We Did It

August 14, 2006 | 20 comments
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We’ve finally read the entire Book of Mormon as a family, all of us (those that can read, anyway) taking turns verse by verse. It only took us four and a half years, and we’re ready to do it again.

Finishing the last pages of Ether and then the Book of Moroni was actually a bit of a rush; the boxes were piling up around us as we prepared for our move to Kansas, and I really wanted to finish before we left. So we read more than a chapter a night for a week or so: much more than we usually have done. When we began reading, way back in 2002 when Megan, our oldest, was in kindergarten, we decided to only read on Sundays; the rest of the week, we read from the church’s scripture picturebooks. And when I say “we,” I mean Melissa and I, though I think we would help Megan through a verse or two right from the beginning. Gradually, Megan became a better reader, and we started doing some from the BoM every evening, though rarely more than a dozen verses altogether. In time, we got Caitlyn involved; she was more resistant than Megan to the idea of reading, though I also think she progressed more quickly once she stopped fighting us. In any case, by this summer we got to the point that we could get a good, small chunk done in the 10 or 15 minutes before family prayers and bedtime. But we still had to really push it to finish before we had to throw the family scriptures into a box and hit the road.

What has going through the Book of Mormon together as a family taught us? Well, it’s given our children a tremendously advanced but also completely random vocabulary, with which they sometimes surprise their school teachers by using in weird contexts. (“Abomination” is a favorite, as is “Zarahemla.” And “inasmuch.”) More importantly, it’s regularly given Melissa and I a chance to think again about stories from the BoM that our children quickly realize are odd, or shocking, or emotional, or just plain really hard to understand, but which we grown-ups haven’t given much direct thought to. (Think about those poisonous snakes in Ether. I mean, really, that’s really kind of creepy. Kids pick up on that sort of thing.) But most important of all, it hasn’t taught us any one thing so much as it has conditioned us. From the beginning Melissa and I said we wanted to make the scriptures and particularly the BoM important to our children; by the time Megan was five, we realized that there was no other way to encourage that end except by sitting down and putting the Book of Mormon in front of them, day after day after day. (Though Saturdays and vacations have always been hard.) The fact that they now appear to take scripture reading to simply be a part of what it means to be in our family and in this church means that we’ve succeeded–so far.

I thought about reading the New Testament next, but Melissa pointed out that neither of the older girls have any memory of 1 or 2 Nephi any longer, and besides Alison will be coming along soon enough. She’s two and a half, and often fights us or tries to hide or sings “Dora the Explorer” loudly when we insist she come and sit down as we read together. But give her time; we’ll draw her in one way or another. Now that we’ve got four readers in the family though, we may move along a little quickly than the last time through. We could probably easily make it to 3 Nephi by the time Alison’s learned enough to pick her way through a verse on her own in a couple of years. Maybe we’ll even finish before she has the chance to join us? If so–well, we can always still do it all over again.

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20 Responses to We Did It

  1. mullingandmusing (m&m) on August 14, 2006 at 1:30 am

    Just wanted to say congrats on achieving a very worthwhile goal.
    And good luck in Kansas. I did an internship there several years back and had a great experience. Not that that will likely translate much to your new adventure, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the place.

  2. Erica Merrell on August 14, 2006 at 1:41 am

    We’re nearly finished with our first run through the Book of Mormon as a family, but we’re doing the mother-reads-it-aloud-and explains-as-we-go-along system instead. It’s much quicker, but they do miss all those great words. Still, it’s been the best read of the Book of Mormon I’ve had in a long time because I have to think things through to explain them to our children. The OT is next.

    Enjoy big-city life in Kansas.

  3. Coffinberry on August 14, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Hurrah for you!

    Let me share from the other side of the coin — we ‘ve been doing (a variation of) this since son one was the beginning reader. He is in College now, and preparing for a mission. After him came two more boys and a girl. And yes, Saturdays and Vacations are still a challenge, but the kids are the one who ask for it. It has become part of the definition of our family, that we have “scriptures and prayer – come up for air” (among us are computer geeks, living in the basement) at bedtijme (or whenever the last moment we’ll have a majority of family awake and present, so sometimes it’s just after supper).

