A Bowlful of Peanuts
I was a teenager and, like many young people, struggled with feelings of confusion and anxiety about the future. I didn’t want to approach my parents about my concerns; I felt they were too old and would never understand my problems. I’m sure my parents were concerned, but I put off their attempts to talk to me.
One night my father came home from work with a sack of groceries. He’d stopped at the corner store and picked up a few items, one of them being a large bag of roasted peanuts. Finding our red porcelain bowl, he emptied the bag into the bowl and approached me. In a voice barely concealing his apprehension, he asked me if I’d like to go out into the garage with him and “snap a few.” He said he had a lot on his mind and that he needed someone to talk to. I reluctantly agreed and we walked out to the garage.
By the time the peanuts were half gone, we had warmed to each other, and for the first time in several years we really began to communicate. In his quiet, confident, roundabout way, he began to reestablish the truths he had taught me from the time I was a little boy. He talked with me not only as a father but also as a friend—a much older and wiser friend. To my astonishment, I found a wealth of information and experiences in my father I hadn’t known existed. We didn’t talk much about the political and moral issues of the day; instead I learned from the mistakes and successes of a man thirty-five years my senior. With that foundation I began to understand the underlying rights and wrongs that would eventually guide my life.
That was the first of many “peanut sessions.” When I left home to go on my mission not many years later, I embraced my father and felt his strength and love in the bear hug he gave me. I will always be grateful to him for reaching out to me during a difficult time in my life and sharing unchanging truths with me. His sincere friendship and nonthreatening approach gave me an anchor during a time of instability and provided an example of the way I want to rear my own children.—, West Valley City, Utah
Scriptures by the Month
With four very young children, it was a challenge to read the scriptures together as a family every day. Then I found a system that works just right for our preschool-age children. I choose a single gospel subject as our study topic for the month. Then, using the Bible’s topical guide to find scriptures that relate to the month’s subject, I write scripture references on the squares of a large calendar hanging in the kitchen. Every evening at dinnertime, right before we ask a blessing on the food, we read and talk about the day’s scripture. We often discuss the scripture in depth during dinner. Monthly topics our family has studied include love, friendship, obedience, and nature.
As I write the scripture references on the calendar, I jot down ideas for related activities that the children can do that month. These activities help keep the topic fresh in our minds and also help the children learn practical applications of the gospel principle. Our children have enjoyed making collages about the topic, coloring pictures, and participating in many other related activities.
By concentrating on one topic each month, our preschool-age children have gained a deeper understanding of the principles of the gospel. Our activities have helped our children begin to develop love for and excitement about the scriptures.—, Yokota Air Base, Japan
Faced with self-imposed deadlines, outside pressures, and more choices than ever, I had been staying up late and skipping meals, running myself ragged, and then remaining sedentary for days at a time while I caught up on reading and paperwork. All of this was taking its toll on my emotional well-being. I felt overwhelmed and unable to cope.
I prayed, hoping to receive an assurance that all would be well. Instead, I heard the still, small voice say, “Keep the Word of Wisdom.” I felt puzzled and disappointed. I didn’t smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, and I had never drunk coffee or tea. How could the counsel to keep the Word of Wisdom apply to me?
I reflected on the many times my friends had mentioned feeling discouraged and unequal to their tasks. Most of them had risen above those feelings and had carried on with their lives. But among those who felt perpetually inadequate, the common denominator seemed to be their priorities—they came last on their own lists. They never took time for regular meals, and they rarely got to bed before midnight. Reluctantly, I acknowledged that I was making the same mistakes and that I needed to change.
First, I stopped thinking about secondary preoccupations and concentrated on basics. I worked on getting up early so I would be sleepy earlier in the evening. I ate nourishing food, and I exercised—consistently! As I developed a routine, I was able to plan better, and I began to feel in control of my life. Many of my previous worries now seemed unimportant, and I was free to direct my thoughts and feelings to other things.
Often we try to run before we can walk. Perhaps we simply need to reevaluate our obedience to God’s most basic commandments before we attempt to reach more ambitious goals.—, Perry, Missouri
Planning to Teach
Many have discovered the joy of teaching the gospel, but there is another distinct joy to be found in connection with teaching—the joy of preparation. Often, lesson preparation is seen as a chore and is put off until the last moment. Like a hurried prayer, last-minute preparation becomes shallow and not very effective.
I have known that kind of preparation myself. It is not pleasant, and it does not build confidence. I have also experienced great exhilaration in preparation. It can be a time of meaningful prayer and profound thoughts. I have found it to be a pleasantly productive time of worship, introspection, understanding, and inspiration.
Of course, very little happens by accident. Effective, enjoyable preparation is the result of thoughtful planning plus adherence to principle. Here is my own personal path to lesson preparation.
I find it important to preview, at least one week in advance, lessons I am to teach. For me this is a quick look at headings, critical scriptures, and general concepts. Once I establish some central ideas and have scriptures in mind, I have the whole week to relate them to present-day life. As the week develops, I jot down ideas that come to me. By the time I sit down to finalize my preparations, I have some personal thoughts and feelings about the lesson material.
A regular place for study is very important. I study at the kitchen table when I prepare my lessons. Because I use the same place every week, I associate it with many joyful, spiritual moments. The memories of previous preparation experiences make it easier to get into the frame of mind to study. Solitude is also important. I like early-morning study, but anytime you are able to think without interruption or disturbance will work fine.
It is important to have the proper resources near at hand during preparation time. The scriptures and lesson manuals, of course, are the critical texts, but additional counsel and inspiration can also be found in Church magazines, books and commentaries by Church leaders, and other sources. Having what I need within easy reach helps me focus on the lesson and allows me to concentrate on the spirit of the experience.
Once all things are ready and in place, I begin to experience the joy of preparation. New insights come into view as I pray and ponder. While I explore and examine the lesson material more deeply, I begin to get a clearer picture of how to give the lesson.
As I have tasted the joy of preparation, I have discovered great pearls of wisdom and insight. I find I learn far more through my preparation than I will ever have time to teach. The final part of my preparation period consists of organizing what I have prepared and planning my presentation so I won’t neglect key points.
Wherever truth is taught, the need for preparation is much the same. Those who develop a path to successful preparation will find a joyful experience awaiting them.