In her final address as Primary General President, Sister Joy D. Jones spoke of “Essential Conversations,” emphasizing the value of families talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“When we have such conversations with our children, we help them create a foundation, ‘which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if [they] build they cannot fall’ (Helaman 5:12). When we strengthen a child, we strengthen the family,” she said.
Her remarks have not only inspired Latter-day Saint parents, but also inspired visitors of a Harvard symposium, “Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse.” Her remarks are featured on the symposium’s website.
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In the weeks since her general conference address, perhaps parents have tried to have these types of conversations with their families. In the footnotes of her remarks, President Jones shared quotes from Church leaders throughout the years that can further inspire those conversations. Here are the four quotes she shared.
1. Our Primary Care
President Jones explained that to Heavenly Father, “children have never been secondary—they have always been ‘primary.’ He trusts us to value, respect, and protect them as children of God.”
In a footnote near this section of her talk, she shares a quote from Sister Michaelene P. Grassli, the eighth Primary General President. President Grassli shared in her talk “Behold Your Little Ones” that when the Savior was in the Americas, He specifically directed the attention of the multitude to the children:
“To me, the word behold is significant. It implies more than just ‘look and see.’ When the Lord instructed the Nephites to behold their little ones, I believe he told them to give attention to their children, to contemplate them, to look beyond the present and see their eternal possibilities.”
As families see their children with their eternal possibilities, as children of God, that perspective can guide the “essential conversations” so desperately needed in today’s world.
2. Lead with Love
In her talk, President Jones shared that we have a responsibility to protect children. “That means we never harm them physically, verbally, or emotionally in any way, even when tensions and pressures run high. Instead we value children, and we do all we can to combat the evils of abuse. Their care is primary to us—as it is to Him.”
She expanded on this point in her footnote using a quote from President Russell M. Nelson’s talk “Listen to Learn:”
“To rule children by force is the technique of Satan, not of the Savior. No, we don’t own our children. Our parental privilege is to love them, to lead them, and to let them go.”
Not only is it a responsibility, but it is also a privilege. I love that President Nelson highlights the way to parent is by striving to be like the Savior.
3. “Sufficiently Strengthened to Stand”
A quote from Elder Marion G. Romney in the footnotes of her remarks highlights the importance of essential conversations:
Satan, our enemy, is making an all-out assault upon righteousness. His well-marshaled forces are legion. Our children and youth are the targets of his main thrust. They are everywhere subjected to wicked and vicious propaganda. Every place they turn, they are buffeted with evil, cunningly devised to deceive and to destroy every sacred thing and every righteous principle. . . . If our children are to be sufficiently strengthened to stand against this satanic onslaught, they must be taught and trained in the home, as the Lord has directed.
In her remarks, President Jones shared that one way families can strengthen children is to role-play situations, like what they can do if asked to compromise their standards. Through the role-plays, they will be prepared for when temptations and trials arise. “As they act it out and then talk it out, rather than being caught unprepared in a hostile peer group setting, children can be armed with ‘the shield of faith wherewith [they] shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Doctrine and Covenants 27:17).”
4. Protecting the Eternal Spirits
President Jones asked some questions in her remarks on what we can do to prepare our children for the spiritual battles they will encounter. She asked, “Long before they enter the battlefield of life, how can we more fully strive to teach, fortify, and prepare them?”
In a footnote that accompanies this question, she shared this quote from President Nelson’s talk “Children of Covenant.”
Years ago as a young medical student I saw many patients afflicted with diseases that are now preventable. Today it is possible to immunize individuals against conditions that once were disabling—even deadly. One medical method by which acquired immunity is conferred is inoculation. The term inoculate is fascinating. It comes from two Latin roots: in, meaning “within”; and oculus, meaning “an eye.” The verb to inoculate, therefore, literally means “to put an eye within”—to monitor against harm.
An affliction like polio can cripple or destroy the body. An affliction like sin can cripple or destroy the spirit. The ravages of polio can now be prevented by immunization, but the ravages of sin require other means of prevention. Doctors cannot immunize against iniquity. Spiritual protection comes only from the Lord—and in his own way. Jesus chooses not to inoculate, but to indoctrinate. His method employs no vaccine; it utilizes the teaching of divine doctrine—a governing “eye within”—to protect the eternal spirits of his children.
These “Essential Conversations” can lead children to the doctrine that will protect their eternal spirits. Throughout her remarks, President Jones shared helpful advice for how to have these conversations with children. Her full address is available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
It is my hope that we will all be more willing to engage in these valuable conversations that lead to eternal life.