Ep. 11 – Growing Up Unto the Lord: Connecting Kids with Heaven
In this episode, learn how you can help kids find their own spiritual answers by connecting them with heaven.
- Growing Up Unto the Lord is a religious book by Craig Cardon (Emeritus General Authority Seventy) that was published in 2021
- What it Means to Grow Up Unto the Lord
- Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, “began to grow up unto the Lord” even during a time of great wickedness and corruption—and we can do the same.
- Teenagers: “By Divine Design, They Begin to Question”
- “As a divinely appointed part of their earthly experience, [teenagers] question. They want to know for themselves rather than merely accepting what others know. …. [Adolesence] is not a time to be lamented. It is an important, essential time that is to be knowingly and faithfully embraced.”
- Connecting Kids with Heaven
- Our role as parents and leaders is to connect kids with heaven so they can gain a testimony from the Holy Ghost.
- Mission Distractions: “He Will Let You Know”
- Elder Cardon asked his father for advice at the beginning of his mission, and instead of his father sharing his own advice, he taught Elder Cardon how to find the answers by seeking revelation from the Lord.
- Breaking Curfew: “Did You Hear Him?”
- When Elder Cardon’s children would come home late, he would ask them if they had heard the Spirit speak to them.
- “If the child responded saying, ‘No, I didn’t hear anything,’ we knew that as parents we had some important spiritual work to do…. However, if the response was something like, ‘Yes, I heard the voice,” as it most often was, we would say, ‘Good. Now help us understand why you responded the way you did.'”
- Dating Before 16: “Because a Prophet Said Not To”
- The Lord inspired Elder Cardon to hold discussions with his teenage son, and in one of their conversations, his son received a powerful spiritual witness about the prophet.
- The next time you’re talking with someone close to you and they ask your advice about something, redirect them heavenward and invite them to seek their own revelation about it. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your own thoughts and feelings, but try to make the focus much more on the Lord than on any wisdom you might have to impart.
- Quotes from President Nelson
- “I promise you … that wherever you are in the world, wherever you are on the covenant path, even if at this moment you are not centered on the path, I promise you that if you will sincerely and persistently do the spiritual work needed to develop the crucial, spiritual skill of learning how to hear the whisperings from the Holy Ghost, you will have all the direction you will ever need in your life.”
- “Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.'”
There’s a well-known proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same is true when it comes to raising children in righteousness. In this episode, learn how you can help kids fish for their own spiritual answers, thus helping them to grow up unto the Lord.
I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!
Welcome back to Latter-day Saint Book Nook. This is episode number 11, and I read online that most podcasts don’t make it past 10 episodes. So this is a pretty cool milestone. And just so know, I’m planning on keeping it up as best I can, giving you uplifting episodes week after week.
So, the book I’m going to talk about today is a religious book called Growing Up Unto the Lord. It’s the second religious book I’m covering, and then I’ll get back to some more secular books, you could say.
So this book was published last year, in 2021, and it was written by Craig A. Cardon, who served as a General Authority Seventy from 2006 to 2018. It’s definitely written for an adult audience, because the language is kind of complex and more academic. But that being said, I did really enjoy it and would definitely recommend it, especially to those who work with youth.
What it Means to Grow Up Unto the Lord
Alright, so let’s delve into Growing Up Unto the Lord. This phrase in the title is used a few times in the scriptures, and one passage that Elder Cardon quotes is Helaman 3:21. That verse says that Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, “began to grow up unto the Lord.” And it’s interesting that they didn’t just grow up in righteousness—they did so during a time of extreme wickedness. I mean, this was the time when the Gadianton robbers were coming together, and when chief judges were being murdered left and right. And the reason why this is relevant is because the world today is also so full of sin and corruption, and yet we still need to “grow up unto Lord” in the midst of all this and teach our children to do the same.
So, that’s what basically this book is about. On one hand, there are principles for anyone who wants to hear the voice of the Lord better, and on the other hand, there’s a lot about how to teach the rising generation to hear and obey the voice of the Lord. I noticed that the book is geared more toward raising teenagers, but obviously teaching these things can start at any age.
Teenagers: “By Divine Design, They Begin to Question”
So, let’s actually start there—talking about teenagers. I for one do not have teenagers yet—I’ve got three little girls, and my oldest just turned 6 yesterday. And to be honest, I’m kind of scared for the teenage years. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am. Sometimes I’ll be fighting with one of my girls and think, “Oh my goodness, if we’re butting heads like this when you’re 5 years old, what are you going to be like in 10 years, you know?”
