One thing I have never wanted to prompt my kids to do is say their testimony. Prayers, talks, scriptures, apologies, manners--all of these words I am happy to put in their mouths. But testimony has always seemed too personal to prompt. I have also been in wards that are a monthly primary-a-mony, with one child following another, sometimes with older siblings telling kids who can barely talk what to say.
Still, every parent has their own way of teaching this important thing. . . .
A few weeks ago, Scallywag's primary teacher told me that during a lesson about temples, he had borne testimony about the temple. She paraphrased for me what he said and I was both surprised and impressed. Sunday was our fast day, and I leaned over to Scallywag and told him that if he wanted to, sometime, he could have a chance to share his testimony, that it wasn't just for grown ups to do.
He was silent for a moment and I wondered if he had even heard me. Then he replied, "I want to go today." I immediately backpedaled, reiterating to him what a testimony is and telling him that we could talk about it at home and practice for next month. He shook his head and said patiently, "I know what a testimony is. I want to do it today."
Handing a six year-old an open mic is a bit of a scary proposition, but up we went. We had to wait a moment for the sister ahead of us to finish and the whole time I was whispering frantically in his ear, "It is not time to tell a story. You could tell about Joseph Smith. You could tell about the church. You could say that you loved your family. It is not time to tell a story. You could say that you are grateful for the temple, or the priesthood in your home. It is not time to tell a story." Even with the podium all the way lowered and the booster, he still could barely be seen over the top. He suddenly looked very nervous, but leaned all the way into the microphone anyway, so that his lips were touching it.
Speaking softly he said, "I believe . . . that I know," long pause, voice lowered even more and emotional, "that this is the true church of Jesus Christ." He looked at me with wide eyes and whispered, "I think I'm done, Mom." I prompted him how to finish and he scooted off the stand.
The Spirit was palpable and many eyes were moist. With all that little Scallywag could have said, and all that he usually does say, he said exactly the right thing, getting to the heart of what matters. After the meeting, an Irish brother who has been a great neighbor to us came and shook my boy's hand very solemnly and then said to me, "That was shades of Belfast fifty years ago. My dear mother guiding me by the hand, not telling me what to say, just teaching and then letting go. Thank you." The Irishman's mother died when he was just twelve. How short is our time to teach--how long are their memories.