I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote by President Benson:…what a blessing it would be if every family would read together 3 Nephi, discuss its sacred contents, and then determine how they can liken it unto themselves and apply its teachings in their lives. * Ezra Taft Benson, “The Savior’s Visit to America,” Ensign, May 1987, 4
I already posted this quote last week, and I just keep thinking about it. I keep wondering, what are some effective ways to do what President Benson suggests? What can a family do to make certain each family member:
1- Understands the story
2- Can identify and understand the principles and doctrines in the stories
3- Likens those to themselves and applies it to their choices every day
In fact, I was curious enough to pose the question to my students. I asked them what their families do during family scripture study that helps them achieve those 3 things. Most of my students said that they usually just read a chapter at a time. One young woman said that after every few verses, their parents stop and ask “do you understand?” And another young woman mentioned that her little sister is usually the source of the questions that invite family discussion after.
That last suggestion particularly struck me and reminded me of what Elder Bednar said, just this past conference:
Youth of all ages, even infants, can and do respond to the distinctive spirit of the Book of Mormon. Children may not understand all of the words and stories, but they certainly can feel the “familiar spirit” described by Isaiah … And the questions a child asks, the observations a child shares, and the discussions that occur provide crucial spiritual early warning signals. Importantly, such conversations can help parents to discern what their children are learning, thinking, and feeling about the truths contained in this sacred volume of scripture, as well as the difficulties they may be facing. (April 2010)
His talk left a great impression on me. And I also know that I see that every single day in my classroom. Many of my students are not aware of how much their questions and obeservations reveal them. That so much of what they share or ask is a window to what they have testimonies of and where they are wavering. And parents, it is so very clear (most of the time) which students come from homes where they have already been taught the truths of the Gospel and where they are not learning these stories and principles for the first time. It is clear in their spiritual maturity and they become teachers, not just learners, among their peers.
However, I also am aware of the struggle parents may feel in the task of teaching their children. How do you read the scriptures with them in a way that they will be impacted? I know that this is something that is constantly on my mind. How can I help them understand them in new, creative and impactful ways? And ultimately – how do you teach them in a way where they feel confident in their ability to understand the scriptures and turn to them for a source of inspiration in their individual lives?
So, this is what has weighed on my mind, and here are some suggestions for 3 Nephi.
First – You may want to consider having each member of your family write titles at the top of each page ( they can be found under the scriptures tab, or the ones for 3 Nephi are found here). The titles are a few words that summarize the main theme that is found on that page. It is really helpful because it puts everything into context.
Second – Have each member “sectionalize their scriptures”, this means that you divide each chapter up into several “sections”. For example, verses 1-4 may all be about “fasting” and so you would label that section of verses that way. The sections (and instructions) are found here: 3 Nephi sections
Third – After each family member has done #2, then put a bowl in the middle of your table with several questions in it. Questions that apply to your family and the situations they face each day. Questions like: “Is it really possible to remain virtuous in today’s world?” or “What if my friend is scared to serve a mission – what should I say to them?” Pull out questions and answer them using the doctrine and principles taught in 3 nephi. What better place to do this? THAT sermon caused 4 Nephi to happen – serious change and conversion in people. Let your children search for the answers. Let them use the scriptures as tools, and be active learners. The sections that they have marked up from #2 will help them search by helping them narrow down places that may contain an answer. And as they search, naturally they will ask questions about what certain scriptures mean – because they will want to know how to apply that scripture. A far better scenario than just reading through the chapter together.
Hopefully this will help you achieve what President Benson said, to: “discuss its sacred contents, and then determine how they can liken it unto themselves and apply its teaching in their lives”, as well as achieve Elder Bednar’s charge to have discussions that will help us detect early spiritual warning signals and discern what our children are “learning, thinking, and feeling”.