Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
When Rachael bore her first testimony in Sacrament Meeting as a preschooler, she captured everyone’s heart. This was her entire testimony: “I know Jesus.” As the congregation realized what she had said, and recognized the power of such a simple statement, the spirit of the meeting deepened, and many commented on the perfectness of such a testimony. Adeleine, age four, upon being told in her Primary class that Jesus would come again someday, said with great longing, “Oh, I wish He were here right now. I miss Him.”
Testimony comes easily to small children, who aren’t plagued by intellectualism or doubt the way adults are. Their hearts are still close to the home they came from and their ability to love is powerful. Really, testimony is no more than an expression of love. I tell little ones that testimony is what their heart knows.
This is the perfect time to help a child develop the beginnings of testimony. Later, they will have to dig deeper and develop a new, adult level testimony that lets them face the challenges society will place on their faith, but these early testimonies are important. They set a pattern for living and for making choices.
The children in junior Primary who are ages four to seven are called CTRs. This means “Choose the Right.” We tell these children they choose the right because they love their Heavenly Father. While most children in the world are taught to make right choices so they don’t get into trouble, this teaches a higher level of obedience, one that builds testimony and love. Reminding children that their Heavenly Father is sad when they don’t obey and that He’s happy when they choose the right helps them to learn that testimony and love are action words.
Children also need to hear testimonies expressed. Are you careful to always speak positively of the gospel and the church, or do your children hear you complaining about church service or doctrine? Do they know you have a testimony? Have you told them? Have you shown them?
“In a society of unstable values and confusing voices, testimony can be the means by which parents give children an anchor for their faith. We do this in our families by bearing record of Jesus Christ and His gospel with our actions and our words. We do this when we pray together, study the scriptures, and hold regular family home evenings. Around the dinner table, parents and children can share what they are learning in Church meetings and activities and their everyday experiences applying gospel principles. Within this sacred family circle, children can learn to express feelings of love and gratitude for Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and for the blessings that come to us as we live together in families on this beautiful earth….When we share our feelings with our little ones and bear record of Him, we open the door for them to share their experiences and to give words to their own spiritual insights and feelings. And when we help children identify the divine source of those feelings, their understanding and love for the Savior will grow line upon line, precept upon precept.” (Susan L. Warner, “Bear Record of Him,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 66)
More on this subject:
Susan L. Warner, "Bear Record of Him," Ensign, Nov. 1998, 66
Coleen K. Menlove, "A Voice of Gladness for Our Children," Ensign, Nov. 2002, 13
"How to Help Our Children Gain a Testimony," Ensign, Dec. 1989, 60
Anne G. Wirthlin, "Touch the Hearts of the Children," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 81