Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Harry Potter vs. Joseph Smith

Posted by nhilton on June 14, 2007

My 8 year old is finishing her first real novel: Harry Potter.  We found her reading of vomit flavored jelly beans in the bathroom at 5 a.m. Saturday morning.  Oh, I’m so proud!

On the other hand, as we were sitting in Sacrament Meeting being directed by the speaker to a scripture in the New Testament she leaned her head back on the pew and loudly whispered between clenched teeth, “I hate this.”  I was trying to help her find the passages quickly enough to participate as the speaker read the selection.  No luck. 

Then, glancing over in hopes of seeing my other children engaged in the sciptures as the speaker read, I saw my 17 year old, who I thought was self sufficient in her scripture look-up methods based on her three years of Seminary experience.   Not.  She was flipping from the Old Testament to the Book of Mormon and all over the place looking for James.  She wouldn’t have busted out her scriptures at all if I hadn’t given her the look.    She asked my husband the other night, “Dad, what comes first the Old Testament or the New Testament?”   Seriosly.  This is the same teenager who directed her younger siblings to the Tropical Guide when preparring a talk for church.  She’s Laurel President and Senior Class President with straight A’s. 

O.k., so my family isn’t the model for Sacrament Meeting behavior and would certainly loose in a game of Scripture Chase.  This is no news flash to me.   But where am I– and all of their other gospel teachers– going wrong in our efforts to light the flame of learning, to instill a love and thirst for the scriptures?   They (unlike me as a kid) at least lug their scriptures to church. 

This same 8 year old said that the gift she’d like most for her 8th birthday was a set of scriptures “just like Mom’s.”  This did, of course, make my heart sing and as you can imagine, she got her wish.  After hearing a recent General Conference speaker say he had read the Joseph Smith History as a youth ALL BY HIMSELF, she immediately began the pursuit.  But, alas, Harry Potter has usurped that initiative and now her scriptures seem just an accessory to her colored marking pencils and Ward Bulliten (drawing paper) during Sacrament Meeting.  

Harry and Joseph really have quite a lot in common if you think about it…chosen in their youth, a great mission to perform, persecuted, possess unusual abilities…….

  • Are people just born loving the scriptures or not? 

My oldest child reads the scriptures nightly and has for many years.  She was Gospel Doctrine Teacher in her Freshman BYU ward & was recently called to that same position in her ‘Vegas summer singles ward.  She knows where to find the Book of James.   She has, however, read all the Harry Potter novels three times.  I doubt she’s read the Standard Works three times. 

I think I’ve raised all my kids basically the same, probably doing better with the last half than I did with the first half.  Why then, the difference?  And, is it too late?  Well, of course not, but sometimes I worry about that formative window they talk about.  You know, how kids are basically molded by the time they’re 5.  Ugh.  I’ve only got one left to go…I better get it right this time! 

Really I want my children to love the scriptures.   We use them in Family Nights and I talk about and bear testimony of them often.  They know I love the scriptures.  They see me reading and studying them often.  The same is true of my husband’s regular scripture study.  We often speak about them around the dinner table.  We have them posted in many rooms throughout the house, even framed in some cases.  

  • When is the right time, the right place and the right way to nurture a love of the scriptures in children?   As parents and as teachers?  Is there a difference in the two? 

As you address this question, please base your response on evidence, no conjecture or theory, please.    If you’ve got some good suggestions, I may even enlist my family in a case study testing these suggestions.  Who knows, it could be a landmark study–certainly it will be for my family!  

And, while you’re at it, include suggestions for use in the classroom.   I know there are many good teachers of our youth out there who want to foster scripture love AND literacy and might not know how to do it. 

Thank you, in advance, for your pondering of this subject and your generosity in sharing your experience & knowledge!

39 Responses to “Harry Potter vs. Joseph Smith”

  1. cherylem said

    This is a great post, even though I have no ideas yet to share. Thanks for getting us thinking about this.

  2. robf said

    Ugh, this is a toughie for me. Look forward to what others have to say. I’ve got a fourth grader who has read The Count of Monte Cristo, but is still only half way through Alma and has been there for quite some time.

  3. anneliza said

    This was a very interesting post. I am 25, a certified teacher and am close to finishing my masters degree in information and library science. I work in a public library. So reading – and how to encourage a love or reading is a topic that is dear to my heart. I do not consider myself, by any means, an expert. But here are some thoughts.

    Using a very simplistic view, reading can be seen in two ways: as fun or as work. Reading Harry Potter is fun. Unfortunately, reading the scriptures can often be seen as work. And who wants to do that? The scriptures are written in a style and language that is unfamiliar to most youth and young adults today (maybe adults too). They are harder to read – simply because of the language. They are harder to understand, to comprehend. When teachers assign books to read – they are making reading work (especially for boys since they generally read at a level lower than girls of the same age).

    Whenever we make reading work (sometimes necessary) we run the risk of making it an unwanted task. This is especially true for the struggling reader. Your comments on your daughters response at church: “I hate this’ and her struggle to find the right scripture in time to read it with the speaker (who likely has the page marked and isn’t waiting for anyone to find it) is giving your daughter an experience fraught with frustration. This isn’t fun – and she sees no point in torturing herself with something she “hates.” Although your daughter may be fluent in reading Harry Potter, the scriptures are still in her frustration zone.

    You asked “When is the right time, the right place and the right way to nurture a love of the scriptures in children?”

