Parenthood and the Atonement- The Red Headed Hostess


Have you seen this scripture?

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)


I don’t think sin is just when we blatantly break commandments or covenants, but also the natural man in all of us. That part of us that needs some fixing. The thoughts, habits, and attributes that aren’t quite Christ-like. And we all got em.

I have come to the conclusion that the Celestial Kingdom will be filled with realists.

I don’t think it will only be full of people who never missed a visiting teaching appointment, or who attended the temple faithfully every week of their lives. It won’t be full of people who never argued with their spouse, or who never said a bad word about someone. It won’t be full of people who always studied their scriptures an hour every day, or who never, ever said a bad word. But, It will be filled with REALISTS – Individuals who wanted to know what their faults were, admitted them, faced them, and then knew how to apply the Atonement to their lives, one day at a time.

Among the many life skills we are to teach our children, perhaps one that should be at the top of our list is to help them know how to overcome the natural man.

Because the fact is, they are one and if we tip toe around it, they may view themselves as broken.

I remember one year when I was teaching seminary we were learning about the Kingdoms of Glory. I was curious to what they thought about it, so I passed around slips of paper and asked them to anonymously write down the Kingdom they thought they would go to. The purpose of this was not for them to eternally judge themselves, rather I wanted to see if they had “hope”. Sure their Bishop would go to the Celestial Kingdom, but could they?

I counted up the papers and the majority of the answers were either Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms. A few Celestial and a few Outer Darkness!! “Ok,” I said, “let’s fix this”. And then we talked about the doctrine. I mean, most of these kids were sitting there with Temple Recommends in their wallets, they just did not understand! They viewed themselves as wicked!

I remember after that class, several of the students came up, some in tears, expressing gratitude! They had hope!

Can you see the difference between someone who understands that they are in mortality and are meant to overcome the natural man and it is a process, verses someone who beats themselves up because they make mistakes?

Doctrinal understanding is a powerful thing.

During my years of teaching seminary, I would often talk about “repentance”, and noticed that often it felt like an uncomfortable topic.

It was evident that many of them felt guilty about something, and the mention of “repentance” would bring up those tender emotions.

Likewise, there were youth that were living virtuous and clean lives who didn’t feel that they needed repentance because they hadn’t done anything really bad.

Both of these groups needed to gain more understanding of what repentance is, and what it means to lay hold of the Atonement.

I have been thinking a lot about what I can do to be living, walking, breathing example of this to my children.

I think that so often our spirituality is something that is quiet and personal, which it should be. But, what would happen if we were more open about these things with our family?

This amazing quote by Elder Bednar has had a huge impact in my life:

“The journey of a lifetime, as described by President McKay, is to go from bad to good to better and to have our very natures changed. And the Book of Mormon is replete with examples of disciples and prophets who knew and understood and were transformed by the enabling power of the Atonement in making that journey. May I suggest, brothers and sisters, that as we come to better understand this sacred power, our gospel perspective will be greatly enlarged and enriched. Such a perspective will change us in remarkable ways.

“Nephi is an example of one who knew and understood and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior. In 1 Nephi 7 we recall that the sons of Lehi had returned to Jerusalem to enlist Ishmael and his household in their cause. Laman and others in the party traveling with Nephi from Jerusalem back to the wilderness rebelled, and Nephi exhorted his brethren to have faith in the Lord. It was at this point in their trip that Nephi’s brothers bound him with cords and planned his destruction. Now please note Nephi’s prayer in verse 17: “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound”.

“Brothers and sisters, do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? My prayer would have included a request for something bad to happen to my brothers and ended with the phrase “wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren” or, in other words, “Please get me out of this mess, now!” It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray, as I probably would have prayed, to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And may I suggest that he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew and understood and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement of the Savior.

“I personally do not believe the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect that he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then “in the strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.
Elder David A. Bednar, In the Strength of the Lord, BYU Devotional, October 23, 2001

So, I have lots of ropes that I am trying to break through.

Some are little ropes, and others seem really thick. But we all have them, and my children will have them.

What if my rope was that I have a problem comparing myself to others, and I tend to tear others down? Or what if my rope was that I have a really hard time admitting I am wrong and saying “I am sorry”? I surely know that these are not Christ-like attributes and that I need to pray and work these out of me. I may spend hours of quiet time praying about this, studying about this, and serving others to gain this virtue in myself, and at some point strength would come and I could turn this weakness into strength, and work out of those ropes.

But think of this, it is likely that my children have witnessed this behavior in me and just as likely that they don’t know that I am working on improving it. So, think of what it could do if they also witnessed the struggle out of the bands?

To say to them, “hey, I would like to improve this in myself,” or “I need to gain strength in this area,” and then study about it together. Let them watch you face weakness, become stronger, break those bands and overcome the natural man.

As we prepared to come to earth, knowing what mortality would entail,

I doubt we looked at each other and said, “the best thing to do is act like you are perfect.” And even more dangerous, “act like repentance is only for bad people”.

No! It is for Celestial people! That is what the Celestial kingdom will be full of! Realists! People with enough knowledge, humility, strength and courage to take that painful, perfecting journey of becoming like our Savior.

