About five years ago I sent a thank-you letter to a family that used to live in the last area I served in as a full-time missionary. The letter thanked them for their many meals provided for the missionaries that had served in that area, but especially for their example of family scripture study.
While serving in their area, my companion and I had been invited to their home for an early-morning breakfast and family scripture study. We arrived at their home before the sun had come up to find their children sitting on the various couches in the front room, covered in blankets, while their dad started the pancakes going on the griddle. The mother sat an oversized chair with a large set of scriptures on her lap and the children each pulled out their own smaller sets of scriptures. A family prayer was offered and then each member of the family would read a verse or two, while the dad went back and forth between the griddle and one of the couches. We would listen to verse or two be read, then we’d have a short discussion about what was read.
The kids seemed so tired. The dad was cheerful, but he seemed to have to try to muster the cheerfulness. The mother was putting effort into the discussion, but it is hard to have much of a discussion with kids who are almost asleep. Heck, my companion and I weren’t much help because we were tired (and the pancake smell was making me hungry). But what I remember the most had more to do with what I felt than what I was seeing or hearing.
I will never forget the spirit of that early morning family scripture study.
As I sat there on one of the couches, I made a quiet commitment to myself that I and my future sweetheart and children would have family scripture study consistently. Of all of the things I committed to do as a returned-missionary, that commitment stands out more than most.
And what has happened in the last twenty years when it comes to that commitment? Well, we’ve done pretty well, but we’ve also learned a few things along the way…
- We’ve learned that the way other families do family scripture study is what is best for their family and not ours. We’ve learned a lot from others, that’s for sure, but we’ve tried not to feel bad if we’re not doing scripture study the same as the family next door.
- We’ve learned that we’re more successful if we plan a morning and an evening scripture session. Before you start thinking that we’re setting the bar too high, read the next two points.
- We keep family scripture study very short. I’m not sure we take more than five to ten minutes in the morning or evening. Maybe when our children are older we’ll have more intense or broad discussions, but as of right now, we’re just trying to stay consistent.
- We have family scripture study no matter who is missing. If it is just one parent and one child at home, we have scripture study. If it happens to be just the children at home (if we parents made it alive to date night!) they have it without us.
One final minor change we made in our morning scripture study has made all the difference. A few years ago, as we saw how busy our mornings were and that our scripture study wasn’t too effective since we were rushing to get out the door on time. To fix that, we decided to start studying “One Powerful Scripture” in the morning. My wife and I would come up with one powerful verse that we could study as a family. In the morning, instead of trying to quickly read a chapter or entire story we would read the one powerful verse that we had chosen. Then we’d have a short discussion on what the verse meant and how it could be applied that day during school, work, sports, etc. We felt like the children were leaving the house with a clear principle from the scriptures, and that was a huge improvement relative to how things had been going. We love it and will keep doing this for a long time!
Over the years of trying to be consistent, we’ve noticed blessings. Our children don’t complain (much) about family scripture study. They also do pretty well with personal scripture study. We all seem to be getting more and more familiar with the stories and people in the standard works, and our confidence in our ability to really find answers from the scriptures is increasing. Indeed, we feel like our responsibilities to protect and nurture our family are directly strengthened by our efforts to gather together everyday and study the words of God and His prophets.
Brian Mickelson is a husband, father, Institute Instructor, and part-time photographer, genealogist, and blogs in his spare time…you can stumble onto his thoughts at www.brianmickelson.com
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