    The way to get anyone to love reading the scriptures is to make it fun and meaningful. We will do things we enjoy and we will do things that we believe benefit us. How to make reading the scriptures fun? Well, I think this is harder than than making Harry Potter fun. First of all, there is no right time, right place, right way that fits for everybody. Each person approaches reading in a different way and it is important to let them do so. That being said, there are things we can do to guide our children. Here are some ideas and anecdotes.

    You already do one of the most important things: modeling. You read the scriptures in front of your children: you vocally enjoy it, and you discuss what you are reading with your husband and family. Likely, when discussing the scriptures with your husband you are discussing the values, ideals, morals, spirtual insight etc that you receive from reading the scriptures. These discussions are likely over your daughter’s head. Youth, on the other hand, when discussing something they read, are more likely to talk about characters and action and plot. With them we need to start with discussions of, for example, how Laman and Lemual were SUCH rotten brothers, did you see how they tied Nephi up and beat him! Or Daniel in that lion’s den. Yes, we want to discuss what these stories mean to us and how they apply to us, but that comes later, after they are familiar with the stories.

    Make it easier: try not to do anything that makes our children want to pull out their hair with frustration. Get scripture with the tabs on the side: makes finding a certain book much easier. If possible, get a copy that has thicker pages that aren’t so easy to tear. Make it into a game: how many times CAN she find the scripture before the speaker is done reading it? – Concentrate on the positive. After all, if she remembers that she was right on 4 times instead of the times she couldn’t, she is more likely to try again. Make it competitive: race each other to find scriptures (maybe not during sacrament meeting). Make it into a game. I know that reading the scriptures should be intrinsically rewarding. But no reading starts that way, the scriptures even more so because of the difficulty of language and content. These are ideas to get a child familiar with the books themselves – so that they aren’t intimidated – and to begin to have a relationship with the scriptures, so that when they are ready they CAN have the intrinsic rewards and spiritual experiences from reading the scriptures.

    Have a book club. Reading the scriptures can go beyond personal and family reading. Get a group of kids and host a book club. Set the scene, give the stories context. Don’t expect them to read everything yet – can you imagine an 8 year old trying to understand Isaiah? It’s hard enough for adults. So pick out definite stories, or sections to read. When you are dealing with books that have less of an obvious story (especially to someone who doesn’t have the background info – like a child – make the context clear. Paul was writing this letter because. . . . set the scene, make it come alive. Have fun activities: act it out, write a play, write responses, write letters to Nephi, or Sam or Laman. Draw pictures, make dioramas, sing songs, play charades – whatever strengths your child has, play to those. Your child likes to cook, so do some research and see if you can find a recipe for something Nephi might have eaten or Jesus might have eaten. Making it a social activity can add to the fun.

    Set goals. Know that when you finish with Nephi (or the whole book or whatever portion you choose) you will CELBERATE your accomplishment with something out of the ordinary, maybe going horseback riding or going to a special restaurant – something that would be special and out of the ordinary for all of you.

    Remember, its not always about pushing. Sometimes, they just might not be ready for the language. Don’t make it into a chore or something they hate to do.

    If you need something that is easier to read try something like THE BOOK OF MORMON FOR YOUNG LATTER-DAY SAINTS. This was a book my grandmother gave my brother and me when we were children. It tells the stories of the Book of Mormon but in easier and more modern language (no thees or thous and without all of those “And it came to pass”

    Sometimes it just takes reading it to your child. I have two younger brothers who were haphazard readers for the longest time. But I read to them and read to them and read to them – books and stories they and I enjoyed. When I left for college, I couldn’t finish the book I was reading to one of them. He finished it though. They both read now. I still read to them occasionally, as my Dad still occasionaly reads to me – reading to someone is something you never have to grow out of. While reading to my brothers I discovered that they didn’t always know what something meant, I set new rules. They didn’t have to just sit there and listen. They could interupt me at any time to ask any questions or share thoughts about what is going on in the book or what something means. When my brother struggled with staying still, I discovered he could listen just as easily if he was playing with legos, drawing, or doing something else active at the same time. Some learners do comprehend better when they have more stimuli and are utilizing kinetic energy.

    When I was a child, as now, I loved to read. I did find sacrament meeting pretty dull though (an hour of sitting still!) But my parents let me read the scriptures during the meeting and that entertained my time well. That started my love of the language and the english found in the scriptures.

    Remember that we don’t study shakespeare until high school – but the King James Version english is pretty much the same. Feel free to pick up a different translation. And be patient! If you are reading the KJV, remember that this reading is high level reading – children are not likely to be able to read AND comprehend without help and guidance. All of the activities and ideas I’ve given are to both make reading the scriptures fun, but also to build comprehension. By working AND playing with the scriptures children can better synthesize and understand all that they have read.

    I hope this post was more than me getting on my soapbox and that you can find it helpful. I am very interested in hearing other’s ideas and suggestions as well.

    Aside to robf: If your son is reading the Count of Monte Cristo in fourth grade, you have got a very strong reader! This, like the scriptures is in an older, more formal (to us) style of english. Remember though, that the Count was written in installments for a magazine – each segment had to be filled with action and suspense: in this way it is much easier to read than the scriptures because something interesting and surprising is always happening. I suggest that if he is getting bogged down in some of the scriptures, it is likely in a place with less action and more, abstact teaching is going on. Maybe he just needs to be read with for that section, or even just to skip over it for now. A specific case is difficult, without know the child, but that is what I would start with.

  4. brianj said

    Nhilton: what a great question. I don’t really have an answer, but let me tell you a story:

    When I was 14, I was an usher in sacrament meeting. I would sit by the door to keep it from slamming closed. And since I was sitting alone—away from my parents—I was somewhat free to read whatever I wanted during the meeting. So how proud my mom was when she looked over and saw me sitting with my scripture case open on my lap, reading very intently. A few days later she learned (from my sister, I suspect) that I had removed my Bible from my scripture case and replaced it with a paperback copy of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead (which is still one of my favorite books). My mother’s reaction surprised me: she seemed simultaneously amused, disapproving, envious, and saddened.

