Children have an amazing capacity to understand the principles of the gospel.
Recently I met with a group of people from another faith who were very impressed with the willingness of Church members to share our time and talents helping others. They wanted to know how we teach our children to become like this.
I explained that the family is central to our Heavenly Father’s plan and that parents have the primary responsibility for teaching and training their children. Leaders and teachers simply support the efforts of the parents.
The goal in all our teaching, I told them, is to do what the Prophet Joseph Smith said he did when asked how he led the Church: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”1
“And what are those principles?” the group asked. “Where do you find them?”
“In the words of Christ,” I responded.
Feasting on the Words of Christ
Nephi encourages us to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).
The word of God is found in the scriptures. If we would empower our children spiritually, we will teach them from the scriptures and help them learn to feast from those sacred pages themselves.
Children have an amazing capacity to understand the principles of the gospel. Those who read the scriptures in their early years usually make an internal commitment to follow the principles taught in them. This is why children need to have their own set of scriptures. They need to learn directly from the scriptures what their Father in Heaven wants them to know and do.
Teaching Children from the Scriptures
There are a number of good ways to teach children from the scriptures. I’ve found this pattern to be particularly effective after reading a scripture:
Clearly identify the doctrine.
Help the children understand the doctrine.
Help them apply the doctrine to their lives.
Encourage them to pray for a witness of the Spirit that what they are learning is true.
Let’s use Moroni 10:4 as an example. Let’s say a mother is giving a family home evening lesson. She begins by asking the family members to open their copies of the Book of Mormon and read the verse: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Next she takes the family through the four steps outlined above.
Identify the Doctrine. She asks: “What is Heavenly Father asking us to do in this verse? And what is the blessing He promises us if we do what He asks?” The family discusses the questions and determines that Heavenly Father wants us to read the scriptures and then pray in faith, with a sincere intent to know the truth of what we have read. Heavenly Father promises to answer our prayer by giving us a witness of the truth through the Holy Ghost.
Understand the Doctrine. Next the mother shares the story of Joseph Smith, who upon reading in the Bible that he could “ask of God” (James 1:5), prayed about which church to join. He had faith that his prayer would be answered. As he prayed, the Father and the Son appeared to him. She reminds the family that, of course, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do not appear to everyone who prays, but Heavenly Father will answer sincere prayers in ways He considers best.
Apply the Doctrine. A child asks, “Does this mean Heavenly Father will answer my prayers?” The mother responds, “Yes. Moroni 10:4 indicates that through study and prayer we can know the truth of all things.” The family then decides how to put Moroni’s promise to the test.
Ask for a Witness. The mother bears her testimony and shares how she knows this scripture is true. She closes the lesson by assuring the family that as they do what Moroni says—studying a gospel principle with a desire to know if it is true—they will gain a sweet assurance of the truth through the witness of the Spirit.
Children Taught of the Lord
As we teach our children to love the scriptures and learn from them, we will place in their hearts and hands a wonderful source of strength and guidance for the rest of their lives. We will find fulfilled the promise given in 3 Nephi 22:13: “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”