Each of my children have gone through a phase of loving to sing this song, particularly on long car trips; “This is the song that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends. Somebody started singing it not knowing what it was and now they keep on singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends…” Repeated ad nauseam. The problem is that they take so long to tire of it. Seriously, they could just keep going forever. And it seems like they do!
My sisters and I love to quote from old movies like Anne of Green Gables or Parent Trap whenever we find an occasion that warrants a quote. We can find words from a movie we have seen a dozen times to fit almost any situation. The exchange student from Spain that spent a year with us was constantly in awe of the way we could find the perfect words or song to match anything that was happening and we all knew what the others were talking about.
My very favorite high school English teacher helped her advanced placement class to memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. No one could even understand the words we were saying, much less their meaning, but it sounded so cool and I can still quote the entire poem segment today, nearly twenty years later.
Growing up there was this particularly annoying car commercial for a used car lot named Latham Motors. The man doing the commercial was so loud and obnoxious that everyone hated those ads. However, ask anyone who lived in my community in the late 80’s to tell you the phone number of Latham Motors and I promise you that they can. 733-5776. “We’ll see you here, today!”
Our days are constantly filled with stick-in-your-head information. Phone numbers, song lyrics, jokes, rhymes and jingles. Most of it is just stuff – fluffy facts and trivia that take up space in our brains. Some of it is offensive to our spirits and to who we are as children of God. Hopefully some of it is useful information we learn as we school together – “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking and usually says its name”, “Roy G. Biv”…
As parents and full-time teachers of our children, we have the opportunity to choose some of this information that goes into the heads of our children. We can’t control all they hear and repeat. Maybe you have a sister like mine that taught my children that song that never ends. Your children probably have Sunday school teachers, piano teachers and scout leaders who contribute to the information being stored in their brains. In a school setting it is easy to think of useful and meaningful facts that children must learn in a way that they will not forget, like multiplication tables for instance. But what other information could we be memorizing together to prepare our children for the world and for life?
I remember as a child memorizing the names of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles one night with my family. “Hunter, Packer, Ashton, Perry, Faust, Haight, Maxwell, Nelson, Oaks, Ballard, Wirthlin, Scott.” Obviously that was quite a while ago, as many of those men are no longer living. And yet I can still rattle it off without a glitch. We tried the same thing in our family the other day. My husband came up with a rather weird mnemonic method of memorizing the current Quorum of the Twelve.
1 gun “what are you packing?” Packer
2 shoe “Sperry” Perry
3 tree “leaves on a tree rustle” Russell M. Nelson
We all laughed at first and some of his clues were quite a stretch, but by the end of the night, every one of us had mastered the task. What’s better is that a week later we can still remember it with no trouble.
I grew up knowing the Apostles. I knew their full names, recognized their faces and their voices. I listened to their voices on cassette tapes in my room as I went to bed at night. I had the privilege of sitting at their feet every six months and watching them deliver their messages to us at General Conference. I knew what many of them had done for a living. I listened to stories of their growing up years. I loved these men and I knew that they loved Jesus Christ.
In a world where heroes fall from grace every day, where values like integrity and honesty are flippantly laid aside and Christ’s name is revered by seemingly few, where a few offensive lyrics are so cunningly tied to a catchy tune, how important it is to fill our minds and our hearts with the good, the uplifting, the “un-trivial”. I want my children’s minds to be full to the brim with Shakespeare and the periodic table and history time lines and, even more importantly, with scripture and the young women values and the scout oath and the names of the apostles. I want those things to become even more familiar to them than the phone number of the used car lot was to me so that they can recall them clearly “ages and ages hence.” More than being able to recite the names of the apostles, I want them to know them – the men called as Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ – I want them to know their names, their faces, their hearts and their messages. As my children feel of the testimonies of these great men, I know they will never tire of hearing their voices.
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