“6: Regular Occasions for Teaching in the Home,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching (1999), 137–39
“6,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 137–39
As parents, you should seek to establish regular occasions for teaching the gospel in the home. When you do this, your children consistently receive gospel teachings that apply in their lives and become a foundation for them. They are able to observe from your actions that believing the gospel means being guided by it in every aspect of life.
The following ideas can help you establish regular occasions for teaching your children the gospel.
The Savior commanded, “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Nephi 18:21).
Family prayers are excellent occasions for showing children how to pray. As your children observe you earnestly speaking with your Father in Heaven, they will see your faith and righteous desires. They will learn to “counsel with the Lord in all [their] doings” so that He will “direct [them] for good” (Alma 37:37).
As you pray, you should use the words Thee, Thou, Thy, and Thine in place of you and your. This example will help your children learn the language of prayer, which expresses love and reverence for Heavenly Father.
Children can learn much of the gospel when they hear other family members pray. They learn the need for repentance as they hear others ask for forgiveness. They learn gratitude when they hear others thank Heavenly Father for their blessings. They learn faith, humility, and obedience as they see that their parents continually seek guidance. They learn to honor and respect Church leaders as family members pray for them each day. They can gain a desire to serve missions and receive the blessings of the temple as parents ask Heavenly Father to help their children make choices that will keep them worthy to receive these blessings.
Children learn to have love and concern for others as they hear family members pray for other people. And children feel a great sense of love when they hear family members pray for them.
Each family member should be given an opportunity to lead the family in prayer. Small children can take their turns with help.
Studying the scriptures daily is another powerful way to teach children the gospel. Whenever possible, families should read together at a regular time each day. For some, this is easiest to do early in the morning. For others, family scripture study is best done just before bedtime. Although it may sometimes be difficult to get family members to participate, your consistent efforts to study the word of God will bless your children’s lives. Your children will learn the truth of Nephi’s teaching: “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).
As children read the scriptures with their family members, they come to love the divine truths of the gospel. The language of the scriptures becomes familiar to them. They learn stories from the scriptures and see how to apply these sacred words in their daily lives. They can also learn to use the maps, the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary, and other study helps in the scriptures (see pages 56–58).
You may choose to read for a set amount of time each day. Each family member who can read should be given an opportunity to read from the scriptures. They can take turns reading a single verse or several verses at a time. Children who cannot read may still participate by repeating verses as others read them. If possible, younger children can look at the Church’s illustrated books of scripture stories or pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit.
To help family members understand the scriptures, you can rephrase difficult passages in simpler terms or look up unfamiliar words in the Bible Dictionary. You can ask family members to summarize the main points of the day’s reading. A young child can hold up a picture of the story being read.
You might ask a child to think of a situation in his or her life that is similar to the scripture story you are reading. For example, you could say, “We have just read about David and Goliath. What ‘Goliaths’ do you face in your life? What can you learn from David that will help you face these challenges?” Or you could say, “I noticed you were helping your younger sister clean her room. Did you realize that you were showing the same kind of love that Jesus spoke about in this story?”
If you are unfamiliar with the scriptures or have difficulty reading, you may feel uncomfortable or inadequate as you read with your children. There is no harm in letting your children know that you are all learning how to read the scriptures. If you postpone family study until you feel confident, you will deprive your children of much-needed spiritual nourishment. Remember that the Spirit can influence you regardless of your experience.
Family home evenings provide excellent opportunities for you to help your children understand and apply gospel principles. A family home evening may include family prayer, gospel instruction, hymns and Primary songs, and family activities.
In planning family home evenings, consider the current needs, concerns, and interests of family members. For example, does a child need to prepare for baptism or for ordination to an office in the priesthood? Has there been contention in the home? As you prayerfully consider the needs and challenges of family members, you will be able to better determine which gospel principles you should teach.
The principles of effective teaching presented in this book can help family members plan and present family home evenings. In addition, the Church has produced the Family Home Evening Resource Book, which contains lessons and ideas for making family home evenings successful. Church magazines are also helpful resources.
Families sometimes find it difficult to make family home evening a regular part of their lives. Sometimes the children are uncooperative, or the parents feel that they are too busy. However, efforts to plan and carry out family home evenings will bless all family members. One man recalled that his family had family home evening only twice as he was growing up. However, these experiences made such an impression on him that when he married he still remembered them and the gospel principles that he had learned. This led him and his wife to establish weekly family home evenings in his own family.
Family mealtimes provide opportunities for you to teach valuable lessons and for all family members to participate in discussions. With otherwise busy schedules, mealtimes are often the only times you can gather with your children to share each day’s events and discuss ideas together. You can use these occasions to talk with your children about gospel principles, family values, messages shared in sacrament meeting and other Church meetings, school, upcoming activities, world events, and other topics of interest. It can be a time for you to learn more about your children’s concerns, thoughts, and feelings.
Family mealtimes should be informal and cheerful occasions in which everyone feels welcome to participate in discussions. Where possible, this time should be free from other distractions. Such occasions can contribute to the unity and spiritual growth of the family.
You should call family members together in family council meetings. You may use family councils to set goals, resolve problems, discuss finances, make plans, and give support and strength. You may hold family councils in connection with family home evening or at other times. As you conduct family councils, you can teach your children how to listen and show respect for one another’s feelings and opinions.
As you regularly talk with your children, you will draw closer to them. You may need to plan private times with each child to express love and encouragement and to teach gospel principles. You should allow each child to talk about the problems or experiences that are important to him or her. As you show genuine consideration for your children’s concerns and opinions, your children will learn to trust you and seek your advice. Then you can continue to teach them to make good decisions, pray, and study the scriptures for answers to their questions.
Use the scriptures to teach your children how to exercise their agency righteously. Elder Gene R. Cook suggested how a parent could use the scriptures to help a child who questions why the family doesn’t do certain things on Sunday:
“You might be tempted to say, ‘Because I said so,’ or ‘Because the Church says so.’ But a more inspired parent might say, ‘Well, you know that keeping the Lord’s day holy is not something we just made up. Let me show you something.’ Then you could open the Doctrine and Covenants to section 59 and read [verses 9 through 11]. …
“Then you could explain, ‘As you can see, the Lord teaches that Sunday is a holy day. … It’s a day to rest from our labors and “to pay our devotions to the Most High,” meaning that we should go to our Church meetings, partake of the sacrament, do our other Church duties, and visit the sick, the poor, and the needy. It’s a day consecrated to the Lord, and I bear testimony to you, my dear daughter, that this is true and that the Lord has blessed us greatly for keeping the Sabbath Day’” (Raising Up a Family to the Lord , 19–20).
For ideas that can be applied in private visits with your children, see “Teaching in Interviews,” page 153.