    We’ve been through the Book of Mormon multiple times, the Gospels, and the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We’ve sometimes done the Scripture Readers, but mostly from the scriptures themselves. It’s casual, sometimes short, sometimes done with funny voices, usually with the younger two rolling around on the floor, wrestling with a cat or smelling stinky socks (12 year old boys are just weird that way).

    Keep it up. It is in doing these little things that make up the real protection against evil for our children.

  4. WillF on August 14, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    We did this also and finished for the first time last year. We started on the OT this year. It has been interesting to read it with a child’s perspective. Talk about some shocking stories! Anyway, we were given the Old Testament for Latter-day Saint Families from my mother as a gift. We have enjoyed it, although it is important to know that the editors have made many cuts to the material. For the most part, however, these are welcome because the parts they have summarized only (if they skip verses, they provide a summary) are usually long lists of people, places, etc…

  5. Russell Arben Fox on August 14, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    M&M, Erica, Coffinberry: many thanks. I love the image of reading the scriptures in silly voices, Coffinberry; maybe we should have tried that with Caitlyn, who would occasionally read really softly, or sing the verses as she stumbled through them, partly for fun and partly as an act of defiance. Instead of correcting her, we could have co-opted her bad behavior! (But then she probably would have thought of doing something else….)

    Interesting that Coffinberry has done everything except the Old Testament, while that’s what Erica wants to do next with her children. I think our attitude (at least right now) is that, so long as it takes us months and years to get through the scriptures collectively, we’ll stick with the BoM. Eventually though, I want to branch out, particularly to the NT. Frankly, when it comes to family reading, the one book of scripture that is most intimidating to me is the D&C, because that seems the least interesting to children.

    Incidentally, has anyone made use of those nice, hardcover, illustrated, “LDS Family Editions” in family scripture reading? We have with the BoM, and really, it’s quite helpful–they have kid-friendly but not necessarily dumbed down glossaries and guides, thinking and discussion points, and so forth. We’ve received as gifts all four volumes, and I suppose we may use them all….though I should warn you that the “Family Edition” of the OT is seriously bowdlerized.

  6. Russell Arben Fox on August 14, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Ah, WillF just beat to the point about the LDS Family Edition of the OT. All that being said though, Will, did your kids respond well to the OT?

  7. C. Anderson on August 14, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    We started years ago reading a chapter each evening over dinner. It was better than the conversational content that seemed to happen otherwise, and it was the one time when we were altogether. The kids are nearly all grown now – 16 to 30 years old – we read the BOM 7 times, the New Testament 3 times (I think), OT once, could never get through the D&C – no story line. I recommend the practice to everyone. Before reading age, our youngers would repeat the words others would read. It was a wonderful experience for all.

  8. Julie M. Smith on August 14, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Erica Merrell wrote, “The OT is next.”

    Will you do the whole thing?

  9. WillF on August 14, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Russel,
    We are hoping that all the harsh punishments we’re reading about will convince our kids that we are pretty lenient when it comes to discipline though I worry our boys might get ideas from all the stoning — well come to think of it they already throw things at each other.

  10. WillF on August 14, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    (continued because WordPress rejected my whole comment…)

    We started at the beginning of the year and we are starting Deuteronomy right now (I know — slow going). I have found that setting up cliffhangers is a good tool to keep interest. A recent one was “Will Balaam give in and curse the Israelites? (Num 22). “What would happen because of the lying spies (Num 13) who came back from the land of Canaan” was an earlier one.

    (I have more to say, but WordPress doesn’t like something I am trying to say)

  11. Julie M. Smith on August 14, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    WillF–

    What a great idea to do cliffhangers!

  12. Costanza on August 14, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Will,
    I peeked at the end. The devil did it.

  13. Erica Merrell on August 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

    Well, I imagine we’ll skip lots of it, since the boys aren’t into the finer points of the law of Moses or the dimensions of any sort of curtains.

    Actually, a more accurate description of what the OT will be is a summary and explanation instead of reading and explaning.

  14. Lori Forsyth on August 15, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    We, too, have spent many years on a single read-through of the Book of Mormon, and send congratulations. Right now we’re working through the Preach My Gospel manual, used now by the missionaries. My dad just finished up as president of the Boston mission, and he asked his kids to study the doctrinal points with their families. There are periodic paragraphs on some concept, then relevant scripture references. Reading by topic has given us opportunities for an occasion good discussion (our kids range from 18 to 2, so sometimes the best we can do is try to defend ourselves against whatever projectiles the toddler wants to launch while we try to read). I’m looking forward to getting back into the Book of Mormon, though–we used to have fun getting kids involved in role playing some of the stories.

