Lesson Four: Studying the Scriptures Together

Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997), 17


My soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
[2 Nephi 4:15]

PURPOSE

Encourage family members to study the scriptures together regularly.

FOR THE PARENT

All Church members have been counseled by our leaders to study the scriptures. Though we know how important this counsel is, it is not always easy to follow. The scriptures are not always easy reading. They sometimes seem difficult to understand.

The scriptures are, however, the word of God to his children through the ages. They show his great love and assure us that he cares for us today as he has always cared for his children. The Lord said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23). This peace can dispel worry and fear in a confused and troubled world.

The scriptures contain sound advice, beautiful poetry, and history. If we read the scriptures regularly, praying and desiring to understand, they will be a great blessing to us and to our families. (See 2 Nephi 4:15, Mosiah 1:7, D&C 33:16.)

PREPARATION

  1. 1.

    Have a copy of the standard works for each family member if possible.

  2. 2.

    Make the following three wordstrips or simple posters: “God loves his children,” “We can learn to know Jesus,” and “We can get help.”

  3. 3.

    Use the pictures of families from the scriptures included with the lesson.

SUGGESTED HYMN AND SONG

“An Angel from on High” (Hymns, no. 13).

“Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” (Children’s Songbook, p. 57).

SUGGESTED LESSON

The Scriptures Are the Word of God

If you have enough copies of the standard works, give one book to each member of your family. If you don’t have enough for each person, let them share those books that you do have.

  • What are these books called? (The standard works, scriptures.)

  • Why are they important to us? (They contain the truth. They contain the word of God.)

Explain that Heavenly Father gave us these books for special reasons. Have your family read 1 Nephi 19:22–24. Nephi lists three reasons for having scriptures. Display the wordstrips or posters as you identify these three reasons:

  1. 1.

    God loves his children—“that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old” (vs. 22).

  2. 2.

    We can learn to know Jesus—“that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them” (vs. 23).

  3. 3.

    We can get help—“for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning (vs. 23).

The Scriptures Show That Heavenly Father Loves His Children

Refer to the first wordstrip or poster, “God loves his children.” Show the four pictures of families from the scriptures that Heavenly Father has helped. Discuss who the people are, what happened to them, and which book contains their story:

  1. 1.

    Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus left for Egypt (Matthew 2:13–15).

  2. 2.

    Moses and the children of Israel journeyed to the promised land (Exodus 3:7–8).

  3. 3.

    Lehi and his family traveled to America (1 Nephi 18:8, 23).

  4. 4.

    The Mormon pioneers moved west (D&C 136:1–10).

Remind your family that the scriptures tell us that Heavenly Father loves his children and wants to help them. We can be sure that he cares for us today and will bless us as he has blessed his children in the past.

The Scriptures Tell Us about Jesus

Show the second wordstrip or poster, “We can learn to know Jesus.” Ask each family member to tell his favorite story about Jesus. After each person has responded, point out which book of scripture contains that story.

Look up some of the stories you have shared, and let your children see exactly where they are found. Let them read a few verses so that they can become familiar with the language of the scriptures.

Ask the following questions, and if your family members think the answer is in the book they are holding, tell them to stand up:

  • What book tells about Jesus’ birth and life on earth? (The Bible.)

  • What book tells about his visit to the American continent? (The Book of Mormon.)

  • What book has instructions that Jesus gave to Joseph Smith? (The Doctrine and Covenants.)

  • What book tells about when Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove? (The Pearl of Great Price.)

Be sure your family understands that all of the standard works tell us something about Jesus. The more we read about Heavenly Father and Jesus, the better we will know them.

The Scriptures Can Help Us

Show the third wordstrip or poster, “We can get help.” Explain that Heavenly Father gave us the scriptures so that by reading about the lives of other people, their problems, and how they solved them, we can learn to handle our own problems better.

Read the following problems. After each one is read, have a family member look up and read the listed scriptures that would help in handling that problem. (Help smaller children.)

  1. 1.

    You are worried or fearful about something (Isaiah 41:10, D&C 112:10).

  2. 2.

