Are they getting it?

I have wondered if my children were understanding what I was teaching them. This week while studying the colonial time period and ready Johnny Terrmain. I would stop and ask my children if they understood what I was teaching them. I specifically was observing the learning of my six year old. He often could not tell me anything about what we had read and I’d have to retell it or have one of the older children tell him what we read. ​

This bothered me so I talked to him about it. I’d tell him, “I’m going to read this small section and have you tell me what we read.” I would read and stop to ask him. He would almost verbatim tell me what we read. The first few times this satisfied me. He told me the same words I read. Then it occurred to me he was only memorizing the words and not really understanding them. “Now what?” I remembered asking myself.
One day while reading Johnny Terrmain I stopped and asked everyone what “desertion” meant. They didn’t really know, so I defined it. Then their older college age brother came in and defined it even better and we talked about examples. When I felt everyone understood I went back to reading. The story about Pumpkin, Johnny’s friend getting caught and tried for desertion continued. Tirzaan, my 6 year old got up from the floor and sat next to me and asked, “What does desertion mean?” 
I was shocked. Wait, how in the world could he not have gotten anything from the discussion we just had? I explained it to him again trying not to sound frustrated and a little disgusted.
I pondered on this incident for some time. I have concluded – children must have a question and seek the answer before true understanding can happen.  This is a life changing principle for me. I’m so glad I discovered it and will now be a better teacher for my children. 

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How to Prepare to Teach Principles

After learning what principles are, why they are important and how to identify and apply them. Let’s look at how you prepare to teach these to your children.
​Understand that many teaching experiences will not have much preparation time, however, if you do have or take the time to prepare here are three questions to ask yourself to help you know what to teach:
  1. What did I learn? Choose a portion of a book, a picture or painting, art and ask yourself, “Why did the author (painter/creator) write (create) that particular thing? Why was it important to him/her? What did the spirit teach you? Why was it important?”
  2. What are the converting principles? Be on high alert for portions that contain converting principles, those that lead our children to Christ or to understand the Atonement. Our goal is to encourage them to find the principle and apply it in their own lives. “A converting principle is one that leads to obedience to the will of God.” (handbook 2 page 54 by President Eyring) If the principle will help you or your child experience conversion, that’s the one to consider. Highlight or write out the principles you discovered and those you want to them to discover.
  3. What do I need to teach my children? With the spirit’s help discern what your children need to learn. There may be things that are more relevant than others. Remember Heavenly Father know your children individually and he will guide you to what they need to learn and what the Lord wants you to teach. Write out your impressions of what principle to teach, perhaps a different principle per child.

While teaching your prepared lesson remember that the spirit is the teacher. You want them to discover the principles on their own. You don’t need to tell or point the principle out for them. Allow the spirit to direct them and lead them to discover it. This may be different principles than the ones you pointed out, allow it, go with their flow of thought. Once a child discovers the principle he will naturally relate it to something he already knows. Often, when it is a new idea, it becomes a transformational and gives him greater confidence in his abilities and in the Lord.
Happy Teaching,

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The Hierarchy of Principles

Principles are not all on the same level. There are basic and higher principles. Principles are fundamental truths created for action. They point us in the direction of “what to do” in all types of situations.

Principles are found either directly, implied or experienced or understood. “Wickedness never was happiness” is a direct principle. It took Newton many experiments to discover the implied principles of  “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Some principles are natural consequences like, “if I put my hand on a hot stove I will get burned.” All principles whether direct, implied or understood can be categorized as a basic principle or a higher principle.
Basic principle are truths found in every subject on earth and in the universe. They are all encompassing. Every relationship is built on basic principles like, “when I feel loved I have a greater capacity to love.” Basic principles may include higher principles. The difference is higher principles are often indisputable like, “you can’t be in two places at the same time.” Principles are often “monumental discoveries” as when the governmental principles were identified by the mentors of the founding fathers.
Higher principles have been called by many different names throughout time. Algernon Sidney called them “first principle” in his book, Discourses Concerning Government. He said, ““All human constitutions are subject to corruption, and must perish, unless they are timely renewed, and reduced to their first principles.” Cisero said these first principles or “natural law should be the same throughout time and across the world because it is based on human nature, not on culture or customs.” The founding fathers called them inalienable rights. And the Bible calls them doctrine.

Principles could be compared to oil in your lamps. The oil can be anything that brings light and understanding. 

