At my house, my husband has succeeded in convincing my teenage sons that The Lord of the Rings is the best trilogy of all time. Personally, I could take it or leave it (which is why my husband had such a vested interest in convincing somebody in the family of it’s sheer awesomeness). My indifference is borderline blasphemy if you ask my boys. They speak the names of Frodo and Aragorn in almost hushed and reverent tones. Oh, the adventures…and the battles…and the triumph of good over evil. What could be better than that? I can think of a few things that top my list of “better than that,” but I will leave that for another day.
Having said that, there is one part of The Return of the King that I love. Aragorn is leading an army into battle against impossible odds in order to distract the enemy, thus allowing Frodo and Sam to destroy the ring of power, which destruction will purge the world of evil. His speech to the terrified army is at the top of my list of the best speeches ever. I must insist that you pause for a moment and watch the one minute video clip at the top of this post because you simply will not get the full effect of his speech, or of the rest of what I am about to say without having seen it. If you are in a hurry and must skip it, I am sad for you, but you can read the text below:
“Hold your ground! Hold your ground!
Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers,
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends
and break all bonds of fellowship,
but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields,
when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day!
This day we fight!!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men of the West!!!”
I have been thinking much about this speech lately. I have been thinking about the terrified army as they realize that their chances of success are nearly zero because the forces of evil are simply too great. I have been thinking about how they look as if they want to run and hide, but finally take courage as they listen to their leader remind them that this CANNOT be the day to give into fear – that this MUST be the day to stand and FIGHT. I have been thinking about how they do stand and fight, and how they WIN against all odds. (Sorry if you haven’t seen it and I gave that away.) I have been thinking about how much this applies to US in our lives RIGHT NOW.
There are times when I look around at what I am up against – what we are up against – in attempting to raise children who can maintain faith in a world that discourages it at every turn, and I feel a little bit like Aragorn’s army. There are times when I feel a sense of fear, even panic, when I wonder how this seemingly impossible task can be accomplished.
Our children are on the front lines of the battle everyday. They spend hours outside of our watchful care, making daily decisions that will eventually determine where their loyalties lie. There are influences all around them that can destroy the faith that we, as their parents, strive to help them develop.
Given the uphill battle, some may wonder if this is a pointless fight – if surrender, though not what we want to do, is staring us in the face, waiting for us to accept it as a regrettable option. And, to those, I echo Aragorn’s passionate plea, “This day we fight!”
I remember listening to a talk given by Boyd K. Packer in 2004. In that address, he spoke to parents about raising children in the morally toxic environment in which we lived then (and still live today). I found comfort in these words:
“The moral values upon which civilization itself must depend spiral downward at an ever-increasing pace. Nevertheless, I do not fear the future.”
At that time, and even still, I think of those words when I wonder about what the future will look like for my kids.
Elder Packer went on to explain what parents can do to safe-guard their children:
“One thing is very clear: the safest place and the best protection against the moral and spiritual diseases is a stable home and family. This has always been true; it will be true forever. We must keep that foremost in our minds.” (Read the rest of this awesome address here.)
A stable home and family…something that you may have heard so many times that, perhaps, it sounds a little redundant. But, when was the last time that you really stopped to think about why that makes sense? Let us go there for a minute.
Home is where your children learn about right and wrong. They learn it from your lips, but more than that – they learn it from your lives. They see what you do. They see what you watch – the influences that you tell them are appropriate and acceptable by allowing them into your home. They hear the words that you say and the way that you say them. They come to conclusions, probably without even knowing it, about what kinds of things are valued by you – and by extension – what they should value. They learn about what is expected of them and whether or not you will hold them to a higher standard than what they see around them. They learn whether or not you will eventually accept that “the world is changing and this is just what kids are doing these days,” even when those things are against everything that you believe in.
Home is where your children learn about armor – what it is – why each piece is important, and how vulnerable they will become if they remove even one piece. (You can watch this great video that visually explains that here.) They learn what the enemy looks like, the tactics that he uses, and how to prepare themselves for the inevitable attack. They learn how to wield their sword and fight when fighting is necessary. (See Eph. 6:11-17) They learn how to develop courage and stand strong, even when everybody around them is giving in.
How do they learn these things, you may ask? YOU show them how to put on their armor by putting on your own. YOU show them how to develop courage to STAND by standing yourself – by constantly reminding them WHERE you stand, and WHAT you expect of THEM. YOU teach them about what they are up against by consistently spending time with them in the scriptures and reading the words of modern prophets. YOU teach them that they can find the answers to their questions by searching those words. YOU help them to fortify their faith by teaching them how to PRAY and by doing it with them everyday. YOU teach them that they can ALWAYS petition the Lord for help when times get tough. YOU teach them that if they get wounded in battle, there is ALWAYS a way back – that hope is NEVER lost.
Yes, YOU are their first line of defense.
Are there other lines of defense – others who aid in this teaching? Absolutely! It takes a village to raise a child, and they will get help from teachers, friends, and family along the way. But, success is much more likely if this teaching is taken seriously in the home.
Does this mean that diligent teaching in the home will guarantee the desired outcome? Of course not. There is the principle of agency in play, and children (and youth) can always choose whether or not they will follow the guidelines that you, as their parents, diligently lay out for them. You can do everything perfectly and have a child who chooses to wander. For me, this is where fear comes in. But, you simply cannot let that fear paralyze you. Fear and faith cannot exist in the same heart at the same time. Choose faith. Let that faith work in you – guiding the way in which you teach and prepare your children for the daily battles of their lives.
As parents, we cannot always march into battle with our children. We can do all in our power to prepare them day after day, and then we must let them go, watching and praying like crazy that they will remember what we have taught them in the very moments that they need it. We cannot always fight alongside them – but we CAN and MUST create a home where they can come to seek refuge. If we expect them to take courage and FIGHT, we must do the same.
Impossible? NO. NEVER.
So, as Aragorn so eloquently stated:
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men (and Women…PARENTS) of the West!!!
Don’t ever forget the role that you play in this fight!