Yesterday was a pretty good day. It was one of those days where you get so much done (in my case, around the house), that by the time 7 pm rolls around, you crash and are virtually dead to the world for at least the next two hours.
But so much got done!
So, I was feeling pretty accomplished until I sat down to feed the baby and read this article: Chances are your teen is looking at porn. But it’s worse than that.
My three oldest boys watched roughly 4.5 hours of TV today.
And after days like today, I can’t help but notice the trend I’m programming into them.
With four boys at home, articles like that one terrify me. In fact, protecting my children from such an invasive and pernicious evil has been on my mind for at least the last year. The average age of exposure is 11, now — before our boys have even been ordained to the aaronic priesthood. I have a friend who was first exposed at seven – even before baptism. It has been an addiction that has afflicted them throughout their lives, and now even threatens their family, at times.
In Ephesians 6:13-17, Paul teaches us:
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God….
And why? He starts with that in verses 11-12:
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
In the Book of Mormon Helaman, through his sons Nephi and Lehi, teach in Helaman 5:12:
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
At about thirteen, I started this for myself. I started building my armor, piece by piece. I started pouring my foundation. At thirteen.
Fortunately, even though I did have some things to overcome, I hadn’t happened upon what a lot of youth are seeing, today. At thirteen I was old enough to start building on my own. But now, the exposure age is so much younger than that.
What this means for me is that I cannot wait for my sons to start building their own armor. I have to start building it for them, and have faith that they will choose to bear it, polish it, and repair it.
I need to make truth my standard, and have hope that someday, they make the choice to make it theirs.
I need to fashion their breastplates. I need to set a precedent of righteousness for my children, and hope that they will adopt that righteousness in their own lives.
I have to wrap their feet. I have to share the peace the gospel brings, especially when we prepare ourselves for it. And pray that my peace becomes theirs.
I have to prepare their shield. Faith needs to be the watch-cry in my home.
I need to fashion their helmets. To keep my eye trained on salvation and to train their eyes on the same goal.
I have to forge their sword. I have to make sure I set an atmosphere that invites an abundance of the Spirit. And I need to pray that the Spirit will touch their hearts, even and especially at their young ages, to establish an unconquerable testimony of Jesus Christ.
I need to pour their foundation on the Rock of Christ the Lord. And then pray, every day, that they choose to build on that foundation and improve it for the rest of their lives.
I also need to show them how to fill the cracks that may form and make any repairs necessary. They need to see me utilize the power of the Atonement, and I need to teach them to use it in their own lives.
In the April 2014 General Conference, Sister Reeves said, “Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.”
I want my children to have the strength “…to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” I want my sons to be able to stand firm against the “…might winds [of the devil], yea, his shafts in the whirlwind….” And I want them to have that strength years before they reach the age of accountability. Because now they need it years before then.
In our last General Conference, Elder Scott shared this with us:
Remember our Savior is the Prince of Peace. Peace in this mortal life comes from His atoning sacrifice. When we are consistently praying morning and night, studying our scriptures daily, having weekly family home evening, and attending the temple regularly, we are actively responding to His invitation to “come unto Him.” The more we develop these habits, the more anxious is Satan to harm us but the less is his ability to do so. Through the use of these tools, we exercise our agency to accept the full gifts of His atoning sacrifice.
The answer is so simple and so intricate at the same time. I have to make time to pray. I’m not alone in this, though. My husband and I have to pray as a family and teach our children to pray, and our children need to see us pray.
We need to study the scriptures, alone and as a family. We need to teach our children the lessons taught and the word of God, and we need them to see us feast – gratefully – on that word.
We need to have family home evening- to make it a priority.
We need to attend the temple. To let our children join us on the grounds, and feel the special spirit that is there. We need to attend together and renew the promises we have made to one another and to the Lord. And we need to live those promises and let our children see us joyfully living them.
But parents aren’t the only ones who need to build the armor of our youth. Friends, neighbors, even those who serve in church callings have a right and responsibility to add links to the chain mail we drape over our children’s shoulders.
We have to be the builders for our children. And we have to start building young.
And we can.