​The wise virgins were prepared with wisdom and understanding and were able to withstand a longer wait.  The foolish ones were not able to handle hard situations because they did not have enough wisdom. ​​​Knowing principles, both higher and basic provides us with the understanding to handle all types of tough situations.

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THE Most Important Thing to Teach

Have you ever had something like this happen?
You’re in the bedroom and you hear a very loud screeching sound. You run to the kitchen to find the refrigerator open, milk jug on the floor with spilled milk all around and leading to the porch where you see your son hold his new kitten upside down. One hand holding its neck and the other one of his back paws. He dips the cat into the bowl of milk. The kitten scratches the boy and he drops it into the milk and the cat scrambles away leaving the boy crying.
What was missing? all the elements of success were there: a hungry kitten, the milk, the love for the kitten, etc. PRINCIPLES were missing!
Principles teach us why things work, they teach us the relationship between two things and provide an understanding of how things happen and why they happen the way they do. 8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:

  1. Discovered NOT Invented

8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:

  1. Discovered NOT Invented

Three Elements of Learning
  – represents the knowledge of things. A group of things which have something in common. Arbitrary groupings which are invented by people. “The concept of money.”
Procedure – Represents the knowledge of changes. A set of steps you use to perform a skill. Procedures are invented by people. A recipe is an example of a procedure.
Principle – Represents the knowledge of changes. They teach us how to understand and provide guidance as to how to perform each step or guidance as to when to use which procedure.

​   8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:
Discovered NOT Invented
Three Elements of Learning
  – represents the knowledge of things. A group of things which have something in common. Arbitrary groupings which are invented by people. “The concept of money.”
Procedure – Represents the knowledge of changes. A set of steps you use to perform a skill. Procedures are invented by people. A recipe is an example of a procedure.
Principle – Represents the knowledge of changes. They teach us how to understand and provide guidance as to how to perform each step or guidance as to when to use which procedure.

8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:

  1. Discovered NOT Invented
  2. an understanding of how things happen 
  3. an understanding of why they happen the way they do

Example: Making No Bake Cookies

No Bake Cookies
Concept: making cookies, grouping ingredients.
​​Procedure: boil milk, sugar and butter to certain temperature then add oatmeal, cocoa, vanilla. Spoon on wax paper.

1. If you heat it up too high the cookies are crumbly
2. If you heat it up too low the cookies will be too sticky. 8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:

  1. Discovered NOT Invented
  2. an understanding of how things happen 
  3. an understanding of why they happen the way they do
  4. guidance as to how to perform each step​
  5. guidance as to when to use which procedure

Example: The kitten story
The story had all the right elements (concepts) for success and the procedure was followed. Yet, the desired result did not happen. Why? The principles were not yet discovered by the boy.

He didn’t know:

  • how to perform each step
  • forcing a kitten to drink milk will cause resistances from the kitten
  • holding a kitten upside down causes anxiety and usually ends in violence

8 Reasons WHY Principles are THE Most Important Things to Teach:

  1. Discovered NOT Invented
  2. an understanding of how things happen 
  3. an understanding of why they happen the way they do
  4. guidance as to how to perform each step​
  5. guidance as to when to use which procedure
  6. only kind of content which represents “truth”​ in any significant way 
  7. held accountable for the application of principles
  8. leads to conversion

Example: STORY of David and Goliath
concepts: war going on, two nations were fighting procedure: a hero from each side will fight to the death principle: “with God, all things are possible”, “through small things great things come about”


  • Principles are the most important kind of content for us to teach. 
  • It is essential that we know how to teach them well.  
    • How to identify (discover) principles
    • How to apply the principles to new situations and in personal life.

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Tangible Ways to teach about the Holy Ghost

While interviewing parents about how they teach their children to follow the spirit I have learned two things:

  1. 1. there are so many more ways to teach this important, essential life changing skill than I ever dreamt
  2. We need to share these ideas and experiences more with each other

Here are a few of the ideas I have collected. The first ones are easy things you can do with younger ages and the next ones you can do with youth and adults. 
​The wind is like the spirit. Read John 3:8 and Act 2:2
Turn on a fan. Ask the children if  they can see the wind. Then put a child with long hair in front of it and ask if they can see the effects of the wind. Discuss how this is like the spirit.

The spirit speaks in a quiet voice. Read 1 Kings 19:11-12
Have the children make a lot of noise in the room for one minute as you whisper a kind remark. After they stop ask them if they heard what you said. Now ask them to “be still” and repeat the remark. Could they hear it. The spirit does not compete with the noise of the world. Discuss the characteristics of the spirit.

