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.