“Ten Ways to Make Studying the Scriptures a Happy Family Activity,” Ensign, Sept. 1973, 27
“Study the scriptures.” This admonition is given to all of us. It’s good to read and learn scriptures together as a family, for the family circle is the best place to learn. So often, however, when families study or discuss scriptures, the presentation is restrained and mechanical. Wouldn’t it be better if a fresh and innovative use of scriptures could motivate family members to increase their personal knowledge of them?
With a minimum of preparation, parents can help make the scriptures more meaningful by allowing family members to become more involved in scriptural learning activities.
Here are some ideas on how to use scriptures as a basis for family fun times. If some activities seem too difficult for younger family members to undertake, simply team small children together with older family members. The younger children will probably learn more than you imagined they could.
Write out several scriptures ahead of time on a chalkboard or on large sheets of paper. Leave out several key words in each scripture. In place of the deleted words, leave numbered blanks. Now, have family members try to provide the correct missing words. Each person writes down and checks his own responses as the answers are read, or gives his responses orally. This activity is most successful if the scriptures used are those that are generally familiar.
One variation of this activity is to have the deleted words printed on cards. The cards are passed out to family members and each person with a word card tries to fit his word into the correct blank position.
Assign character roles to family members. For example, Dad might be Alma; Mother, King Benjamin; one of the children, Paul; another, Moses, and so on. Younger members of the family might be teamed with older members.
After the roles are assigned, tell the family members that at a designated time, Alma, King Benjamin, Paul, Moses, etc., and their aides will assemble for a discussion on repentance. The assignment will be for each family member to study the scriptures to determine what the person he will portray said on the subject of repentance.
Some families might enjoy dressing up in simple makeshift costumes for this discussion.
Separate a long scripture into several parts with each part containing a statement or phrase. Write each statement or phrase on a different sheet of paper. Pass the papers out to family members. Ask that everyone consult with other members of the family and try to line themselves up in the correct order of the scripture.
Each family member finds a scripture that relates to a scriptural personality and that either tells about the person or includes words spoken by that person. Until the family meeting time, no one discusses his chosen scripture.
For example, assume that the first family member taking turn in this activity has chosen the scripture from Matthew 16:16: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:16] The family member gives out clues, one at a time, until the personality is discovered to be Peter. The first clue is one that attempts to place the character in time. For instance: “This man lived on earth when Jesus lived on earth.” More clues follow. After someone identifies Peter, the family member reads his scripture. He remains standing in front of the family group.
The next person begins by taking his place next to the person already standing in front of the group. If his scripture personality lived on earth before Peter did, he stands on the right side of Peter and for his first clue says, “This person lived on earth before Peter did.” If this person lived on earth after Peter did, he stands to the left of Peter. If he lived on earth at the same time as Peter, he stands in front of Peter. He then gives additional clues until the family members guess which scripture personality he represents. This continues until each family member is standing in the proper chronological order of the lives of their selected scriptural personalities.
When all family members are lined up according to the chronology of their scriptural personalities, it might be fun to announce that this will be the order in which they will sit around the dinner table the next evening. This would provide for a simple reinforcement of what the family members have learned and might allow for a refreshing change in the established dinnertime patterns.
Print a scripture on a large sheet of paper. Cover each word with a separate blank card or piece of paper. Then, if the scripture has 20 words, prepare 20 slips of paper numbered 1 through 20. Let family members draw the numbers out of a box, passing the box around as many times as it takes to have all slips of paper drawn. The person who has the slip of paper numbered 1 is first to ask that a word of the scripture be uncovered. He asks to see any one word. Then he tries to guess what the scriptures might be by that one-word hint. The family member with the number 2 is next to name which word he wishes to have revealed. He, of course, has two words upon which to base a guess. By the time numbers 8 or 9 get their turns, there will probably be enough words uncovered to make the scripture fairly easy to identify. Perhaps a prize could be given to the family member who succeeds in identifying the correct scripture, such as being allowed to skip a turn at doing dishes or some other routine family chore.