    I’m not sure how to translate that story into a moral or method you can use, but I hope (in the “expect” sense) that you will find meaning where I lack words.

    “Are people just born loving the scriptures or not?”

    I wasn’t. But what does it mean to “love the scriptures” anyway? When I say I love my wife, I mean that I serve her—that’s what love means to me. How can I serve the scriptures? That makes no sense. I do love (serve) God, and I feel his love (service) for me. Both feelings are strengthened as I study and ponder the scriptures—or, more specifically, scripture study motivates me to serve God and helps me recognize ways that he serves me. So maybe when I say, “I love the scriptures,” what I really mean is, “I love the Lord, and I cherish the scriptures because they bring me closer to him.” If that’s true, maybe one day I will have no need of, and hence no “love” for, the scriptures—of course I mean some day after this life—because my love of God will have been perfected into a oneness with him. (just thinking out loud here)

  5. brianj said

    anneliza: wow! very nice thoughts.

  6. cherylem said

    Anneliza, very well done.

    brianj: I love Speaker for the Dead also.

  7. brianj said

    cherlyem: but what does it mean to “love Speaker for the Dead”? {smile}

  8. cherylem said

    brianj #7. hahaha. point to you.

  9. Jim F. said

    I love scripture study and I think most of my children do. As is obvious, I know that at least one, Matthew, does. But I don’t think Matthew got it from me. We weren’t very good at reading scripture with children when he was young. We would try for a while and then our efforts at early morning scripture reading and prayer would fall apart. We would try again and they would break down again. We finally succeeded in having good scripture study when all of our children were gone.

    I think Matthew got his love from the scriptures mostly from the teacher of his priest quorum whose testimony was so strong and love was so obvious that boys who wouldn’t go to church otherwise wanted to go to their priest quorum class. I am very grateful for great teachers like him and for the church programs that made it possible for Matthew to have that man as his teacher.

  10. m&m said

    Something simple we are trying to do is read every night from the scriptures and not just read to check it off the list, but reading and stopping and discussing and feasting together. Some FHEs try to bring them to life a little. As an example, we once made a tree of life, an aluminum foil rod of iron, and gave them hypothetical situations to see if they would progress along the rod of “iron” with their choices. It wasn’t great, but I think things like that can help the scriptures stick more and become more alive and meaningful in their lives.

    I also think that a love for reading is a first step in a love for scriptures, so I’m not too concerned that my children are reading and enjoying other books more. I think it’s pretty normal that young children don’t want to spend their time reading something that they have a hard time understanding. But that love of reading, and some unending efforts as parents with daily scripture study, FHE and conversations that can bring the scriptures alive for them more, might get them to the point someday where they really savor it on their own. But really, how old were any of us before we really were willing to spend more than 10 minutes reading the scriptures? I know for me it didn’t really come until college and some awesome religion teachers. I’m not saying that can’t happen sooner, but I think we shouldn’t stress too much because I think it’s a process, and will probably take most of their growing-up years at least.

    One other addition — my son loves reading the Friend. This gets the gospel going in his brain at more his level of comprehension. And it can keep his attention. I never throw Friends away for that reason! I found him reading one tonite during dinner because I had found one buried and left it lying around. Without any compulsion or external anything, he opened it and read it and shared a story with me. He’s only 8, so I have hope. But it was Harry Potter that got him reading like a maniac, so like I said, it’s all a process!

  11. nhilton said

    Anneliza #3, Thanks for your thoughts. You’ve motivated me to have a family scripture chase game next Family Night. Your scripture bookclub is a good idea, too, & maybe could be incorporated into Primary or summer Enrichment meetings somehow.

    RE: my 8 yr. old daughter’s Sacrament Mtg. experience, she wasn’t frustrated. The speaker was giving everyone ample time to look up the reference. She was just “hating” the activity of the moment. Additionally, the verbage of the scriptures isn’t difficult for her because she has grown up reading it with us every day during family scriptures in the morning. It’s the content that is a turn-off, no vomit flavored jelly beans, I guess. Maybe the “suppose to do” instead of the “get to do” aspect is what’s at the heart of it. This is where Brianj’s story fits in really well! He GETS to serve the Lord. It’s this paradigm shift that I think is required…maybe being “born again?” Maybe being blind & then being able to see?

    I’m just wondering how we can, as teachers, facilitate this shift…how we can make Joseph Smith as hip as Harry Potter. I’d think the factual/biographical nature of Joseph Smith would make him all the more compelling! Reality, in this case, is stranger than fiction!
    My kids are all excellent readers. I’ve homeschooled them & taught them all to read before kindergarten. They read well above grade level. My oldest scored a perfect 36 on the reading part of the ACT. They would rather read than do just about anything. But how can the Apostle Paul compare with Dan Brown as a writer? More people, it seems of late, have read The DaVinchi Code than the book it’s all about: The Bible. These, of course, are more adult readers we’re talking about…that’s why it’s so important to reach the young readers when they’re still impressionable and free to define what constitutes compelling literature.

    On those “easy reader” scriptures, I personally hated those as a kid! My folks read them to me, too. They never came alive to me the way the REAL scriptures do. I love the poetry of the KJV. But I did discover the power of reading the scriptures one on one with your children, which may be why you loved those scripture reading sessions as a child. My husband & I have always read aloud to our children, following Jim Trelease’s fabulous advice in his landmark book–but not the scriptures as literature. We read all other genres.