By the spirit you may know the truth of all things. Read Moroni 10:5
Play a cube game: Assign an action to each of the six numbers on a dice. For example: 1 – smile, 2 – read something inspiring, 3 – serve, 4 – attend temple, 5 – get up early, 6 – share an experience. Roll the dice and have the person say when the spirit has asked them (or someone they know) to do the thing that lands on top. OR have the person tell an experience of when they followed the spirit they felt like doing the thing that lands on top.

The spirit guides us and brings all things to our remembrance. Read 2 Nephi 32:5.
Have each person in the group share an experience a memory of when they have felt the spirit and followed or not followed his instructions. 

What are you going to do when….
Divide your paper into two columns. Write “Important decisions” at the top of one column and “Invite the Holy Ghost” at the top of the other. Have the children fill in the first column by listing important decisions they will make throughout life. Then have them fill in the second column with what they will do to invite the Holy Ghost into their life so they can receive help in making these decisions.

When in doubt about an answer take the litmus test by asking, “Does my answer…”
* Invite to do good?
* Increase my love for God, myself and/or my family?
* Inspire new growth or positive learning experiences?
* feel good/happy(fill in any gifts of the heart) AND logical/orderly (fill in any gifts of the mind)? (D&C 8:2; Philippians 4:7)
If you answer yes to all the above then you know your answer is from God and you can proceed with more confidence.

Divide your paper into two columns on the first column write, “How did I feel at my most spiritual experiences?” and on the second column write, “If I could feel that way and more so all the time, how would I be different?” Fill in the columns. 
Examples could include: joyful, happy, like singing on the first column and on the second could be: more forgiving, more gratitude, complete, “I can accomplish all things”, etc. 
I know there are so many more ways to teach and to learn how to follow the spirit more. I’m reminded of the story of Parley P. Pratt who left his farm and home because he felt the spirit tell him to leave in search of more truth. He did so and was lead to a man who loaned him the Book of Mormon and it forever changed who he was and what he did with his life. I want to be more like Parley and have the faith and the courage to follow the spirit even when it is hard. If you have other ways and experiences I’d love to hear them, please share them below. May God give us all the strength to do the all things the spirit asks of us. 

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Love Without Understanding is Dead

6 steps to have your children feel understood so they will listen to your advis
Have you ever felt excited to share something with a friend just to have her “one up” you with what she felt was better or worse?
This very thing happened to me last night when a friend of mine came over and I shared a miracle that had happened for me recently. She brushed it off like it was nothing to tell me something she was working on.
I did not feel like she understood me or that she really cared. I pondered, “What was missing from that conversation?” 
Stephen R. Covey said, “Seek to Understand before you seek to be Understood.” I didn’t feel understood by my friend. I wondered if I treated others like that too. Did I allow my children to feel understood?
My study began – what was understanding?
The scriptures often associated with the heart. Here are some examples:

Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people? (Mosiah 12:27) Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? (Job 38:36)

He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:40)

And heart is associated with love. My conclusion: They feel love when they feel understood. When they feel understood they trust you. When they trust you they will share more with us and possibly listen to our advise.
How can we help them feel understood?

First we have to get them to talk, this can be done in an interview style.

  1. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” where they can answer in a one word answer, say, “Tell me about…” something specific, so they have to answer in more words.
  2. Pay attention to “sign posts” – Topic words that will lead you to another question related to what they are saying. 
  • Keep them talking. 
  • You are also looking for clues from their subconscious mind (tone, body language and words) to guide the conversation. 
  • Be present – no distractions.
  1. Remember to add brief inserts while they are talking. Words like, “Oh,” “wow,” “I see…” 
  • These show you are paying attention
  • Encourages them to keep talking and
  • Allows you to listen for more signposts

       4.  Remember “the pause” – say nothing when they stop talking, just look interested. This causes a slight discomfort and they will start talking again.

  • This is your greatest ally – they answer the questions that you didn’t know to ask; they tell you things beyond what you are asking about.
  • The child will feel uncomfortable and start talking again and reveals more about their thoughts and feelings.
  • This is where the trust begins, they begin to feel understood when you listen.

      5.   Recognize the Clues

  •  The goal is to help them feel understood  
  • This is a good place for questions that bring in their feelings and lead them to find their own answers, feel the spirit, and/or know the next step.
  • Acknowledge their best quality. (the connector)
  • This is a review, where you show them you are “getting it.”  
  • “I can see that you (fill in with their effective qualities)”

When we understand our children they trust us more and we both feel loved. 
I learned from my friend who didn’t listen that I CAN be a better listener and help make my children and others feel understood so trust can flourish in that relationships. We can learn listening skills from how God listens to and loves us. 
When your children feel understood they trust you 
and when they trust you, they open up more and often listen to counsel. 