But anyway, there was this neat passage where the author talked about how adolescence is all part of God’s plan, and that the things that often create tension are a necessary part of development. For example, he says this:
Primary children, ages three to eleven, easily and eagerly embrace spiritual things. They believe what their parents and other loving and trusted adults teach them. Because of their innocence, they are easily entreated by the Spirit. They “feel” spiritual things and willingly acknowledge it. They don’t question. They accept.
See, that’s the stage I’m in right now. It’s nice. And then he goes on to say this:
As children move into adolescence, the teenage years, by divine design they begin to question. This means that along with many other physical and emotional changes, their disposition toward spiritual things changes. Rather than simply feeling and accepting, they question. There may be varying degrees of intensity, or scope, or breadth and depth of questioning. But as a divinely appointed part of their earthly experience, they question. They want to know for themselves rather than merely accepting what others know. This is a part of the continuing process by which they mature in their exercise of agency.
And you know what I just realized? Joseph Smith was 14 when he started seriously questioning which church was true. If he didn’t have that questioning nature as a teenager, the Restoration wouldn’t have happened—at least not through him. But anyway, let me finish this passage real quick:
Many parents and other adult leaders have lamented these times, regularly wondering what has become of their previously “easily entreated” child. But I repeat, this developmental change during adolescence is by divine design. Notwithstanding the many challenges that it necessitates, this is a time of not only physical and emotional maturing, but even more importantly, it is a time of spiritual maturing. It is not a time to be lamented. It is an important, essential time that is to be knowingly and faithfully embraced.
So, I guess that made me feel a little bit better. I mean, obviously it’s not going to be easy, but I think it makes a big difference knowing that this is all part of God’s plan. And even though some youth drift away from the Church during their teenage years, others learn for themselves of the truth of the gospel and choose to embrace it.
Connecting Kids with Heaven
So, now that we know that it’s part of God’s plan for kids to seek spiritual independence, the next question is how do we help them do it? What is our role as parents and leaders in helping youth to grow up unto the Lord? The answer, according to Elder Cardon, is to connect kids with heaven—so they can gain a testimony from the Holy Ghost. Elder Cardon put it this way:
How is the word of God received? It comes to all of us through God’s true prophets by what they speak, write, exemplify, and direct. But in every instance, it must come to each individual heart through the ministry of the Holy Ghost. In God’s plan, each son and each daughter must ultimately lay hold upon the word of God individually through this divine means. Families and groups may give loving support, but ultimately, an individual must “lay hold.”
Chapter 9 in the book is all about prayer and scripture study, which is of course foundational to gospel living. And I love when he said this:
In our personal and family reading and pondering of the scriptures, it is essential that the connection be made with the Spirit of the Lord.
In other words, the Spirit should be central to all of our gospel practices. And this was a great reminder to me because even though I’m pretty good at being consistent with family prayer and scripture study, I think I could be a lot better at inviting the Spirit and helping my kids recognize the Spirit.
And also, this is also a good reminder for our own personal scripture study and prayer. I remember hearing something about when someone asked a General Authority how long they read the scriptures for, and he replied, “I read until I feel the Spirit, and then I read some more.” Because that’s the whole point of scripture study—not just to learn truth but to feel that it’s true and to allow God to help you live that truth.
Anyway, back to the topic of teaching kids. Like I said, our role as parents and leaders is to connect kids with heaven, giving them plenty of opportunities to feel the Spirit and helping them recognize and follow the Spirit. And I like this idea because it’s totally within our power to do. Our success doesn’t depend on results—how our children turn out. Our success depends on processes—how we raise them. Because it really wouldn’t be fair to judge us based on how someone else uses their agency, but it is fair to judge us based on how we interact with others—how we parent and how we lead.
And that reminds me of another quote from the book in a chapter about wayward children. It’s from President Faust, who said this:
Who are good parents? They are those who have lovingly, prayerfully, and earnestly tried to teach their children by example and precept “to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” This is true even though some of their children are disobedient or worldly. Children come into this world with their own distinct spirits and personality traits. Some children “would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances….Perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother.” Successful parents are those who have sacrificed and struggled to do the best they can in their own family circumstances.
So, just remember that if you’re the parent of a kid that’s struggling spiritually. You will be judged for you—how you fulfill the will of the Lord. So when in doubt, focus on that. Whenever you’re worried about someone else, and wishing you could change their heart and their behavior, look at yourself instead and focus on your heart and your behavior, and your efforts to connect others with heaven. Because that’s really the only thing you can truly control.
