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Making the Scriptures Real for Our Children
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“Making the Scriptures Real for Our Children,” Liahona, January 2022

Making the Scriptures Real for Our Children

Consider these ideas for helping children feel the reality and impact of the scriptures.

Noah's Ark

Paper cutting of Noah’s ark by Brittany Call; illustrations by David Green; photographs by Ryan Hender

I will never forget that day. In my Primary class, Brandon and his buddy were dressed in bathrobes with the rest of the class standing behind a folding chair. We were reenacting the story of Alma and Amulek when the righteous were being burned, and Brandon was playing Alma. As he read the scripture where Alma was constrained by the Spirit from saving the people, tears ran down his cheeks. He finally looked at me in desperation, “Sister Boyack, I just can’t read this! It is too sad!”

Brandon was usually a bit hard to manage in the classroom. But that day, he was feeling a powerful spirit. That day the Book of Mormon was very real to him.

Making the Scriptures Real

The commandment the Lord gave to Adam also applies to us: “Teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Moses 6:57). The Lord continued in similar words, “I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children” (Moses 6:58).

As adults who care about children, we want to help them learn to love the scriptures. One way we can do this is to make the scriptures feel real to them. Children will be excited and willing to set goals to study the Old Testament if we teach them in a way that they feel the scriptures are relevant to their lives (see 1 Nephi 19:23).

There are several ways we can help our children feel the reality and impact of the scriptures.

Role-Playing

Old Testament stories come alive with role-playing. Whether it’s dressing up as Noah and gathering all their stuffed animals to the “ark,” creating a “cave” under a table with a stuffed lion inside and your young son portraying brave Daniel, or your daughter being the bold prophetess Deborah leading her brothers and sisters as the armies of Israel, role-playing can make the stories of the Old Testament come alive.

I will never forget the day decades ago when I was sitting in early-morning seminary in Michigan. My teacher was talking about the mission to the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon. All of a sudden, he jumped up on the table and began to read in a loud voice the Rameumptom prayer. That woke us all up! It has been many years, but that is seared in my memory. A group of teenagers were profoundly impacted by a teacher who was role-playing.

Over the years, each of my sons delighted in standing on the back of our couch and pretending to be Samuel the Lamanite preaching from the wall or holding up a stick like Moses and proclaiming, “Let my people go!”

When children have the experience of role-playing scripture stories, the scriptures become very real to them.

Environment

Kids in a tent

For children, having real experiences helps them to learn, understand, and apply information. We can do this by setting up an environment to connect the scriptures with their surroundings and their lives. For instance, when our four sons were little, we were studying the Book of Mormon together. One home evening occurred in our tent, where we talked about Lehi and his family journeying through the wilderness. We talked about what it was like for Lehi’s family to travel and live in a tent for so long. The story came alive to them.

As you are teaching about Abraham’s experience learning about the stars and heavens, the environment can make a huge difference. Imagine that lesson being taught at night, lying on the grass with your children under the stars. Abraham’s experience will be meaningful to them in a deeper way.

Rather than merely reading about the walls of Jericho being destroyed, you could sit by a tall wall and read the story there. Children will be deeply impressed by the miracle.

Rather than talking about Solomon building the temple, you could take your children to the temple if you have one nearby and read the story on the grounds of the temple and talk about how important the house of the Lord is to their lives.

Rather than just talking about the members of the house of Israel going to the promised land, you could take your children on a hike and sing Primary songs along the way.

Experiences can be incredible for helping children feel the reality of the scripture stories they are hearing and reading. Such experiences will also create great memories for your children that will make the scriptures come alive to them.

Asking Questions

We can help children understand the scriptures better by asking questions.

“How would you feel if no one was listening to you?” makes Noah’s story real.

“What would it be like to be in prison in a foreign country where no one believed in God like you do?” makes Joseph’s story real.

“What do you think it was like to be tossed into a fiery furnace?” makes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s story real.

When we ask questions, it is critical that our children be free to express their views without criticism. Let them talk. Let them process the story. And encourage them to ask lots of questions of their own.

Application

Some of the best questions we can ask help children apply the scriptures to themselves.

“What have you learned from Joseph Smith’s experience? Have you thought about praying for answers? What have been your experiences?”

“As you read about Jonah in the whale, how does that help you choose to follow God’s commandments?”

“How do you think Mary felt when the angel told her she was going to have a baby who was the Son of God? How does that help you follow God’s plan for your life?”

Application is particularly important for our teenagers as they begin to consider the doctrine and principles that are taught in the scriptures and begin to incorporate them into their lives. Making applications also helps reinforce that most answers to their questions can be found in the scriptures and that the scriptures are relevant to their life experiences.

Types of Learning

People learn best in different ways—some by visual means such as reading; some by auditory means such as listening; and some by tactile means such as moving around, doing an activity, or making something with their hands.

To help children comprehend and apply the scriptures, it’s best to use the approach that matches their learning style. It is helpful to assess what type of learning style appeals to each child. Primary teachers can work with parents to understand the children’s learning styles so that teachers can adapt their teaching methods to help each individual child.

Visual learners will benefit from having their own set of scriptures so they can read and mark them. You might also post pictures from scripture stories in their rooms or elsewhere in the home.

Auditory learners enjoy listening to the scriptures. The children could read the scriptures aloud themselves, listen to them on their computers or devices, or have a parent or sibling read to them.

Tactile learners need a physical-activity component to their scripture study. You might invite them to draw a picture of the scripture story as you read it. These children will also benefit from having their own scriptures where they can mark or color in them.

Combining learning styles can be especially effective in making the scriptures come alive. So rather than just talking about Moses and the Ten Commandments, having children make clay tablets or a drawing of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain while you tell them the story will make it easier for them to learn. While studying Come, Follow Me, hand out crayons or colored pencils and have the older children color-code their scriptures while the little ones draw pictures as Mom or Dad read the scripture story. This is a combination of visual, auditory, and tactile learning that is highly effective.

We can do many things that will help the scriptures become real to our children. As we do so, our children will learn more from the scriptures, enjoy them more, and apply them to their lives far more effectively. The hope is that during this process they will grow to love the scriptures deeply. And that makes all the effort worth it.