21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
22 And when he had done this he wept again;
23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
(3 Nephi 17:21-23)
At the end of the first day of the Savior’s visit to the American continent, He told the people it was time for Him to leave. He promised to return the following day. He acknowledged that He had given them a lot to think about and encouraged them to ponder His teachings and prepare their minds for the following day.
But as He looked at them, He decided to stay a little longer. They didn’t say anything, but the expression on their faces sent a very powerful message. “They were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them” (3 Nephi 17:5).
He responded with compassion. He invited them to bring their sick forward to be healed. Then, He asked them to bring their children to Him. With the children in the front of the group, He knelt down and prayed. Then, as described in the passage above, He tearfully blessed each of their children and prayed on their behalf. He invited the multitude, “Behold your little ones.”
Elder Robert D. Hales taught that a parent’s influence is most powerful during quiet, heartfelt conversations:
Mothers and fathers, as you drive or walk children to school or their various activities, do you use the time to talk with them about their hopes and dreams and fears and joys? Do you take the time to have them take the earplugs from their MP3 players and all the other devices so that they can hear you and feel of your love? The more I live, the more I recognize that the teaching moments in my youth, especially those provided by my parents, have shaped my life and made me who I am.
Elder Hales reminded us that these kinds of interactions don’t just happen. They require intentional effort on our part:
For our interactions with youth to truly touch their hearts, we have to pay attention to them just as we would pay attention to a trusted adult colleague or close friend. Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen–yes, listen and listen some more–even hearken with spiritual ears! Several years ago I was reading the newspaper when one of my young grandsons snuggled up to me. As I read, I was delighted to hear his sweet voice chattering on in the background. Imagine my surprise when, a few moments later, he pushed himself between me and the paper. Taking my face in his hands and pressing his nose up to mine, he asked, “Grandpa! Are you in there?” (“Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders of the Rising Generation,” General Conference, April 2010)
Today, I will pay attention to the people around me, particularly my children. I will observe the expressions on their faces and respond to their non-verbal signals. I will listen to them intently and will share my love for them. I will follow the Savior’s admonition to “behold [my] little ones.”