So, that being said, there are several things we can do to help others come unto Christ. And after this quick break, I’ll share three stories with you from Elder Cardon about how his parents helped him connect with heaven and how he helped his children do the same.
Hey friends! Have you started thinking about Mother’s Day yet? Every Mother’s Day, I have a hard time finding a gift to give my mom, sisters, and friends. And so today I’m excited to tell you about the booklet, The Mother’s Mite: An Old Parable for Modern Women.
It’s a perfect, inexpensive, and meaningful gift you can give for Mother’s Day. It’s not just a little piece of candy that they eat and forget. It’s something they can read over and over again because they can relate to the woman in the story, Sarah, who feels so alone, overwhelmed, and like no one understands her trials. And I love the pivotal point in the story where Sarah dreams that she watches the widow give her last mite and then hears Jesus Christ speak words of love and understanding to her burdened soul.
Alright, welcome back! Now that we’ve talked about the importance of helping children “grow up unto the Lord,” I want to share a few stories from the book that illustrate this principle.
Mission Distractions: “He Will Let You Know”
The first story is about when Elder Cardon was serving a mission in Italy. He had dated a girl in high school, Debbie, who he described as a “faithful, beautiful, selfless daughter of God.” They agreed that she wouldn’t “wait for him” while he served his mission, and that he would devote his time to the Lord, but at the beginning of his mission, he was having a hard time keeping his mind on the Lord. He tried to stay focused, but, as he put it, “inwardly my heart and mind were often with Debbie.”
Well, with this weighing on his mind and heart, he wrote home and asked his father for counsel. And this is what he wrote about the letter he received in return:
Dad didn’t tell me what to do about Debbie. Instead, he taught me how to get the answer to this important life decision through the gift of the Holy Ghost. …
[He] taught me from the scriptures, making reference to the Doctrine and Covenants and to how the Lord taught Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to receive answers from Him … Dad made this faith-filled statement: “I do not know the answer to your problem. The Lord is going to give you the answer and no one else.” [Then he added,]”But here are a few things you might consider before making your decision.”
Experiences from his life followed, along with a few observations of things he had witnessed in the lives of others. In all of this counsel, he was connecting me with heaven again and again. He concluded:
I know from the bottom of my heart that when the time comes for you to make a choice, He will let you know ….
Make your mind up as to what you should do, then go again to the Lord to find out whether you are right or wrong. When you know in your heart that your decision is right, then have the courage and strength to carry out your decision.
I love you, Son, and thrill with your testimony.
I love that example because it perfectly illustrates this idea of connecting kids with heaven. If I were in that father’s place, I feel like my immediate reaction would have been to just respond with my own thoughts and feelings and advice. But he didn’t. Instead, he redirected his son heavenward and taught him how to receive revelation for himself. In other words, he didn’t give his son a fish, he taught him how to fish—and that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do as parents and leaders.
Breaking Curfew: “Did You Hear Him?”
So here’s another story, this time about Elder Cardon as a parent, along with his wife Debbie. (So yeah, spoiler alert—they got married after he faithfully served out his mission.) Here’s one example he included about what they would do when their kids would break curfew:
Rather than scolding them for disobeying us or disobeying family rules and imposing some type of punishment, we would engage them in a brief discussion, not lasting too long at a late hour. We would begin by saying something like the following:
“Mother and I knew that as you were staying out late tonight, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to you. We know that because when we were your age and did something similar, He spoke to us. Our question to you is this: Did you hear Him?”
The child’s answer to that question was extremely important and we listened intently. If the child responded saying, “No, Mom and Dad, I didn’t hear anything,” we knew that as parents we had some important spiritual work to do…. However, if the response was something like, “Yes, Mom and Dad, I heard the voice,” as it most often was, we would say, “Good. Now help us understand why you responded the way you did.”
So, just like Elder Cardon’s father redirected him heavenward to get answers, Elder Cardon directed his children heavenward to practice recognizing the Spirit. And I think that’s something that can start at a really early age—you know, even with my 6- and 4-year-olds. Instead of just punishing them for disobeying rules or fighting with each other, I can engage them in discussion about recognizing the still, small voice and being blessed by following it.
