For just about 10 years, I have been singing “I Am A Child of God” to sleepy little boys. Sometimes when I sing that song, it is filled with deep emotion, but other times, I have to admit, I am merely going through the motions in the hopes that by the time I hit verse three, my wild-child will be zonked out.
It wasn’t until our last son Elden that I started to really think about why this song has become a staple lullaby at our house. Every night I tell him that I am going to sing him his favorite song, and he gets really excited and asks: “Is it going to be the Paw Patrol song?!” And then he starts to grumble when I break into the familiar refrain, “I am a child of God…”. But, more often than not, by the end, my little blond boy has joined in and is adding his own heartfelt melody.
Inevitably, night after night, after we have sung our duet, he always asks anew: “Mom, why do you always have to sing that song?!”
And of course, I always respond: “Because my dear boy, if there is one thing I want you to know deep within your heart, it is that you really are a child of God.”
GENERAL CONFERENCE 2016
You can probably imagine my surprise then, when, during the last Spring Session of the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Hallstrom chose this very topic to speak on.
In his talk entitled “I Am a Child of God”, Elder Hallstrom asks us to ponder whether we really know this statement to be true for ourselves. He reminds us that sometimes, even the most important information can sometimes get lost in the background of our lives. But, he firmly states, the understanding that we are indeed children of a loving Heavenly Father is:
“essential to exaltation. It is foundational to comprehending the glorious
Plan of salvation and to nurturing faith in the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus the Christ, and in His merciful atonement.”
Lately, I have felt the very real burden of teaching my children how to develop a testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for themselves. Just as Elder Hallstrom reminds us, I feel that it is all too easy for this precious knowledge–that we really are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father–to become background noise.
Just like when I sing this song to my children at bedtime, sometimes the words are filled with wonder, and sometimes–they are sung by rote just to get the darn kids to bed.
So, how do I ingrain this gift of knowledge into the souls of my sons? Many prayers have I uttered in the hopes of gaining some direction, and after listening to this talk, I feel like I have received some direction.
To begin, Elder Hallstrom makes an interesting observation:
“Here on earth, we identify ourselves in many different ways…our place of birth, our nationality, and our language…by their occupation or their hobby. These identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity–that of being a son or daughter of God.”
After reading this particular passage again, it became obvious to me that if I can enable my children to remember their divine heritage, it will be easier for them to make good choices. I thought about the song that we have sung together so many times–”I Am A Child of God.” I thought about my little talk with Elden every night when he asks why we sing that song so often.
And then I wondered if maybe I was stretching things a little too far.
I have come to realize, in my old age, that doubt is a tool of Satan. When we seem to be on the right path to obtaining revelation, he likes to sneak doubt in to disrupt our peace.
So, I turned to the scriptures.
GENERAL CONFERENCE CIRCA. 124 B.C.
And sure enough, in Mosiah Chapter 3:11-12, King Benjamin has this very same discussion with his band of faithful followers, at a very similar set-up to our own General Conference.
“…as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God…and always retain a remembrance, the greatness of God…and his goodness and long-suffering towards you…
Behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God…”
Essentially, King Benjamin is teaching his people that they are spiritual sons and daughters of God. He tells them that if they hold this knowledge within their hearts daily, they too will develop a strong testimony of Heavenly Father.
Along with imparting this knowledge to his followers, King Benjamin also speaks some very powerful words that have become one of my very favorite scriptures:
“Believe in God; believe that He is, and that He created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that He has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth…”
I love the boldness of this verse. These words remind us that it was our very Father in Heaven who is responsible for all things. And if that All Powerful Creator loves us enough to provide us with a Savior to return to Him someday because He wants us to always be with Him, then surely we can use our divine knowledge that we are His children to direct our paths for good.
And that is just what King Benjamin goes on to teach his people. In Mosiah 4:12-16, we find this direction:
- If ye do this ye shall always rejoice
- Be filled with the love of God
- Always retain a remission of your sins
- Grow in the knowledge of that which is just and true
- Ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably
- Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked
- Or transgress the laws of God
- Or fight or quarrel with one another
- But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness
- Ye will teach them to love one another and to serve one another
- Succor those that stand in need of succor
Ah, this is what I have been searching for all along–a guideline for my boys to develop a testimony of God that will help them to choose the right.
IN THE END
And so, the other day, I had a little talk with my sons. I gathered them around me like a hen gathers her chicks and we sang this song together:
I am a child of God,
And He has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great,
Help me to understand His words,
Before it grows too late.
I am a child of God.
Rich blessing are in store;
If I but learn to do His will
I’ll live with Him once more.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with Him someday.
When we were done, I told them that if they ever felt bad because of what someone said about them, or if they were ever confused about what choice to make, if they sang this song to themselves by the time they were done they would feel God’s love. Feeling God’s love would help them to forgive and forget, or help them choose the right path. Over time, I told them, they would begin to recognize the familiar Spirit that accompanies this knowledge and that this feeling would be the Spirit of God witnessing to them that the words of the song are indeed true–I am a child of God.
It is my hope and prayer, as it has been since the very day we welcomed each child into our home, that my boys will one day develop their own strong testimonies of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Plan of Salvation. I know that the words Elder Hallstrom and King Benjamin spoke are true–that this very basic, yet divine, knowledge can bring with it an awesome power–the power to choose the right no matter what the obstacle. That is the foundation of my testimony, and I hope, one day, it will be a firm foundation for my children as well.
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.