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.
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?