Some content may not be suitable for children … parental discretion is advised

Several years ago, a kind-hearted non-member person in my family bought a Veggie Tales video to keep at their house for when we came to visit on Sundays. While I know many people are fans of this video series, I am not. And although I deeply appreciated my relative’s kind gesture, this particular episode did little to increase my veggie love. An adaptation of the story of David and Bathsheba, King George and the Ducky can be summarized as such:

King George (Larry the Cucumber) is the monarch of an unspecified country, which is currently enmeshed in the Pie Wars. But King George cares only about baths with his rubber ducky, and has decided that the most important person in the world is himself. When he becomes obsessed with Thomas’s (played by Junior Asparagus) rubber ducky, King George must learn a lesson about selfishness … Bathsheba is represented by a rubber duck (!!!), thus replacing the sin of adultery with the less difficult crime of theft. But the essence of the story remains intact: the King covets something (sigh) belonging to his neighbor and takes it for his own; the selfish act is condemned by a prophet (Pa Grape) who points out the pain it has caused, and the King, feeling remorse, repents.

At the time, I was a little perplexed. With all the Bible stories to choose from, why pick David and Bathsheba for a child’s video? The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way on several levels and I also laughed just imagining my kids becoming young adults and being confused as they studied the scriptures more deeply. (“Wait a minute, Mom, I thought this was about duckies!”) Over the years I have wondered about the appropriateness of various scripture stories for kids: the rape of Dinah and the ensuing revenge, Nephi cutting off Laban’s head, Paul’s teachings on women in church, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 to name but a few.

Recently, as I was reading the introduction to Professor Christine Hayes’ Yale Open Course, an Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), I was struck by her assertion that

… the Bible’s not for children. I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old. I won’t let them read it. I won’t let them read it. Those “Bible Stories for Children” books, they scare me. They really scare me. It’s not suitable for children. The subject matter in the Bible is very adult, particularly in the narrative texts. There are episodes of treachery and incest and murder and rape. And the Bible is not for naive optimists. It’s hard-hitting stuff. And it speaks to those who are courageous enough to acknowledge that life is rife with pain and conflict, just as it’s filled with compassion and joy. It’s not for children in another sense. Like any literary masterpiece, the Bible is characterized by a sophistication of structure and style and an artistry of theme and metaphor, and believe me, that’s lost on adult readers quite often. It makes its readers work. The Bible doesn’t moralize, or rarely, rarely moralizes. It explores moral issues and situations, puts people in moral issues and situations. The conclusions have to be drawn by the reader. There are also all kinds of paradoxes and subtle puns and ironies … [these] are some of the things that will be drawn to your attention. You’ll really begin to appreciate them in time.

Interesting food for thought. Have church leaders provided caveats for content and maturity? What is your own approach to teaching children the scriptures?

Comments

  1. Thomas Parkin says:

    My first thought is to come down on the side that thinks Prof Hayes underestimates and misunderstands children. My wife recently stopped letting our son watch the Berenstein Bears and Calliou. She doesn’t like them. I don’t know why, exactly, but have a feeling that she is put-off by the non-chalant and simplistic yet authoritarian way they resolve moral dilemnas. Not to mention the emphasis they place on the trivial.

    *shrug*

    I don’t mean to say that everything is appropriate for children. But I generally think that by the time a kid is 8, certainly 12, they would be able to handle most of what the Old Testament throws up.

    ~

  2. Kris, I don’t have answers to your excellent questions, but your fine post reminded me of my mother’s profound discomfort when she had to explain to me what a whore was after we read 1 Nephi 13 as a family when I was about eight. For some reason Nephi chopping off Laban’s head didn’t phase me in the least, but I found the whore of the all the earth immensely confusing, and I pushed my very embarrassed mother through several evasive explanations until I got some satisfaction.

    Strangely, I’ve never encountered a single Ensign story or General Conference talk that mentioned having to explain prostitution to an eight-year-old as one of the outcomes of family scripture study.

  3. “What is your own approach to teaching children the scriptures?”

    I read them with my kids from the time they are able to talk. Part of their learning to read is repeating words then phrases as I read them. We explain the scriptures verse by verse, concept by concept. I teach to my oldest children at home, and define the words the youngest kids don’t know – having them repeat those words to me.

    The scriptures (including the Bible) aren’t for kids? Hogwash! One of the reasons a friend of my oldest son listened to the missionaries and was baptized was because he was so impressed by my then 7-year-old daughter’s understanding of the scriptures. He said that she understood them better than his youth minister. (Couldn’t quote them as well, but understood them better.)