    One year I was teaching a unit on “Scripture Heros” to my children and decided that my reluctant reader’s assigned reading for the unit would be from the church’s children’s picture scripture book–the one that goes along with the slide-show video (ancient). At first I thought the child would be bored to tears. However, she actually would come & get me for “reading time” when we’d sit together & she’d read to me out of this book. I learned that she liked the comic-book frame-by-frame aspect of the book and especially the mommy-snuggle time. I got a science book in this same format & she read it twice! So, I guess we just have to reach outside the box for some sort of scripture format that will appeal to a particular child.

    I have a friend who has given her 12 year old grandson a parrallel Bible (different side-by-side translations). She says he loves reading it. I, too, enjoy reading various translations of the same passage because it’s almost like a mystery or game to see how the same words were translated differently. I think that this kind of challenge & trivia might have motivated me to read the Bible at an earlier age. I wonder what would happen if we took in a whole slew of Bible translations into a SS young class & let them all read & compare & discuss.

    m&m, never, never throw a Friend away. :) Cut them up & paste them to the front & back of your breakfast cereal boxes. Pull the MormonAds out of the Era & post them in the bathrooms. Have your kids wrap gifts with them…they’ll read as they wrap.

    Jim, I, too credit great teachers with my love of the scriptures. I just pray that MY kids will get such teachers & I’d like to know HOW to be such a teacher. What is the gift that the teacher your son had possessed?

  12. Jim F. said

    nhilton: Besides a deep testimony and a love of the gospel and the Book of Mormon, he had a humility that made it possible for all of the boys in his class to know that he was being completely honest with them when he taught. He wasn’t just saying what he had to say. He was telling them what he most earnestly believed. We’ll have to ask Matthew to say more about why Brother J. was such a good teacher.

  13. BRoz said

    Deut. 6: 7
    And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

  14. Jim F. said

    BRoz, I think that the point of the post was that we agree with Deuteronomy wholeheartedly. Nhilton’s question isn’t whether to teach our children diligently, but how to do so. She is looking for practical suggestions on how she can help her children come to love the scriptures as she does.

  15. I haven’t had a chance to read some of the longer comments (I will soon), but m&m’s comment pretty well describes things in my little family. My oldest is only 3, but her favorite part of the day is scripture study (sometimes she requests having it a second or even a third time!). We read a chapter a day with her (or half a chapter for the longer ones like Alma 5, etc.), and we explain things as we go so that she follows it like a story. We’re careful to get every word of the text in, but also to demythologize the text a little to her level. Our plan is to do this with our kids every year, getting all the way through the Book of Mormon every year, but stepping up the intensity and depth a little every year. FHE lessons are always connected in some way with what is coming up in our reading during the following week, and we work hard to make, as Michelle said, the scriptures come alive a little (our little Emma was really thrilled when I climbed on top of the garbage can a few months ago to present our little Jacob to the Nephites and Mulekites as the new King Mosiah!).

    On a more individual level… I hated reading anything but the scriptures until I served a mission. That is, I probably read three books during my four years of high school, but I read my scriptures for a half hour every night, and I studied intensively during the summers (usually drawing on my parents’ old copy of Infobase, etc.). I read the scriptures because I was convinced there was something in them I wanted to know, and I think that stems from one experience when I was about thirteen or so. My family probably had a total of ten family scripture studies in my whole childhood, but one of them was one Sunday afternoon when we decided to try again to get through the Book of Mormon. We started by reading, of course, 1 Nephi 1. After we finished, and everyone was about to go his or her separate activity, my dad stopped us all and said he was sad that we’d rushed through it so quickly. We then spent the next two hours talking about 1 Nephi 1:1. I’ll never forget that. I was convinced after that experience that there was more to the scriptures, and that it was worth the work to unravel their meaning.

    Anyway, a thought or two.

  16. Rebecca L said

    Thanks for the great post! I’ll be brief. I agree with Joe that what made the difference for me was not copious study (initially), but intense, quality study–study that made me wonder and that shook my complacency. Knowing I didn’t know the answers, but feeling secure that I knew where to look, was exciting.

    I use my Sunday School lesson to teach my kids in the way my father taught us (Socratically and with stories). My adult class who think they are getting the high-level version would be surprised at how little is edited out for my children. My kids even push me now to tell me what we talked about in Sunday School! Sometimes I’ll interrupt our weekly reading schedule and ask them to read my lesson with me to help me prepare. They love that!

    Oh.. we also do memorization of scriptures for homeschool. Memorization is such a nice exercise for making something a part of you.


  17. JakeW said

    I’m sixteen. I’m in seminary. I haven’t loved the scriptures my whole life until about two months ago. During primary, I would consistently ask my teachers why the scriptures mattered at all. I was the smart alecky kid who knew all the answers to all the questions, knew all the scripture stories, goofed off all the time, and even enjoyed primary a great deal. I didn’t need the scriptures anymore, because I figured I’d been told what they had to say already. In short, scripture study bored me to death. But it wasn’t any sort of fun activity or game that made me really love the scriptures. That was far too tedious. It was simply being taught what was in them. Any attempt at making them seem “fun” in any way just turned me off. I guess I feel that any attempt at fun-izing the scriptures just trivializes them, and lessens their importance in the eyes of small children. Also, like any fun activity, the novelty will wear off. I don’t think a love for the scriptures is something you can just foist onto somebody. If people don’t seem to be loving the scriptures, feed them more knowledge! Find out what they want to know. When somebody did that for me, I began to be interested a lot more. I would say that most people don’t love the scriptures, because they don’t even know what the scriptures are. Nobody has told them.

