MARTHA: As LDS parents, we are entrusted with maintaining the integrity and purity of our children. Jesus told us, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
We know that God dwells with our children, and it is our mantle, as parents, to ensure that the sacred and intimate event of worthiness interviews is only performed by people who are prepared and worthy to be in the presence of our children’s most sacred thoughts and feelings. Since we know our duty to protect, nourish, and defend, it is the task of presiding parents to conduct worthiness interviews with priesthood leaders who wish to enter the holy space of our children’s confidence.
In some cases, presiding parents, acting with inspiration and wisdom, may adjust the frequency of interviews. Some priesthood leaders may need added attention, though every interviewing priesthood leader should be counselled at least annually.
Interviews of priesthood leaders are excellent teaching opportunities and can be spiritual experiences for them. Parents should express love and listen carefully. They should encourage the bishop to talk rather than doing most of the talking themselves.
Matters for discussion should include the growth of the bishop’s testimony of the love of Heavenly Father, his understanding of and devotion to Heavenly Mother, and the mission and Atonement of Jesus Christ. The importance of sustaining parents should also be discussed, as well as the need to sustain and support parents’ childrearing, educational, and health choices for the children in question.
Another matter for discussion should be the importance of obeying the commandments, particularly:
- Praying regularly in private and with the family, studying the scriptures, honoring parents, and paying due respect to the autonomy and divine nature of every person.
- Being modest in dress and action, refraining from any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage, and refraining from reading, listening to, or viewing pornographic material. Be sure that the bishop understands that modesty extends well beyond his clothing, and that boasting, ostentatious displays of wealth, and taking undue advantage of his position are all transgressions against modesty.
- Obeying the Word of Wisdom, including eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, and refraining from using illegal drugs, overusing prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and misusing other substances.
- Refraining from using the name of the Lord in vain and from using vulgar expressions and other degrading language. Be sure that the priesthood leader understands what using the name of the Lord in vain entails. Give examples of ways that a priesthood leader might speak for himself and say that he was speaking for the Lord. For instance, he would be taking the Lord’s name in vain if he were to use a child worthiness interview to ask about masturbation or to pry for details of a child’s sexual experiences.
- Attending priesthood and sacrament meetings, participating in other Church meetings and activities, and fulfilling assignments given by presiding parents.
The presiding parents may want to refer to “For the Strength of Youth” during discussions about obeying the commandments, as there is no age limit to the applicability of commandments.
While interviewing a priesthood leader who wishes to speak with a young man or a young woman, the presiding parents give special attention to how he views preparation for adulthood, and his understanding of a healthy approach to the possibility of a child serving a full-time mission in the future. Presiding parents should go over the innate worthiness of every human being, supporting the testimony that our children bring to the table rather than trying to enforce the testimony we imagine they ought to have, and the importance of preparing financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually for whatever lies ahead. Bishopric members must understand that they have a sacred duty to be sensitive to the free agency of every human being, and stand as a pillar of support for whatever calling from God the young person feels drawn to and able to fulfill.
The presiding parents should ensure that the bishop and his counselors are prepared to encourage young people to support each other in their worthy endeavors.
Presiding parents ensure that priesthood leaders understand the blessings of temple covenants and temple marriage, and the sacred obligation priesthood leaders have to never cause a child to stumble, for “it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8).
When interviewing a priesthood leader on behalf of a young man who is approaching priesthood ordination, the presiding parents instruct the priesthood leader on the blessings of holding the Aaronic Priesthood and the duties of the office to which their son will be ordained, as revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 20:46-60 (see also pages 175-76 in Book 2). In all interviews with priesthood leaders on behalf of young men, the presiding parents emphasize the importance of accomplishing the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. They evaluate the progress of each priesthood leader and encourage him.
When interviewing a priesthood leader on the behalf of a young woman, the presiding parent emphasizes the importance of incorporating the Young Women values and the standards of personal worthiness in the priesthood leader’s daily living (see pages 211-12 in Handbook 2). If the priesthood leader is going to require this of his charges, he must not be like the Pharisees, “binding up heavy burdens, intolerable to be borne, and never lifting a little finger to budge them.” Presiding parents also emphasize the importance of completing the Personal Progress program. They evaluate the priesthood leader’s progress and encourage him.
When discussing moral cleanliness, the presiding parents should adapt the discussion to the understanding of the priesthood leader. They must be very clear and explicit about what is an appropriate topic to bring up with the child in question, and what is a completely inappropriate, intolerable topic to bring up with the child. They also ensure that the discussion with the priesthood leader does not devolve into a discussion of subjects that are none of his business.
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