We can bring the greatest of all liberties into our individual lives by living true and correct principles. This liberty comes to us as we learn to live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us. We gain this freedom as we invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.
The liberty principle for today is the tenth in a series of true principles suggested by Elder Richard G. Scott in his book 21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit. I will merely introduce the principle and suggest that you obtain Elder Scott’s book in order to truly understand this principle. Elder Scott explained that principles “are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances.” You can see principle #1 “True Principles of Freedom” here, principle #2 “Trust the Holy Ghost” here, principle #3 “Try New Things” here, principle #4 “Accept Promptings” here, principle #5 “Decisions Determine Destiny” here, principle #6 “Accept God’s Will” here, principle #7 “Power Limited” here, principle #8 “Discerning Answers” here, and principle #9 “Mentors Help” here.
Principle #10 is the simple fact that gospel teachings are not really part of us until we internalize them. “In early life I found that I could learn gospel teachings intellectually and, through the power of reason and analysis, recognize that they were of significant value. But their enormous power and ability to stretch me beyond the limits of my imagination and capacity did not become reality until patient, consistent practice allowed the Holy Spirit to distill and expand their meaning in my mind and heart. I found that while I was sincerely serving others, God forged my personal character. He engendered a growing capacity to recognize the direction of the Spirit. The genius of the gospel plan is that by doing those things the Lord counsels us to do, we are given every understanding and every capacity necessary to provide peace and rich fulfillment in this life. Likewise, we gain the preparation necessary for eternal happiness in the presence of the Lord.
“A testimony is fortified by spiritual impressions that confirm the validity of a teaching, of a righteous act. Often such guidance is accompanied by powerful emotions that bring tears to the eyes and make it difficult to speak. But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions. These choices are made with trusting faith in things that are believed and, at least initially, are note seen. A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future will be secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path. A testimony grows from understanding truth distilled from prayer and the pondering of scriptural doctrine. It is nurtured by living those truths with faith anchored in the secure confidence that the promised results will be obtained….
“That is how to live successfully in this world today. Learn how to live the commandments when there is no pressure on you. Develop the standards and obedience by making correct choices repeatedly and you will develop the character that will sustain you when pressures from Satan come into your life. The principles of the gospel will have become such a part of who you are that they will produce miracles” (pp. 48-51).
Many years ago when my older children were small, I would take them to church every Sunday while my husband was elsewhere. One day my husband asked me why I went to church every week. The question astounded me. The only answer I could give him was “I have been going to church every Sunday for my entire life. I know no other way to live and can see no reason to change.”
While still a young child, I learned other principles that have blessed my entire life. For instance, I learned to pay tithing when my income was counted in pennies, nickels, and dimes. As my income increased, the amount of my tithing also increased. It was a natural process. I am sure it would have been more difficult to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars in tithing if I had not learned as a child to be obedient to this law.
The author of Proverbs wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
President Gordon B. Hinckley commented: “Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. … That training finds its roots in the home. There will be little of help from other sources. Do not depend on government to help in this darkening situation. Barbara Bush, wife of former United States president George Bush, spoke wisely when in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1990 she addressed the Wellesley College graduating class and said, `Your success as a family, our success as society, depends not on what happens at the White House, but on what happens inside your house.’
“Religion can help and will do wonders. Religion is the great conservator of values and teacher of standards. Its message on values has been consistent through the ages. From the days of Sinai to the present, the voice of the Lord has been an imperative voice concerning right and wrong. In modern revelation, that voice has declared, `I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40).
“What, you may ask, can be done? The observance of four simple things on the part of parents would in a generation or two turn our societies around in terms of their moral values. They are simply these: Let parents and children (1) teach and learn goodness together, (2) work together, (3) read good books together, and (4) pray together” (“Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Nations,” Liahona, June 1966).
The prophet of the Lord told us what we needed to do nearly twenty years ago. Many parents did follow the counsel of the prophet and saw many of their children become good and successful adults; however, many parents did not hear the prophet’s counsel or chose to ignore it. This is one reason why we hear of teenagers and young adults “knocking out” other people simply because they are bored and are looking for excitement in their lives. Teenagers who have been taught properly usually do not participate in such activities.
The counsel in Proverbs 22:6 remains good: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The rising generation – as well as families, communities, and nations - need parents who will follow this counsel.