Read it your way

You’ve heard plenty of moving anecdotes about Pres. Hinckley’s August of 2005 challenge to read or reread The Book of Mormon by the end of the year. My story is a bit less inspiring.

We completed the final chapter, gathered our wild little tribe in a circle to pray and I asked, “What did you feel? What did you learn?”

My oldest son, with one sibling bellowing in his ear and another stomping on his toes answered, “I learned I don’t want to have so many kids when I grow up!”

The boys laughed, I cried and we forever changed our pattern of scripture study.

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When I heard Pres. Hinckley’s challenge, I saw only one way to complete it ‘correctly.’ We must read together, as a family, everyone present. Experienced scripture readers, my older boys begged to read alone but I insisted we corral all six kids, then ages 1.5 to thirteen for two nightly chapters. We’d read The Book of Mormon together before, but always at a more natural pace and with the babies in the play room.

Oh but I was stubborn, and more than a little self-righteous. I even remember feeling (and please forgive me) smug superiority over friends who took Pres. Hinckley’s words as a personal, rather than family, challenge.

I don’t even need to describe (because you are all creative souls and can surely imagine) the nightly mayhem, the tears, the battles which led to my son’s now legendary (at least at my house) statement. But I eagerly wanted to recreate the ideal family so often pictured in church magazines; I was confident my persistence would lead to a docile household with children neatly lined on the couches, fingering their scripture bookmarks, perhaps raising a little hand to ask a question. And maybe those tableaus do take place in other households (though all the Ensign photos are staged), but with our mix of ages and preponderance of naughtiness we had to find a different tactic.

Our method of family scripture study has changed every six months or so since. These days, our four older boys read on their own, my husband reads with our ten year old and I read with my eight year old daughter. When daddy is out of town, Gabriel joins Mary and I for dramatic readings from the life of Moroni or Nephi or Paul if we happen to be in the New Testament. You’d think our eight and ten year old could read together every night, but they love the one on one time and tend to battle if we read too many nights together. It’s working. At least for now, until something changes and we need to rethink our habits.

My missionary son expressed it best in a birthday letter to my thirteen year old:

Figure out how you like to read the scriptures and do that. Fast? Slow? Marking the pages a lot or hardly at all? It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you read them and enjoy it.

Isn’t that a funny thought? That you should enjoy scripture reading. For so long I thought it was important to stick to a schedule or have a fancy marking scheme with at least fourteen different colors. But no! What matters is is that you learn and you feel the Spirit in the scriptures and that you learn to enjoy the scriptures. If a schedule or a marking scheme helps you then that’s great. If not, don’t worry. Just read the scriptures every day and you’ll be blessed.

I just went back and read Pres. Hinckley’s challenge again. He doesn’t say a single word about how or where or with whom to read the scriptures (where did I get that from in my silly little head?). The challenge is simply to read, to study, to feast on the word of God and feel the Holy Spirit. We all approach the throne of grace on our own path.

Even though the challenge didn’t go as smoothly for us as others, we certainly learned something and continued forward with renewed determination to teach our children a love of the scriptures. In the evenings, I walk from room to room kissing children good night, a pool of light over their hands as they turn the thin pages one by one. And I can feel the truth of Pres. Hinckley’s words:

Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.

 

Now, I may have said “Read it your way,” but we can still help each other with ideas. How have you found more time to study the scriptures? What tips tips do you have for family scripture study? How do you find time to ponder in our loud, busy world?

About Michelle L.

(Blog Team) never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her five fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

13 thoughts on “Read it your way

  1. Our stake president challenged every family to read the Book of Mormon together (or at least my interpretation was “together”) this year. Most nights we manage to gather everyone in the same room, although sometimes a child or parent is missing.

    It’s never looked like an Ensign photo shoot; our three-year old is either twirling, lap hopping, or talking non-stop. Our twelve-year-old reads as fast as she can, skipping lines. Rarely do the six-year-olds want to participate anymore. And they all get uncontrollable giggles regularly.

