Traveling home on Sunday is something we try not to do, but appears necessary sometimes.  We still wore Sunday clothes to remind us it was the Sabbath, and we only listened to stories and scriptures and instrumental music rather than our crazy playlist songs.  We also did our best a picnic treats in the car for Sabbath meals prepared ahead of time, so that we wouldn’t have to spend any money more than necessary on Sunday.  

When we did, though, like getting gas, we talked to them about the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law”, as well as the “ox in the mire” story.  

Partly because they are maturing and doing so much better (sometimes), and partly in preparation for the seven year olds getting baptized as they turn eight, we have been talking a lot about the difference between rules and principles.  They have, in the past, required and/or imposed upon themselves a very structure environment and a lot of rules; this is one reason they can (but don’t always) act so terrible when we are not around.  The responsibility continues to shift more on them than us as they grow older, but they cannot do this successfully without first shifting to living by principle rather than rules.  They needed rules in the beginning, after having none before coming here, but have progressed far enough to start discerning principles.

We talked about how principles are truths that do not change, while rules change all the time.  Rules change as you grow older, or from family to family, or from family to school.  We talked about how because of some principles, our family does some things other families don’t, or other times we don’t do things other families do.  Our families rules change (our different than) other families because we embrace certain principles that others might not know about or like – but that are still true anyway.

For example, in the past, because of eating issues before they came to us, the children often drank all their water or milk instead of eating the healthy food we provided.  This resulted in the doctor prescribing that liquids be withheld from them at mealtimes and given to them after they eat.  However, the first graders are better at eating now, enough to be able to eat and drink like normal (usually).  Barrett will still drink instead of eating, or only eat bread, so we still have to hold his drinks; Anber will drink a ton and then eat until she throws up, and it comes up like a flood because of how much she ate, so we have to hold her drinks until after and limit her servings.  So the drink rules changed as they got older, and other families might not even have drink rules.  But the principle is about eating nutritious food first because it is important for the body to be healthy and strong, and if they can follow that principle then they don’t need the rules.

The same thing could be applied to our “rules” for modest clothing, or not drinking alcohol or doing drugs, or remaining chaste and planning on and preparing for temple marriage.  If they are living the principles of self-care for their own bodies as temples for their spirits, and making choices based on their testimony of who Heavenly Father is and who He says we are, then such rules won’t seem oppressive or burdensome.

They so much want happiness, and will crave freedom more as they get older, but both come by living true principles rather than by rebelling against an illusion of rules.

I told them that we had two witnesses – the New Testament and Spiderman – and both telling us that such freedom comes with great responsibility.

The older they get, though, the more that responsibility is theirs than ours, and so they must start now thinking about principles rather than rules, if they are ever going to govern themselves well.

We applied the same thing to the Sabbath and our traveling day.  Usually on Sundays, we do not play outside or go to the park, because that is “work” we do every other day.  But the principle is about setting the day aside for family and refreshment of body and spirit, worshipping together after having prepared and partaken of the sacrament and attended our classes. They were thrilled, then, as we broke a “rule” to live the principle by meeting their cousins at a park on the way home. They were so happy to run and play for a few hours after such a long trip home, and it wore them out enough to sleep those last three hours before we safely arrived back home last night!

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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