More than 2,400 participants — primarily from Idaho, Utah and Canada — gathered on the BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg, Idaho, to enjoy three days of instruction from more than 40 presenters during the annual BYU-Idaho Education Week.
This year's conference theme, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee," which shares the name of the well-known hymn, was the guide for all of the sessions at BYU-Idaho's Education Week.
"It was such a great program," said Regina Hull, who has run the event for the past nine years. "There are a lot of people who came because they like the idea of a small campus, more one-on-one experience and the Spirit is here."
During the keynote address, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy said that today's pioneering parents must help their children navigate the uneven terrain and challenges of temptation, ridicule and ease.
"No home is perfect, but some homes do a better job of passing down correct traditions, or correct gospel habits and patterns of belief, to their children," he said. "Similarly, no children are perfect. Some come more inclined toward obedience than others."
Parents must lovingly, prayerfully and earnestly try to teach their children by example and precept, Elder Clayton said. Successful parents are those who have sacrificed and struggled to do the best they can in their own family circumstances.
Elder Clayton shared six steps that individuals can take to help them and their children send down roots deep into the soils of faith.
1. Strengthen testimonies
"We can begin by ensuring that we have a personal, burning, deeply-seated, lifelong testimony of the restored gospel," Elder Clayton said. "This testimony is available to all who will pay the price to receive it. The Book of Mormon is central to receiving a testimony that can withstand any temptation and weather any challenge."
Just as the introduction to the Book of Mormon promises readers, Elder Clayton said that those who gain the divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.
"This path to testimony applies to all, including and perhaps especially those who have been raised surrounded by the restored gospel but who have never personally made a real, searching, genuine effort to find out if the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true," he said. "... To ask in faith is to act with real intent, affirming sincerely to God that one is not asking out of curiosity but with firm commitment to conform one's life to the answer that comes from heaven. ...
"The answer will come," he said. "It may come immediately and powerfully, or it may come gradually, almost without notice, but the promise will always be fulfilled. Always means always."
2. Keep the commandments
"Consistent with the principles for reading, pondering about and praying to learn that the Book of Mormon is true, is the requirement that one keeps the commandments of God," he said. "The Savior taught this principle concerning gaining a testimony."
It is through obedience to the principles of the gospel that individuals are able to gain, maintain and strengthen their testimonies, he said. "If we do God's will, we shall then learn whether the doctrine comes from God or man," he said. "This is not a call for fanatical, blind obedience, but an invitation to heartfelt, sincere obedience that is given because of what one sees, feels and learns when he or she keeps the commandments."
3. Serve in the Church
"The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that those who would serve in the Church would be blessed with a testimony of his divine appointment as a prophet," he said. "... A call to serve is an opportunity to deepen spiritual roots and strengthen faith."
4. Keep priorities in order
To deepen one's roots one must order priorities, Elder Clayton taught. "It is connected to the principle of integrity, of living consistently the covenants one has made with God and with spouse."
Drawing from the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley to priesthood leaders in 2003, Elder Clayton said that each person has a fourfold responsibility. First to family, second to employers, third to the Lord's work and fourth to oneself.
"At times each of these priorities will take precedence on a given day and hour, but overall they should fit within this order," Elder Clayton said. "As couples and families we determine how much time we will spend in each of these endeavors and then stick with it, putting things in order and keeping them there. Abiding by correct priorities will help deepen our roots."
5. Strengthen marriages
"Integrity teaches that one must live up to one's promises in all circumstances," Elder Clayton said. "When other interests edge their way ahead of home and hearth, a spouse may rightly feel disappointed and misled and children may correctly perceive that keeping covenants must not be important to us."
It is by following the commandment — husbands and wives must cleave to each other — that couples will strengthen their marriages and deepen gospel roots.
"Married couples cleave to God and one another by serving and loving each other and by keeping covenants in complete fidelity to one another and to God. A couple is to become one in establishing their family as the basis of a righteous life. Latter-day Saint husbands and wives leave behind their single life and establish their marriage as the first priority in their lives. They allow no other person or interest to have greater priority in their lives than keeping the covenants they have made with God and each other."
6. Strengthen children
"I believe that there is much we can do in our homes to help build faith in the rising generation," he said. "Surely, some of those who have wandered at any point in human history might have been more faithful had their homes in which they were raised been better. In homes where the gospel flourishes, children more easily prosper. ... Habits of faith are established, like scripture reading, family home evening and family prayer. Children learn from the example of their parents what it means to love, honor and cherish each other. They are more likely to read the Book of Mormon, pray of their own volition, and receive their own testimonies if they have seen that pattern in their homes. They see what a great home looks like, know what it feels like and have a pattern for starting their own. ...
"Thus safe at home, children are better able to send down tap roots deep into spiritual soil and build testimonies that burn brightly forever and conversion that cannot be extinguished. In homes like this, the rising generation is safe."
Despite living and teaching the gospel in the home, sometimes children wander, Elder Clayton said.
"The Lord will feel after them and bring them back into the fold," he said. "The righteousness of their parents will help to secure that end for them. The day of their return may not be soon, but in the Lord's own way and time, upon conditions of repentance, deliverance will surely come. ...
"My prayer is that we may follow Him most closely and more carefully at home," he said. "This is a prayer for our children and for theirs, the rising generation, that in time each one of them may also pray, 'Lord, I would follow thee.' "