Think of a mother and a father who work together on this journey! Who apologize to each other and who smooth the rough edges so that their marriage is full of respect and admiration. Who use repentance to become better and better as each year passes. Think of what they are teaching their children! Because your children are being taught “happily ever after” fairy tales, without the way of getting the “happily ever after”. But you can show them that we become worthy of that through becoming more like Christ.

I am not suggesting that we lay our sins out for the entire world to see. But since we are here to overcome the natural man, would it not serve each other to be more realistic about mortality? To admit that we are not perfect, and show each other, especially our children, how to run straight at this problem? And to cheer each other on?

What if our children saw us daily, actively seeking the power of the Atonement?

What if they saw my spouse and I humbly admitting our faults? What if they witnessed the power of that? What if we were more concerned with reality than being right? What if we apologized more and asked for forgiveness? Would they not then naturally apply this to their own lives? Would it not impact all of their future choices and relationships?

And think of how much happier WE would be!

This, I think is a perfect answer:

“One of the questions we must ask of our Heavenly father in private prayer is this: “What have I done today, or not done, which displeases Thee? If I can only know, I will repent with all my heart without delay.’ That humble prayer will be answered. And the answers will surely include the assurance that asking today was better than waiting to ask tomorrow.” (Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, November 1999, p.33)

I would love it if my children repented like that! Imagine the people they would become! Imagine the person I would become! And imagine the example I would be for my children! It is definitely worth working for.


  1. What an amazing post today! I am so glad that I follow your blog, have purchased many of your ‘study help books’ and love the ideas and thoughts you have that you share with us! Thank you for being our ‘virtual seminary teacher’ to those of us who are now pushing 60 years old or who are YW leaders and/or those of us who just are learning and studying to become Christlike in our every day lives. Thank you!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you for your blog. It’s only when you grow up that you realize how much you should of paid attention in seminary class. Now that I am a mom with no time on my hands I feel this is when I should be in seminary. It’s not just a want it’s a need in my life for spiritual uplift. I love that I can read your blog and feel the spirit and have something to ponder throughout the day besides my sanity:)

  3. LOVE the Elder Bednar quote!! I copied the last two paragraphs and printed them on a post-it note and put it in my scriptures!

    Thank you for sharing your testimony and love of the scriptures!

  4. This is wonderful! I am not a mom yet, but I love the inspiration I received from this for when I am a mom and how I can implement it right now with the youth I work with and my little sister who is still in Young Womens.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful post. I know i really needed to be reminded of the power of living honestly and openly as I try to overcome my weaknesses. Thank you for the perspective you give me!

  6. What a beautiful article! I love it. I love the realist parts you wrote about. It always feels so freeing to remember that being real, and humble is what helps us overcome our faults… not hiding them but letting our children see our path of striving. How powerful to teach our children about the Atonement through our example of repentance. This brought light to me, thank you, Shannon.

  7. I am studying this exact topic for my lesson in Relief Society on Sunday. I found an awesome talk by Elder Russell M. Nelson in October of 1995. It is called “Perfection Pending.” I highly recommend reading it! I wish we all better understood the command to “be ye therefore perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). This talk was very enlightening and helped clarify my understanding of this principle. Here is a quote from this talk by Elder Nelson:

    “When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.

    “We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy–not guilt trips!
    We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully…

    “The perfection that the Savior envisions for us is much more than errorless performance. It is the eternal expectation as expressed by the Lord in his great intercessory prayer to his Father—that we might be made perfect and be able to dwell with them in the eternities ahead…

    “Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing. The Lord taught, “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now … ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.”

    “We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.”

  8. Oh, and thanks for your thoughts and testimony of this principle! You always make me think and excite me to study more. Thanks!

  9. Wow. What beautiful thoughts. I found this via Pinterest and am so glad I clicked over to read it. This is something I definitely think I want to start implementing in my family with my children. I think it really would make a profound difference. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Absolutely lovely. Thank you! Its always inspiring to read and know that despite all the bad in the world, there is hope, faith and love all around.

  11. I very much enjoyed your “reality check”. I too gave the lesson in RS on Perfection this past sunday and used the same talk by Russell M. Nelson on “Perfection Pending”. With Easter just around the corner your insights give a needed wake up call for us all on the Perfect Atonement our Saviour provides for us. He knows us personally, acts in our behalf as an mediator to the Father. They want us not to just “act perfect” but “become better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today” Pres. Lorenzo Snow! Repentance….what a HUGE BLESSING! Thank you again!

  12. Thank you! I’m giving a talk on the Atonement tomorrow at church and have been searching for a new outlook. I was wanting to focus more on the family side and the love part of the Atonement and this article was able to help me figure out how to say some of the feelings I’ve been having. What perfect timing. 😉 Thanks again.

  13. I happened upon this post through pinterest and I desperately needed it today, so thank you! My 6 yr. old told me today that she had made so many bad choices that she didn’t think she was going to heaven. It broke my heart and made me realize that I needed to find a way to help her understand the Atonement. Thank you for helping me to think through it more clearly!

  14. Found this on Pinterest. Thank you for your insights. My husband and I have both felt the need to teach our children about the Atonement, and this post has given me a new perspecitve.

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