I wasn’t going to write any more about the talk I gave at church on Sunday, but then a friend suggested that I put it on my blog so that I have it. I don’t have copies of any of my other talks, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise. I’m warning you ahead of time, because it’s long, and you don’t need to feel obligated to read it. It’s mostly for me.
The Talk 2011
When we were living in Salt Lake City, my husband and I had both gone about 4 years without speaking in church. We got called to speak one Sunday, and a few weeks later we found out we were moving to Texas. We have been in this ward a little over 4 years now, and my husband spoke for the first time a few weeks ago. Today it’s my turn. If this somehow turns out to be my good-bye talk, I just want you all to know that we have loved our time in Texas, and in the Sonterra ward!
When brother Heywood called me this week and asked me to speak, he told me the topic was, “What manner of Men or Women Ought Ye to Be?” Then he gave me a reference talk from April’s General Conference. The talk he assigned me is Become as a Little Child, by Sister Jean Stevens. I read the talk, and I had to ask myself if brother Heywood had ever seen my children? Does he really want me talking to all of you about how to become like little children when my experience is with 5 wonderful, but not necessarily reverent kids? There is actually a talk from April conference entitled What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be, but apparently Sister Stevens had a lot to teach me! My husband, who’s all about keeping it real, informed me that I clearly had some things to learn, and that maybe I should humble myself a little bit. Humility isn’t something that you’ll find a lot of at the Roberts’ home. If you want proof of that, just come around when we’re playing Trivial Pursuit.
If I was going to answer the question of What Manner of Woman Ought I to Be, I don’t know if the first thing that would come to my mind would be to act like a little child. It’s probably because I spend all of my time with my own little children. Maybe I’ve stopped appreciating kids for what they really are.
When I think of how I want to be, what manner of woman I want to be, it’s most often in terms of how I want to improve. I’m doing what I always wanted to do. I’m raising a family. Now, I want to do it better. I want to be a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter and a better friend. I want to be kinder and more patient. I want to have a cleaner house, and I want my kids to have their hair brushed all the time.
I have five children ranging in ages from 7 down to 2 months. There are 4 boys and 1 girl. If I were to ask them how they wanted to improve themselves, I’m pretty sure that I would be met with some blank stares. Two of those blank stares would be because the particular children don’t actually speak, but the other 3 would probably be wondering what I was going on about. Improve what? My kids like themselves, and I don’t think they spend a lot of time worrying about how to be better. They don’t stress about the dirty clothes on the bedroom floor, or the current state of the bathroom. When we were talking about my oldest’s upcoming baptism, we asked him why he wanted to be baptized. His 5 year old brother answered for him, “It’s because he wants to play in that pool!” Clearly no one is stressing about talking with the bishop!
One of the things that I really love about my kids is that they never second guess themselves. They’re still young enough that they don’t question anyone’s motives. They take things at face value. I have a horrible habit of over-analyzing. I always think there’s a deeper meaning behind everything. I’m forever asking my husband what he thinks a certain phrase really meant. I’m not going to speak for my husband and say that it drives him crazy, but if you asked him about our upcoming family reunion, and the conversations that I’ve had with my mother-in-law, I’m pretty sure I know what he’d say.
In her talk, Sister Stevens says, “Our Father in Heaven, in His great wisdom and love, sends His spirit sons and daughters to this earth as children. They come to families as precious gifts with a divine nature and destiny.”
I think this divine nature and destiny are closest to the surface with little children. They’re not embarrassed by their feelings. They’re nothing but feelings. When I tell my kids they’re wonderful, they don’t question that or roll their eyes at me. They usually just tell me that they already know that. What happens to that knowledge as we grow older? Why do we find it so hard to accept the truth of who we are? Why are we so quick to question it?
In Matthew 18 we read, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven… Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4).
I had always understood that to mean that we need to get back to the mentality of a little child; that little children are immature and unknowing. That it’s the lack of knowledge or experience that makes it easier for children to be humble. You know how you know everything about kids before you have them.
Now that I get to watch my own children, I can see that the opposite is true. While children don’t necessarily have a lot of experience or maturity, they do have an innate knowledge. They don’t question, because they already know. They know that their Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally. They know that they’re supposed to be happy because that’s what makes sense.
Sister Stevens asks, “What is it we should learn from children? What qualities do they possess and what examples do they demonstrate that can help us in our own spiritual development?”
Then comes her answer: “These precious children of God come to us with believing hearts. They are full of faith and receptive to feelings of the Spirit. They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive.”
Just look at how quickly children can make friends with each other. They see someone new at the playground and they go over and ask their name and how old they are. That’s it. That’s the requirement for being a friend. After that, it’s just playing. There’s no wondering, hmm… do they really want to be friends with me?
I can’t speak for anyone but me, but I’ll contrast that with how I am when I meet new people. It goes something like this, they look like nice people, maybe we have kids around the same age, maybe we should invite them over for dinner, but what if someone else has already invited them over for dinner. What if they say no. What if my kids are acting up or heaven forbid someone asks my husband how you make plastic. What if they aren’t really interested in how you make plastic. What if they think I’m shallow because I like to read entertainment magazines when I’m in line at the grocery store. All of this will go through my mind in the time between when a new name gets read into the ward, and when we raise our hands to welcome the person. And so what do I do, probably nothing at all because, I worried myself out of it.
It doesn’t occur to little children that they can’t do something. I think the unquestioning part of children isn’t necessarily that children don’t ask questions. If you’ve ever been around a two year old, you know what I’m talking about. I think it’s that they don’t question themselves, and they don’t question their Heavenly Father. They don’t doubt. They know that if they’ve been promised something by their Heavenly Father, He’ll come through. They know that if they pray, their prayer will be answered.
Something happens to us as we get older and more and more involved in the world. We lose that innocence that children have, and we start to question. We can question people and their motives, we can question ourselves and our abilities, and we can question the Lord. Am I the only one who’s received an answer to a prayer and thought, no, I don’t think that’s right? I don’t think Heavenly Father really understood what I was asking Him.
In Mosiah 3:19, King Benjamin tells us to become like a child – submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love. This can be a problem if you’re not trusting, but if you’re like a child and you know that your Heavenly Father wants nothing but the best for you, then it makes more sense. I think as we get older we don’t always believe that we deserve of all the blessings that we’ve been promised. We don’t fully comprehend the Atonement and so we don’t always see how it works for us. Sure, we can see how it works for someone else, but for us personally, maybe we struggle.
Sister Stevens says children provide “examples of some of the childlike qualities we need to develop or rediscover in ourselves in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world—teachable and full of faith.”
Stevens continues by saying, “There is not a more perfect place to behold our little ones than in our families. Home is a place where we can all learn and grow together. It is here in our families, in an atmosphere of love, where we see and appreciate in a more personal way the divine attributes of His spirit children. It is here in our families where our hearts can be softened and in humility we desire to change, to become more childlike. It is a process by which we can become more Christ-like.”
So now maybe instead of worrying all the time about the state of my kids’ hair, or the condition of our bathroom, I’ll worry a little more about the state of me. I won’t question if someone wants to be my friend, I’ll just be a friend and let the rest work itself out.
I have a testimony of many things, but one of the things I know for certain is that Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us. He knows us by name, and He loves us. We all deserve to be loved by Him. He really does want us to be happy… Man is that he might have joy. I certainly have days where I want to pull my hair out, but more often than not, I just have to look at the blessings in my life, look at how things have worked out when I didn’t think they could to know that God has always had a plan for me. That even when I’ve been the one to deviate from the plan, Heavenly Father has found a way to guide me back, because He knows what will truly bring me joy.