    Still, as imperfect as our efforts are, it’s been a great experience. Our kids fight less, and sometimes they do or say something that makes me think the messages are sinking in anyway. Just this morning one of my six-year-olds was chanting “Nephihah!” because she liked the sound of it, and not long ago, her twin (after much thought) announced, “I’m not evil.”

  2. What wisdom from your missionary! While I think reading together as a family is important, I love your pattern of spending one on one time with your children as you read the scriptures together.

    I like Elder Bednar’s description (as opposed to the staged Ensign photos) of his family’s scripture study when his kids were young. He has described his boys hanging upside down off the couch, tattling on each other for breathing one another’s air, etc. So very typical! He is quick to emphasize that while his family’s scripture study wasn’t perfect and wasn’t always spiritual, they had it consistently.

    As a once-teenager who used to count the verses ahead and doze between my turns to read, I can testify that the habit of family scripture study does make a difference. (Also, I used to go and sit in the bathroom for long stretches of time to avoid scriptures on the Second Coming because they scared me.)

  3. Great post!! I have found that with my 4 and 8 year old, we read the Book of Mormon like a story book. We ignore chapters, and just stop and start where there is a natural transistion. We then are able to remind each other about what “story” we stopped on, and where in the “story” we are. We’ve also been “challenged” by our Bishop to read the WHOLE Book of Mormon by the end of the year. While some people can embrace this challenge, I don’t like feeling like it is something we “have to get through”. We’ll read and see where we are at the end of the year.

  4. Our branch president challenged us to read the Book of Mormon twice this year. We’ve been doing 3-10 verses a night for the last 14 years. Reading it twice in a year means 3 pages a day. Our five kids were 2-13 years old. We thought it was impossible. Then we had some inspiration. We brought a big box of legos into the living room and scripture time is lego time every night. A parent reads out loud while the kids play. Now, when I say I’m done reading, everyone wants me to go on since they’re in the middle of some cool creation.

    A side benefit to this that I hadn’t anticipated was that we actually read enough now so that the kids can follow the story line. You just can’t do that 3 or 10 verses at a time. My favorite night was when we were reading the letters between Pahoran and Moroni. My 11 year old stood up from her legos–totally indignant–and said “How could he treat Moroni that way?” She was super upset. And I hadn’t even known she was paying attention.

    Family Scripture time was never something I looked forward to, but now I think it is just fine. Moral of the story here is the same as yours–do whatever works for you.

    By the way, we are now in Alma 17 on our second time through for the year.

  5. Our kids range in age from a week to 17 yrs old and all ten of them are still at home. We started family scripture study when we had our first child–just one column from the Book of Mormon a night. We still continue that but on nights that aren’t rushed we do two columns. You’d think that reading that small amount would be easy but for awhile it was hard to get through–there was always someone who needed to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW! or someone would walk out of the room to get something or my (not) favorite–someone would tease someone else or start up a random discussion with someone else (pertinent questions or comments on what we are reading are fine.) After battling and nagging and (sometimes) yelling (at my older boys who were more often than not the teasing culprits) we came up with something that works. If the verse gets interrupted by anyone other than a baby or toddler, we simply repeat it. When we first started this we had to repeat some verses up to four times. But now we don’t–the kids are all busy and don’t want to sit forever hearing the same verse over and over so they generally behave.

    Incidentally, when our stake president challenged us to read the Book of Mormon in three months we didn’t even try to do it as a family–just individuals. We encouraged the kids who could read to do it but didn’t insist. Most of them chose to take up the challenge. My favorite was my 8 and 10 yr old sons who decided to read together. I don’t think they finished it but for weeks they’d meet up together to do the amount of reading they’d determined was necessary. It warmed my heart to hear them reading out loud to each other.

  6. I love hearing everyone’s ideas for family scripture reading. It’s something I’m really feeling a lot of urgency to implement, but it’s also something that’s tricky in my family — with a husband that doesn’t believe anymore and a 13 yo daughter who hasn’t believed for a couple of years now, plus 3 younger kids.