    BTW, I like the Veggie Tales songs, but the movies often change the moral beyond recognition. Not my favorites.

  4. My daughter’s first scripture experience was the Church’s comic book-like Book of Mormon Stories, which we started reading to her when she was about 4. She was far more interested in them than I expected–made sure we “read the scriptures” every night and soon sucked down the OT and NT books too.

    But I was far less enchanted. Stripped of doctrine and subtleties of language and condensed to cartoonable units, the scriptures struck me as surprisingly violent–full of bloody battles, beheadings, literal dis-arming, smitings of all sorts. I found myself wanting to censor…the scriptures??

    This year, we’re reading the actual Book of Mormon. There’s a lot more elevating material to talk about, and I’m amazed at the perceptiveness of a 7-year-old: she laughs over the constant “and it came to pass” and Nephi’s frequent “look, and I looked.” But I’m sensitized now, and I can’t help noticing there’s a lot less blood in our other current reading project…Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!

  5. This reminds me greatly of the time in primary sharing time when the kids were acting out scripture stories. It was a great idea, but having them act out cutting off Laban’s head with great glee was not.

  6. No Veggie Tales? I think that may be a little bit too “helicopter parent” for me. Do you really believe that as your children grow older they will be perplexed by the fact that scriptural characters are not actually vegetables?

    Let’s take something scripturally harsh… rape for example.. When your kids ask what is happening, you say “X is hurting Y” It’s pretty simple. One day the child will learn the more ugly details of the situation. Any child that would feel betrayed once they learned that you felt they were previously too young to be learning such things has some trust issues to resolve.

  7. The biggest hurdle I’ve run into is the whole Mary, Joseph, Heavenly Father thing.

    All the primary manuals that I’ve taught from state that the teacher should stress that Joseph is *not* Jesus’ father. I really do understand why they make that point, it is a major point of doctrine. But the edict to stress that point makes one nervous and rather than just saying “Jesus was Heavenly Father’s son, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Joseph was Mary’s husband and helped raise Jesus.” you get all nervous and start saying it in the most awkward way possible. Things like “Joseph was Mary’s husband, but he wasn’t Jesus’ dad. His dad was Heavenly Father even though Heavenly Father wasn’t married to Mary. She just had his baby. But, uh, it’s okay. Really.”

  8. “Do you really believe that as your children grow older they will be perplexed by the fact that scriptural characters are not actually vegetables?”

    Nobody said that, Ryan.

  9. Stephanie says:

    My husband has developed an elaborate scripture routine (in my mind) for our boys, but I can see where he is coming from. Each of our boys reads a story from his own reader (what Jon #4 referred to). They rotate through the 4 books of scripture. Half our kids can read so far, so the ones who can read, read to themselves, the others get read to – all individually. This is their personal scripture reading. Then, as a family, we read the Book of Mormon. We have the big family edition with subtitles, definitions, etc. We like that. We read a little section each night and talk about it.

    I like this routine for 2 reasons: 1. The kids are developing habits of both personal scripture study and family scripture study from a young age. 2. My kids know the scripture stories well. I like that they already have the basic understanding of many of the major scripture stories and can go deeper in their understanding as they get older.

    The downside to the routine? It is LONG.

    Oh, and there is nothing like a good Nephi slaying Laban or Coriantumr slaying Shiz story to get little boys excited about reading their scriptures . . .

  10. This is a hard one. I’ve never been a fan of scripture cartoons. What are those awful things they try to sell you in the mall? Veggie Tales actually bothers me the least because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I almost don’t think of them as Bible stories, just mini lessons in acceptable behaviors and attitudes.

    We have the comic book scriptures. My oldest likes them, but he is also used to being read to from the real scriptures and he understands almost everything without detailed explanation. He is almost eight. My friend’s eight year old recognized the spirit for the first time whilst reading his comic book BofM. Go figure.

    I guess I figure kids are going to learn about good and evil in the world and I’d rather it be in the context of the scriptures than Power Rangers. I think it’s like anything else in life, you explain and answer questions on their level. My kids love to ask gospel questions and I want to teach them early to find those answers in the scriptures. And on blogs.

  11. There are scripture stories that can be introduced at appropriate ages, but I don’t think kids need to know early on about, say, Jael’s handiwork (one on the list of my most memorable stories). So, we don’t do scriptures front to back, we do them story by story, with Mom & Dad telling the story with the appropriate details and lessons.

