Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Family Scripture Study

The Lord has asked us to make sure that family home evening, family prayer, scripture study and individual prayers are regular parts of our family’s activities. 
Several years ago my husband and I struggled to know how to incorporate scripture study into our family’s activities.  At the time we had five children and only one of them could read, and the words of the scriptures were still much, much too hard for him.  We desired to share with our children the stories and examples from the scriptures without having to scold them to sit still and listen.  After much thought and prayer the Lord provided us with a plan, a plan tailored to our family and our needs. You see, our boys don’t sit still well- except for meals.  So, during dinner we read the Book of Mormon.  Mostly I tell the stories, reading a verse or two aloud.  We learn the meanings of difficult words and talk about how our challenges might be like the challenges of the prophets and missionaries in the Book of Mormon and how the Lord can bless and strengthen us like He blessed and strengthened them.  As we read I highlight verses that are especially important, or write a little note in the margin. When our oldest was baptized- we gave him the Book of Mormon that we had just finished reading as a family and we started reading and marking a new book for our next son who will be baptized next month.  As we have continued with this plan our kids have developed a love and knowledge of the scriptures.  They are coming to know the people in the Book of Mormon and sense their goodness and whole-heartedness to God.   I don’t know if
this will be the right way to share the scriptures with our children when they are older, or if it is the right way for you to share the scriptures with your own children- but it is the way that the Lord has directed us to share them with our children right now, and it is just right for us.  As we have prayerfully desired help improving family home evenings and preparing our sons for missions the Lord has helped us find ways to work towards our goals that are just right for our young and growing family. 
I have a testimony that the Lord loves you and your family.  In 1 Ne 17:3 we are reminded “if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God-  He doth nourish them, and strengthen them and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them”.  I know that he will nourish and strengthen and provide means for us as parents as we work together with Him to lead our children to safety.  He knows and loves your children!  Kneel down and share with him your worries and your desires and the love that you have for your children.  Kneel down and ask for His divine help.  He has a plan for sharing the scriptures with your kids, and for improving your family home evenings, and for meeting every challenge which lies ahead of you and your children.  Ask Him.  Listen to Him.  Study His words and pray for His spirit.  And then get up and put His plan for you to work. 
But know that it won’t go perfectly even though God’s plan is perfect.  There have been a couple nights when I’ve had to set aside the Book of Mormon during dinner because somebody had spilled their milk AGAIN and I lost my patience and the Spirit. One of the things that I love about our family plan is that we can’t get behind.  We do the best that we can, as often as we can, and don’t get too discouraged when it doesn’t work out.  The adversary wants us to get discouraged and quit when it doesn’t go perfectly.  Don’t expect it to.  It didn’t even go perfectly for Elder Bednar- in a conference address he shared this:
"As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do.  We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.  Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours.  Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile.  Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!”  Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking.  And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification.  At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.  Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome.  But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn together.  The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson- a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time.  In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field.  The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes- none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive.  In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint.  However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field.  Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.  Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls.  No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable.  But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant results.  “Wherefore, be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundations of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great (D&C 64:33) Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes." 
It sounds like a lot of work- a giant task- to incorporate family home evenings, family prayers and scripture study into our already busy lives.  But the Lord can and will bless our efforts.  Our first family home evenings with two tiny boys consisted of an opening prayer and a game of ring-around-the-rosy.  Each time we “all fell down” we would remind the boys that Heavenly Father loved them, we did it over and over until the boys were tired and then we would close with a prayer.  It was short, it was simple, and it was effective in inviting the Spirit into our home.  Even now our family home evenings only last about 15 minutes from start to stop.  But we are together, we feel the Spirit, and we are blessed by the Lord for our efforts.  I know that he will bless your efforts to incorporate family home evenings, family prayer, and scripture study in your own homes.  I have seen how taking 15 minutes for family home evening makes our home run smoother and more peacefully, or how our children are blessed by the words of scripture shared during dinner.  When you take the time to find and follow the Lord’s plan for your family, even when you do it imperfectly, you will have more of the things that are really important-  more love, more of the Spirit and more of His peace in your home.   
*  This was part of a talk that I gave years ago.  We have since added a couple more kids and are on our fourth family reading of the Book of Mormon at the dinner table.  Now we are adding some additional study on Sunday to give our kids an opportunity to start reading and learning from the pages of their own scriptures.  It is our deep desire that they will know and love the people in the scriptures and be familiar enough with the language of the scriptures that as young adults they will be able to use the scriptures as an iron rod.  

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