The little girl’s behavior is “problematic.” She is often a problem in Church meetings. The concept of reverence in the church building and in meetings has somehow escaped her, or she has not been taught it. I have found myself wishing sometimes that her mother, or someone, would take her in hand so that she does not disturb others in meetings.
Sister S. has seen her behavior at its worst in church. My companion, who enjoys teaching music to little children, goes into the Primary meeting on Sunday to help them learn songs of Jesus and His love for them. This is a challenge and a sacrifice for my wife because she is still struggling to learn Spanish. But she loves to teach the children, and they respond. During singing time they usually pay attention and behave well.
At other times, it is a different story. The behavior of the children when they are not singing would often be considered rude or disrespectful. They grab or hit others, get up and wander about, and sometimes ignore adults who are trying to teach them.
The six-year-old of whom I am thinking has been one of the chief offenders, even though her mother is the president of the Primary and often is the one who suffers because of her behavior. The child seemingly does not know what it is to respect adults.
So I was surprised on Sunday when she wandered into the room where I was making preparations for the meeting and sat down at the small table with her pencil and paper. Soon she asked me, while I was busy with my task, how to spell a name. Looking over her shoulder, I could see that she was writing her surname, one that is a little long and a bit more difficult, so I stood and helped her as she asked me letters until she finished. She took her paper and left, and I went back to my task.
I thought nothing more of it until Sister S. and I were sitting in the chapel waiting for the meeting to start. The little girl approached us a bit shyly and held out to my wife a piece of paper that had been folded into a small rectangle. Sister S. carefully unfolded it. This was the piece of paper on which the little girl had written out her name—but she had added a large smiley-face heart surrounded by many other hearts. Sister S. thanked the little girl in her best Spanish and hugged her. The little girl smiled and went happily on her way.
I think I can understand the actions of the disciples of Christ recorded in Luke 18 when they tried to block people from bringing their little children so that He might simply touch them. The disciples saw how people thronged Him, how they pressed about Him, how they sometimes gave him no rest. Perhaps they were mindful of how Moses was almost worn away by meeting the needs of the people before he wisely heeded the counsel of his father-in-law, Jethro, to delegate burdens. (See Exodus 18:13–23.) But Jesus saw in this experience a teaching moment, and He has admonished us all to be as little children, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:16). We must not overlook the everlasting importance, for us, of His comment in the following verse: “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in nowise enter in.” (For more of Jesus Christ’s teachings on how we must become as little children, see his words to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9:22 and 11:37–38.)
I do not know or understand all the factors that may affect this particular little girl’s unruly behavior. But I know that she loves in a way that I need to learn to emulate.
Who can judge the heart of a child? Not I.
Can I be as a child in my heart? Can I accept the Lord’s teaching and shaping as a child? Ah, that is the challenge, isn’t it?