I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.
I am a child of God,
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I’ll live with him once more.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.
The Children’s Songbook, p. 2
Perhaps, like many of you, I grew up singing this song in Primary. It speaks of our need, as a child, to learn what must be done to return to live with God. The lyrics of this song paint a picture of a ‘child of God’ who is not acquainted with the steps needed to gain our salvation. One who must be taught the gospel and learn what must be done to return to God.
The scriptures, on the other hand, suggest that a ‘child of God’ is in a different place in the quest to return to God. In the first chapters of Mosiah, the people gathered to hear King Benjamin deliver the sermon he received from an angel. As he finished the delivery, the people fell to the earth and prayed that they could be forgiven of their sins.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4)
These people were blessed to receive a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. The Spirit “wrought a mighty change” in them. They had been taught a critical lesson in the path to salvation and had accepted the invitation to move in the direction of God.
As they reveled in this new experience, they expressed a desire to enter into a covenant with God
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5)
As one can see in verse 7, it was because of the covenant into which they entered that they received the name of ‘children of Christ.’ These people went through a radical transformation, repenting and receiving a remission of their sins. They experienced the mighty change and were no longer disposed to do evil. This newfound spirit prompted them to covenant to follow the commandments of God for the rest of their days. It was not until after they had entered into this covenant that they were called ‘children of Christ.’
After Alma was cast out of the court of King Noah, he hid at the waters of Mormon and began to gather a willing group of people to re-establish the church of God. He presented these people with a similar request for commitment.
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18)
With this commitment, Helam and Alma, who received his authority from God, baptized each other in the waters of Mormon. As they came out of the water, they were ‘filled with the Spirit.’ He then baptized all those who had been willing to enter the covenant and they, too, were ‘filled with the grace of God.’
These instructions then followed:
19 And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets.
20 Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.
21 And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
22 And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God.
These people were commanded to preach only faith and repentance. They were to live in unity and have no contention. By doing so, they could be called the children of God.
Being a child of God is not something, apparently, that comes automagically with our birth into this environment. This title, according to the scriptures, is conferred upon those who have been filled with the Spirit (baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost) and covenant to follow, explicitly, the commandments of God. They are to live in unity and not allow contention to reside in their midst.
So… are we preaching false doctrine when we encourage our children to sing this song? Is being ‘cutesy’ and ‘inspiring’ sufficient to disavow the scriptural definition of a ‘child of God?’
What think ye?