When we lived in southern California, we couldn’t afford satellite or cable TV, so when our church’s semi-annual General Conference rolled around, we took our three sons in tow to watch the conference sessions via satellite at a local chapel.
You can imagine how difficult it was to convince three boys under the age of 10 that eight hours of church over two days was going to be fun, but with a pizza buffet lunch promised between Saturday sessions, they were willing to endure to the end—of the Saturday morning session, at least. Coloring books, comic books, pens, scratch paper and my Palm Pilot (how’s that for a throwback?) helped keep them busy while my wife and I tried to listen to the talks.
One year, our then-four-year-old son Michael was sharpening his artistic skills by drawing a temple on a sheet of paper. I don’t recall which temple it was supposed to be, but he placed a disproportionately large Moroni statue atop his temple rendition.
SIDE NOTE: A gold Moroni statue is placed on top of most temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Moroni is an ancient prophet who, as a resurrected being, appeared to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s and gave him a set of gold plates that contained a scriptural account of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Smith proceeded to translate the plates by the power of God, producing what the world now knows as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Back to the story.
My little artist let his sense of humor out that day, adding a cartoon bubble above Moroni, reading, “Help!!!” In my son’s mind, Moroni had good reason to be calling for help: he was perched on top of a tall building, while balancing on a ball, blowing a horn! I wish I’d saved Michael’s work of art; it caused me a lot of thought that day—and has in the years since.
While I laughed with my son at his comical drawing, it dawned on me in that moment that there was a lesson to be learned from his artwork. “Help!!!” not only represented a beckoning for the viewer to reach out to help Moroni, but it was also an invitation from Him whom Moroni represented. Jesus Christ said:
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” — John 12:26
A Book of Mormon prophet shed further light on what it means to serve, and who it is that we’re actually serving when we help others:
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” — Mosiah 2:17
These scriptures complement each other and give a clearer view of the importance of reaching out to help each other. After all, helping is what the Savior did repeatedly throughout His mortal and post-mortal ministries, and are we not invited to follow Him and His example?
Life is full of these types of lessons with our children (and grandchildren, I presume), we just have to be on the lookout for them. If we’re fortunate enough, they’ll jump up and demand our attention, but more often than not, they’ll come during the quiet, easily overlooked moments of everyday life. The trick is to be alert and to grasp and appreciate as many tender teaching moments with our children as we can. Though we’re given the task of teaching them, they often return the favor without even realizing it.
I’ve probably missed more of these precious moments than I caught, but for the ones that I did catch, I’m grateful. Grateful that my wife and I have been entrusted to raise three sons and a daughter of God together.
I invite you to follow Moroni’s dual-meaning cry for help from my son’s drawing that Saturday morning way too many years ago. Find someone to help. Do a kindly deed. You won’t have to look very far for someone to serve and it doesn’t take much effort. A smile. A kind word. An appreciative email. Each—and many more—will do the trick.