    Oh, and VeggieTales not to be missed: Lord of the Beans

  12. I dislike the VeggieTales, but more out of asthetics than anything. (Why do American children’s programs feature such shrill, annoying voices anyway?)

    As far as accessing the scriptures with children: Our three year olds are fascinated by the Good Samaritan, and they act it out all the time with stuffed animals and such. One day Thing 1 asked why the robber didn’t get into trouble, which is a fair question: if he takes things without asking or pushes his brother, he gets in trouble, and they’ve added that as an element to the story, that someone comes along and punishes the robber (and we find him sitting on the time out chair). They also like Jesus as a little boy and manna from heaven (which they learned about in nursery, I guess). The Book of Mormon has been less intriguing to them — we have a little book about Ammon, which they call Ammon Hurts People. Somehow the Book of Mormon seems to be less about being fair and good — their level of moral judgement — and more about complex moral issues. They do like Nephi and his ability to build things, from the cartoon books.

  13. My grandfather had a saying: “Life ain’t for sissies”

    I figure the explicit stories in the Bible and BofM are helping teach that.

    Children are far more aware of the world then people give them credit for. Life is full of evil, and children need to know that- otherwise how can they choose right from wrong?

    Eve decided to eat that fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil- it’s too late for us to try and protect our children from that decision now.

    Whenever we had questions driven by a scary story from the scriptures, (The Priests of Noah carrying off the daughters of the Lamanites scared my sisters- I was confused by the story of Job), my father always explained it like he would to any person asking those questions- and after that would talk about our family, and the importance of obeying him and our mother and that they had promised they would protect us and guide us in doing the right thing.

    Even if we didn’t always understand the explanations or why it seemed things didn’t work in the scriptures the way the world should, we always came away comforted knowing that our parents were protecting us, and that they would help us understand all these things as we grew up. In many ways it became a good learning experience about how we related to our parents, and how we would relate to our children.

  14. Of course I might be a little biased.

    Someone up thread mentioned how violent the BofM is. That never bothered me as a kid because my life was filled with violence. I was constantly being attacked by other children on the playground (it’s actually my first memory- dating back to pre-school), so scriptural lessons on when it’s appropriate to use violence and when it’s not, had an immediate real world application in my life.

    Jael was actually an example to me about how when you are weaker than your enemy, ruthlessness and guile are perfectly acceptable means of defeating them.

  15. Nobody said that, Ryan.

    Actually, Kris did:

    I also laughed just imagining my kids becoming young adults and being confused as they studied the scriptures more deeply. (“Wait a minute, Mom, I thought this was about duckies!”)

    Now, I read Kris’ point, tongue in cheek, to be that cartoon scriptures may serve to confuse more than teach. My response, in like manner, is that this is an assertion based in light paranoia.

  16. When my oldest was about 5, I told him the story of Nephi and the plates of brass.(no scriptures, just the two of us talking.) My son was nonplussed about Nephi cutting off Laban’s head; but, could not accept the notion that Nephi told multiple lies to finish the job. (Masquerading as Laban was a lie.)

    My son could not accept that it is sometimes ok to tell lies, at least if you’re Nephi. I told him to go to sleep and we would talk about it in the morning. This was years ago and I still don’t have a good way to explain to a 5 year old that sometimes its ok to tell lies or stretch the truth.

  17. Kristine says:

    Hmmmm. I blush to confess that I love Veggie Tales. I’m not sure they’re good for kids, but they are awfully clever. The song with the king’s courtiers plotting to get rid of Daniel is genius. And the mean, cranky “grapes of wrath”? Brilliant.

    As for teaching, I actually like VeggieTales better than, say, the Living Scriptures or other cartoon versions, precisely because they are so impossible to mistake for the real stories. But, yeah, the voices are annoying, and I don’t miss them much since we got rid of the TV. The kids don’t seem to miss them much either, which makes me inclined to the view that they are relatively harmless (to the extent that any overstimulating, neuron-destroying, imagination-dulling, and obesity-encouraging entertainment can be called harmless :))

    Kids can handle some pretty dark things, but I do think we should be conscious of when we introduce which scripture stories. My then 4-year-old was really traumatized when someone spent Primary sharing time describing crucifixion in way too much detail. And I think the story of Abraham and Isaac needs to wait until middle school, at least. (And, btw, it is not good to try to amplify your middle schooler’s appreciation of the story by having her read _Fear and Trembling_. Trust me on this.)

