Spiritual nourishment is passed down from parents to children

June 11, 2014 

The Apostle Paul declared, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God ... things ... which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-14 KJV).

Where do we “receive” these things of the Spirit today? How are they discovered? How are they passed from generation to generation? Can we seek them?

In his book “Tongan Saints: Legacy of Faith,” Eric B. Shumway, former President of Brigham Young University Hawaii, shares a simple but dramatic example of how spiritual nourishment may be passed from parents to their children. As a young missionary in Tonga, Elder Shumway was invited to the evening meal of a faithful Tongan family who were living in very humble circumstances.

“Now the Kinikini family,” he wrote, “had no plantation and no animals on Tongatapu, except for a small flock of ducks that eventually dwindled to one little duckling. When I sat down on the floor in the family circle that night, four young children watched their mother put pieces of boiled breadfruit before each one of us. Then, before me, she put a freshly boiled duckling. The sight and aroma of this delicacy made a visible impression on the children who were sitting quietly with their hands clasped in their lap. It was clear that the duckling was for me.”

“’I’ll not eat this by myself,’ I said to Brother Tevita Muli. ‘We will all share.’ Before I could start dividing it, Tevita Muli quickly interrupted, ‘No, you will eat it by yourself. It is yours!’”

“‘But your children?’ I protested.

‘They do not want to touch it,’ he continued. ‘You honor them by eating it yourself. Some day they will be proud to tell their children they went without kiki (meat), so that a servant of the Lord might eat and be filled.’”

Recalling this story, Apostle Dallin H. Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints noted that this is the kind of teaching by example that passes faith and spirituality to the next generation, and he cited the following from the life of Jesus:

To the woman at Jacob’s well, the Master said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” which reminds us of the difference between worldly things and heavenly things, between physical nourishment and spiritual nourishment. (John 4:13-24)

Jesus often used the familiar examples of food and drink to teach His lessons, saying, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6), meaning, “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

Only He could declare, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). That was the faith of Brother Tevita Muli Kinikini of Tonga.

Elder Oaks reminds us that when we teach our children the things of the Spirit — how to give them the living water and the bread of life — we should understand that this must be done in the Lord’s way, not in the world’s way. “Gospel truths and testimony,” says Elder Oaks, “are received from the Holy Ghost through prayerful seeking, through faith, through scripture study, through righteous living, through listening to inspired communications and counsel, through serious conversations with persons of faith, and through reverent personal study and quiet contemplation. It is by these means that our souls are nourished and we realize the promise given . . . that we will be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Quotes from “Nourishing the Spirit,” Ensign, Dec. 1998.)

On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig harbor, can be reached by email at alf.gunn@gmail.com. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.

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