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My 2-year-old wielded his first pretend sword last week. The toy-golf-club-turned-weapon came at me swiftly as my son whacked at my arm. With no older siblings or TV to turn him on to violence — even the just-for-fun, boys-will-be-boys kind — I was surprised at this sudden change in his nature. He’s typically calm, thoughtful, and sensitive, with no interest in fighting.

But then it clicked. Ammon. We’ve been reading a story each morning from the illustrated Book of Mormon, and we’d just made it through the Ammon arm-cutting adventure. Could the Book of Mormon be influencing my son to behave exactly as I don’t want him to? Since then, he’s made a few other attempts at fighting, or “battle” as he termed it one day. Not quite what I was going for when I decided to make scripture reading part of our morning ritual.

And while I’ve continued to read with my son each morning (he asks for the stories daily, and I don’t know how I’d explain a sudden stop), I do so hesitantly and with much editing. I emphasize the stories where weapons of war are buried and violence is shunned. I tone down the stories where the words “murder,” “fight,” and “kill,” are the focus. I’m at an absolute loss on how to explain certain actions that are OK for one group and not OK for another — why were some commanded to lay down their weapons, while others are told to kill, kill, kill? When I read the unabridged Book of Mormon on my own, I don’t feel the violence quite so much; there’s a lot more to the scriptures than fighting. But when you’re reading just the “stories,” which is basically what the illustrated version encompasses, there’s a lot of not-so-nice action.

I’m not interested in sheltering my son from the realities of real life. I won’t raise him to believe violence doesn’t exist. And I do want my children to learn early and often from the scriptures. But, so far, I’m not seeing a great way to make this happen with a preschooler. For now, I’ll try to whip through the R-rated scenes and then meander through those few chapters that focus on peace, faith, and love. But, what next? When will I feel OK about introducing the heavy stuff? And how can I integrate the most important teachings of the Book of Mormon — that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that we’re blessed when we’re keeping the commandments — when those lessons aren’t easily described with illustrations?

To the seasoned parents and Primary teachers, how have you dealt with violence in the scriptures in your homes? What methods have you used to teach young children the scriptures?

July 24, 2015

6 Comments

  1. Emily Flinders

    July 24, 2015

    This is largely why we abandoned the picture-book versions of the scriptures and just dug in with the real thing even though our kids were small. It’s so much easier to have meaningful discussions around particular verses than around emasculated abridgments of stories. That’s what worked best for us. It takes a lot longer to get through the Book of Mormon with your kids that way though!

  2. KIm

    July 24, 2015

    Having raised daughters who were NOT into weapons or motors or action, I never encountered nor even thought about this!

    My daughters now read the unabridged Book of Mormon straight from the scriptures to their children and I’m amazed at the vocabulary and reading skills their children have at an early age as a result.

    I would definitely emphasize anytime the scriptures talk about the weeping and sorrow of the widows and children…to correlate the fighting with the terrible loss and sorrow resulting.

  3. Jill

    July 24, 2015

    We read from the Book of Mormon too. I paraphrase a chapter or two for our story at dinner and then read a couple key verses. The kids are on the edge of their seats, as many of the stories are very captivating.

    Two years old is very young though. Maybe you should get the scripture art kit and each day tell the story for one picture?

    Another thought is that our boys will become men, tasked with the job of protecting and providing. While I am not trying to raise violent boys, I am raising strong boys! It’s a tricky line. You’ll do great!

  4. eljee

    July 24, 2015

    I ran into this with my oldest son when he was about that age. I had the distinct impression to switch from the Book of Mormon reading and read stories of Jesus to him. So we read the New Testament for quite awhile. We of course returned to the Book of Mormon stories when he was older.

  5. Heather @women in the scriptures

    July 25, 2015

    I can totally relate to this. Sometimes I feel like the scriptures are the most violent things my kids are exposed to, and I REALLY dislike violence. We don’t even allow play weapons in our house, so I’ve sort of struggled with how to handle the violence too. I think the suggestions about reading from the real book and not the illustrated scriptures is great advice. I’ve found that even my little kids start to pick up on it and can understand it. You also get the violence mixed in with the spiritual teaching and the context, which is huge in making it less gory and more uplifting. I have a five year old girl who is really sensitive to violence and even hates to talk about death. We just got done reading the book of Ether, which is just basically one big long war and by the end of it my kids were picking up on how silly and dumb it was that they kept fighting and fighting and fighting. We ended up having a good conversation about forgiveness and humility. As much as I don’t like them I think that the war stories are in there for a good reason, and that there are things to be learned from them. But I think the key is to not just tell the story, but have the kids read (or listen to it) from the scriptures.

  6. M2theH

    July 26, 2015

    I think I have a different perspective on this, but it doesn’t bother me when kids play with swords. Of course I grew up with 3 brothers and the main issue was “don’t poke anyone’s eye out” and “don’t hit the furniture.”

    My brothers all have boys and they like to play superheroes and with weapons. We take sticks away when they are hitting each other with them.

    Peronsally I would not make a big fuss over the Ammon incident, as that tends to make forbidden fruit look all the sweeter. And the fact that he was reinacting it means the scripture story was sinking in.

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