    Still, familiarity with the scriptures can make for some entertaining moments: a few weeks ago, we had a day of really weird weather, including some hail. My daughter looked up, and in her best snotty almost pre-teen manner said “oh , great. Hail. What’s next, locusts?!”

  18. You cannot hide children from the moral complexities of life. The Bible is no different than the world our children see all around them. Are there people beheading others in the world today? Are there people coveting women they shouldn’t and getting them when they shouldn’t? You bet there are. Our children will learn of these things before we begin teaching them about them. Our children will learn something about sex before we begin teaching them about sex. Our children will learn about violence before we begin teaching them about violence.

    Our job is to direct our children on the proper paths through this great morass of a life.

  19. Stephanie,

    #9,

    Oh, and there is nothing like a good Nephi slaying Laban or Coriantumr slaying Shiz story to get little boys excited about reading their scriptures . . .

    I have to admit, as a teenager, I looked forward to reading Ether chapters 12-15 the most out of the Book of Mormon. :)

  20. #7-

    I’ve always explained it like this:

    Heavenly Father spiritually prepared Mary and allowed her to carry and give birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Joseph and Mary’s calling was to be Jesus’ father and mother and raise Jesus here on Earth.

  21. I was raised Lutheran and we used Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible to study the scriptures. I took this weird class where we had a workbook that told us to underline certain lines in certain colors and we’d have to put our own footnotes in and stuff. We also memorized certain scriptures.

    I haven’t read it in a long time, it’d be interesting to see how censored Hurlbut was. I don’t think it was very though.

  22. King George (Larry the Cucumber)

    Okay, so they want to tell the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba, but not really tell it…and they choose a cucumber to represent the “David” character? Wow…nothing Freudian about that.

    The Book of Mormon has been less intriguing to them — we have a little book about Ammon, which they call Ammon Hurts People.

    LOL! Thanks for the morning laugh, Norbert!

  23. My wife actually really likes King George and the Ducky, precisely because (a) it (like most VeggieTales) doesn’t take itself too seriously (like, almost at all) and (b) because it uses the rough outline of the David-Bathsheba story to convey a message that could apply to my 2yo within the next few years.

    That said, though, I won’t go anywhere near Living Scriptures, because those, I’m afraid, she could confuse with real scripture stories (I don’t like added details, although cucumbers don’t bother me so much).

    We read non-LDS board books (that we bought on vacation at the BYU bookstore, actually) of the Bible, and she plays with her Little People Noah’s Ark, and she loves Baby Moses, Noah (and, believe it or not, Jonah). But right now I do shield her from darkness and violence, be it in scripture, on TV, or in books. There’ll be plenty of time for that when she’s no longer a toddler.

  24. Nick (22),
    Would the asparagus have been a better choice? When you’re working with vegetables as your main character, you’ve got a limited palate of shapes to work with. :)

  25. No blushing here. I love Veggie Tales! And I find them way more palatable (heh) than the Living Scriptures because they’re better made, and also because I’ve never had anyone tell me it was my duty as a Christian parent to buy them (unlike Living Scriptures).

    Of course you’d be in trouble if you relied solely on Larry the Cucumber and Pa Grape to teach your kids the gospel. I don’t think that’s their intended purpose, anyway — I think the point is to teach principles using Bible stories as a jumping-off point. And if the little ones learn the basics of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, or Esther, or Joshua, or whoever, from Veggie Tales before we go into those histories in depth in family scripture study, I don’t have a problem with that. For the same reason, I think the “comic book” BofM can be a good teaching tool. The kids will come to understand the stories in richer detail with continued study, just as we all do.

    Besides, I love Pa Grape’s song in “King George and the Ducky.” And Junior Asparagus’ speech about trusting God in “Josh and the Big Wall” makes me cry every time.

    I do agree that there’s a lot of “adult content” in the scriptures, and parents should introduce it carefully and, dare I say, prayerfully.

  26. I agree with #13 and many others who have expressed similar sentiments. It is a fantasy that we can hide the ugliness in our fallen world from our children. Having said that, I think for young children, they do not need the gory details of every single disturbing story in the bible. There are some very good childrens bibles that are true to the stories without being excessively graphic.

