When our Heavenly Father wanted to save the world, He didn’t take over a country or develop a militia. He sent a helpless child to a choice and worthy woman and a humble and believing man living in insecure circumstances in a conquered land occupied by a hostile force. The harsh geopolitical and military circumstances of Christ’s birth should remind us that Heavenly Father can bless us even if the external circumstances of our lives aren’t necessarily easy or peaceful.1
Jesus taught: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”2 and “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”3
King Benjamin explained that we must put off the natural man and “[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father”4
That is quite a list but for now, I am going to focus on two qualities. 1) Being full of love, and 2) Being willing to submit to all things which the Lord inflicts upon us.
It is easy to find examples of these child-like behaviors in the scriptures.
Paul, after he explains charity, states: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”5
To be child-like is not the same as being childish. There is an important distinction there. Obviously, as we learn, practice, and develop, our behavior should change. Child-like qualities of innocence, humility, simplicity, faith, and love should grow and mature into traits like wisdom, leadership, accountability, dependability, and self-mastery.6
Examples of child-like behavior in the scriptures:
We have to start with our perfect example in all ways, Jesus Christ. We celebrate the baby born in Bethlehem not simply for the miraculous birth, but also for his selfless life, infinite atonement, and perfect resurrection. Christ grew in wisdom and stature, he performed miracles and commanded the elements, but he never became full of himself or slothful. Isaiah described his as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”7, but our Lord and Savior never complained, murmured, nor shirked his exceptional responsibility. He didn’t constantly groan under the weight of His office.1
He served others, shared joy, and became the light of the world. He was, (as King Benjamin taught) full of love, and willing to submit to the Father. In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”8
Another example, this time from the Book of Mormon: The people of Alma were oppressed, beaten, and had heavy burdens placed upon their backs. When they prayed, they were threatened with death, but they continued to pray in their hearts. Their prayers were heard. “And it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord”.9
The people of Alma demonstrated child-like qualities of love and submission to God’s will. They were blessed with strength to endure and overcome the afflictions placed upon them.
We can all think of someone that we know who demonstrates these child-like qualities.
My friend, Sean Thomas has been described as ‘stubbornly optimistic’. And he is. He radiates happiness, and no matter what life throws at him, he is smiling right back. He has a child’s love and happiness. He is child-like in the best ways.
Grandpa Ralph is a man who is full of love and willing to submit to the will of our Heavenly Father (and to the will of his wife). He did not always have an easy go at life, he has endured trials while lifting and teaching others, all while maintaining a cheerful attitude.
To fully appreciate this brief story, you have to have known Ralph and Deon, and their awesome and inspiring relationship. The following exchange can be found on family search submitted by Grandpa Ralph himself:
TIME: Some time in the 1980’s.
HITCHCOCK HOME PHONE RINGS: RALPH ANSWERS: “Hello, this is the hen pecked husband at the Happy Hitchcock House… May I help you?”
DEON: (over hearing the salutation) ” !! RRAALLPPHH !!
RALPH: “It’s Helen, and it’s for you.”
RALPH: (Unstated comment to himself) “Being a happily hen pecked husband is one of the pillars of our good marriage. But, because Deon did her hen pecking with such a style and precision that I not only accepted it, (most of it) and depended on it to benefit our marriage. But, I had to let her know that I knew what she was doing.”
Grandpa Ralph liked to tease his true love, he liked to laugh… as did Deon. Now, before you get upset, you should know that every person who ever saw my Grandfather interact in any way with my Grandmother, knew that he loved her dearly. He would do anything for her – no question. There is no way that anyone could deny that. He was cheerful.
My little boy Blake is a tangible example to us of child-like behavior. He can’t talk or give sermons on Christ-like attitudes and how we can achieve them. He does, however serve others and spread happiness. He likes to smile at people. When he does, he spreads love and light, it is really neat to see. It is something so simple, but smiling when we see others really can make a difference.
Joseph Smith, while in Liberty Jail wrote to the saints: “a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God”.10
We celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Lord for what Jesus grew to be and what he has done for us. With the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the power of his grace and atonement, we can change, we can grow. We can strive to be as children and cheerfully submit to His will, because, as Pual taught: “When we are weak, then we are strong”11
- Scott E. Ferrin, Christmas and Christ’s Invitation to Become as a Little Child: What Manner… BYU Speech Dec. 10, 2013.
- Luke 18:16
- Matthew 18:3
- Mosiah 3:19
- 1 Corinthians 13:11
- Derek A. Cuthbert, The Meaning of Maturity, General Conference, Oct 1982
- Isaiah 53:3
- Luke 22:42
- Mosiah 24:15
- Doctrine and Covenants 123:16-17
- 2 Corinthians 12:10