  18. Matthew said

    JakeW (#17): “I guess I feel that any attempt at fun-izing the scriptures just trivializes them, and lessens their importance in the eyes of small children. ” I couldn’t agree more.

    My feeling is that 8 year olds need not enjoy the scriptures. Mine doesn’t particularly (at least not in a way that motivates her to read on her own). In contrast she is anxiously awaiting the final installment of Harry Potter.

    I admit to thinking of scripture reading as work for children (and something a little like work for me to–though I enjoy my work and my scripture reading once I get into it). We read the scriptures as a family and I expect the 8 year old to pay attention and take her turn reading. I haven’t expected her to read the scriptures on her own. I was sort of waiting for High School. We’ll see how that goes when we get there.

    I bet if I did teach my kids to do scripture chases or spent more time on the stories of the scriptures, they would like family scripture time a whole lot more. But what is the point? My feeling is that they will find that there are more entertaining games than scripture chase and more entertaining stories than those found in the scriptures (try speaker for the dead for example). So in the long run I dont see the value.

    Given that really engaging the scriptures is something I believe requires about teenage mentality, I think the only thing we can really do is model scripture study and show that it is something we care enough about to make part of our daily routine.

    Modelling made a lot more difference to me than my priest’s quorum teacher–though he was great.

    But…that leaves the question unanswered of how come some of your children (or anyone’s) are more interested in the scriptures than others if they grew up in the same family. I don’t have anything helpful to address that question.

  19. nhilton said

    JakeW, welcome! What are you, a sixteen year old, doing on this blog? Isn’t it a bit dry for you? :) Kidding aside, I was really thrilled that you contributed & I can’t help but think you’re an anomoly. Most 16 yr. olds on-line aren’t here. However, you’re just the animal I’m looking for!!! Your comments are fabulous! You’re a one-man focus group! Now, go out & poll your friends & bring us back word from the younger generation. Kudos to you.

    Rebecca, can you give an example of the method by which you teach your children/students, please? Just paint a scenerio for us if you would.

    Joe, cherrish those younger years! When Seminary hits, good-bye to those early morning family devotionals. It is sooooo hard to pin down a teenager for a family moment! I have such fond memories of my babies learning to love scripture reading. Then…they grow out of it & begin the eye-rolling & sleep mimicking at which they become so expert. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve said, “Please follow along in your scriptures…you’re on verse ___…” Getting everyone together is the first challenge & the second one is to keep the Spirit in the process!

    I asked my 19 yr. old last night if she loved the scriptures. “Yes,” was her answer. I asked her to consider WHY she loved the scriptures and tell me in the morning. She was insistent that she needn’t wait ’til morning but could identify the reason immediately. She said it was because she READ them. “Why did you read them?” I asked. “Because you promised me you’d buy me a nice CTR ring if I read them every night for 30 days.” (I was her Young Women’s leader at the time & this was a challenge I had given all the young women in my class.) Why she even wanted a CTR ring in the first place escaped me…but I guess this illustrates the “condition” of her heart to begin with. “So, the carrot in front of your nose was the motivator?” I asked. “Yes, initially,” she replied. “After that, I was hooked.” She went on to describe how this habbit grew from simple nightly reading into a search & study for teaching in SS. It was during this calling of teaching that her love for them grew, she said. So, this was a five-year process for her.

    This struck a chord with me: As we teach the scriptures, we develop a greater love for them. If this is true, then it is most certainly the teacher who grows the most. Duh!?!! But this thought seems more profound than I’m able to articulate. It also inspires me to position my children in more teaching responsibilities, i.e. home evening, Young Women & Primary. Thanks be to the bishoprics who utilize their youth in teaching/training/speaking opportunities! This, I have found, is a blessing of living in the mission field & a ward with few youth–the kids are more involved, having to speak more often & shoulder callings more frequently & singularly.

  20. J. Stapley said

    When I was eight, I took piano lessons for several years. I had to be reminded to practice and ultimately gave it up. When I was 13 I picked up a guitar and didn’t put it down until my mission. I played all the time. What was the difference? I didn’t love the piano or the music, but I loved the guitar. No one had to tell me to practice.

    I remember the first time I read the scriptures for love. I was 18. Something finally clicked in my life where I wanted to do it and I read for hours a day. It was likely the culmination of a lot of factors, but mostly, it was not a calculated event. Now it is Church history for me (which I view like the OT of Mormondum).

  21. Carlos U. said

    YOU CANNOT LOVE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. Let me bring another perspective: My early religious education (as a convert) was in Catholic cathequism, Jehovah Witness children’s books and evangelical classes, chronologically speaking. I was able to learn the stories first, to become familiar with the characters and events. That, and the religious movies they play all day every day during Easter week in Costa Rica. I also became familiar with the Old Testament, the foundation of all else. It became like an exiting detective game: The more I knew about the old Jewish law, customs, symbolism, and locations, the more sense things made. As my knowledge grew, my understanding and enjoyment grew also. You wouldn’t throw an 8-year old into Calculus. You start with arithmetic, then geometry, then algebra and trigonometry, and then calculus. In other words, you build up line upon line.
    For my future children (I’m a newlywed) I have a small collection of Bible (most non-lds), BOM, and Church History illustrated books. I plan on that being what I use while the kids are smaller, so when they tackle the scripture on their own, it will be a familiar landscape. It worked for me.

