As I happily went about my work one day, my precocious, energetic 6-year-old son bounded into the room and declared cavalierly, “I am going to choose the wrong.” Alarms sounded in my head! What could have prompted such an unexpected decision?
“Why would you want to choose the wrong?” I asked.
“Because,” he replied impishly, “then I can do practically anything I want.”
And so, the battle begins . . .
Raising righteous “latter-day warriors” is the great quest of parenthood. The moment our little warriors enter mortality, we must consciously and consistently prepare them for battle with Satan—their most brutal enemy.
As Elder M. Russell Ballard reminded us, “[T]here is a desperate need . . . to help our youth learn to understand, love, value, and live the standards of the gospel. Parents and youth must stand together in defense against a clever and devious adversary. We must be just as dedicated, effective, and determined in our efforts to live the gospel as he is in his efforts to destroy it—and us” (M. Russell Ballard, “Guiding Children as They Make Decisions,” Marriage and Family Relations, Participant’s Study Guide, (Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2000), 64).
Three Strategies for Raising Stripling Warriors
Day by day, through small and simple means, we can fortify faith and our family fortress. The home is a crucial training ground for helping children learn lifelong behaviors that will provide increased protection during personal times of trial and temptation.
The Book of Mormon describes such homes and the parents who raised valiant young soldiers despite difficult circumstances. Although they lived in a different time and place, their story contains significant parallels and critical combat strategies for latter-day warriors.
First, their homes were family boot camps.
The mothers of these young warriors were their teachers—not their Primary, Sunday School, or youth leaders, nor their bishops, the Missionary Training Center, their mission presidents, or their military leaders. Apparently, these righteous Book of Mormon women had a battle plan of their own. As commanders-in-chief of their own mini-militias, their homes became specialized boot camps where their children were taught and trained in religious tactical maneuvers.
Similarly, latter-day parent-generals must build formidable family fortresses that will ensure a strong defense against Satan and his allies. President James E. Faust encouraged us to build spiritual sanctuaries set apart from “moral dry rot” that afflicts society (see “The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting,” Marriage and Family Relations, Participant’s Study Guide, 49). We must not allow evil influences to contaminate our own spiritual space.
Therefore, we must be vigilant in our use of the internet, television, cell phones, books, magazines, music, and movies. Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency admonished, “If what we look at, read, listen to, or choose to do does not meet the Lord’s standards . . . turn it off, rip it up, throw it out, and slam the door”( Linda S. Reeves, “Worthy of our Promised Blessings, Ensign, November 2015, 10) Protecting the home front is fundamental to keeping children free from Satan’s corrosive clutches and winning the war with wickedness.
A key aspect of any military boot camp is daily drills that teach discipline, build character, increase strength and stamina, and tone muscles. Similarly, daily and weekly religious drills such as family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study are basic training for the troops under our tutelage. Turning latter-day soldiers into saints requires rigorous religious training for our young recruits if we hope to increase spiritual strength and build testimonies.
Second, the stripling warriors were protected with the armor of God.
Day after day after day, through righteous habits, their mothers helped their children fashion their own gospel armor, and when the call-to-arms came, they were prepared. Two thousand young men marched into battle protected with the whole armor of God. Had their mothers waited until their sons were deployed to begin teaching them, it could have proven fatal.
Our young warriors also need personal armor for those times when they find themselves outside our parental protection and our family fortress. Like the mothers of the Book of Mormon warriors, we can help them fashion inner armor that will provide increased courage and confidence for their daily encounters with evil.
Building testimonies based on faith, prayer, and scriptures does not happen accidentally. It takes time and effort. It takes sacrifice and dedication. Strong spiritual shields are formed over a lifetime of continuous, wholesome choices and consistent obedience.
This personal protection helps our children “quench all the fiery darts of the adversary” (Ephesians 6:16) and is their best chance at survival in a world besieged by spiritual assassins. Surely Satan trembles when he sees a father and mother faithfully fashioning armor for their children.
Third, their parents were remarkable role models.
When these faithful Lamanite parents were converted to the gospel, they buried their weapons of war in honor of their covenant to keep the faith. Their righteous teachings, powerful examples and personal testimonies left lasting impressions on their young sons.
Latter-day parent-generals must also lead the charge against sin and Satan. Generals in God’s army know that passively sitting on the sidelines will not save their children. God needs leaders who stand boldly at the head of their own mini militia in defense of truth and righteousness. He needs leaders who understand the plan and who will not back down, back off, or back away.
Children are very perceptive. They notice any discrepancies between our dedication to our favorite television show or internet activity and our dedication to family home evening, family prayer, family scripture study, temple attendance, Sabbath Day observance, or home and visiting teaching. Raising valiant latter-day warriors requires valiant latter-day leaders.
But, despite our best efforts, the battle doesn’t always go as planned. My family has certainly had its share of misfires, malfunctions, and failures. I know all too well the struggles of persevering when there’s mutiny in the ranks! As President James E. Faust put it, “Some . . . children could tax even Solomon’s wisdom and Job’s patience” (James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting,” Marriage and Family Relations, Participant’s Study Guide, 50). Even if you lose the battle today, keep pressing forward with faith. The ultimate goal is to eventually win the war.
Surrendering is not an option! We are facing off with an enemy who never sleeps, never slows, and never slips. He will stop at nothing to destroy our families. This is a war with few rules or restrictions, and Satan never willingly retreats. He is no amateur. He will do anything to disrupt, distract, destroy, or discourage our attempts to raise righteous latter-day warriors.
And so, the battle continues. It is an uphill battle, to be sure. But in this struggle for our children’s souls, we do not fight alone. As we valiantly endure, we have the assurance that Christ will be on our right hand and on our left and His angels round about to bear us up (see D&C 84:88). “Shall we not go on in so great a cause?” (D&C 128:22). On to victory!
For more ideas on raising spiritually strong youth, check out Raising Latter-day Stripling Warriors: 5 Strategies for Building a Formidable Family Fortress, available now at Deseret Book and deseretbook.com.