I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How can we prepare our young children to read and understand the scriptures?

Tom Rose, manager of Child and Youth Curriculum, Church Curriculum Department. The best time to begin preparing children to read the scriptures is as soon as they will listen while you read to them.

The Church has published four scripture storybooks on a second-grade reading level: Old Testament Stories (PBIC0336; $2.50), New Testament Stories (PBIC0347; $2.50), Book of Mormon Stories (PBIC0325; $1.75), and Doctrine and Covenants Stories (PBIC037A; $3.25).

These storybooks contain up to six full-color illustrations per page. With a very young child, you can simply point to the pictures and tell the story in very simple terms. Later you can read the words as the child follows along. As he gains reading skills, he’ll enjoy reading these books on his own, and reading them to younger brothers and sisters. Since reading levels don’t necessarily correlate with grade levels, he may be able to read them himself earlier than the second grade.

Cassette tapes containing powerful narrations with beautiful background music have been prepared for these books. The narrations follow the texts of the books exactly. One beep tells the child to go from one picture to the next; two beeps tells him to turn the page. Some young children have actually increased their beginning reading skills by following along with the tapes over and over again. (Three Old Testament tapes: VVOT0992: $4.00. Two New Testament tapes: VVOT1044; $3.00. Two Book of Mormon tapes: VVOT0697; $2.00. Tapes not yet available for Doctrine and Covenants Stories. Watch for announcement of availability during fall or winter of 1984.)

These scripture storybooks are doctrinally sound and scripturally accurate. At a tender age, children learn about Jesus Christ and the lives and teachings of the prophets. They begin to learn the names of scriptural characters and places and are introduced to gospel concepts. As they read, even young children begin to understand the messages of the scriptures, and their testimonies begin to grow.

An effective way to help young children become familiar with scriptural style is to encourage them to memorize selected passages. We’ve done this in our family and have found that young children are avid memorizers. One day, after we had been helping our older children memorize Alma 37:35, we noticed four-year-old Karilee walking around the house saying, “Learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” We were surprised—but pleased that at her young age she was becoming familiar with scripture wording and concepts.

When your child grows a little older and is ready for more advanced reading, the Church has provided an intermediate reader. The book Scripture Stories (PBIC0358; $3.95) is on a sixth-grade reading level, but many children are ready for it earlier. This excellent book contains stories from all the standard works and is specifically designed to help prepare children to read the actual scriptures. It contains many simple quotations from the scriptures and utilizes scripture style and vocabulary. Cassette tapes are also available for this book. (Seven tapes: VVOT1135; $10.00.)

All of these Church-produced materials are available at the Salt Lake Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. (Make check payable to Corporation of the President.)

Once your child is able to read Scripture Stories, he should be ready, with a little help, to read the Book of Mormon, which is on about a seventh-grade reading level. And after experience with the scriptural language and style in the Book of Mormon, he will be more prepared to understand the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Old Testament.

Of course, your children will be encouraged to study the scriptures if they see you reading them regularly, if you study them as a family, and if you discuss the stories and ideas. Because of this exposure, many children will want to turn to the actual scriptures much earlier than the grade levels of the books would indicate.

The Apostle Paul saw our days and warned: “In the last days perilous times shall come.

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, … despisers of those that are good, …

“Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. …

“Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–4, 13.)

These are challenging times, both for parents and for children. However, Paul told Timothy how we can overcome evil:

“Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. …

“From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14–15.)

The scriptures can make us and our children “wise unto salvation.” If we help our children obtain the necessary skills and desires, scripture reading may become a regular part of their lives.

We enjoy taking our children with us as much as possible when we go to movies and other public events, but we fear that children sometimes distract members of the audience. What can we do to ease that problem?

Keith M. Engar, chairman of the General Activities Committee and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. It is good for families to go to wholesome entertainment together. There are few joys in life equal to sharing with family members the virtuous, lovely, or praiseworthy things that may be found in the concert hall, theatre, and ward cultural halls. But some times children do fail to appreciate certain activities. The following suggestions may be useful in making family entertainment experiences enjoyable.

When you take children of all ages, choose events all members will enjoy. Babes in arms and toddlers do not enjoy being confined at length in a limited space, so it is inappropriate to take them to a play or a concert where they must remain stationary and quiet for a long period of time. They cannot be blamed for talking or crying aloud, and other members of the audience can’t be blamed for being annoyed by the distraction. Further, such noises are not fair to performers, who have rehearsed long hours for the show.

A good rule is to check the theatre or concert hall admission policies before you obtain your tickets. Not all will have as drastic a policy as the Salt Lake Theatre in 1863 which, at a time when the top adult ticket price was $1.25, advertised “Babies in Arms Ten Dollars Extra.” (There’s no record of anyone ever paying the ten extra dollars.) In the current free Temple Square Concert Series in the Assembly Hall held each Friday and Saturday night, it is recommended that parents bring no child under eight years of age.

Parents should be alert for events that advertise “bring the whole family.” I think it is appropriate to take the entire family to ward and stake roadshows because they are colorful, have a lot of action and energy, involve ward members who are friends and neighbors, and consist of several short scenes. Between each show is an intermission that allows toddlers to stretch their legs. And a parent bringing a baby can sit near an exit so that the parent and child can leave the cultural hall quickly.

It is difficult to say whether an entire family should attend ward and stake plays. I suggest that activities committees producing such plays decide on a recommended age level and communicate that decision in the publicity so that parents will know whether to bring children. In one ward I lived in, the dress rehearsal was presented at an early enough hour so that young children could attend. Other wards present special performances for children.