  22. DevanS said

    I really agree with Joe Spencer #15 when he said that he would add a little more depth each time the scriptures were read. i think this is really what would have helped me through my younger years. I am 16, and I have always read my scriptures, even when I was much younger. My family was quite variable as to whether we had family scripture study, and I never saw my parents studying the scriptures on their own, so I have to wonder, where did that desire come from? Maybe it was the fact that i was jelouse of Jacob, and how he always knew the answers. On that note, i would read the scriptures, but I would never remember them when i was asked a question. In my young mind, I just didn’t connect anything, but a few years ago, as i was reading the Book Of Mormon pretty fast, I realized that I really did know the stories. Looking back on that, I realize that that’s a great foundation for my studying now. I started out with just knowing the simple stories, and as I have gotten older, and as I am getting older I can expound on them and learn a great deal more.
    Just yesterday, I was on an all day outing with a large group of girls for church girl’s camp. On the drive home, the leader that was driving was playing rap music on the radio (to the enjoyment of the other girls.) I personnally cannot stand listening to rap, because the content is just too much, so I pulled out my scriptures in hopes to block out all that noise, and get in some good studying. Surprisingly, it actually worked. The music seemed to go away as I read. One girl commented to me saying “Oh, you’re such a good girl.” That comment got me thinking. What was stopping all those other girls from reading their scriptures instead of listening to that music? I think all draws to laziness. I must admit that I can also be lazy with my scripture reading, but often a source of a renewed excitement for me is good music. If I am so tired that I don’t feel I can read, I’ll listen to a couple Mormon Tabernacle Choir songs. These often become a differnt source (outside the scriptures, which some people have commented are hard for younger children to understand) to recieve those same principles, as well as giving me a desire to read the scriptures. What got me started thinking about that was last night when I was cleaning my kitchen counters, and listening to this absolutely amazing song from “The Garden.” It was a more spiritual, and a greater learning experience than I often find in church, or reading my scriptures.
    Now that i have all that out there, maybe I’ll say something that actually applies to the question raised. I don’t believe that you can separate parent and teacher in a family setting. Everything you say or do as a parent is teaching your children.
    As to teaching in a class setting, I’ve often wondered about that as well, such as in semenary. I really think you should go as deep into the scriptures as you can in accordance to the age level you’re teaching. Don’t be afraid if you think what you say might be too complicated for them to understand. I know that in my personal experience with church classes from primary to SS, the more why questions that are answerd (and I mean about everything) the better.

  23. BrianJ said

    J Stapely’s comment, #20, reminded me of something a friend said. He was telling us about his struggle to force his kids to practice piano every day for an hour or so. One of the people in our group said something about turning the kids away from music by forcing them to do something they don’t love. My friend emphatically replied, “But they do love piano; they just don’t know they love it yet.”

  24. m&m said

    Given that really engaging the scriptures is something I believe requires about teenage mentality, I think the only thing we can really do is model scripture study and show that it is something we care enough about to make part of our daily routine.

    Can I agreeably disagree with this? I don’t think we need to wait until the teen years to get children to engage the scriptures. Might this be underestimating children a bit? My most meaningful interactions with my children are when we are discussing the gospel, including our scripture reading. I don’t want to wait until they are teens to engage with them; with children ages 8, 7 and 5 1/2, I feel it’s possible now. It’s exciting. I’m not talking about scripture chases and silly games; I’m talking about real discussion about what the scriptures are teaching us, about learning to understand and internalize the language of the scriptures, about learning what they mean in our lives.

    I totally agree that the modeling and habit is essential, too, but unless I’m misunderstanding you, this comment felt a bit like you are drugding through the habit now, waiting for them to be able to engage someday in the future. Scripture reading with the family would not be engaging for ME if that was what we did. If all we do is read, I get nothing out of it. It’s the discussion and interaction that makes it meaningful – because we are getting something out of the scriptures and because we are doing it together. It’s something that brought tears to my eyes tonite.

    Anyway, sorry about the soapbox, but this is something I’m pretty passionate about. And if I’m ranting simply from a misunderstanding of your comment, I’m all the more sorry. :)

    And I just have to say that I love having the insights of some youth on this board! Woo hoo!

  25. m&m said

    Shoot, Matthew, I should have just started by asking, “What do you mean by really engaging the scriptures?”

  26. Jim F. said

    The funny thing about Matthew’s comment is that his daughter is more engaged in scripture study and more scripturally knowledgeable than any 8-year-old I’ve ever seen, and she has been for years. I’ve never seen anyone teach their children to study and understand scripture as well as Matthew and Angela. Perhaps he is just going through a tough stretch right now, or perhaps he has higher expectations of his children than I did :).

  27. m&m said

    I figured as much, Jim. That’s why his comment baffled me a bit. I wondered if maybe he was referring to the engaging of scripture on their own, as opposed to engaging with the family.?? As you can see, I realized I responded too quickly, without giving the comment more thought in light of what I would suspect about Matthew, even with what little I know. :)

    Thanks for confirming my gut feeling that I jumped in too quickly. :)

  28. Matthew said

    m&m (24). Great comment. I agree with you so I’m glad you jumped in and disagreed with me.

    I’ve sort of worked my way into a pickle. Do I tell you all how wonderful my 8 year old is or defend my comments about requiring teenage mentality? Plus my wife didn’t like my anti-scripture chase comment. She pointed out that I probably thought scripture chasing was a lame game because I was no good at it. (Probably right.)

    Anyway, I think I missed the mark on my comment.

