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The Value of Church History in the Religious Training of the Child (1920)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 18, 2013

Presumably you all enjoy history, or you wouldn’t be here. But does history – Church history – have value beyond entertainment or intellectual curiosity? Here’s what one speaker identified in 1920 as the value of Church history, especially for children. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

The Value of Church History in the Religious Training of the Child.

By Cordia H. Smith.

To teach the children is the greatest mission in life; our work is to save the children and it is a wonderful work of love.

During the past four years the lessons and stories from Church history that have been told the children will help them up to manhood and womanhood and good citizenship. They will uplift their souls and gain their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The history of the Church is not a mere chronology of events and dates, but it is a story of how people, rich in spiritual life and power, have developed great industrial, social, civic, and intellectual institutions which make us a people much spoken of. The history of this development is tragic, dramatic, beautiful. The people have been uplifted by doing things in this land of opportunities, and they have confidence in the qualities God implanted in their souls. The people trusted all to their God, and because of the purity of their lives, God inspired and directed them, they knew that work with faith in Jesus Christ would accomplish anything, soon they toiled and struggled.

The principle is one which we may use every moment of the day, and when night comes, if we have made the proper effort for comfort and security, we may lay ourselves down to rest in peace with the assurance that our heavenly Father will protect us from harm. No great work can be successfully accomplished without faith and well directed effort. The removal of the Latter-day Saints to the valleys of the mountains stands out in history as one of the most successful accomplishments of all time. The prophecy concerning this move never could have been fulfilled, if each individual member had not had faith in his own power and implicit faith in God. “Faith is the soul of religion and the works of the body.”

It was faith under the most extraordinary circumstances that prompted the youth, Joseph Smith, to go into the woods alone and ask help, but the prayer of faith was in his heart and the beautiful vision of the Father and the Son was opened to him.

I have touched only one phase of this fascinating history. As Primary teachers we are striving, as did Paul of old, to sow seeds of faith by recounting the history of the past.

Can such lessons as these, so full of the truth and beauties of the Gospel, fail to plant in the hearts of the children that spark of divine fire that will some day burst into the flame of testimony? I cannot hear or read of the trying experiences so bravely endured by those who led in the establishment of the Church, that I do not thrill, and my testimony is added upon. There is something within me that testifies that theirs was a divine mission. Their message comes to us through the years, giving us faith in God, helping us to trust in Him always to be wise in all that we do, and obey his prophets. One’s testimony is a sacred thing, it must be kept constantly burning lest through failure to do one’s duty the light becomes dim.

In conclusion, I wish to bear my testimony to the truthfulness of God’s work and to the joy I find in His service. A mighty responsibility is mine now that the light of knowledge has been given me. May our lives be such that the testimony of the truth will remain with us, and when our work is near its end we can say with Brother Orson Pratt: “My body sleeps for a moment but my testimony lives and shall endure forever.”

Cordia Hendricksen Smith (1887-1959) was a longtime member of the Primary General Board.



6 Comments »

  1. I can see the value of both inspirational and cautionary lessons that are true and have some kind of connection to the listener.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — February 18, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  2. I absolutely agree that stories of people have more impact on me than dry chronologies. I worry, though, when the church history we teach our children is solely inspiring stories of greatness. The people were people. Even Christ over threw the tables of the money changers and neglected to tell his mother when, as a child, he stayed behind to teach in the temple. I’m sure that the pioneer saints, in between singing while they walked and rejoicing that their dead were free from toil and sorrow too, had some moments of weakness.

    All that said, I have no idea how to teach nuance to children and I’ve only taught happy and clean bible stories to my toddler.

    Comment by HokieKate — February 18, 2013 @ 10:23 am

  3. I just had to check how Sister Smith may have been connected to the Prophet Joseph’s (more likely Hyrum’s) family by marriage or descent. I don’t see any close connection on new.familysearch. Way to go, Sister Smith!

    Comment by Grant — February 18, 2013 @ 10:42 am

  4. Part of the value I find in studying History is the practice it gives me in perceiving how different people understand the same situation differently.

    Over time, I have gotten better at understanding why historical figures disagreed or did not get along or misunderstood each other or whatever. I think such study has also made me a little better at relating in real-time.

    In day-to-day relationships one does not normally have months to ponder how different people might understand a family or social situation. The slow practice at deferring judgement and seeking further understanding has, I think, made me more likely to wait and understand better other people, even when there are only minutes or seconds in which to consider.

    So… part of “the value of Church history” is not “in” the history at all but in the act of studying it. How this translates into lessons and activities for children, I don’t know.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — February 18, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

  5. Understanding the past can make us better. Sis, Smith mentions just one: “to sow seeds of faith by recounting the history of the past.”

    But even (or especially) the unsanitized version of history can teach us, such as…
    *What Church leaders did wrong, and how current leaders can avoid making the same mistake.
    * How rank-and-file church members interpreted and implemented the un-corrolated sermons of the past, and how members today can sort out “speaking as a man” and “speaking as a prophet”
    *how previous policy/doctrinal statements and policy shape current practice, etc.

    Comment by The Other Clark — February 19, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

  6. I should add that for as much as I claim to like the raw, unfiltered version of history, I find that my testimony of the Old Testament would be stronger if it were a little more filtered.

    Comment by The Other Clark — February 19, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

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