Occasional family dances for all ages, including babies and toddlers, are being scheduled by some ward activities committees. One of the most intriguing was an outdoor dance. A food committee planned a simple, inexpensive menu. A music committee with representatives from all age groups, including young people, chose the music. Children danced with each other and with their parents and other grownups. For anyone who didn’t care to dance, games were provided. Helium balloons were available for the youngsters. Parents with young toddlers could leave when they chose. An important part of this event was the opportunity for all ward members to share a family experience, and many nonmembers and inactive members joined the fun.

While it is important for parents to train children to appreciate and seek wholesome entertainment, they should avoid compulsion. If a parent forces a child to attend a concert, a play, or a ballet before the child is ready to appreciate it, the parent is risking having the child learn to dislike what he or she could eventually learn to love.

Book of Mormon prophets knew before the Lord’s birth that his name would be Jesus Christ. Did Old Testament prophets also know?

Stephen D. Ricks, Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages, BYU. The name Jesus Christ—and also shortened forms, Christ and Jesus—are mentioned on numerous occasions in the Book of Mormon prior to the Lord’s birth in the flesh. The Savior appeared to the earliest Book of Mormon prophet, the brother of Jared, in about 2200 B.C., saying: “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ.” Ether 3:14.)

Nephi probably learned the Savior’s name both from the brass plates (the scriptures available to him) and from revelation. “According to the words of the prophets … and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:19.) Other later Book of Mormon prophets who lived before Christ’s birth—such as Jacob, King Benjamin, Alma, and Helaman—also knew and used the Lord’s name. (See Jacob 1:6; Jacob 4:4; Mosiah 3:5–11; Alma 5:44; Hel. 5:12.)

We learn in the Pearl of Great Price that many of the early Old Testament prophets also knew the name of the Savior. It was revealed to Adam that he should be baptized “in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, … which is Jesus Christ.” (Moses 6:52.) Enoch prayed “in the name of thine Only Begotten, even Jesus Christ.” (Moses 7:50.) Noah, in the course of his preaching, declared: “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Moses 8:24.)

The name of Jesus Christ is the English form of the Savior’s name in Greek, the language of the New Testament. But neither the Old Testament, the brass plates, nor the golden plates were written in Greek (see 1 Ne. 1:2–3; 1 Ne. 3:19; Mosiah 1:3–4; Morm. 9:32–33). It is not likely, therefore, that the Greek name of the Lord appeared on the records from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Rather, the name Jesus Christ served as the closest equivalent of the word or words used by the ancient writers of the Book of Mormon. In translating their writings, Joseph Smith used the name with which he and other Christians were familiar.

Even though the Greek form of the Savior’s name would not have appeared in the writings of the ancient Hebrew and American authors, a version of the names Jesus and Christ do occur in the Old Testament, and these may have found their way into the brass plates. Both Jesus and Christ have Hebrew equivalents. Hebrew forms of the name Jesus—Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu are frequently found in the Old Testament, although not with reference to the Savior. (See, for example, Ex. 17:9; 1 Chr. 24:11; Ezra 2:40.) The name Joshua and Jeshua are English renderings of the Hebrew names Yehoshua and Yeshua. Jesus in English is the equivalent of the Greek rendering of Yeshua and Yeshu.

The Hebrew equivalent of the word Christ—Messiah—also appears in the Hebrew scriptures. Mashiah, which means “anointed” and which is translated as christos in the Greek, is often employed in the Old Testament with reference to the anointed high priest. (See Lev. 4:3, 5, 16, for example, where mashiah is translated “anointed.”) It is also used with reference to God’s anointed king, such as Saul and David. (See 1 Sam. 24:6; 1 Sam. 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 19:21; 2 Sam. 23:1.) The term also came to be used specifically in reference to God’s Anointed who was to come in fulfillment of prophecy. The word Messiah is itself used in the King James rendering of Daniel’s vision, where “Messiah the Prince” is referred to. (See Dan. 9:25.)

Since Nephi, who studied the brass plates, probably learned the name of Jesus Christ from “the words of the prophets” (2 Ne. 25:19), it is likely that a version of the Savior’s name occurred on the brass plates. These plates contained much of the information found in our Old Testament: “the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, … And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” (1 Ne. 5:11–12.)

It is not clear why specific information found on the brass plates—such as the use of the Savior’s name in prophecy—was not included in the records now constituting the Old Testament. It is possible that the Lord’s name originally appeared in the writings of the prophets, but was one of the “plain and precious things taken away from the book.” (See 1 Ne. 13:28.) As the angel prophesied to Nephi, the Book of Mormon, which includes information from the brass plates, “shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them [the records of the Jews]; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” (1 Ne. 13:40.)

Whether the name Jesus Christ appears in the Old Testament or not, that scripture still remains an important witness for him. Jesus told his questioners to “search the scriptures; … they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.) The term scriptures is, with few exceptions, used in the New Testament to refer to the Old Testament. (See, for example, Luke 24:44–45.) These scriptures found their meaning and fulfillment in Jesus. (See Luke 4:21.) He was the triumphant Son of Man (compare Dan. 7:13–14; Mark 13:26), David’s son and heir (see Mark 12:35–37; Mark 15:2), the great High Priest (see Heb. 4:14).

Thus, the Bible—the Old Testament as well as the New—and the Book of Mormon stand together as witnesses of Jesus Christ, complementing, enhancing, elucidating, and confirming each other in their testimony of him.