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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plucking Away at Eternity

Years ago my husband and I mastered companionship prayer and scripture study but our children were getting to that age where we could no longer ignore the commandment to have Family prayer and scripture study.  How did you do that with shorties when only a few could read?  Prayer wasn't too hard.  You did that with one eye open so you could grab them by the ankle when they crawled away, diaper rustling and giggles gurgling. 


But what about that scripture thing? After the children faked death from boredom as we read our regular amount of verses to them I wondered, how did people do this?  Needing an example, I pulled out the handy dandy ward directory and set to work picking brains of families who had children similar in age to ours.  If you don't have an example, go find one.  The more I studied and interviewed the sisters in my ward the more frustrated I became.  Nobody used the exact same method.  Some did it one way, some another.  I decided it was like a recipe.  You just have to make it.  Go through all that work.  Use all those ingredients to see if you like it. 


Some families only read from the Book of Mormon Stories with illustrations. Some read through an entire  Book of Mormon chapter every night.  Some listened to one parent read.  Some did only a few verses each.  Some taught a lesson with each chapter and only read key scriptures. Most of the families didn't have scripture study together at all.  All I had to do was try something and I'd be ahead of the curve.  Whoo-Hoo!... Not that we're racing or anything, but it was kind of a rush.


I won't illustrate all of our failures but I will say we had to fail.  Failing was an essential part of our scripture study success.  We had to see what didn't work to find what would.  And what works changes over the years.  My first discovery was that for little kids the Book of Mormon Stories pictures were good.  The children didn't have the attention span for the words.  I would have the children talk about the pictures and notice details. I'd tell them stories with my eye's wide and animated.  As time went on and attention spans grew I would read the captions under the pictures and have them choose their favorite part of the story.  We would look up those verses and I'd read them so the children could hear them in scripture form.  That evolved into the children reading the captions themselves when they could. 


Now we read the actual scriptures.  We purchased several missionary copies of the Book of Mormon.  We use Post-it notes to mark the verse we're on each night so everyone starts in the right place the next day.  Everyone reads three verses because that's the attention span capacity of the smallest child. We read in order of age. In the middle of study we've been known to set the scriptures down and talk about important concepts or ask "Do you understand what is happening here?"  We've even gotten out the Legos and built our own Nephite cities where armies are holding us captive but Lo!  Someone is lowering weapons over the wall.  Won't those stinky ol' Lamanites be surprised in the morning when we're in charge again?


So how do you do scriptures study with a family?  You just begin.  The only wrong way to do it is to never start.  I guarantee you if you can push through for two weeks the children won't let you forget after that.  We have a whole routine built around scriptures now.  Brush your teeth at 7:45, scriptures at 8:00, followed by prayer, then Dad reads a chapter from a novel the family is working on while I color with the shortest shortie.  It's not for everyone, but it's ours. It's unique and I know if I called around today I'd still discover every family has a right way just for them.


Elder Howard W. Hunter said, “Families are greatly blessed when wise fathers and mothers bring their children about them, read from the pages of the scriptural library together, and then discuss freely the beautiful stories and thoughts according to the understanding of all.” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 64)


Family prayer and scripture study blesses our home.  Is it post card perfect?  No.  Are we all great readers? No. But we can feel the Spirit here even on giggly nights (The nights where half of us are speaking in a Brittish accent and the other half are saying "A moron" instead of "Ammoron").  The children understand the stories and they're hearing our testimonies of how this story or that applies to our lives or things we know. 


It's a together time the children will always remember.  Some nights it's little ones on our laps and the sound of a clock ticking in the background.  Some nights we have to sit on the children, or between them.  On those nights I close my eyes a moment and picture myself in the Celestial Room with my grown child, nodding my head, thinking no matter the type of night, it was worth it.