    This summer, I pulled out my old seminary scripture mastery cards (and printed off the D & C ones that had gotten lost) and we tried to read one from each of the standard works each day. But with school starting back up, and not being able to do it when my husband isn’t around, we are back to square one. It’s not that my dh is hostile (he still attends Church), but his attitude is quite apparent — especially to my teenage dd, so I’m trying to figure out a good fit.

    I have a friend whose kids will read scriptures off of the smartphone of whichever parent is driving them to school, and they will also have a prayer in the car while driving (with the driver’s eyes open, obviously). Since they live at least 14 minutes’ drive from anywhere, it’s what works for them. So, Dad drives the older kids to school and has prayers and scriptures with them, and Mom drives the younger kids to school and does prayer and scriptures with them.

  7. Generally speaking, we are a people who are very good at giving out the BOM to others as a missionary tool but we are not so good at reading it ourselves, much less understanding it. These challenges given out by our stake leaders (in my area, too) may be to improve our comprehension score, if you will. For me and my family we go through the scriptures extremely slowly, sometimes painstakingly slow; maybe discussing just one and the same verse for several days. It works for us.

    I like the think the task is not about completing the book …

  8. Jeannie! Why haven’t i thought of that? I’m starting tomorrow to read it in stories, at least while we are 7 and 3.
    Thanks everyone for ideas to shake me out of my ineffective habits.

  9. Love this post, Michelle. It’s hard to find the best way that works. We try to read at the table after dinner…so I we eat out, no scriptures that day.

    With our 5 and 3 yos we have them “read” by repeating the words Dad reads. It is cute to hear how well or how strangely they interpret the words. They like doing this and it keeps them quiet for a few verses before we let them run off to make noise in the other room.

    Now the payoff is reading my missionary son’s letters saying how much he enjoys studying the scriptures.

  10. I read during breakfast. I find that food occupies my children and there is less fighting and wiggling and talking.

    There is almost a two hour difference between elementary school start times and high/middle school start times so this means I do breakfast in two shifts and read the scriptures in two shifts. This works out great since I can have more of a discussion with the older kids and really dumb down the reading for the younger kids. I love it this way.

    Julie B Beck came to our stake a few months ago and talked about her scripture study. She doesn’t have a set time or schedule, she just keeps scriptures in every room in her house and in her car and reads whenever she has free time. I really like that approach. It makes it seem so much more approachable than the “half hour at bedtime” which is always a failure waiting to happen.

  11. Jennie, thanks for sharing that from Sister Beck. I’m such a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants person (that’s the way I cook and clean and it’s also the way we’ll often do scripture study) — just depends on what works today.

    We like to do a lot of different things; variety seems to help keep it more pleasant at our house. Sometimes we’ll read a chapter, but a lot of the time, we’ll end up just reading a verse or two and talking about it. (Our kids are at the age where discussion is really getting fun!) Sometimes we’ll do a theme-based study (a couple of nights ago, for example, we talked about two places in the Book of Mormon where the word ‘Hosanna’ shows up (with a temple dedication coming up). Sometimes we’ll do scripture chase kinds of games (read a verse and guess where it is) or charades with scripture stories (and then we read the story). We’ve done versions of that with Legos, too. Especially when they were younger, letting them draw while we read (or draw a story they like) worked well — sometimes with paper, sometimes on a chalkboard or dry erase board. I think we may have even used clay.

    There are days when we do it one-on-one or have the kids read with each other, especially on those days when everyone’s schedule is different. We’ve sometimes worked on memorizing a verse or two.

    So, yeah, for us, variety has made a huge difference. Treats are always good, too! (Hot chocolate is a favorite in the winter, for example. Like Jennie said, food helps with the ‘captive audience’ thing.)

  12. So beautiful Michelle. Especially the image of a pool of light over their hands as they turn thin pages. I love that so much. And Ben’s words here are so wise: “Figure out how you like to read the scriptures and do that. Fast? Slow? Marking the pages a lot or hardly at all? It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you read them and enjoy it.” Wonderful post, my dear friend.

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