"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
June 6, 2012
The parable of the action figure sword
by Emily S. Jorgensen

My husband was scarred for life when, at the tender age of 6, his mother vacuumed up the light saber of his precious Luke Skywalker action figure. He admits she had probably reminded him several times to keep it off the floor and take better care of it. But, being a somewhat forgetful (read: normal) young boy, he left it out one too many times, to be sucked away forever into the abyss that is a vacuum dust bag.

Heartbroken, he poured for hours over creating a replacement for his bereft Luke. He carefully colored a toothpick green with a marker, then piece by laborious piece, cut and wrapped scotch tape around and around one end until it was the perfect circumference for fitting snugly in Luke's clutched hand.

Every time he played with his favorite action figure he was reminded of his tragic carelessness. Even now, thirty years, later, he remembers the event with bitterness and a sense of injustice.

What he took away as a lesson from this experience is one we parents are constantly thinking we want for our children--the direct relationship of choice and consequence. His mother said something like, "I told you to put it away. Well, I'm sorry, it's gone now," and that was that.

He made his choice, now he must live with the consequence. How many times have we said the same type of thing to a child? My husband still knows to this day that this happened because he neglected to follow his mother's advice and pick up his toys. But, that doesn't make it hurt any less. Indeed, thirty years later, it still rankles.

And here is the lesson for those of us responsible for children. Instead of being a lesson of choice and consequence, it could have been a lesson about repentance, a much more important lesson for the future of any child of God.

The difference between accountability and repentance is summed up in this scripture:

"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy" (D&C 121:43).

The boy-version of my husband was reproved by his mother. He knew it was his fault that the precious light saber was lost. This is akin to an adult realizing he has sinned--he feels the sorrow for what he is done. He knows and acknowledges it was wrong, it was his fault. But that is only the first step of repentance.

If I go to Heavenly Father in prayer and admit my sin before him and ask for forgiveness, eventually I will feel His peace and love and forgiveness. Feeling this forgiveness is the difference between accountability and repentance.

This was the step that never happened in the parable of the action figure's sword. My husband never felt the love that would swallow up his hurt.

What could have been done? Perhaps he could have been allowed to sift through the icky vacuum bag himself (and clean up the mess afterward by himself). Perhaps his mother could have helped him make a new light saber. Perhaps he could have done extra chores to earn money to buy a new one.

Any of these would have told him someone loved him, someone would stand by him and would help him heal from this child-sized tragedy. Instead he was left to deal with the consequences alone. A child may not be old enough to understand what "godly sorrow" is, or to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, but he knows when he is loved, and when he feels forgiven and healed.

As a parent, it is so, so much easier to say "I told you so," and turn away, than to consider how a child could be helped to both feel accountable and redeemed. God does not want us to just feel accountable--our guilt before Him would likely consume us. He wants us to feel redeemed.

While God is lending a child of His to us for a time, let us try to raise that child with the same forbearance and love God extends to us--an increase in love when we fail but want to do better.

Inevitably, our children will leave their Luke Skywalker light sabers on the floor. We will vacuum them up. What we do next could help our child learn what to do when someday in the future it is his integrity, chastity, or testimony that has been vacuumed up.


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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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