Elder L. Tom Perry's talk—his first talk as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He talks about how overwhelmed and inadequate he feels—and it was a strange feeling for me to read that, having only ever known him as the forthright, fearless senior apostle he became!
Elder Perry describes how he had learned about the apostles as a boy, and memorized their names, and how it was such a startling thought to realize that now, children and church members would be learning about HIM! He sounded so humble and normal that I could almost imagine how he felt—how I would feel, trying to live up to such a calling.
Elder Perry said:
As I thought and searched, I realized there is a theme to my life which is worthy of being repeated and I think would be of value to those young children in your homes. It is this: He was reared in a home in which his parents loved and appreciated the gospel of Jesus Christ.He goes on, and this is the part that really stood out to me:
We were dressed in our home each morning, not only with hats and raincoats and boots to protect us from physical storm, but even more carefully our parents dressed us each day in the armor of God. As we would kneel in family prayer and listen to our father, a bearer of the priesthood, pour out his soul to the Lord for the protection of his family against the fiery darts of the wicked, one more layer was added to our shield of faith. While our shield was being made strong, theirs was always available, for they were available and we knew it.
What a protection it was to travel through the journey of life knowing that a shield of faith is being carefully constructed for you by loving parents from our first moments on earth.I think what struck me about this was the idea that a "shield of faith" can protect our children beginning with their very first moments on earth! I am used to thinking about faith and testimony as something that must be developed for oneself, like the oil that the five wise virgins could not share. And of course, yes, someone can't live under another person's shield forever—but apparently a child CAN be safe there for a time! It just suddenly seemed so obvious to me that this is what parenthood IS, or should be! A time when parents can use our own faith and trust in God to shield our children until they have time to form their own faith! A safe place where even when one person's faith is weak or faltering—the collective faith of the family arches over and protects the home.
I think I like it because it seems so comforting. I'm all too aware that parents don't control their children, that children make their own choices and build their own faith. I can't force my children to BE anything, nor should I want to—but I can control my OWN faith. My OWN faith will form the "carefully constructed" beginning of my children's faith! And if I put the work into keeping my faith strong, Elder Perry implies that it will continue to shield my family as well—not completely insulate them, not hem them in, but just…shield them from the worst of Satan's darts. Even—perhaps especially—when their own shields are weak or incomplete! It's encouraging to think that my own actions could have that effect, and humbling to think of how the "shields" of those who love me may have also sheltered me when my own faith has faltered.
Elder Perry shares a story of how his parents' faith and prayers protected him as a young adult, and says:
I know by personal experience the value of having noble parents to build around their children a protective shield of faith of our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. I give you my witness that it works. Should not every child of God be given that opportunity in their lives[?]Of course they should! In fact, that may be the main purpose of families! And even though not every child has such a gift from their parents, as I thought about this question more, I realized that, on a larger scale, this "protective shield" condition could describe what the entire stretch of mortality is for ALL of us! Of course, we have the veil of forgetfulness to force us to exercise our own faith, and we are supposed to be developing our own spiritual strength away from the safety of our Father's house—but…in a way…mortality is still a safe place, perhaps the safest place, for us to build up our own faith. It is a "space granted," a proving ground "carefully constructed" for us, where eternal consequences are mercifully delayed, and where our mistakes and failures are softened by the mercy of Christ's atonement. We are safe to fail and repent and fail again, because we live under the shield of Christ's ultimate faith in our Father, and His ultimate love for us! What a happy thought!
Other posts in this series: