Last night, I was reflecting with my wife on some childhood experiences, either faith-building or tangentially so. As children, we are just learning the ropes of our faith, which can result either in beautiful “out of the mouth of babes” moments, but can also give a few laughs here and there as well. I’m really looking foward to teaching our daughter the gospel as well, and to see her faith grow line upon line, precept upon precept.
Here are a few anecdotes from my childhood:
My parents taught me and my younger brother to pray every night before bed. One night (I was probably 5 and he 3 or 4), we had had a quarrel, probably about some toy or another. I went to another room and prayed that he would be thrown in jail. I went and told him so, just so he knew that the police were probably on their way right now. He did the same right back at me, and prayed that the police would come and arrest me. Luckily neither of us actually dialed 911 or anything!
Growing up, you have a lot of questions, particularly in the metaphysical realm. I remember I had a whole slew of questions regarding dinosaurs, like why we couldn’t live with them, and whether dinosaurs go to heaven. My mom couldn’t always answer them, so she would tell us “Make sure to write that one down, so you can ask God when you get to heaven.” Unfortunately, I’ve lost my list of questions, but I’m sure they were great.
Up until I was 6 or 7, I had a real problem distinguishing between what was mine and what was belonged to other people (I stole stuff). I remember having to apologize to the piano teachers’ children, because I stole some toy frogs. But my favorite story was at the airport on the way home from Disneyland, my parents discovered that I had slipped a Bible from the hotel into my backpack. I had really wanted a Bible of my own, and the Bible in the hotel room was beautiful, so I just took it. My parents had me return the Bible to the Gideons in person and apologize. By the end of that episode, I knew that I shouldn’t take stuff anymore.
In kindergarten, our teacher Ms. Willy had a system to keep track of student behavior. If you were good the entire day, you got a green slip on the wall. If you got a warning, it turned yellow. If you did something really bad, you got a red slip. A red slip meant that you would have to sit in the “stop and think” corner, and Ms. Willy would talk to your parents. I think I was generally good, but one day I was feeling particularly mischievous. During playtime, I had spilled something, so I was asked to go get a wet sponge to clean it up. One of my girl friends was sitting right there, and in a moment of temptation, I had the brilliant thought of wringing out the sponge over her head. I was immediately reprimanded and got a red slip. But my friend was very reconciliatory, explaining, “I use shampoo anyways, so I’m OK.”
I remember I had several moemnts as a kid, particularly on car rides, questioning my very existence. How do you tell if any of this is real?
My parents had a rule that we would get our very own set of scriptures when we turned 8. I was so excited to get my own quadruple combination, mostly because having your own set of scriptures meant that you could mark them yourself! I wanted to mark all the important verses. But I didn’t have any idea to distinguish what was important and what wasn’t at the time. So I just went ahead and marked the entire Songs of Solomon!
One of the things I definitely knew worked when you prayed, was that God would help you find anything you lost. I used that a lot, praying for lost toys, books, Gameboys, etc. I knew that was the ultimate expression of humility and faith.
My parents taught us to use good language and to not talk back by washing our mouths out with soap as needed. Ugh, miserable! One time, I knew that I was oging to have to have my mouth washed with soap, so to skip the added humility of my mom rubbing a bar of soap in my mouth, I volunteered to wash my own mouth. It didn’t make the experience any better!
Other kids’ birthdays were hard for me, especially my little brothers! I think it was his second birthday, I found the perfect solution: I would let him play with all of my toys, if he would give me all of his toys he got for his birthday. I got some form of agreement out of him, whether he knew what he was doing or not. But when I proudly informed my mom of our arrangement, the deal was off.
I also reeaaaaally liked to win when playing board games. So in order to ensure my victory during a round of Candyland, I ensured I would get Queen Frostine, then a blue, then an orange, then a red, so I could win in 4 turns. There were some suspicions afterwards.