23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
(3 Nephi 17:23)
After teaching a group of people gathered at the temple in Bountiful, Jesus announced that it was time for Him to go. He needed to return to His Father and then to go visit another group of people in another part of the world. He instructed them to go home, ponder the words He had taught, and prepare for His return the following day.
But when He saw on their faces how much they wanted Him to stay, He said, “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you” (3 Nephi 17:6). He healed the sick among them. Then, He asked them to bring their children forward, and for everyone to kneel. He prayed for the children, blessed them one by one, and then said, “Behold your little ones.” As the people looked, “they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Nephi 17:24).
Elder M. Russell Ballard commented on the Savior’s instruction to “behold your little ones:”
Notice that He didn’t say “glance at them” or “casually observe them” or “occasionally take a look in their general direction.” He said to behold them. To me that means that we should embrace them with our eyes and with our hearts; we should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father, with divine attributes (“Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, April 2004).
In April of this year, Elder S. Mark Palmer shared an insight he gained while serving as a mission president. As he pondered a story from the life of the Savior, he realized that truly “beholding” someone may be a first step to truly loving them. After discovering that principle, he began to interact with the missionaries in a different way:
As Sister Palmer and I greeted each missionary one by one, I would pause and look deeply into their eyes, beholding them—an interview without words—and then without fail, I was filled with great love for these precious sons and daughters of God (“Then Jesus Beholding Him Loved Him,” General Conference, April 2017).
Today, I will “behold [my] little ones.” I will strive to see my children as they really are–as the Lord sees them. I will strive to recognize not only their divine attributes but also their divine potential. I will remember that, by making the effort to truly “behold” them, I will love and appreciate them more.