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?