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Teach so they Become Effective Teachers

As a missionary I memorized the Standard of Truth written by Joseph Smith. I always thought that it was meant only for missionaries. But recently I have concluded that it is for mothers too.

The Lord has asked us as covenant keeper to proclaim the Lord’s teachings unto the entire world and to prepare to accomplish what the Prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed – to see that “the truth of God [goes] forth boldly, nobly … till it has penetrated every continent … swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of god shall be accomplished. …” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 540.)
In order to proclaim and to prepare the world we must teach our children not only to be righteous covenant keepers, but to become effective teachers too. As mothers we are their teachers, but how are we teaching them to become teachers?
Here is how to teach them how to teach: 
The church has two new manuals/programs to help us: Gospel Teaching and Learning and Teaching Christ’s Way. They are both fantastic in helping us become better teachers and teaching how to teach.
Here is a few things the Savior said about teaching:

It is our duty as mothers to prepare our children “to develop a strong foundation and belief in the true gospel of Jesus Christ” and to improve our teaching techniques to bring about worthwhile changes in their lives. It is our responsibility to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77) and teach it effectively so that we, ourselves, our children and their children will be able to perceive and comprehend the teachings of our Master. And we help them by teaching them to teach effectively.
The next few Table Talk Discussions will be focusing on a learning pattern to help you and your children how to teach effectively so that we, as mothers, are preparing to accomplish and witness the “truth of God [going] forth boldly, nobly, till it has penetrated every continent … swept every country and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of god shall be accomplished. …”

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Twelfth Witness – Herod

Then Herod was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem.  ~  Matthew 2:16

The final witness is Herod the Great. He is unlike the other righteous witnesses. He massacred priests, cause his brother to be drowned, strangulated his favoite wife, everyone who he became suspicious to him was murdered including three sons. 

When the wise men from the east came to him and bore testimony of Jesus, the rightful king of Israel Herod listened. He would not have given credence to any of the other witnesses. They had credentials that estabished them as men of great wisdom.

Herod responded to the testimony of the wise men with murderous wrath. He “was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem.”  (Matt. 2:16.) The glad tidings of heaven brought no joy to Satan, the prince of darkness nor any of his servants. It is fitting that the evidence of his anger completes the nativity story. 

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Eleventh Witness – The Wisemen

The Sought “the Messiah of the Jews,”  (JST, Matt. 3:2.)

“There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” (Matt. 2:1.) We know that the wise men were ignorant of the political situation at the time, for they sought Christ’s whereabouts from Herod: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Matt. 2:2.) 

Wise men, guided by a new star, came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus sometime after His birth. They were not ordinary men. Magi were “privileged to search out the Son of God and give Him gifts, and were spiritually sensitive and knowledgeable, suggests that they were actually prophets on a divine errand.” (Bible Dictionary) They were holy men from a land east of Palestine.  ​
“Who will care about the King of Jews?,” “The Jews!”  Most of the Jews lived in Babylon and were there until 1000 AD when the Muslims took over Babylon.  So the wise men most likely came from Babylon.  
We also know from the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible that the wise men came seeking “the Messiah of the Jews,” thus following the pattern of witnesses that brought seekers of the Son of God to testify of him. (JST, Matt. 3:2.)
Magi or wise men bearing gifts came of the east – symbolic of Jesus returning from the east bearing eternal gifts!  

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Tenth Witness – Anna

Anna bore testimony of the Messiah to those in Jerusalem who “looked for redemption.” ~ Luke 2:38

Another special witness of the birth of Christ in the temple was Anna—the aged widow whose name means “full of grace.” She was a devout and saintly woman who worshipped for many years in the temple, she was undoubtedly well known among the faithful.

She approached the holy family and immediately recognized divinity. She then bore testimony of the Messiah to those in Jerusalem who “looked for redemption.” (Luke 2:38.)

What a wonderful example of faith and witnessing. She recognized divinity. When is the last time you saw divinity in someone? or one of God’s creations? I recently watched a video of a mother and her daughter-in-law whose relationship was not ideal. They were put together in an unique situation and ended up healing and strengthening that relationship. As I watched the healing process and the love oose out of both of them for each other I felt divinity. I believe whenever there is healing and stregnthing of relationships there God is also.

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