Best Mission Prep Class Ever: Reading the Book of Mormon with Your Children

[colored_box color=”blue”]Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Teresa Osorio of Lehi, Utah. We welcome her to the family of guest post authors on Mormon Mission Prep.[/colored_box]

When is the best time to plant a tree you ask?  25 years ago.  When is the best time to prepare your children to be missionaries?  From birth.  That gives you approximately 18 to 19 years to prepare.  What is the best way to teach your children the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  By reading the Book of Mormon as a family on a daily basis. (Click here to read Jimmy and Heather’s experience reading the Book of Mormon as a family.)

Osorio FamilyMy husband and I have four children, three that have served missions and one that is preparing for one right now.  In our family, we have learned that the best mission prep is family time reading the Book of Mormon.  My husband and I have spent years reading the Book of Mormon with our children nearly every night since the time they were very young.  We estimate that we have read the Book of Mormon as a family over 20 times now. There were times when it felt like drudgery to gather them and keep them engaged.

Understanding the Stories and Principles

My husband came up with the idea to let them draw the stories we were reading.  So as we read the stories about Nephi and the Golden plates, they drew it.  As we read about Samuel the Lamanite standing on the wall with arrows coming at him, they drew it.  As we read about the different battles, they drew those battles.  The children really enjoyed that.  On occasion we would act out the stories as we read them.  We often took turns reading and we always read straight from the Book of Mormon.  We would read it, then we would take time to discuss and explain it if they didn’t understand the stories or the principles being taught.  Reading the Book of Mormon can be meaningless to your children unless you engage them in discussion about the story being told and what is being taught.

I remember my oldest son’s Sunday School teacher approached me, astounded with my son’s knowledge of the Book of Mormon.  He knew the stories, the names and the doctrines taught there.  He told me that he always seem to know the answers.  I would venture to say it is because we discussed what we read.  We talked about how the story could apply to us.  So, not only did he learn the stories, but he learned the principles being taught.

Commitment to Read the Book of Mormon as a Family

My husband joined the church in Colombia at the age of 11.   When he was 16 years old, he distinctly remembers learning these words from President Marion G. Romney,

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein.  The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow.  The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom.  Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.  Righteousness will increase.  Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.”

At that young age, my husband felt the power of those words, and decided that was the kind of home he wanted. It was then that my husband made the commitment that once he had a family, he would read the Book of Mormon on a regular basis with his children.

The call to teach our children the Gospel is a priesthood responsibility.  My husband took that seriously. As a mother, I was supportive, but I can give most of the credit to my good husband for being the one to call the family together for scripture study nearly every day. When my husband would travel out of town for work, he would delegate the responsibility to his oldest son and ask him to report after he returned.  My oldest son took that responsibility seriously and he would lead the family in scripture study, even at the tender age of 8 or 9.  My oldest son developed a very strong character and a testimony of the gospel, and I am certain it was in large part due to our family scripture study.

Family Scripture Study Habits

Osorio FamilyFinding the best time of day to read the Book of Mormon as a family came by trial and error.  After trying it several different ways, we finally settled on the best time of day for us and we just did it.  It sometimes came during our favorite TV show, or in the middle of a school project or home work, but the kids knew that whenever dad called scripture study, they were to stop whatever they were doing and come to the living room.  Rarely, if ever, did they complain.  It was just what our family did every evening.  It was a family habit that we developed since the kids were on our laps.

There were times where I could even hear relief coming from a child’s mouth exclaiming, “Oh good, I needed a break from my homework.”  It has since become a time of rest and a time of reflection in our busy day.  It was a break that we all took together, where we read, discussed, prayed, and planned together.  Our scripture time together often turned into moments to share the stories of our day, update each other on our days experiences, and reflect on how blessed we are to have each other.   How lucky we were to get to do that every day!

Testimony of Blessings from Reading

I am grateful for the blessings that have come to our home because of reading the Book of Mormon daily.  I can honestly say that regular reading of the Book of Mormon has strengthened our home and family and has given us protection from the outside world.  It has taught my children responsibility, a love for the gospel and a sense of duty. It has been the best mission prep class we could have given them.  I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon.

I Hope They Call Me on a Mission

“I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” is a favorite Mormon missionary themed song for LDS children.

Lyrics to I Hope They Call Me on a Mission

1. I hope they call me on a mission
When I have grown a foot or two.
I hope by then I will be ready
To teach and preach and work as missionaries do.

2. I hope that I can share the gospel
With those who want to know the truth.
I want to be a missionary
And serve and help the Lord while I am in my youth.

