William Wordsworth penned a lovely poem called Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, but it’s rather long. Here is one of the most lovely bits, in my opinion:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Thou [child], whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
William here has hit upon an interesting question. What is a child?
Why, a child is a person. Yes, their tiny, clumsy bodies and brains are still growing, but underneath that is the immense soul of a person, recently departed from God’s presence.
LDS doctrine also teaches us that a person is the literal offspring of God: a god in embryo, if you will.
So the responsibility to raise a child is a great one.
In Home Education, Charlotte Mason explains:
It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ. It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not––DESPISE not––HINDER not––one of these little ones.
So run the three educational laws of the New Testament, which, when separately examined, appear to me to cover all the help we can give the children and all the harm we can save them from––that is, whatever is included in training up a child in the way he should go.
First, to offend a child in this context means to create a figurative stumbling-block for them, that trips them and causes them to fall.
Charlotte gives many examples… A parent might neglect a child’s health, or not provide healthy food. A parent might harm their children by practicing favoritism. A parent might fail to teach love for learning, life skills, or even right and wrong!
Next, to despise a child in this context means to undervalue them, or to have a low opinion of them.
Charlotte points out that, strangely enough, it is still quite possible to undervalue our children even while holding them dear to our hearts if we forget who our children are and who they are capable of becoming. Do we forget that underneath the cute exterior, there’s a noble and great soul? Do we fail to remember that our children are “trailing clouds of glory”, fresh from God’s presence?
And lastly, to hinder a child is to get in the way between the Lord and the child. Here’s a lovely thought from our Charlotte:
“Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” says the Saviour, as if that were the natural thing for the children to do, the thing they do when they are not hindered by their elders. And perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world, that, as the babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Saviour and God with unconscious delight and trust.
The LDS has a sweet, simple and darling little hymn called I Am a Child of God, which I think Charlotte would have liked. It goes like this:
1. I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.
2. I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.
3. I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I’ll live with him once more.
To be continued!