“[They] are hungry for the things of the spirit,” he said; “they are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted. … You do not have to sneak up behind [them] and whisper religion in [their] ears; … you can bring these truths [out] openly.”

Elder Holland continued:

“Satan is certainly not subtle in his teachings; why should we be? Whether we are instructing our children at home or standing before an audience in church, let us never make our faith difficult to detect.”

Then Elder Holland gave us this list to work on in our teaching:

  • Never sow seeds of doubt.
  • Avoid self-serving performance and vanity.
  • Prepare lessons well.
  • Give scripturally based sermons.
  • Teach the revealed doctrine.
  • Bear heartfelt testimony.
  • Pray and practice and try to improve.

Since Elder Holland advised us to give scripturally based sermons, and to teach the revealed doctrine, I’m going to do that.

First, let’s look at The Doctrine and Covenants, section 68. What does the Lord want us to teach those we are responsible for?

25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

I’m interrupting to change the wording around. The verse has a negative connotation – when I study, I like to reverse the wording and give it a positive meaning. In my mind, I’d reword that this way: Teach them to understand

  • the doctrine of repentance
  • Faith in Christ (and a correct understanding of Him, that He is the Son of the living God
  • Baptism (and the covenant that goes along with this, which we could devote a different sermon entirely to this topic)
  • The gift of the Holy Ghost, given by the correct procedure, at the right time (eight years old), and by the correct authority (the laying on of the hands)

And finally, changing the last phrase to a positive, the blessing be upon the heads of the parents.

26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.

“a law” – this leans into the “covenant” part of the Doctrine and Covenants.

28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

There are two more things to work on:

  • Prayer
  • To walk uprightly before the Lord, which I’m going to call ‘Obedience’

29 And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

  • Sabbath-day Observance

30 And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, … in all faithfulness; …

31 Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them;

I’m interrupting again with the phrase “idlers” – going back to the automobile example, I don’t think the Lord was talking about automobiles and protecting the environment, but what if you have gas in your tank and you sit and idling – not going anywhere, or in context with the verses we just looked at, not teaching and doing the things we just listed, then the Lord is not pleased. Why is He not pleased? Because he knows, continuing verse 31, that “their children are also growing up in wickedness….”

That phrase hit me. “Their children are also growing up in wickedness.”

Our Lord sees and understands perfectly all that goes on in our world, and knows the tremendous wickedness that is in it.

He wants the Doctrine of Repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, obedience, and Sabbath day observance taught to the children to give them something to help and protect them spiritually from the wickedness of the world in which they will grow.

Then a different thought came to me. This revelation came in November 1831. If the Lord was concerned about the wickedness then, how much more is He concerned now?

At the Worldwide Leadership Training given this year, February 2012, Elder Russell M. Nelson told us. He said,

“In reality, we are raising our children in enemy-occupied territory. The homes of our members must become the primary sanctuaries of our faith, where each can be safe from the sins of the world.”

In General Conference addresses just last month, you can hear this theme repeated by several speakers. I’ll pick one: Elder M. Russell Ballard’s talk entitled “That the Lost May Be Found.” You’ll recall that he began by talking about the GPS built-into his phone. He reminded us that:

Being lost can apply to whole societies as well as to individuals. Today we live in a time when much of this world has lost its way, particularly with regard to values and priorities within our homes.

One hundred years ago, President Joseph F. Smith connected happiness directly to the family and admonished us to focus our efforts there. He said: “There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home. … There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life. … The home is what needs reforming.”

So what can we do to not become lost? First, may I suggest that we prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home. Remember President Harold B. Lee’s counsel that “the most important … work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” and President David O. McKay’s timeless “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

Organize your lives to provide time for prayer and scriptures and family activity. Give your children responsibilities in the home that will teach them how to work. Teach them that living the gospel will lead them away from the filth, promiscuity, and violence of the Internet, media, and video games. They will not be lost, and they will be prepared to handle responsibility when it is thrust upon them.

President David O. McKay had some comments about the verses we looked at earlier:

The inspiration of God is seen in requiring the Latter-day Saints to keep their homes intact and to teach their children the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” This command from the Lord, given to us in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, verse 28, leaves no question as to the responsibility of parents to teach their children—a responsibility too frequently shifted to the shoulders of the Church, public schools, and officers of the law.

Three groups carry the responsibility of training children: First, the family; second, the Church; third, the state. The most important of these is the family. By divine edict the Lord has placed upon parents the responsibility, first to teach the doctrine of repentance; second, faith in Christ, the Son of the living God; third, baptism and confirmation; fourth, to teach children to pray; fifth, to teach children to walk uprightly before the Lord [see D&C 68:25–28]. Parents who shirk this responsibility will have to answer for the sin of neglect.

The greatest trust that can come to a man and woman is the placing in their keeping the life of a little child. If a man defaults who is entrusted with other people’s funds, whether he be a bank, municipal, or state official, he is apprehended and probably sent to prison. If a person entrusted with a government secret discloses that secret, and betrays his country, he is called a traitor. What must the Lord think, then, of parents who, through their own negligence or wilful desire to indulge their selfishness, fail properly to rear their children, and thereby prove untrue to the greatest trust that has been given to human beings? In reply the Lord has said: “… the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25.)

There is nothing temporary in the home of the Latter-day Saints. There is no element of transitoriness in the family relationship. To the Latter-day Saint the home is truly the basic unit of society; and parenthood is next to Godhood. The secret of good citizenship lies in the home. The secret of instilling faith in God, faith in his Son, the Redeemer of the world, faith in the organizations of the Church, lies in the home. There it is centered. God has placed upon parents the responsibility of instilling these principles into the minds of children. Our schools, our Church organizations, and some worthy social institutions are all helps in the upbuilding and guidance of the youth, but none of these—great and important as they are in the lives of our youth—can supplant the permanence and the influence of the parents in the home.

Elder Ballard reminded us of something similar in his talk. He said, “The Church is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families”

Continuing to quote President McKay:

Obedience is heaven’s first law, and it is the law of the home. There can be no true happiness in the home without obedience—obedience obtained, not through physical force, but through the divine element of love. There is no home without love. You may have a palace and yet not have a home, and you may live in a log house with a dirt roof, and a dirt floor, and have there the most glorious home in all the world, if within those four log walls there permeates the divine principle of love, [which creates] that blessed obedience and compliance that makes life worth while.

There is a responsibility upon all, and especially upon fathers and mothers, to set examples to children and young people worthy of imitation. Parents must be sincere in upholding law and upholding the priesthood in their homes, that children may see a proper example.

It is the duty of parents and of the Church not only to teach but also to demonstrate to young people that living a life of truth and moral purity brings joy and happiness, while violations of moral and social laws result only in dissatisfaction, sorrow, and, when carried to extreme, in degradation.

It really does matter what you put in your gas tank, and the right kind of food that feed those you are responsible for.

Elder Holland said

Let us both ‘instruct and edify’ as the revelations say, that our teaching may ultimately be “from on high.” (D&C 43:8, 16) The Church will be the better for it, and so will you, for as Paul said to the Romans, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Rom. 2:21)


Introduction based on a Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries; “Don’t Want To Offend You, But…,” April 17, 2012

Elder Jeffery R. Holland quotations from “A Teacher Come from God,” April 1998

Doctrine and Covenants references at

Elder Russell M. Nelson quotation: “The Doctrinal Importance of Marriage and Children”,, Paragraph 4.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, “That the Lost May Be Found;”

David O. McKay quotations from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, (2003), 152–61, Chapter 16: The Noble Calling of Parents;

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