As I picked up my five-year-old daughter from the Relief Society nursery class, I was pleased to hear the teacher comment, “Your daughter was such a big help to me today. I showed the class this picture of the Savior calling two of his apostles, and she told us the whole story. How do you do it?”
I laughed and passed it off as a coincidence. Later that month, however, I received a similar comment from our seven-year-old’s Primary teacher, and then some glowing reports about our nine-year-old son in his Sunday School class. Each teacher had the same question: “How do you do it?”
I began to think about the program we had started in our home some months earlier. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I decided to begin an early morning study class with our children—much like the early morning seminaries my husband had been coordinating in his previous assignment.
The Book of Mormon was our first study text. We knew the children would enjoy the sessions more if we could provide some visual aids to bring the lessons and stories to life, and fortunately our public library had a number of Book of Mormon stories written for younger children. We chose those with the biggest and brightest illustrations, something that would keep their eyes open at 6:30 in the morning.
From the first day we knew we had a hit. The children enjoyed being carried piggyback upstairs to the front room. They were still half asleep, but it was nice to gradually awaken snuggled in my lap, or wrapped in a blanket next to me.
Our meeting began with prayer and a review of the day’s activities for school, Scouting, church, and family. But the children especially enjoyed hearing Daddy tell of the exciting adventures of Nephi and his brothers. The stories and concepts were told rather than read, but the pictures were helpful; we left the books out during the day so that the children could look through them at their leisure. We kept it short—the whole thing took 30 minutes. They loved it!
Things don’t always go as smoothly as they did that first morning, however. We have a two-year-old, for instance, who isn’t the least bit interested in the Liahona but who is an early riser by nature. Sometimes I have to leave the cozy group for a few minutes to deal with him. Then there are those mornings when the children are more excited about the particular day’s events than the missionary experiences of Alma the Younger. Our collie, Pattie, always enjoys a group gathering, and some mornings she vies with Daddy for the limelight. Many times we’ve wondered if the children really absorbed anything at all. Then we’ll have a review session. Dad shows the pictures, and the children take turns relating the incidents as they recall them. We are often amazed at how much they retained at times when we were sure they weren’t really concentrating.
We finished the Book of Mormon in about four months and went to the New Testament. It was easy to find a Bible storybook with large pictures that suited our needs. We use the text of our storybook only as a guide, telling the stories in the context of LDS teachings, with help when needed from James E. Talmage’s Jesus the Christ.
There are many benefits from this early morning program: getting a better understanding of the scriptures and their meaning in our lives, starting the day in a more organized manner with a review of the day’s activities, enjoying a family breakfast together.
I’m sure our children go off to school with a happier, more secure feeling about themselves, our family, and their world.