    You are sad because you have done something you shouldn’t have (Isaiah 1:18, Moroni 6:8, D&C 58:42).

  3. 3.

    You feel bad because someone has been unkind to you (Proverbs 15:1–2, Matthew 6:14–15, Luke 6:27–30).

We Can Study the Scriptures Together

Explain that the scriptures can help us and be a blessing to us only if we will read them regularly and think and pray about them. Every family home evening lesson begins with a scripture. Encourage family members always to have the standard works with them at family home evenings so that they can look up scriptures during the lessons.

Help your children read directly from the scriptures. Help them to understand what is said so that the scriptures will become familiar to them. Point out that every Latter-day Saint home should have these books and use them.

If you are not now reading the scriptures regularly as a family, discuss how to begin. Decide on a time, a place, and the book you would like to read first. Some families have found early morning, before or after breakfast, to be the best time for scripture reading. Others choose to do it at dinner time or before family prayers at night. Discuss all these possibilities with your family, and decide what is best for you.

Emphasize that reading the scriptures only ten minutes or one chapter a day can greatly increase the spirituality of your home.

If you are already reading together, have one or two family members share what reading the scriptures regularly means to them.

ADAPTING FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Hold each of the four standard works, one at a time, in a way that shows your appreciation and reverence for it as you tell the children its name. Explain that they are very special books because they contain the words of our Heavenly Father. They contain true stories and tell us about Jesus and how we can be happy. They tell us how much our Heavenly Father loves us and that he will always help us.

Sing “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” with your children. Then tell them the story of Jesus blessing the Nephite children (see 3 Nephi 17:18–25). Show them where this story is located in the Book of Mormon.

Next tell them your favorite Old Testament story, and show them where it is found in the Bible.

To study the scriptures with your younger children, read or tell bedtime stories from the scriptures, or read from Old Testament Stories (item number 31118), New Testament Stories (31119), Book of Mormon Stories (35666), Doctrine and Covenants Stories (31122), or Scripture Stories (31120). (Prerecorded sound tapes are also available. Check the current distribution center catalog in your meetinghouse library.)

Remember to tell your children which book the story comes from each time you read or tell a story so that they will become familiar with the standard works.

ADAPTING FOR TEENAGERS AND ADULTS

Have each family member tell his favorite scriptural passage, story, or parable. Stimulate their thinking by first telling one of yours. After everyone has had an opportunity to respond, ask why they chose that particular verse or story. Responses should show different ways the scriptures can teach and help us.

Have someone read 1 Nephi 19:22–24. Identify the three basic reasons why Nephi exhorted his people to read and ponder the scriptures. Use the regular lesson to discuss these three reasons, adapting it to the interests of your family.

If you do not have a regular program for scripture study in your family, use the following personal experience related in the April 1975 general conference by Bishop H. Burke Peterson to help your family begin one:

“May I relate a personal experience from the Peterson family. Several years ago after wrestling with the problem for some time, my wife and I, sensing the urgency of our parental charge, devised a new battle plan. You see, up to that point, Satan had been winning the battle of ‘Should we or should we not read the scriptures together in the Peterson home?’ We had tried off and on for years with no sustained success. Our big problem was that someone or something always interrupted our schedule. With a 17-year spread in our children’s ages, we felt we had a special challenge.

“As we studied and prayed over it, we concluded that the best time for our family of girls to read would be when no one else wanted our time. Since the older girls had to be in seminary by 7:00 A.M., our controllable time had to be early. We decided on 6:15 in the morning. We knew it would be a challenge to get teenage support. The idea was good, but its implementation was most difficult and it still is. Our family is still struggling.

“Our great new plan had its birth one hot August day in Phoenix, Arizona. My wife suggested we give them a whole month to think about it and prepare for it. We went about their mental preparation in a very positive way. The plan was to start the first day of school in early September. To their protests that it was impossible to have their heads all filled with rollers in time, or that it was not likely they would feel happy so early in the morning, or that they might be late to seminary, or not have time to eat breakfast either, we replied very cheerfully that we knew they were clever enough to cope with any minor problems that might arise.