    It is great to get kids to know the stories of the scriptures. It is wonderful for someone to tell the stories in an engaging way so that kids enjoy hearing them. And there’s nothing wrong with a scripture chase (though we all agree I think that it doesn’t have much to do with reading and understanding the scriptures).

    m&m, I agree we can engage our younger kids in scripture study and it can be a wonderful experience. We had a nice scripture study time this evening except for the part where I sent my 3 year old to his room sobbing because he wouldn’t stop being so loud that no one else could hear anything. But he came back a few minutes later reformed. We didn’t have much discussion but the little that we had was good.

    My only point worth salvaging I think was that it is okay I believe to think of scripture study as work. And work can be fun but in a different way than reading a novel or playing a game. And we don’t really want to take away the hard part out of scripture study just like we don’t want to teach our kids to work–except when it is hard. My daughter may come and beg me to play a game of stratego. I’m not concerned that she doesn’t beg to go work in the yard. She reads Harry Potter on her own. I’m not concerned that she doesn’t read the scriptures much on her own.

    I wonder at what age parents see their kids really get into their own scripture reading? I don’t think I did until I was a Priest (as already noted). Maybe other kids start a lot earlier.

    BTW, I’d like to share one tip that has worked well for our family in terms of making scripture study something kids like. We have scripture study right before bed. Our kids know that scripture study is the last thing keeping them from bed–which they don’t like. The 3 year old and the 8 year old are both advocates for family scripture study time. From their perspective, the longer the better. We didn’t set it up this way on purpose but it has helped a lot.

  29. cherylem said

    I want to say something in defense of games and fun, and specifically Anneliza’s comments in #3. Over the years I’ve seen Anneliza in action . . . on a daily basis . . . since she is my daughter, and I’ve never met anyone who makes learning about anything – but especially math and reading – more easy, fun, engaging and affirming than she does. She has a gift for this actually; having once interacted with her, children of any age gravitate to her like there are no others in the room – either chlidren or adults. Her games are never silly, but always purposeful – she does this intuitively, and it is something to behold. (Though of course she does not always use games, and is as capable of deep discussion as anyone else.)

    I also related to Carlos’ comments #21. As a convert, I grew up in a church environment that also emphasized children’s Bible stories, and where Sunday and weekday lessons were always scripture based, though taught in the language children could understand. While I don’t remember everything or even much from those years (I am soooo old, hahaha) I do know that by the time I was 10 or so I had the names and order of all the Biblical books memorized, and knew their purpose: gospel, letters, prophets, etc etc. As a young teen I participated in a Youth for Christ quiz team (nothing but games and competition – that). The year that I remember the most we did Romans . . . all year long. No other book. By the end of that year I had the entire book of Romans practically memorized. We studied it verse by verse, looking for possible meanings, during our study during the week, and on the weekends we competed.

    When I taught my own kids seminary (because at that time we lived too far from a ward building to participate in the group seminary) that is also how I taught them, by the way. Verse by verse, through the Book of Mormon that we studied that year, because that is how I learned as a teenager, participating in games.

    all for now . . . I have a houseful of guests including wonderful grandchildren . . . so hope this makes sense.

  30. sylvialyons said

    My motto is “some is better than none.” Reading the scriptures as a family every day is key. We started when our oldest was six and just learning to read (she’s 20 now)and I got her up 5 minutes earlier before school so we could read our verse or two each day (regular weekend reading took years to get the habit, don’t give up!). As each child learned to read (we have 8 now)they were added to those invited to read daily. Littler ones could come if they were awake and wanted to but I didn’t press the issue because as you might guess, if a 2 or 3 year old doesn’t want to join you, it makes it impossible for anyone else to listen. We haven’t made it every day, and of course some days are better than others, but it’s been the small nourishment day by day that has made the difference. Of course my 7-yr-old isn’t getting as much out of it as my 14-yr-old, but she’s being exposed to the beauty and language of the scriptures, and is always thrilled when we reach a story that she already knows. And once the teenagers go off to seminary I don’t fret over that either – remember my motto, “some is better than none”? I figure it’s always better to at least read a little with a few of my kids rather than not do it at all because I can’t find a time when everyone is available. It’s the same idea as “Perfect is the enemy of ‘good’ “.

    Another key is the day by day thing – I know it’s hard but I liken it to how we must eat every day. It would never occur to us to think, “hey, I don’t have enough time to eat every day this week, so I’ll just eat a week’s worth of food on Sunday afternoon and call it good for the week.” It doesn’t work for food and it doesn’t work for scriptures either.

  31. I just figured out who JakeW is, thanks to Devan’s assuming comment. I’m quite acquainted with both of these sixteen-year-olds, and I hope their amazing comments and desires confirm much of what I’ve had to say in the past about how much teens can be taught!

    I think it is worth bringing to the table the fact that there are at least three levels of scripture reading, which I would associate respectively with faith, hope, and charity (here goes another faith, hope, charity kick for Joe!).

    There is the level of scripture reading (what I’ll here call faith) where we simply trust the scriptures. That is, we believe what they say, we have no reason to question them, etc. And naturally, they are never too appealing at that level. I think most kids (what? below high school maybe?) are working on that level (most, notice): they believe them, but their truth is a given, so there is little reason to take them up quite seriously. I imagine that my three-year-old enjoy scripture study because she enjoys learning generally (she’s a remarkably studious little girl), because she enjoys the stories, and because she likes having daddy-time. I’m sure that will wear off to some degree along the way…

    And then there is the level of scripture reading (what I’ll here call hope) where we begin to doubt the scriptures to some degree, though we still hope that they are true. I think this happens for kids when they are first introduced to other possibilities, other philosophies, other churches, etc. That is, when they encounter these as quite real possibilities. School of course prepares kids precisely for this moment (and I think we can study with even our younger kids in a way that prepares them for this moment as well). I’ve found that pretty much all high school students (though certainly not all) are somewhere in this realm. I imagine that they enter it some time earlier, but they are still being taught as if they remained in the faith relation to scriptures. Those who pay little attention in seminary, in my experience, are in this hope relation: they are entertaining doubts, but are being taught as if it were all simply given. I think we have to watch for this shift carefully, and we will be able to see when we should shift our teaching style. So much more enters into the question at this point, and this is where people decide that the scriptures are something they want to read, or they become convinced (usually our fault) that the scriptures have none of the answers they are looking for.

