Growing up outside of any church, I really didn’t understand the importance of the Bible. Sure, I knew the concept of Jesus, that Moses looked like Charlton Heston, and that Noah sounded like Bill Cosby. But, I did not understand the deep relation western society and the founding of our country has with the Bible. My parents were decent people, but by not grounding us in faith, my siblings have all had unneeded drama in their lives. My father was a great example in our lives, he was hard working, honest and charitable. But, without the regular Sunday school, the virtues such as integrity, love, mercy, and courage were not taught as easily.
To be taught effectively, most subjects need both a classroom education in order to understand the theory, and a practical application, where you see this theory put into practice. Learning virtue is no different. My dad was great at showing us the example on how to live, but my siblings and I did not understand the “why”, and so we drifted off. There were a few years that I was getting drunk every weekend and was not going on the right path. By some miracles, I was able to catch myself before I had my course set in stone.
In the years following my conversion, I was hungry to learn. I read through the scriptures completely, and I came to understand just how rooted our society is to the Bible. I learned oddities like why the medical symbol has snakes (Numbers 21:5-9). But more importantly, I learned why we need to have virtue as individuals. In numerous stories (David and Bathsheba, the parable of the ten virgins) this is laid out.
After we married, my wife and I continued our habits of daily scripture study. We would read individually, and as a couple in the evenings. Often we would discuss what we were reading, which would lead to interesting conversations at times.
In Comes the Daily Rigor
Nine months into our marriage, and we were blessed with our first son. I was a full time engineering student at the time, and chaos ensued. Often, scripture study got put on the back burner as deadlines loomed. (Still happens from time to time) I noticed if we did not read at least daily, I would be more stressed as I would lose perspective on what matters most. Even though I was familiar with the stories and teachings, I would quickly forget why I am doing what I am doing.
In time, we realized that we needed a set routine for reading the scriptures. Over the years, as situations changed, and our family has grown, our routine has changed to fit our needs, but we have done a fairly good job in keeping this routine.
Right now, there are four ways I do daily study. In the morning, before I head off to work, I get everyone up (besides the baby) for morning scripture study. We are reading in the Book of Mormon right now, but have read through the New Testament, and selected portions of the Old Testament. We try to cover a chapter each morning. Because of my work schedule, I wake up my wife and kids at 5:30 am for study. They come upstairs into the front room, all groggy and huddled in blankets. We start off with a prayer and I will read a verse, then pick on someone to read a verse, then I will read another, then pick another. As father and priesthood leader in the home, I direct the reading. Taking charge of the reading is vital to maintain cohesiveness during the study. If there is some point that someone wants to bring up, we discuss it. Often, we get more thought provoking learning through discussion than by reading. If you don’t get far that particular day, that is okay. This is not a race, this is a learning experience.
Dragging the kids out of bed is tough, but doing it first thing in the morning is better. The evenings are usually inundated with distractions, and the kids learn better in the morning, despite being groggy. When we did it in the evenings, the kids are wound up and tired, not wanting to listen. Instead of forcing them out of bed, we have this rule that if they don’t get out of bed, that is fine, but they have to go to bed a half hour earlier that evening. Seems to motivate them well enough. In all, we try to hold the reading time to about 20 minutes, going overboard will kill the spirit and I don’t want them to think as study as a chore.
When we are done reading, we finish off with a morning family prayer. We all kneel and either my wife or I will lead in prayer. Unlike most prayers over food or whatever, this one is more involved and intense. With that, I head off for work.
Admittedly, I do not do this as well as I should, but I try to read on my own daily. I have been doing random sermons put out by the church, or the New Testament or whatever interests me from day to day. Some study out a certain thing for months at a time. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose. Whatever you do, consistency is key. Some days, I will be interested, and spend more than an hour in intense study. Other days I may just glance at something for less than a minute. Even if it is a few verses, the habit you form will keep you rooted in the gospel.
The little kids don’t have a solid grasp on the scriptural stories yet, so after they have their pajamas on and teeth washed just before we put them to bed, we gather them together, and read out of these simplified, illustrated sets. My wife or I will just go ahead and read (the main audience can’t read well yet) while they prepare their brains for bedtime. It really helps them wind down and get them into the mindset of bed. That, and it familiarizes the younger kids so the stories make sense when we read the canonical version.
Last of all, after the kids are put in bed and we settle down for the night, my wife and I will read various sermons or out of a marriage manual put out by the church or other secular sources. We may take turns reading paragraphs, or sometimes I will just read the whole thing, however you decide.
In having a strong marriage, I found this to be especially useful. We can bring up topics and discuss them as we are reading them, rather than in a heated argument. Books like “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs, “The Ten Commandments of Marriage” by Ed Young, or “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman may be beneficial.
All this reading may sound like a pain in the butt. Five to fifteen minutes, four times a day can be time consuming. But really it isn’t. I enjoy reading with my family. They enjoy reading with me, but most important, it helps bring the Spirit into our home. The scriptures are a guide for us, given by God. At church, many of the kid’s teachers will comment on how much my kids know about the gospel. Which may be true, but more importantly, they have internalized those stories and teachings.
In Mark 4, Jesus laid out the parable of the sower. It is this story of a guy who scatters seeds all over the place, some seeds land where birds eat it up, on stony places where the sun scorches it, in weed patches, but more importantly, the seed fell on good ground. The gospel is the same, all different types of people will read it (receiving the seed), but it takes those with an open heart, willing to learn from the Spirit to truly benefit from it, and benefit others. When you read, be open to the word, and believe. If you do so, you, your family, and your community will reap the fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundredfold.
Since I was married, we have tried to have regular gospel study in one form or another. Albeit not perfect, I have noticed the changes in my life, and in the lives of my family members.