Our Missionary Wall

In our home we have designated a “missionary wall” to keep the goal of missionary service before our six sons. We hung a picture of the Savior, then put up a poster of two missionaries walking down a street. We also hung a photograph of a temple on the wall to remind our children that they will go to the temple before they enter the mission field.

With that beginning we have added a number of interesting items that various family members have brought back from their missions. The collection begins with my husband’s name tag from his mission to Spain and includes chopsticks from an uncle’s mission to Japan, a wall hanging from Venezuela, and a set of salt and pepper shakers from Scotland, among other things. Our sons have also written letters to cousins and ward members serving on missions, requesting postcards; we anxiously await adding them to our wall. We hope our missionary wall will help our sons to set goals to one day serve missions.Marlene R. Ellingson, Mesa, Arizona

Blessings of Budgeting

Since my husband and I began budgeting, we have enjoyed a number of blessings. Here are a few:

  • A budget ensures we can pay our tithing and other offerings. Several years ago my son and I were in a car accident that demolished our car. Fortunately we were wearing our seat belts and were not injured. That evening as our family was praying to thank Heavenly Father for his protection, we had a strong impression that we had been protected because we had been faithful in paying our tithing.

  • Money management brings peace of mind by removing many of our financial pressures. There is security in knowing we have done our best to prepare for unexpected expenses and life’s little emergencies.

  • When troubles come, we can pray for help in faith, knowing we have done all we can do to take care of our financial responsibilities. We have found that faithfully following the counsel to budget has given us confidence to draw upon the powers of heaven during times of need (see D&C 82:10). My husband and I have often felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost in making plans and in working through our financial difficulties. During our son’s recent cancer treatments, there was a big gap between our financial obligations and our income. The Lord opened heaven’s windows and blessed us—usually through the generosity of others—with what we needed to fill that gap.

  • Budgeting has enabled me to be a full-time homemaker. Just before our first child arrived, I quit my job. We were especially grateful for our budget at that time because it gave us a guide to reducing our spending and opened the way for me to stay home and raise our children.

  • Sticking to a budget has allowed us to enjoy a higher standard of living. Having a financial plan helped us see many areas where we were wasting money and enabled us to get more of what we really wanted.

  • Budgeting helps us deepen our understanding of each other and develop our communication skills. Finances are tied into almost every aspect of life. When we discuss our financial goals and plans, we often find ourselves discussing a range of topics, including our relationships with one another and our extended families, childhood experiences and memories, retirement plans, home improvements, vacation plans, temple attendance, challenges and goals relating to my husband’s occupation, and much more.

Our family is grateful for the many blessings we have received from budgeting our money. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “All things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; … for my commandments are spiritual” (D&C 29:34–35). Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “In my judgment, we never will have balance in our lives unless our finances are securely under control” (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” Ensign, May 1987, 15).

Keeping the temporal law of managing our money has truly brought us spiritual blessings and has helped bring balance into our lives.Janice Stringham LeFevre, Kaysville, Utah

Writing Our Family Journal

To help our children develop better reading and writing skills, we decided to devote a few minutes to a writing project each week during family home evening. I gave the children snapshots of a past family event and asked them to write whatever they remembered about the event, then read it aloud to the family.

Often we would pass the photos to a new person the following week and get their perspective of the same event. Not only did we get a different point of view, but by saving the stories we have been able to keep a journal for our personal family history.

This activity has brought our family closer together as we have shared memories of past times. Now we keep a camera on hand wherever we go, and our family home evenings seem filled with more “family” than ever before.Donna-Jean Wilson, Alturas, California

Enjoying the Scriptures Together

In this era of scripture storybooks, cassette tapes, videocassettes, and compact discs, parents may find it a challenge to interest children in reading the actual scriptures. The following activities helped our children, now grown up, to enjoy and learn from these sacred books:

  • We posted verses of scripture where they could easily be seen, most coming from the seminary memorization list. Each night before dinner we read a verse in unison, and by the end of the week, even the younger children could often recite it from memory. And didn’t their eyes light up when one of “our scriptures” was quoted in a talk!

  • We assigned each family member to read certain scriptural verses during the week. On Sunday evenings we gathered with pillows on the floor and took turns sharing the stories, often with the lights out. Occasionally we assigned sequential stories to provide an overview of a subject or a seasonal event.

  • At dinnertime we took turns reading verses from the Book of Mormon before blessing the food. In this way we gradually progressed through the book.

  • Occasionally we asked the children to read or recite one of their favorite scriptures at home evening, encouraging them to think of the scriptures as personal.

  • When our children were assigned talks, we helped them check the Topical Guide to select a key scripture. They underlined the passage and memorized it to recite as part of the talk.

Family scripture reading can be a challenge, especially with young children. By varying the approach yet holding to the goal of reading daily from the scriptures, we continue to enjoy time together in warmhearted scriptural traditions.Jeanine Franson, Farmington, Maine

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth M. Whittaker

Teaching Primary Songs

Leading music in Primary may appear simple, but it can actually be a very complex task. By learning a few basic teaching techniques, music leaders can be more effective in teaching children the Primary songs.

The first step in teaching children new songs is to review any new words and have the children practice pronouncing them. If children understand what they are singing about, they will not only better remember the words but they will also better comprehend the meaning of the song.

To begin teaching the song, the music leader can break up the song into short phrases—maybe six to seven words at a time—that are more easily remembered. Sing each phrase several times, and direct the children’s listening as they practice. For example, if you are teaching the song “Listen, Listen” (Children’s Songbook, p. 107), you can say to the children, “As I sing this song, listen carefully to hear what you should do when you have to make a choice.” Directing their listening will help children to understand and remember the gospel principle being taught through music.

Help the children learn the rhythm of any unusual timing in the melody by quietly clapping as they sing or by listening as the pianist plays that part several times.

Another idea is to link phrases. Sing each phrase only with the preceding phrase instead of starting the song over each time a new phrase is added. When all the phrases of the song have been practiced and linked together, sing the entire song.

Additional helps for music leaders can be found in the Children’s Songbook, p. 300, and in the video How to Teach a Song to Children (item no. 53005).

Pictures often help the children remember each song phrase. Caution should be exercised when using rebus-style pictures because they can be confusing, especially to younger children. For example, don’t use an eye to represent “I” or a Halloween-style ghost for the Holy Ghost. Pictures should accurately represent the words they are portraying, reinforce gospel principles, and reflect the spirit of the song.

Another helpful technique is to involve children physically while learning a song. Encourage movement by teaching songs with the suggested actions or have the children help improvise actions. Clapping or using rhythm instruments to keep time can also help children learn. Another idea is to sometimes find someone to teach the words to the song using American Sign Language.

Besides teaching children new songs, music leaders can add interest to singing time through a variety of activities. One leader held up a cardboard bee when the children were to hum the melody. When the bee disappeared, they were to sing the words again. Letting children select songs from a hat or bouquet of flowers or other visual aid adds interest. Using a “barometer” that measures how well children are singing can serve as an incentive to sing better. Playing only a part of a melody and letting children guess what song it is helps them recognize and remember songs. And dressing up in simple costumes adds fun.

As music leaders, we can help children find joy in singing. With help from the Spirit, we can testify of gospel principles as we teach children to praise the Lord in song.Delores DeVictoria, Antioch, California

[illustration] Illustrated by Kay Stevenson

[photos] Photography by Tamra Hamblin