Words and music: Newel Kay Brown, b. 1932. © 1969 IRI
Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 169

[one_third last=”no”] Download MP3 Vocals of  I Hope They Call Me on a Mission[/one_third][one_third last=”no”] Download MP3 of Music for I Hope They Call Me on a Mission[/one_third][one_third last=”yes”] Download Sheet Music of  I Hope They Call Me on a Mission[/one_third]

I hope they call me on a mission kids

Preparing for a Mission Primary Sharing Time

A couple of weeks ago, my wife invited me to come do a Sharing Time presentation on Preparing for a Mission in our ward’s Primary. The concept was simple, the lesson was easy to put together, and the Sharing Time presentation went great.  Here’s the activity description from the Church Primary manual:

preparing-for-a-mission-primary-sharing-time“Tell the children that Heavenly Father wants the gospel to be preached in all the world and they can prepare now to be missionaries. In a container, place objects that will remind the children of ways they can prepare to serve a mission, such as scriptures, Sunday shoes, a tithing slip, and a paper heart. Have a child choose an object from the container and share how doing what it represents can help them prepare to be missionaries.” From: October: The Mission of the Church Is to Invite All to Come unto Christ, 2010 Outline for Sharing Time.

So I gathered a bunch of missionary-related items (shown in the picture), packed them in a suitcase and brought them to Primary that day. I asked the children to come up, one by one, and pull an item out of the suitcase. Then I asked the child what that item had to do with missionary work, or how that item could help them to prepare now to be a missionary. Here are a list of the items, and their relation to missionary work and mission preparation:

  • A Frying Pan: This is a reminder that missionaries need to be able to cook for themselves. Young people can start now learning to cook by helping their mom or dad make dinner.
  • An Alarm Clock: Missionaries have a strict schedule they keep, including going to bed by 10:30 and being up by 6:30. An alarm clock is a must have. And young people can start now to learn to follow the Lord’s counsel in D&C 88: 124, “retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
  • A Missionary Badge: The missionary name tag symbolizes how missionaries are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Young people can start now to learn to keep their baptismal and sacramental covenants to take upon them the name of Christ.
  • A Piggy Bank: The LDS mission cost for young men and women in the United States is $400 a month which comes to about $10,000 for a two-year mission. It’s never too early for young people to start saving as much money as they can for their mission.
  • The Scriptures: Missionaries teach the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Young people can start now reading the scriptures individually and with their families. By doing so they will be more familiar with the scriptures and they will be better prepared missionaries.
  • Shoes: Missionaries need to be prepared to walk…a lot. These shoes are a reminder to young people to stay healthy and strong and to keep the word or wisdom so they can “run and not be weary… walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:20)
  • A Hymn Book: Missionaries sing hymns a lot of times at the beginning of discussions, in order to bring the Spirit. Young children can begin early to know and appreciate the hymns of the Church. “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” (D&C 25:12)
  • Painting of Jesus Christ: As missionaries “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ… that our [investigators] may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26) Missionaries must have a firm testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and young people can begin to develop that now through scripture study, prayer, and participation in Church activities.
  • A Photo of the Temple: Missionaries baptize people in order to get them started on the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life. One of the next major spiritual steps, one that brings even more joy to missionaries, is to see converts go to the temple to receive those ordinances. Young people can begin now to learn about the temple and set goals to go inside one day.
  • A Friend Magazine: Church magazines are a great resource for building faith and learning the gospel, which will aid in mission preparation. All young people should have access to read Church magazines.

Of course the items you choose when you do this lesson may be different than these. You could bring letters, a sewing kit, a picture of a baptism, etc. The possibilities are almost endless.

Primary Activity on Missionary Work

Last weekend I was asked at the last minute to help with a primary activity on missionary work. This activity was very similar to one I had participated in years ago and for which I had made a little 4 minute video slide show.  Lucky for me, we found the old DVD so I could use it once again. The primary activity had the children divide up into groups and travel from room to room and learn about different places to serve a mission.  I had about ten minutes with each group, so we watched the video, I showed them some souvenirs from Argentina, and I taught them how to say a few words in Spanish.  It was a good little activity, and it got my five-year-old son very excited to serve a mission.  And now, of course, he says he hopes to go on a mission to Argentina some day.  Great choice! As it would be to go on a mission anywhere the Lord calls you to go. So, without further delay, here’s the video.

Newest Future Missionary

It has been a while since I last blogged, and the reason is the birth of our son, one of the newest future missionaries in the world, Truman. He came in at 6 lbs. 15 oz, and 20 inches long.

truman_birthtruman_birth2

I’m sure I’ll get back into my regular blogging routine soon.  Until then, please enjoy these photos.

Mothers’ Role in Mission Prep

Friberg Helaman Stripling Warriors In the Book of Mormon, in Alma Chapter 56, the Nephite and Lamanite nations are engulfed in war.  A group of Lamanite converts to the Church, known as the people of Ammon, wanted to help defend the Nephite people.  The Ammonite adults, though, had made a covenant never to go to war again, so it was their sons, 2,000 of them, that volunteered to go to war to defend their families.

The prophet Helaman said of these 2,000 stripling warriors, “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.  And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56: 47 – 48)

The mothers of the 2,000 stripling warriors, like latter-day saint mothers today, had a profound influence on their children, which gave them faith to overcome all obstacles.  Just like with these youth in the battles of the Book of Mormon, mothers today are preparing their children to do a great work and there is probably no more vital role in mission prep.

jimmy and heather smith kids Many mothers, my wife included, may not realize the great work they are doing.  It is so easy to get caught up in the mundane, day to day routines with raising children, that we neglect to see the great work we are doing.

