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.)
My 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
Finding 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.