You know all the images that we’ve seen of family scripture study right? The ones with reverent children sitting peacefully on the couch listening attentively to the one reading? Yeah, I do too…..
Our family scripture study efforts are probably a lot like your family scripture study efforts. What I mean by that is that it’s not anything like the one in the pictures. Sometimes I wonder if what my kids are hearing and reading actually goes into their brains. I wonder that because I see all sorts of things going on during our study time (other than silent and diligent study). Our 1 year old is usually running around growling and slapping people, our 6 year old is usually wrapped up in a blanket watching videos or playing a game, and most of the time our 9, 11, and 14 year olds have their books out and do their best to not pay too much attention to our 1 year old who is a lot more entertaining than the books in their hands.
Case in point – I want to share two real life situations from our scripture study not long ago. We happen to be reading Alma chapter 5, which as we know is totally amazing. Alma is asking some soul piercing questions to the people of Zarahemla, which happens to be his first main sermon after giving up the judgment seat in order to devote his full time and attention to preaching the gospel to the people. As I recapped what we had read the previous day (the earlier part of chapter 5), and outlined this I was naturally expecting them to be glued to the edge of their seats and scream out “tell us more, this chapter has been so excellent”!
Yet, what happened is that instead of being riveted by the words in the book, all of my children were riveted to the donuts that were being guarded by my 14 year old. Every verse or two my 11 year old would indicate to the rest of the group that his big sister was still not sharing the donuts, that he wanted some, and that life wasn’t fair. This continued as we read through verse 28, when my 14 year old (the one with the donuts) seemed to see an opening. She asked her own question in a fairly loud voice “Luke, are you crying? Over donuts”? She pointed to him (claiming to see tears in his eyes) – to which he naturally defended himself with a loud “no”.
I hope that you can all imagine this scene in your minds. Two tweenaged children escalating to level 8 on the sibling fight scale over some mini powdered donuts – right in the middle of scripture study. Pretty normal day at the Alexander house. As a note, we make an effort to apply or liken the scriptures to our every day lives and sometimes that works out really well, and other times it doesn’t, but on this day there happened to be a miracle in store – because the next verse to be read was 29 which asks the question “is there one among you who is stripped of envy”? Naturally I took the time to explain what envy was (using a real life example of my 11 year old expressing his envy towards the donuts that happened to be in the possession of his big sister). Pointing this out to the group seemed to please his big sister all the more – until we asked her to read verse 30. “Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?” It was fun to see (and point out) that by Alma asking all these questions, it allows us to ask ourselves how we are doing….and not necessarily pointing out everybody else’s flaws.
Now, the spirit that we felt that day as we read the scriptures wasn’t the bawl your eyes out kind – it was the have some fun and laugh really hard at our crazy family kind. And I for one was amazed (again) at how specific reading the scriptures can be. And if I am honest, they will probably remember Alma 5 and the day that they really understood what Alma was asking them – more than if we had just read it peacefully.
The second experience was from a day or two days earlier, when we happened to read verse 6 (still in Alma 5). It’s the first question (3 questions really) that Alma asks: Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers ? Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? Have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
Now, that’s a lot of retaining in remembrance, right? We thought so, and somehow after that verse (I honestly don’t recall how it got to that point), it was (humorously) suggested that when we pray as a family we start including the phrase “help us to retain in remembrance the captivity of our fathers, and their subsequent deliverance”. It came up at least 4 or 5 times the next couple of days as the kids asked “what were those words again?” as we were preparing to pray. It never actually made it into a prayer, but it helped us remember that our kids really were (and are) listening and that hopefully at some point – they will understand exactly what that phrase really means.
I say at some point because that’s exactly what happened for me (the one who should already be better and understand it). I was encouraged and reminded during that week to “retain in remembrance” that specific phrase, which happened to help my mind “remember” the deliverer a little more. With that added emphasis, I discovered something that I hadn’t seen before. Something that I thought was great.
I happened to be reading in Mosiah 27 in my own personal study shortly after the events of this week – and I read the account of Alma the younger and his visit from the angel (while he is out and about with the sons of Mosiah being naughty). During this latest reading, I happened to notice the command from the angel to Alma. The angel says “Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers…for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.” I hadn’t understood the implications of that command, or the significance of it before. Honestly, I hadn’t remembered it at all. But because we had recently read Alma 5, and because we had been focusing on “retaining in remembrance the captivity of our fathers” – I was able to see where Alma’s question came from – which added additional context to chapter 5 as well. He had been told that very thing by the angel, which happened to be the crucial turning point in his own conversion. We all know that he then spent the rest of his life being good – and “bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.” He “retained in remembrance” the cycle of bondage and deliverance – and wanted everyone else to remember it as well because it makes us focus on the one who is doing the delivering. That’s why the very first (3) question he asks in chapter 5 are “Have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance”… He asks these questions repeatedly during his ministry (Alma 5, 29, 36 to name a few), and it happens to be a major theme of the record – All because that’s what the Angel told him to do.
So, the whole point in this particular entry, is for myself and all of us as parents to “sufficiently retain in remembrance” a few things. 1- Scripture study is awesome. It’s important, and it’s a wonderful time to relate the scriptures to our own lives – even if it’s with donuts and making a mockery of your brother and if we look for lessons there, we will find them. 2 – It (family scripture study) is worth the effort. I can promise that our kids will “retain in remembrance” our best efforts, and they listen and it will make a big difference in their lives. I do know that they are listening, and that this study time is incredibly beneficial. I have been surprised and will continue to be surprised (and grateful) when they recall things that we have discussed during our scripture study. 3 – let’s not take ourselves and this scripture study too seriously. What I mean by that is don’t think because they aren’t glued to your every word that it’s not effective – it is. Don’t think that because they aren’t completely silent that they aren’t listening – they are. 4 – Just because it’s awesome doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, because it is awesome, we should expect it to be really hard. Just keep trying.