Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents and leaders assist the rising generation to receive and recognize spiritual experiences. No one can force our youth to have spiritual experiences, but we can be instrumental in leading them to situations where spiritual experiences can take place. We must teach our children and youth that spiritual experiences are real even though our language is insufficient to describe or explain what happened.
When our Savior, even Jesus Christ, visited the ancient inhabitants of the American continents, He taught them much of the information that He had previously given to the people at
, including the teachings contained
in the Sermon on the Mount. He understood
that they lacked the capacity to understand all of His words and sent them home
with the instructions to "ponder
upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye
may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you
again" (Book of Mormon - Another
Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 17:3). Jerusalem
The Savior gave three key instructions – the three Ps: 1) Ponder upon the things that you have heard, 2) Pray for understanding, and 3) Prepare to learn more tomorrow. We can use the same three keys to gain understanding of what we already know and to be prepared to learn more.
Jesus Christ recognized that the Nephites believed in Him and asked them to bring all those who were sick, lame, blind, halt, maimed, leprous, withered, deaf, or afflicted in any manner to Him. He said, "I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you" (3 Nephi 17:8).
After Jesus Christ had completed healing all who were afflicted, He called for them to bring all the little children to Him. The children were brought and set down on the ground around the Savior. He then commanded the multitude to kneel. He prayed to Father in Heaven and this is the description of His prayer: "…the things which he prayed cannot be written…. The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
"And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father" (3 Nephi 17:12-17).
After seeing and hearing such wonderful things, the Savior told the Nephites, "Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full" (3 Nephi 17:20).
The Nephite spiritual experience was not yet complete because more was to come. The Savior told them, "Behold your little ones" (3 Nephi 17:23), and they looked and saw angels come down from heaven and surround those little ones with "fire."
"And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children" (3 Nephi 17:23-25).
I have always been a believer of spiritual experiences and suppose this belief came because of my parents. My family experienced a number of exceptional circumstances in the years before my birth, which brought numerous opportunities for deep and fervent prayer. One of those experiences was the accidental shooting of my older brother's friend with a BB-gun. As I understand the situation, the BB entered the young boy's throat and blood was spurting out. My mother held her finger over the hole and got help for him. Then she gathered her children around her in prayer for the boy's life. My older sister told me that our mother's prayer sounded that she was speaking directly to Heavenly Father, and she opened her eyes to see if God was standing there! I understand that the boy was healed without any further problems.
My mother was not the only one who prayed as though God were in the room. At my father's funeral, his bishop mentioned my father's prayers and how he prayed for his posterity. The bishop indicated that he really appreciated being present to hear my father pray and knowing that my father was speaking directly to God.
The rising generation cannot accept and/or understand spiritual experiences unless they experience them personally. The spiritual experience described above means much to my sister because she experienced it; to me it is a wonderful story. I shed tears every time I think of it, but my sister lived it.
I do not suggest that you shoot someone in the throat with a BB gun in order to have a spiritual experience! I do suggest that you recognize and prepare opportunities for your children and youth to experience the Spirit of God touching their lives. The simple act of taking your children to watch a friend’s baptism can bring an opportunity for them to feel the Spirit. Listening to sacred music and bearing testimony are both ways to bring the Spirit closer to us.
We must teach the word of God to the rising generation in order to strengthen them for the challenges they face. God's word has a powerful effect on all who hear it, and it will strengthen the youth. The ancient American prophet Alma wrote that "… the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just - yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened to them…" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ,
Our children and youth are likely to feel the Spirit as we gather them around us in family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening - if they are open to receive it. Bearing testimony of the truths of the gospel usually brings the Spirit and may be what brings a spiritual experience to others.
Our youth often feel the Spirit as they do service projects. The bishopric and Young Men leaders in one ward counseled together about how they could help the youth of the ward receive more spiritual experiences. They determined that they would "focus more of their activities on service and not as many on entertainment or amusement. This included visiting less-active quorum members, participating in proselyting with the full-time missionaries, and administering the sacrament to home bound ward members…."
These activities had a profound effect "over time" and "made all the difference" in the lives of the young men. The young men bore testimony of how they had felt the Spirit as they performed their service projects and priesthood duties. "They felt the Spirit and realized the difference the gospel makes in people's lives." The leaders learned the "importance of promoting the kinds of experiences in which youth can feel the Spirit. `Social activities are important, but spiritual experiences are critical in helping youth build their own testimonies.’" (See "Helping Youth Have Spiritual Experiences," Ensign, October 2012, 33-37.)
An important aspect of assisting our children and youth in having spiritual experiences is to use consistency in the things we do and say. Elder Bednar taught that we need to create spiritual patterns in our lives - patterns such as scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and attending Church. (See "More Diligent and Concerned at Home," Ensign, May 2010, 17-20.)
Teaching spiritual patterns and having consistency begins at home. Experts tell us that eating at least one meal together as families has a tremendous effect on our children. Working together to cook and prepare the food can add to the strength gained from being together. Our mealtimes can be a time to reconnect with each other as well as to acknowledge our many blessings.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers the following suggestions to help youth have spiritual experiences: 1) Give youth opportunities to serve; 2) Connect youth with the Word of God; 3) Be consistent; 4) Tap into existing opportunities to teach and listen; 5) Work together toward a common goal.
As parents and grandparents, we must not only teach the rising generation, but we must create an environment where they can learn eternal truths for themselves. We must be alert for teaching opportunities whether they take place in a formal setting such as class or family home evening or whether they take place during a walk, while driving to an activity, serving together, mealtimes, or fun times. We must be alert and recognize promptings from the Spirit that a teaching moment has come.
By teaching the rising generation how to receive and recognize their own spiritual experiences, we can strengthen them to face the difficult times in their lives. As we strengthen our youth, we also strengthen our communities and nations.