This past weekend, Elder Stevenson paid a visit to the Tacoma area. He set aside Friday night to speak to young families. He was accompanied by our area seventy, Elder Gessell (and our former stake president) and Elder Kearon. I wanted to share some of the counsel that these brethren gave.
Elder Gessel opened the meeting welcoming all the young parents. He mentioned that parents aren’t perfect, and that they are always learning and trying to do better. That is repentance. He joked, you will always have to apologize to your oldest child.
Elder Kearon said that he loved us, and that he cared for us, even as we are going through trials in our own lives. He said that “joy comes in spoonfuls”, even amidst difficulties, and that we need to keep our eyes open. He put on Elder Nelson’s video called “Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them” where he recounts a plane accident. The an engine caught fire, and the plane started a nosedive. One woman near him was frantic, and his heart reached out to her. But he was completely calm, ready to meet his Maker. Why are we sometimes like that woman? We forget who we are. We must be patient with ourselves and have faith. When we are overwhelmed or fearful, we should ask for help, serve others, and recommit to things that build faith.
Elder Stevenson’s main topic was finding a balance in your life and keeping Christ at your center. He drew a wheel with Christ in the middle, and four spokes: your family, your employer, your church calling, and yourself. You have an obligation to each of these, and you need to give them the time they deserve. He did mention that work-life balance is a goal you will be working on your entire life.
Next he focused on what we do in our spare time, how we spend time with ourselves. He drew a line up on the board. On the left, he wrote scripture study, literature, temple. More to the left, he wrote sports, video games, television, Facebook, Instagram. He mentioned that there were dozens more, but that we had to be careful how we spent our time, and we try to spend more time on the right than on the left.
He told a story back when he was working at his exercise equipment business. He was having a long day at the office, and he was going to be late to a family party. When he finally arrived, he still had budgets and reports going through his head. He sat down on the couch, still mentally going through work. His dad came and sat down next to him and asked, “What’s wrong?” Hoping for a sympathetic ear, he mentioned his long day and the things he still had on his mind. His dad instead, replied, “You were at work. Now you are here. When you are with your family, where is your mind? At work. When you are at work, where will your mind be? With your family. Be present.”
He wrapped his remarks up with two scriptures. Acts 15: 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” And Mosiah 4:27, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and in order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in wisdom and in order.”
After their initial remarks, Elder Stevenson opened the floor to questions. We had time for four.
“What kind of holiday traditions do you do as a family?” I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember that Elder Kearon liked door-bell ditching and leaving a plate of cookies behind.
“In a world with a shrinking number of positive role models, how can I teach my son to be righteous in this day and age?” Elder Gessell recommended having heroes in the scriptures. Help them love the scriptures and the examples there. Teach them their spiritual identity as children of God. They mentioned that they have noticed a trend. Gospel teaching used to be more church-centric, but it is increasingly family-centric. We need to do more teaching in the home if we want our children to be strong in the gospel.
Somewhere in there Elder Stevenson mentioned that in busy family times, their family scripture study was only 30 to 60 seconds long. He joked, this is why we don’t want you recording this!
“How can I as a single mother teach the principle of eternal families to my daughter when we don’t have a father in the home?” This one seemed like a difficult question for them to answer. They first mentioned that as a single mother, their family will have the opportunity to have a a full family whether in this life or the life to come. They explained that the apostles teach the ideal, but are aware of the diversity of family situations in the Church, and that they are all good. They expressed their love to families of all types.
“My in-laws are very antagonistic towards the Church, and when we visit, they even try to share their views with our children. How can we include them in our children’s lives?” Elder Kearon expressed his view that they should not try to push the grandparents away, and that they should continue to visit and express love. Grandparents will come around when they see the great young men and women they are turning out to be. He mentioned sharing with them the principles in “For the Strength of Youth” to show them that despite religious differences, these are principles that any grandparent would want their children to live. He also mentioned, that he would have to have a talk with his children to discuss visiting the grandparents.
Afterwards, Elder Gessel, Elder Kearon, and Elder Stevenson left a few words of testimony. Elder Stevenson shared Jesus Christ’s statement, “I am your advocate with your Father.” God wants us to return to him, and Christ helps us accomplish that.