  15. angstyx on August 15, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    Congratulations!

    We finished the BOM as a family for the first time right around the end of last year. It was really cool that our family reading coincided with the ending point of Pres. Hinckley’s BOM challenge. It took us about two years to do. We started the OT in January, and have found it very slow going. We are still in Genesis, for crying out loud! We, too, have the Family Edition of the OT, and we’ve found it helpful with its definitions and discussion questions. I’m also really glad that it summarizes the endless lists of names, supplies, etc. I doubt we’ll finish the OT before the end of the year, and we’re thinking that we’ll probably just start concentrating on specific stories instead of trying to go straight through because it’s just taking too long. We all miss the BOM and will probably start it again next January.

    Oh yeah, Saturdays and Vacations are the hardest times for us to get scripture reading done, too.

  16. JHG on August 15, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    I’m glad to have read this post. My wife and I just started this past Sunday with the goal to read the Book of Mormon as a family. Our oldest daughter is just starting kindergarten later this month, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at her interest in it and how well she seems to have understood Joseph Smith’s testimony and the first couple of chapters. We hope that more than anything this will help instill in our daughters the importance of the scriptures in our lives (and reinforce the same in us parents, too!).

    As a long time reader, first time poster to this site, it was very nice to read about your success right now since we just undertook the same challenge. Reading about your success gives me hope that what we have decided to do will be worth while and possible to acheive. Thanks!

  17. WillF on August 16, 2006 at 7:40 am

    Costanza,
    Even in the Disney translation?

  18. Russell Arben Fox on August 16, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Many additional thanks to everyone who has commented!

    C. Anderson–reading over dinner is the way my wife’s family did it too, at least once their four kids were older and could read on their own. And I agree that the D&C is probably always going to be the hardest of the standard works to bring into regular scripture rotation with children.

    Erica–I admire your determination to go forward with reading the OT, even knowing how much you’ll have to skip and explain to keep your children up with what’s going on. I confess that I think there ought to be a degree of difficultly, incomprehensibility, or just plain foreignness in the scriptures when children first encounter them; maybe it’s my experience with our kids highlighting odd stories or words, as I mentioned above, but mostly I think it’s a belief that it’s a good thing for children to realize that this thing in their lives–the scriptures–are not ordinary, but rather tell stories that are literally “out of (their) world.” The thing is, of course, too much of that strangeness, and they just want to give up on reading them entirely. I think I eventually came to figure out where that fine line is in regards to the BoM; I have no idea where it might be in the OT, which has 10 times the “foreignness” factor of the BoM. (I bet my feelings are similar to angstyx’s here.)

    Anyway, good luck (and my hat is off to folks like WillF who made it work!).

    Lori, angstyx–thank you for the support! It’s always nice to hear from families that have successes with family scripture reading.

    JHG–Goog luck to you! Glad my post was a confidence booster. We started when our oldest was about halfway through kindergarten, sometime around the beginning of 2002, and as I said above, we didn’t really start pushing their daily participation for a while. But we had the same experience you have had: children that have been going to sacrament meeting and Primary not only already have some feel for scriptural language, because they’ve heard it and have sung it so often, but often have a surprisingly strong grasp of what’s going on as well. Our problem was never justifying the BoM to them, as it were; they easily accepted that Nephi and Jospeh Smith and Alma were real and important. It was just the plain old typical parenting task of getting them to get through it! I’m sure you’ll do well.

  19. Idahospud on August 16, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Russell, as we have read the BOM with too-young-to-read children, we assign them “And it came to pass.” So as you’re reading along and you come to that phrase, you just call the child’s name and she says her part. I got the idea a long time ago from somewhere, so I can’t take credit, but it works well in letting smaller ones make a contribution. You might think they aren’t listening, but when someone slips up and reads “And it came to pass,” they’ll let you know you took their part!

    Congratulations on finishing!

  20. Russell Arben Fox on August 16, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Thanks, Idahospud! Great idea. We’ll have to use that with Alison, now two.