    My 7 yo daughter and I are reading the BoM together, and her favorite scripture, which she has marked and plans to share in primary is one in 1st Nephi dealing with the “whore of all the earth”. Weird, but funny, at least to me.

  27. Researcher says:

    Those Open Yale courses are great. I’m working through the Psychology one right now.

    About the Bible: I was a lonely child and spent my 7th-9th grade years reading through a wonderful, world-class junior high library. Wonderful librarians. I read everything including Leatherstocking, Dickens, Darwin, poetry collections, every type of fiction and non-fiction imaginable, except the pulp fiction paperbacks on the revolving wire shelves.

    Near the start of this three-year reading binge, I read through the entire Bible cover to cover. Very fascinating. There was nothing in there that I wasn’t being exposed to in other books except inspiration and devotion. By that, I mean that scripture, when read by the light of the Holy Ghost, is life changing in a way that other works of literature are not.

    Shielding your children from that influence would be a travesty in my opinion.

    By the way, if your kid watches PG or PG-13 movies or attends the public schools, there is really nothing in the Bible that they are not already being exposed to. Honestly.

    “And the Bible is not for naive optimists,” Professor Hayes says. I needed a good laugh this morning. Thanks, Kris!

  28. Stephanie says:

    Dan (#19), did you act it out? That seems to be my children’s favorite part of reading Book of Mormon war stories. :) They are boys through and through.

  29. Stephanie says:

    I do like Living Scriptures. They are a great way for our kids to share the gospel with their friends.

  30. I’m not a big fan of Veggie Tales. The songs are okay, but I don’t always agree with the moral they actually teach. The problem is that they frequently teach a moral that I absolutely do not think is scriptural, which I have a huge beef with.

    When they are scriptural, I don’t mind, but the voices, animation and the like annoy me a bit, so I don’t bother.

    All that aside, my wife dislikes them even more for the same reasons, so they won’t be making an appearance in our house.

  31. Sometimes in our house reading the scriptures has the same affect as watching Star Wars.

    My 4 boys like:

    Shiz
    Laban
    Ammon
    Stripling Warriors

    Toy lightsabers work really well for swords. Except you gotta go “Nmmmmphhhh” while smitting your brother or Dad

  32. Bruno Bettleheim would likely disagree with Christine Hales, but I suspect the two might disagree on a lot of things. :-) ..bruce..

  33. Seems like Grimm’s fairy tales, as compiled by the Grimm brothers and unsanitized, are pretty gory. I’ve heard the Grimm brothers sanitized all the sex out of the stories, as the thinking at the time was that children would be more okay with violence than with sex. This is all my way of saying I think people have been worried about how age appropriate the morality tales they teach their children are for a long time.

    I don’t know why I personally have a visceral disliking of veggie tales, but I really DO NOT like them one little bit.

  34. Out of all the children’s TV available I actually really like Veggie Tales. But I’m a sucker for clever cultural references, so when Larry yells “Desperados, you’d better come to your senses” or when the evil lord Scaryman has his army of “Sporks” (in Lord of the Beans), I die laughing. My daughter actually got bored with them after a while. I never looked at them as teaching the scriptures to my child though. I’m not sure she even really associates them with bible stories. Actually, I’m not sure she even knows very many Bible or scripture stories. We need to be more proactive about having family scripture study.

    I have been a little squeamish about teaching my daughter about the Crucifixion and Resurrection (Easter is coming up). Right now I just explain that Jesus suffered for us and died and that he was resurrected. We have a few family members who have passed away and so she knows that resurrection means that their spirits will come back to their bodies some day. But I do try and shield her from some of the more difficult aspects of the scriptures. She’s only 4. I read the entire Book of Mormon by myself when I was 11 and don’t remember being bothered by much except wondering what ‘fruit of my loins’ meant. My parents thought it was funny when I asked them that…

  35. Stepheny says:

    It is one thing to personify animals. It is quite another to personify vegetables. The Veggies in the tales shouldn’t be mobile because they have not drawn them legs. And, how does that cucumber keep a neckerchief in place without shoulders? It makes me crazy.

    I started reading the NT to my kids when my oldest was four. I used a modern English version–not a paraphrased one but a real translation. They were exceedingly short sessions. I was sure no one was listening until the day my oldest climbed up next to me and said read the part about Jesus spitting in the dirt and healing the blind man.

    Parent’s know what their kids are ready for. It is better to expose them to too much yourself than to not expose them enough and have them learn it elsewhere.

  36. Chad Too says:

    I always try to answer my son’s questions when they come up in an age-appropriate way.

