"Choose you this day whom ye will serve ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." This scripture from the prophet Joshua in the Old Testament is a part of my history. It was repeated in my childhood, hung on my fridge and was a part of a sign that later hung on the wall. What does it mean?
When you are a normal 14-year-old girl, you are just beginning to crave freedom. Young men are beginning to be interested in you and they are fascinating. Suddenly, the world becomes a minefield of dangerous choices, each one could change your life forever.
I remember 14, I was invited to ride home from work, late at night, with a few friends, including the cutest boy I had ever known. I had a crush on him and thought in my young heart that I was in love. We climbed into the car and began the 20 minute drive home in the dark. My friend suggested that we stop on the way home and park. I was so young, I didn't really understand all the implications, but knew my father wouldn't approve. I tried to talk them out of stopping. We hadn't been there long before I was invited to break some more serious rules. Tearfully, even though I knew I would never see him again and thought my heart might break, I insisted loudly and firmly I be taken home.
Why did I, at 14, choose to go home? I chose to go home because deeply engrained in my heart were the teachings of my parents. Those teachings included deep religious beliefs that at the time felt like chains and limitations.
Bonnie L. Oscarson, a teacher of religion said, "Young friends, we live in perilous times, and the decisions which you are called upon to make daily, or even hourly, have eternal consequences. The decisions you make in your daily life will determine what happens to you later. If you do not yet have a firmly rooted testimony ... now is the time to do what it takes to gain that conviction. To delay making the effort required to earn that kind of conviction can be dangerous to your soul ...
... True conversion (to the gospel of Christ) is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create "a mighty change in us, or in our hearts."3
How can we create a safe harbor for our family? Can we teach our children about consequences? Here are some thoughts to help.
Keep it together
At least once a week take a day or an evening and spend it together as a family. Disconnect from the world, the Internet, your phone and connect with your family. Play games, learn new things, have a yummy treat. Whatever you decide to do, do it together.
Give them a minute
Once a month, spend time with each child individually. Ask them every question you have, listen intently to their answers. Let them open up and even lodge a complaint they may have. Make it a positive experience you both look forward to.
We all make mistakes, allow your children to witness yours, let them watch you own the consequences. Show them true repentance. This will help them feel safe enough to come to you when they make a mistake so you can guide them through the consequences. Avoid saving them from themselves, teach them and let them have their agency.
Defend the fort
Your home is your haven, defend it with everything you have. Don't allow media, magazines, substances or even people into your home that detract from God's spirit. Create an environment that is so strong strangers comment on the peace in your home.
Encourage the masses
. Encourage your children to bring their friends to your home. Give them space to be themselves, but keep a watchful eye on them. Keep your rules firm, but allow them freedom to have fun. If they are in your home, you won't wonder what they do or talk about.
Continue to show your children the blessings that come from obedience, no matter how small the choice. Defend your family with your good choices.
Oscarson also said, "We become converted by doing his will and gaining a testimony after action ... living a principle helps us become converted to that principle."
Oscarson related her own experience as a teen in the 1960s. She was surrounded by drug use and immorality. She was taught not to use drugs and to treat her body with respect. She made the decision to avoid situations where alcohol or other harmful substances were. She rarely dated. Many of her peers later suffered permanent damage and serious addictions. She gained a testimony of the wisdom of caring for her body and not using harmful substances, by doing just that.
Teaching our children how day-to-day decisions, no matter how small, can affect their spiritual well-being will bring them great happiness. When they continue to make good decisions they build a relationship with God, and become sensitive to his guidance. When they make poor choices on a regular basis, their small decisions lead them to larger and larger consequences.