Busy schedules and wiggly kids can sometimes make having family scripture study feel like a challenge of biblical proportions. Yet Elder Richard G. Scott of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the practice as one of the “essential, weight-bearing beams in the construction of a Christ-centered home.”
“Without these regular practices it will be difficult to find the desired and much-needed peace and refuge from the world,” he said in an April 2013 conference address.
With that in mind, here are a few tips on making family scripture study effective and fun.
1. Choose the right … time
Whether it’s early in the morning, before bedtime, or somewhere in between, it’s important to find a time that consistently works for your family. Whitney Permann of the LDS music group Mercy River says her family studies scriptures at the dinner table to accommodate her husband’s busy work schedule.
“I decided to capitalize on the one time of day I know for sure we will all be together. As a bonus, this is one less thing we have to do at bedtime, which is chaotic enough with potty-teeth-pajamas-prayer. One less thing off that list makes me happy,” she wrote in a blog post.
2. Choose a “gathering” song
Lehi resident Tiffany Erickson says she plays the LDS song “Scripture Power” on the iPad as a cue that her family scripture study is about to start. By the time the second verse has ended, her husband and four children, ages 4 to 12, are ready. The Ericksons also sing an opening song before studying. “I do this to help us get in the mood and to wake us up,” said Erickson. “I believe songs prepare us to feel the spirit, and they can teach doctrine as well.”
Erickson is the author of the blog Raising Lemons , and recently wrote about her family’s efforts to improve their scripture study.
3. Start with background and explanation
Most LDS children understand how the Book of Mormon was written, but it’s also helpful to cover how the Old and New Testaments were compiled. (The Bible Dictionary provided by the LDS Church gives a good explanation on this subject.) To reinforce understanding, read and discuss the chapter summaries that accompany all of the LDS standard works, and pause where necessary to discuss or explain words and concepts your children might not be familiar with.
4. Make it visual
Very young children may not be able to understand the formal language of the scriptures. Erickson said she started by looking at pictures in the “Gospel Art Book” and telling the scripture stories that accompanied them. As her children got older, she used illustrated scripture-story readers until her kids could read from the Bible or Book of Mormon on their own.
Youth can even “read the scriptures like a movie,” said Chas Hathaway, author of “Scripture Study Made Awesome” (Cedar Fort, $13.99). Ask them to picture events unfolding cinematically in their mind as you study as a family. For example, have your children picture what it might look like as Lehi took his family and departed Jerusalem for the wilderness.
5. Involve everyone at his or her own level
Sometimes early readers can just repeat frequently appearing phrases such as “and it came to pass” when they appear in scripture, said Erickson. This practice not only immerses them in the language of the scriptures but also teaches them early literacy skills.
If you want to read straight from the LDS standard works with young children, keep in mind that you may be only able to read a few verses at a time. And that’s OK. Focus on feeling the spirit, rather than running out the clock, Erickson said.
6. Mix it up
Try different methods of studying the scriptures to engage your children and teenagers, suggests Chas Hathaway. For example, you could study by a topic selected from the Topical Guide, or do a “personality profile” where the family seeks to understand what type of person a figure from the Book of Mormon or Bible is. You could even study Biblical bad guys, he said, or look for verses in the scripture that relate to current challenges in life.
7. Use the apps
You may want each member of the family to have a copy of the scriptures and something to mark them with, but don’t shy away from technology, either. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a free Gospel Library app, as well as Scripture Mastery app and one of LDS Music. Many companies make scripture-related apps as well, such as an alarm that reminds you to read.
8. Add memorization
Memorizing sharpens the mind and is a great spiritual resource for children, said Erickson. Last year, her family memorized the Articles of Faith, and this year they are working on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” If you have teenagers, you could match your family’s memorization to the scriptures youth learn in Seminary.
9. Share what you’ve learned
Hathaway suggests engaging teenagers in scripture study by having them look for scriptural passages to share on social media. This is a great way for them to involve their circle of family and friends in what they are learning.
10. End with family prayer
Use a closing prayer to end your study session and segue to the next event, suggests Erickson. It will make the day that much better, she said: “I really wish all families could start or end their days with these beautiful 15 minutes.”