Family Scripture Study

One way families can help to make religion a part of a child’s life is to conduct daily family scripture study from the Bible or other scriptures important to the family. It offers parents a formal opportunity to discuss religion with their children in a setting where it is expecting, and not seen as an intrusion. It also helps parents evaluate the child’s feelings about religion and to answer questions about the scriptures used by the family. In addition, it establishes a pattern of religious study the children may choose to continue into adulthood.

Mormon familyWith today’s busy families, many choose to do this study in the morning, before everyone leaves for school and work. The study can be fairly brief-fifteen minutes a day, with informal discussion continued over breakfast or later in the day if desired. It opens and often closes with a family prayer.

Some families choose to read their faith’s scriptures in order, all the way through. Others study a specific topic for a time.

Some families focus on the stories. In these cases, younger children might have a copy of the children’s version of the scriptures, and the adults will have a regular copy. First the story is read from the children’s version, usually by the child if he can read. Then, when the child understands the story, it’s read in the adult version, which helps the child become familiar with scriptural language and also provides more in-depth knowledge for older family members.

Often, families will have each person read one verse, and then explain the verse’s meaning to the other family members. This allows parents to evaluate the child’s understanding of what he is reading. It also allows an opportunity for parents to explain in more detail or for family members to ask questions. If a question is asked that requires too much time or that no one can answer, it is recorded and someone is assigned to research it. A time is set aside later that day to discuss the issue.

Parents should make a point of sharing their testimonies of the subject being discussed in the brief scripture reading. It’s an opportunity for parents to make sure their children know what they believe.

Parents should prepare for the day’s reading by looking over the next chapter or two and thinking about the message found in it. They can then be prepared to guide discussions and thoughts.

Scripture study based on a theme may be more like a devotional. It requires more planning than reading straight through. Parents, or another assigned family member must select the topic, research the scriptures, and perhaps find a quote from a respected religious leader. This can be simplified with an annual or monthly planning meeting. During this time, the parents or the family as a whole can select topics to cover. Each topic can be assigned to a family member for research. Children should be reminded when their turn is nearing and parents should monitor to be certain its completed.

The person in charge of that day’s theme can lead the discussion, handing out quotes and scriptures to other family members to share. Following the reading, the leader should be prepared to ask intelligent, thought provoking questions. If a theme will be carried out over a period of time, questions can also be asked at the end to provide thought for the day. The next day, or at dinner, the topic can be discussed.

Henry B. Eyring, a high-ranking church leader discussed family scripture study as a way to help children learn to love the scriptures:

 All of us have had various experiences and success with family scripture study, particularly as our children become teenagers. When they’re little, gathering them around and reading the scriptures together is easier. As they get a little older, it can sometimes be harder to do. I know many families are very successful in getting their family up at some very early hour and they read the scriptures and then they read at night. But there are many patterns.

For me at least, and I think my six children would agree, scripture study works well only if your children know you love the scriptures and they also know as individuals that you love them. Then whatever pattern you have will work. If scripture study is forced for either them or you, if your children feel pushed, or if you don’t really love the scriptures yourself, then scripture study doesn’t have as much power.

It’s important to read the scriptures together in a way that lets your children know you include them because you love them. However, reading together may break down during the teenage years. Teens may say, “I’d rather read on my own.” My encouragement to families in that situation is to see that as victory, not defeat. Your child may be saying, “I’m getting something when I’m alone that I don’t get when we’re all here together.” Take that as a wonderful sign that scripture study is beginning to take hold in your teen’s heart. The main purpose is to fall in love with the scriptures and feast upon them, whether we are alone or together.

You have to be realistic. Let teens know you love them. Make sure they know you love the scriptures. However, if they want to go to their rooms and read, let them. They’ll find their own pattern and fall in love with the scriptures.

I’m blessed with a wife who absolutely loves the scriptures. If I ask her, “What would you like to do?” she says, “Oh, read me the scriptures.” I think our children have sensed that it wasn’t a duty for us to read the scriptures-it was a pleasure.”

(Henry B. Eyring, “A Discussion on Scripture Study,” Ensign, Jul 2005, 22-26)

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