A Brick for Christmas?

At Christmastime, many of us face the dilemma of giving meaningful gifts. A few years ago, my parents came up with a great solution: heritage gifts. Each year these simple gifts represent a part of our family’s history.

These gifts have included copies of family audiotapes that record the squeals of delight from our childhood Christmas mornings. Our annual recorded interviews are also included, sharing highlights from school, our friendships, and our progress in the gospel as we were growing up. Recordings of us as budding musicians also carry fun memories.

Videotape recordings, transferred from our old 8-mm home movies, show us as children opening gifts, going on family vacations, and catching the bus on our first day of school. My children now love to watch my siblings and me as children.

Family history compilations, family cookbooks, a collection of family letters, and a brick have been favorite heritage gifts as well. Using some of the best bricks from an exterior wall that was demolished when our house was remodeled, my parents cleaned and varnished them, then affixed a plaque that simply says “Home” and our address. The brick serves as a happy reminder of the fond childhood memories we shared at home.

Through these heritage gifts, we have received a treasure of memories that will last throughout the years—long after other tangible gifts are gone.

Bonnie B. Larsen, Wellsville Eighth Ward, Wellsville Utah Stake

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores

Helping Children Memorize Scriptures

One of my goals is to help my children cherish the scriptures. To accomplish this, I have used several methods to develop regular scripture study habits. However, I felt there was more I could do. But what?

One day I read the history of a pioneer ancestor who had been blind since early childhood. For many years he could not read; yet through his faith and knowledge of the word of God, he could quote long scriptural passages. After reading his account, I realized the answer to my prayers was to follow my ancestor’s example—memorizing “the words of life” (D&C 84:85).

We now follow a simple routine every night before family prayer to help us memorize scriptures:

Day one: Choose a scripture and repeat it aloud once or twice. We are currently working on the Articles of Faith, but in the past we have memorized favorite missionary scriptures and Primary scripture themes.

Day two: Repeat the scripture, but this time discuss its meaning. We have found we memorize the words more quickly if we understand what we are saying.

Day three and beyond: Continue rehearsing the scripture until all have learned it. Sometimes we each take turns repeating it aloud, and sometimes we say it together. Because we do this every night, we always have a scripture in mind before kneeling in prayer.

Memorization tips for young children: Since we each learn at different rates, our family sometimes moves on to another scripture before my youngest has fully memorized it. Watching her older siblings move quickly through a long verse overwhelms her, so we have developed other ways to help her have a positive experience. We encourage her to take part during our discussions and while we repeat the scriptures.

We also regularly invite her to repeat those she knows well, and we have occasional review sessions that help her—and everyone—recall scriptures we have previously studied.

This memorization process has helped us have regular scripture time, even on hectic nights, because there is always time to repeat one scripture. Our children have also gained confidence through their increased understanding and memorization skills. Like our faithful forebears, the messages from the scriptures are becoming part of who we are.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, Perry Third Ward, Willard Utah Stake

Family Home Evening Helps: Five True Gifts

“Among the true gifts of Christmas are peace, love, service, self, and faith.” These words touched me as I read President James E. Faust’s message in the December 2001 Ensign (“A Christmas with No Presents,” 2). To share this important message with our children, my husband and I decided that our December family home evenings should focus on these gifts.

Before our first family night that month, I displayed a poster listing these five true gifts. Each family member old enough to prepare a lesson was given one of the topics, along with a teaching suggestion.

For our first lesson, I chose the gift of love. Sharing quotations from the Ensign article, I referred to an attractively wrapped gift placed under our tree ahead of time. It displayed the word love on it. To visually remind us of the true gifts we were seeking, we added four more gifts in the ensuing weeks.

For the gift of peace, we challenged our family to avoid contention in our home. Our lesson on service took us to a neighboring nursing home, where we sang carols and decorated a tree for a sister my husband visited as a home teacher. During our lesson on the gift of self, we chose to look beyond ourselves and secretly serve others. Lessons on faith came from the scriptures as we focused on the prophecies of the Savior’s birth and on the faith of those who, under the threat of death, still believed He would come (see, for instance, Hel. 14:2–6; 3 Ne. 1:4–21).

On Christmas morning the impact of our lessons became evident when I saw how our teenage son had arranged our true gifts around a painting of the Savior. Our Christmas was much richer when our family focused more on these true gifts of Christmas.

Heather J. West, East Valley Ward, Emmett Idaho Stake

[illustration] Silhouette by Beth Whittaker