I want to talk today about what so many good mothers are already doing, sometimes unwittingly, to prepare their children for missionary service. Four things come to mind that my wife does daily with our children that is teaching them faith and skills that will help them become great missionaries some day.  (There are actually more than four things, but for now we’ll focus on these four.) She teaches the children to:

  • Get Along with Others
  • Be Clean and Tidy
  • Obey the First Principles of the Gospel
  • Read the Book of Mormon

I suspect most latter-day saint mothers are also doing these four simples things as well, and in the process, they are teaching vital missionary skills and doing a wonderful job raising the next generation of Mormon missionaries.

kids playingGet Along with Others

When playing with siblings or other children, my wife has two rules for our kids: be kind and be safe.  These two rules have been found to cover a multitude of situations, and they teach our children how to get along well with others.  I have talked about the important missionary characteristic of sociability in the past.  This is what Elder S. Dilworth Young said in General Conference in April 1972, “faith-building begins in the cradle…In the formative years your boy will need to learn how to give and take, how to get along, how to put up with inconveniences, how to be patient and tolerant, how to resolve differences with playmates and, later, with missionary companions.”

Be Clean and Tidy

Like any good parents, we have our children do daily chores of cleaning their rooms and other household tasks.  Helping your children learn now to stay clean and organized will help them be more productive and spiritual throughout their lives.  Again, quoting Elder Young, he says missionaries “will need to learn that bodily cleanliness goes with spiritual cleanness and that the body is the expression of the spirit…he should learn that the dusty, ill-kept room with its unmade bed is the devil’s best means of discouragement.”

Obey the First Principles of the Gospel

Like most parents of small children, we try, frequently unsuccessfully, to maintain their attention once a week for Family Home Evening.  We focus on basic gospel principles such as faith in Christ, and obedience to the commandments.  These basic gospel principles will form the foundation of what they will be teaching people across the world as they go forth as missionaries.  Again, quoting Elder Young, he says the future missionary should “learn to know that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will give men reason for their repentance from sin, which is the great doctrine that brings hope; that baptism by immersion is both a covenant and a sign of acceptance; and that the gift of the Holy Ghost is what makes him, and his father and his mother, different from the world; and that it will make those he converts different also.”

Read the Book of Mormonmother reading to children

Nightly, my wife gathers the family for scripture reading in the Book of Mormon.  We quickly went through the illustrated versions, and though our children are still small, we have moved on the full version now.  Nightly reading of the Book of Mormon, though it may only be a a few minutes, teaches the children the importance of that book in our lives.  And though they do not understand everything, the Spirit of the Lord is there, teaching and testifying things they will not forget.  Elder Young says that by reading the Book of Mormon with your children and helping them gain a testimony of the truthfulness of that book, “you will have him on his way to becoming a missionary…He will not consider the Book of Mormon dull reading if you will make it live for him while he is growing.”

Conclusion

The mothers in the Church are doing a wonderful job of raising the next generation of missionaries.  I can’t thank my wife enough for the work she does, often without recognition, in raising our children and teaching them the principles that will help them succeed on their missions, in life and in the eternities.

And here are some concluding thoughts from Elder Young: “These young folks may become great of themselves, but with the faith and teaching of their fathers and mothers they will become greater…He depends on us to teach our children truth that they may better serve the Father of their spirits and live.”

The future missionary “will be taught these lessons at the home evening, at the dinner table, at bedtime, in camp, on hikes and journeys. And driven home at all these stages will be the theme that the greatest adventure a boy can have is to go on a mission and learn to depend on the Lord when faced with a bitter, cold, or hostile world, and that the greatest joy he can experience is to give of his all in the service of the Master in bringing souls unto him.”

Quotes from: Missionary Training Begins Early S. Dilworth Young, Gen Conf, April 1972.

Family Home Evening Ideas from Preach My Gospel

I recently discovered a great resource for missionary preparation for the littlest of future missionaries.  Michelle of The Errand of Angels is in the process of developing Family Home Evening Lessons corresponding to each of the discussion principles in the Preach My Gospel Manual.  The lessons are available to download for free in multiple formats from Michelle’s blog post called Preach My Gospel FHE Lessons Archive.

I_Hope_They_Call_Me_On_A_Mission

This is what Michelle has said in introducing these FHE Lessons she has made: “In the year before one of our children ErrandofAngelsis baptized, we teach Family Home Evening lessons from Preach My Gospel, the same lessons that missionaries teach investigators, but adapted for our children and their needs / attention spans. We loved doing our FHEs this way when we were preparing our oldest son for baptism! Preach My Gospel is just amazing. It is the most accessible way of teaching and learning the gospel of Jesus Christ I have ever seen…We plan a FHE lesson for each principle–for example: lesson 1 is “The Restoration”, and the first heading at the beginning of the lesson reads “God is Our Loving Heavenly Father.” So that will be tonight’s lesson. It’s only 3 paragraphs long in the Preach My Gospel manual, but I’ve fleshed it out using old Sharing-Time ideas. “