Latter-day Saint parents recognize the great importance of scripture study in the family. Not only does learning the gospel together develop feelings of love and appreciation in the family, but it builds a foundation of truth upon which children can build throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, most children are not always as excited about studying the scriptures as they are about watching television or playing with their friends. But that can be changed. With some commitment and creative preparation, parents can excite the entire family about scripture study and help each make gospel study a habit.
Part of that preparation involves studying the scriptures ourselves. The best teacher has always been example, and parents who study the gospel regularly have the power of example to strengthen their words of counsel. Of course, finding time for regular gospel study can be a challenge. It may require a change in choice of activities, such as how much television we watch or how many church, school, or community activities we can comfortably handle. It might even mean a big change in family schedules, including waking up earlier.
Whatever we must do to fit gospel study into our lives, the rewards will be well worth the effort. The light we allow into our own lives will reflect upon the lives of our children.
1. Commitment. Once we commit to anything, our desire to succeed makes the task easier, whether it be exercising to lose weight, completing educational courses, or having regular gospel study. As a family, discuss ways to study the scriptures. Then, once the family has agreed upon a plan, get a commitment from each member to follow the plan. Until you have that commitment, your efforts will not be completely successful.
2. Consistency. Just about any well-planned activity done on a regular basis is more effective than one done now and again without any preparation. Keeping to a set schedule encourages learning and frees us to learn with a minimum of interruptions. Family members need to decide the best time for study, then keep to it.
3. Individuality. Elder Howard W. Hunter said, “Families are greatly blessed when wise fathers and mothers bring their children about them, read from the scriptures together, and then discuss freely the beautiful stories and thoughts according to the understanding of all.” (General Conference, October 1979; italics added.) As no two families respond identically to the same situation, no one way of gospel study will suit every family. But through thoughtful, sincere prayer, and by talking together, each family can decide the best way for them to study the gospel.
One family, with children of many different ages, tried studying during and after dinner, before bedtime, and on weekends—all without much success. They finally found their answer by having a family breakfast an hour before anyone leaves for work or school. This allows them to have a nutritious meal together and to study gospel principles each day. “We are a happier family now,” says the grateful wife and mother. “We have more time to talk together in a meaningful way, and our family gospel study has helped each of us understand and live the gospel better.”
4. Variety. Keeping the interest and attention of family members is essential. When young children are learning something new, they best remember what they do (such as draw a picture, tell a story), followed by what they see (pictures, filmstrips), and then what they hear (reading, tape recordings). A lesson on the Nativity, therefore, might best be remembered by young children if each child role-played a part, supplemented by a reading from the scriptures.
1. Read it aloud. Children can learn to love the scriptures by listening to their parents read to them. Arthur Henry King, a retired professor of English at Brigham Young University and currently president of the London Temple, says, “The most important thing we can read to our children is the scriptures. … The voices we hear as little children remain with us, so parents must read the scriptures to their children as early as possible. The child who hears the scriptures in the loved voices of his father and mother will come, through that love, to understand the scriptures and appreciate them in the best way. … Through the voice of their parents, children can … become familiar with the voice of the Lord.” (The Abundance of the Heart, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986, pp. 221–22.)
We may choose to read the scriptures book by book, or we may study them by reading about different topics. Or, while children are still young, we may read and reread the same favorites, thus giving that “loved voice” to the language of the scriptures. The more this kind of sharing can occur, the more familiar the language of the scriptures becomes to our children and the more approachable the scriptures will be.
2. Memorize it. Besides reading aloud, another traditional method of study is to memorize selected verses of scripture. Young children can memorize simple verses, and they will feel a great sense of satisfaction from their accomplishments.
3. Look it up. When reading aloud as a family, definitions of important words can be found in a Bible dictionary, scriptures containing the same words can be identified in a topical guide, and geographical locations can be found on maps. As children become familiar with these helps, their understanding of the scriptures increases, and they make them a meaningful part of their lives.
4. Tape record it. Where possible, parents can record gospel-related stories for children to listen to. This approach is especially helpful for busy parents and those who must be gone from home for extended periods of time.
5. Discuss it. Educators are concerned that today’s students often find it hard to share their feelings out loud. Family discussions are excellent ways to strengthen this skill, as well as increase gospel understanding. For example, families can discuss:
—The ideas and content of lessons taught in classes at church or seminary.
—Talks given in sacrament meetings or conferences.
—Articles in the Tambuli.
—Poetry, stories, or books that have wholesome themes.
—Current events relating to the gospel.
6. Share it. Give family members, according to their ages and abilities, a chance to share with the family what they learn about the gospel. Following are some ideas for making this approach a successful part of family gospel study:
—Ask your children to help teach the family home evening lesson.
—Ask a family member to prepare a short talk on a gospel subject.
—Let a member of the family choose a favorite story from scripture or Church history and tell it in his own words to the rest of the family.
—If family members have Church teaching responsibilities, encourage them to practice giving their lessons or talks to the family.
7. Plan a family study activity. Following are some suggestions for family activities:
—Have members of the family write their own stories or poems about gospel subjects and compile them into a family book.
—Play question and word games using people, events, and principles from the standard works.
—Begin a family art gallery of pictures and clay or paper models of scriptural stories, historical events, or gospel principles in action.
—Prepare a family program of songs, scriptures, and stories to share with the elderly or nonmembers.
The natural setting for gospel study is family home evening. Once children have seen how enjoyable gospel study can be, they will also want to study other times.
Remember, that unlike physics, mathematics, and other academic subjects, study of the gospel cannot be effective if only facts are involved. We must teach with our hearts. Our spirits must be in tune with our intellect if our children are to benefit from our efforts to teach them the value of gospel study.