“At its announcement, we also told the girls we had been praying for guidance in this family problem. This made it easier, because they had been schooled in prayer and had been taught not to question its results.

“The historic first morning finally came. My wife and I got up a little early so we would be sure to be wide awake and happy. Our initial approach must meet with success. We entered each bedroom singing and happy at the thought of the prospects before us. Purposely we went to one special bedroom first. Here slept a daughter who would be able to get up early but who couldn’t wake up before noon. We sat her up in bed and then went to the others and started them all into the family room. Some stumbled, some fell, some had to be carried in, some slept through that first morning—and I might say through subsequent mornings too.

“Little by little, we have learned over the years what reading the scriptures 15 minutes each morning can do for our family. You should know that we don’t try to discuss and understand each point we read. We try to pick out only a couple of thoughts each morning to digest. You should also know we still have to struggle with the plan’s performance, even though we now have only two children at our home.

“Can you imagine how a parent would feel to ask a little girl, ‘What did King Benjamin mean when he said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”?’ (Mosiah 2:17.) And she would respond, ‘I suppose he means that I shouldn’t be selfish and should do little things for my sisters because it makes Heavenly Father happy—and Daddy, I want him to be happy with me, so I’m going to try harder.’ Innumerable are the blessings that will accrue to the family that persists in this noble effort of reading the scriptures together daily.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 79–80; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 54.)

Encourage your family to set up a program of scripture reading as discussed in the final section of the regular lesson.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE HOME EVENINGS

Getting to Know the Scriptures

Have a separate lesson on each of the standard works (you may wish to treat the Old and New Testaments as separate books). In each lesson, discuss where the works came from, what they contain, and some of their important messages. (See chapter 10, “Scriptures,” in Gospel Principles [31110], pp. 52–56.)

Where Is It?

Have a family home evening on locating scriptures. Write the names of the books (Omni, Helaman, Haggai, etc.) on flash cards. As each card is shown, family members tell in which standard work that book is found.

For older members, use individual scripture stories, names of prophets, or familiar passages. The names of books can also be mixed up and then arranged in the order in which they are found in the standard works.

A Scripture Game Night

Have an evening of games. You can include games such as the following:

  1. 1.

    Question and answer games. Ask questions such as “What prophet called down fire from heaven?” or “What book comes after Zechariah?” Then let family members find the answer in the standard works (Elijah, in 1 Kings 18, 2 Kings 1; and Malachi).

  2. 2.

    Scripture chase. Use a word or phrase, such as “Love is necessary to do God’s work.” Then have family members race to find the appropriate scripture (D&C 4:5).

  3. 3.

    Matching games. Play matching games, matching such things as scriptural characters with events or people with places.

Adjust game difficulty to fit your family’s age and knowledge.

You may wish to award points or prizes to make the games more interesting. If so be careful that each family member has a chance to share in the prizes.

How to Study the Scriptures

Have a lesson on ways to study scriptures. Discuss how to outline, read for understanding, or mark passages. Use references and the Topical Guide in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, and relate the scriptures to our own day (see 1 Nephi 19:23).

Adapt the lesson to fit the age level of your family (this would not work well for very young children). Older children and adults may wish to practice these skills and compare results.

The Scriptures in Our Lives

Read aloud Joseph Smith—History 1:1–14. Show how the scriptures helped Joseph Smith find the answer to his problem. Then ask family members to suggest passages of scripture that have made a difference in their lives or the lives of people they know. Discuss how the scriptures can help us solve our daily problems. Point out that the scriptures are personal messages to us from our Heavenly Father.

The Need for Personal Scripture Study

Discuss the importance of a personal program of scripture study. Take time to have each family member set up a practical scripture study schedule of his own if he does not have one. Family members may select their own part of the standard works to study. Have them schedule their reading on a calendar as a visible reminder.

Have family members keep track of their reading, and promise the whole family a treat if they meet some agreed percentage of their goals.

End with a twenty-minute quiet period during which the members of your family can begin their scripture study program.

Young children may not be capable of scripture reading on their own, but they do enjoy hearing the scriptures read aloud. A regular program of reading scriptures to them will help make later scripture reading a familiar and enjoyable experience.