Have several copies of the standard works available. Select a gospel topic and announce that there will be a discussion on that subject. Then ask family members to find supporting scriptures for the discussion by consulting concordances or otherwise locating scriptures that come to mind. Two or more groups might work in competition to see which group can find the most usable references in a given time limit.
A variation of this activity is to divide the family into four groups, with each group (or individual family member) being concerned with only one of the standard works. One group or person searches out and then discusses material found in the Bible. The other three groups or family members are working similarly with the three other standard works. In small families or families with several young children, assignments to research two of the standard works might be given to each person or team. After study and discussion time within the groups, a spokesman from each group reports main ideas and discoveries to the rest of the family.
Assign each family member a word or a few words from a scripture. To begin with, have each person stand in the proper word order of the scripture. Each person first concentrates on remembering only his own word or words. After the scripture has been repeated several times by each person saying his word(s) in turn, the person in charge asks if anyone thinks he can remember more than his own words. The first person to remember all the words to the scripture wins.
The family member who prepares the activity materials is the judge. He first prepares several slips of paper on each of which is noted a verse from a story or activity in one of the standard works. Examples are the Joseph Smith story, the Word of Wisdom, King Benjamin’s oration, John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist conferring the priesthood of Aaron on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, Isaiah speaking of the birth of Christ, and the Lord creating worlds without end.
Fold these papers so the writing cannot be seen, and place them in a box from which they can be drawn. Prepare an answer sheet with the scripture verses matched with their sources. Also, prepare four signs, each of a different color: Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price. Small squares of paper in colors corresponding to the colors of the signs are then made. In one corner of a room set the Bible sign and the squares of the matching color. Place the Book of Mormon sign and matching squares in another corner of the room. Place the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price signs and squares in the other two corners of the room.
To begin this activity, family members take turns drawing the prepared slips of paper from the box. Each person, as he takes a turn, reads the slip he has drawn. He then decides from which standard work this information comes. He walks to the corner of the room where the sign of his chosen standard work is located. If he makes a correct choice, the judge authorizes him to pick up a colored square of paper next to the sign. The winner of the game is the family member who first succeeds in gathering one colored square from each of the four standard works corners.
Less knowledgeable members of the family are not handicapped in this activity, because some family members might keep drawing slips that refer to the same standard work.
Once the basic game materials are prepared, they can be used again, and from time to time they can be revised and expanded.
This activity can help reinforce known facts and, when used repeatedly, can help provide basic understanding of materials in the four standard works.
Have family members match selected scriptures with appropriate pictures. (See pages 80 and 81 of the 1972–73 family home evening manual for an example of this kind of activity.)
Establish a program of scripture with your preschoolers. Bible storybooks are great to have and use, but don’t hesitate to use the Bible itself. Read a few lines of scripture; then paraphrase what you have just read. Read a few more lines, then paraphrase. Read, paraphrase. Your children will grow accustomed to the scriptural style and will come to appreciate real scripture. Just be sure to do your paraphrasing with enthusiasm.
After you complete a story segment, supervise or join your children in an activity where they can illustrate the story they have just heard. You can suggest possibilities: “Do you want to make a picture of Noah building the ark? Or else you can show the animals getting into the ark. Or you can make a picture of the rains starting …” Any one story provides many choices.
If you intend to repeat this activity, plan for variety. One week let the children use crayons. A small box of new crayons might help them remember the time as special. The next week let them try colored paper, scissors, and paste. Paints are fun also. Or they could create collages from scraps of material, old buttons, and other items.
Make these periods of study as pleasant as possible. For instance, while you are reading to the children, they could be eating a special treat.
Here are only ten ideas for making scriptures fun to learn, understand, and remember. Maybe your family can benefit by approaching the scriptures in a new way. Pray about it. If you try and like one or two of these ideas, it won’t be long before your family members will be coming up with ideas of their own.