Dating Before 16: “Because a Prophet Said Not To”
Well, the last example I want to share is when Elder Cardon was experiencing some tension with his teenage son, Craig. He and his wife couldn’t really pinpoint the reason for the tension, but they could both feel it, and they went to the Lord and asked Him for help. And here’s what he wrote:
Eventually, an impression came to my mind that I shared with Debbie. The impression was to schedule a private time each day with Craig, twenty to thirty minutes, where he and I would talk together under certain rules. With the impression, the Lord also provided rules for the meeting.
He goes on to talk about these different rules, but the gist of it was that they would take turns picking a topic—something neither of them had a strong opinion about. Then, after opening their meeting with a prayer, one person would speak in favor of the topic, while the other person would speak in opposition of it. Which is a really cool idea I think—kind of a way to practice critical thinking and also learn to listen better.
But anyway, this went on for a while until one day Craig asked to change a rule—he wanted to discuss something that he did have a strong opinion about. Elder Cardon reluctantly agreed, and then his son said, “This is the topic: ‘Is it okay for a fifteen-year-old to date?’ Dad, you speak in favor and I’ll speak against, and Dad, you go first!” This is what Elder Cardon wrote next:
I was slightly stunned. What had I gotten myself into? It will be no surprise to know that this and related topics had fostered much of the tension in Craig’s and my earlier communications. But here we were, and I had agreed to the change [of rules].
My mind began to race with the realization that I would be speaking as both a father and a stake president. I don’t remember exactly what I said. Neither does Craig. Generally, I believe I attempted to describe unique circumstances that would be difficult to duplicate and added many qualifiers and disclaimers. I imagine that I concluded by allowing that under those unique circumstances and conditions, possibly, it could be acceptable for a fifteen-year-old to date.
Craig had watched me as I was speaking with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped in front of him, and although he was looking at me, I wasn’t sure what he was hearing. I spoke for several minutes. As I did, his expression began to change. When I concluded, he looked at me just a moment longer, and then his eyes went to the floor. He was silent. I could not read his expression because I could see only the top of his head. I waited for a few moments in silence. After about twenty to thirty seconds, I spoke. “Son, I finished what I was going to say. Now it’s your turn. Why is it not okay for a fifteen-year-old to date?”
With his elbows still on his knees and his hands still clasped, he lifted his head. Tears were now streaming down his cheeks and falling to the floor. In this instance, the tears were consistent with the Spirit of the Lord that was present in rich abundance. Eventually, Craig looked me straight in the eyes and with a resolute voice said simply, “Because a prophet said not to!”
Something miraculous had just happened that neither of us had anticipated. Craig, questioning, seeking independence, wanting to know for himself, had just received an independent witness from his Heavenly Father on a personal matter of immense importance to him that provided a course correction in his heart and life. At this critical juncture, he had heard the voice of the Lord and had responded in faith.
He now had a much greater capacity to recognize and to respond to the voice of the Spirit. … I also learned how intimately involved the Lord is in helping parents and trusted adult leaders in their efforts to help the rising generation connect with Him. It is His work, and as a loving Father, He is anxious to communicate with His children.
What an awesome story. And you know, the revelation Elder Cardon got about how to work with his son obviously won’t work for everyone, but it certainly worked for him. And that’s the beauty of revelation—that God knows you, He knows your children, and He knows your situation. And He will help you if you ask Him to.
Well, before finishing up this episode with some quotes from President Nelson, I wanted to extend a takeaway invitation to you, like I do in every episode. So, this is the invitation:
The next time you’re talking with someone close to you and they ask your advice about something, redirect them heavenward and invite them to seek their own revelation about it. And you know, that doesn’t mean you can’t share your own thoughts and feelings, but try to make the focus much more on the Lord than on any wisdom you might have to impart.
Quotes from President Nelson
And finally, I wanted to end with some awesome quotes from President Nelson about the blessings of connecting with heaven. The first was given at a youth devotional, and the second was given in general conference a few years ago. So first, to the youth:
Take your questions directly to your Heavenly Father in prayer. Ask Him in the name of Jesus Christ to guide you. You can learn for yourself, right now at your age, how to receive personal revelation, and nothing will make a bigger difference in your life than that. I promise you … that wherever you are in the world, wherever you are on the covenant path, even if at this moment you are not centered on the path, I promise you that if you will sincerely and persistently do the spiritual work needed to develop the crucial, spiritual skill of learning how to hear the whisperings from the Holy Ghost, you will have all the direction you will ever need in your life. You will be given answers to your questions in the Lord’s own way and in His own time.
And here’s the quote from conference:
The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children….
If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small….
Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”
I wish you the very best in your own journey of growing up unto the Lord—and helping others do the same. Have a great week!
Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!