    And finally there is the charity level of scripture study, and there I think the love of the scriptures becomes a love of this person right here in front of me. The scriptures become something we study all the time because we know that as it questions our thinking, we will be all the more able to teach, uplift, and strengthen others. That means so much! I think if we recognize those in the hope relation and teach them as such, we will soon find many of them coming into this last level. But perhaps we’ve got to be there first.

    As might be quite clear here: I think fun-izing the scriptures is very, very dangerous, and most especially for those in the hope level (I imagine Jake arriving at the hope level quite young… he’s sixteen and almost finished–and with a simply remarkable comprehension, mind you–with Being and Time!). Where the scriptures are already being assumed to be one of several options, the worst thing we could do is try to sell our children and/or students on their being more fun than other options! As Matthew said, what good could be had in convincing people that the scriptures are more fun than Harry Potter? They are not (I imagine… I haven’t actually read Harry Potter). But they do lead to life and salvation!

    Anyway, some more thoughts.

  32. cherylem said

    I agree with what you’ve written, mostly.

    But I think you need to define funizing for me. Give me some examples, then explain why this is dangerous and/or “bad.”

    And I also welcome Jake and Devan.

  33. BrianJ said

    This is the funnest thread I have ever read: Annelize comes out of nowhere with an incredibly useful, thoughtful post, and turns out to be Cherylem’s daughter—we see she picked up her mother’s insight—Jim F defends his sons Matthew against Matthew’s own comments, and JakeW and DevanS, valued commenters on this blog, turn out to be acquiantances of Joe Spencer! What a wonderful bunch you are!

  34. nhilton said

    So what I’m reading is that:

    #1, people aren’t born loving the scriptures but rather come to that with maturity. Different ages & different paths for different people.
    #2, Milk before meat with regard to scripture reading, however, if you want to just go straight at the meat & gag a bit until your canines kick in then that’s o.k., too.
    #3, There is no difference between parents & teachers as they try to teach a love for the scriptures. Modeling is the best tool for this goal to be achieved.

    Please correct me if I’ve misread ya’ll & add your own synopsis if you like. :)

    However, I’m still wondering if there even is a BEST way to teach children to love the scriptures. Different strokes for different folks?

  35. nhilton said

    Oh, & I think it’s worthwhile to consider our youthful role models in their love for the scriptures, present & past. i.e. Nephi clearly had been taught in his youth & knew & loved the scriptures, Joseph & Mary, Joseph Smith, Moroni, Jesus…who else can you name? These people model the fact that it is indeed important & perhaps imperative to learn/study/love the scriptures in one’s youth in order to deal with life as it comes & to fulfill your earthly mission.

  36. JakeW and DevanS were over at my house last night until 12:30, talking about these and many other issues. Amazing kids.

    Cheryl, I don’t know that I’m trying to pin anything in particular down. All of my experience of “funizing” the scriptures is tied to this Church, unfortunately, and every version I’ve experienced here has been at least quasi-destructive. Your experiences in other religions might point to other possibilities? I suppose, in the end, I’m just wary of attempts to make the scriptures seem like something they are not in hopes of getting the youth to read them. That seems to me a very dangerous project.

  37. brianj said

    nhilton: I would say you summarized my comments fairly well in point #1, comment #34. As for a “BEST way to teach children to love the scriptures,” I don’t know. But I would change the question a little, and strive to show that children that they ‘love the scriptures’ rather than teaching them to ‘love the scriptures.’ The difference is that in one you are trying to convince a child of something they do not believe/do not find important (i.e. cramming food down their throat), and in the other you are helping them to see that there is something about the scriptures that they like.

    A simple actual example of this, from my own house, is like this:

    {my 3 yr old and I just read some passage in the scriptures}
    ME: Why did those people fight so much?

    DAUGHTER: Because those people were nice and that made the other people mad.

    ME: What would you do if you were trying to be nice and someone was still being mean to you?

    DAUGHTER: I guess I would still be nice.

    ME: Why?

    DAUGHTER: You just have to be.

    ME: Well, let’s keep reading and see what they did….

    I don’t have to go further, but you can see that my attempt (and, I think, success) is to show my daughter that the scriptures relate to her and that she can ask questions of them. Sometimes I have to draw the parallels, but other times she will say something like, “Hey, that’s like today when so-and-so did such-and-such!” She is not yet at the stage where she is asking questions of the text, but my 6 yr old is.

  38. mjberkey said

    “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods” – Thomas Paine

    I think that the attempt to show the scriptures as being fun and easy is to show that they have no value. Why should we fear making scripture study into work? Shouldn’t parents be teaching their children to work?

    I’m 18 and I just finished with seminary. I also know Joe Spencer – he tells all of us to come here and post. In fact, until I met Joe and found out how much work there was involved in scripture study, I honestly felt like the scriptures had very limited worth. I’ve seen my fair share of teachers trying to “fun-ize” the scriptures and I’ve always thought it was pretty tedious.

  39. nhilton said

    mjberkey, great quote! Thanks for your input here. I appeciate your perspective!

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