    He’s 11-years-old hasn’t so much as grimaced at violent or sexual stories from the BoM. Not a blink.

    He swore of girls forever, though, last week after making the fatal mistake of asking his always-forthright Dad what a “yeast infection” is after sitting through a Monistat commercial.

    Yeah, son. Keep thinking that way. At least until you’re post-mission. :)

  37. Last Lemming says:

    it’d be interesting to see how censored Hurlbut was.

    Hulbut (at least the 1932 edition my wife grew up with) is hardly censored at all. The Jael story includes every detail from the Bible. And a storytelling volume, Hurlbut is far superior to anything the LDS Church has put out.

  38. I really like Veggie Tales. But you’ve got to put on your goofy hat and place the brim on your brow quite low.

    When I first saw them it wasn’t the amusing take on the scriptures that bothered me. It was the light-hearted spoof of great literature. Omlet, the selfish prince of Denmark who won’t share his eggs with anyone plays a game of Battleship. “2-B?” “Not 2-B!” Omlet mumbles his dismay that he did not hit his opponent’s battleship. Sacrilege!

    In a different episode actual grapes sing, “We are the grapes of wrath. We’ll never take a bath. Its our style to seldom smile and never laugh!” Steinbeck rolls in his grave every time it’s played.

    The kids love it and so far seem to be taking their Veggie Tales with a pinch of salt.

  39. I enjoyed reading the comments and opinions and can certainly relate to many feelings that were expressed. Right now I am teaching a seminary class that happens to contain only freshmen. I have a co-teacher, but I was the “fortunate” one who had to teach the account of Dinah. The students were a bit shocked (quite honestly I was glad that they were still innocent enough to be shocked!). I think that it was good that they were feeling the horror of the situation – much as I suspect Dinah’s brothers felt. We then could talk about what they were feeling, how easy it was to desire bloody revenge – and yet how the Lord felt about those who acted on those feelings, how we should act on those feelings, etc.

    I realize, however, that the discussion here is about young children. I joined the LDS church when I was close to adulthood, and did not become “active” until my children were small – so we have really learned together. I had (and still have) no problem telling them that I do not know or understand some things, that some things take time. Perhaps they will gain an understanding of the principle of line upon line…

    By the way, I was able to finally understand Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life by watching the Living Scriptures video. And although I find the cartoon readers lame, my children did like them when they were younger – and I was happy they were reading – well, learning – the scriptures.

  40. As a Primary teacher I like the Living Scriptures better than VeggieTales — the kids who have seen the videos rarely keep the added details straight and are easily corrected, and they can always keep the Laman/Lemuel vs. Sam/Nephi dichotomy in the right order. Introducing that one to kids who aren’t too sure of the names is what led me to drawing a simple genealogical chart at the beginning of every lesson this year — there was also considerable confusion over who Lehi was, and who were the parents of Jacob and Joseph.

    But, I like the VeggieTales for my own viewing. They’re funny and cute. Kids have different standards than adults, thank goodness: if they enjoy it, and it doesn’t actually teach bad things, I’m not sure I see the harm.

    Oh, and in case you folks were at all curious: the Church itself censors (and by censors I mean “skips”) huge chunks of scripture at least through Valiant 12. Our lessons up through tomorrow are:

    — The Book of Mormon, a Gift from a Loving Heavenly Father
    — Nephi Follows His Father, the Prophet
    — Obtaining the Brass Plates
    — The Tree of Life
    — Lehi and His Family Are Led through the Wilderness
    — Heavenly Father Commands Nephi to Build a Ship
    — Crossing the Sea
    — The Prophet Jacob Is Confronted by Sherem
    — Enos Prays, followed immediately by:
    — King Benjamin Teaches His People (that’s this week for me due to a snowstorm that canceled church last week, and no, I didn’t skip any lessons.)

    Tomorrow morning I’m going to start with a genealogical chart and a brief rendition of “everything we’re missing in Jarom, Omni, the Words of Mormon, and the first five chapters of Mosiah.”

    And by the way, we really did skip the entirety of Nephi’s time as a prophet, everything Lehi told his sons, and most of Jacob’s ministry. If you’ve ever wondered why your kids think of Nephi as a young kid (or why your teenagers say “Enos? Isn’t he that guy who prayed?”) this would be part of it. As far the actual written lessons in the book are concerned, Nephi is eternally young, and it’s not clear how, e.g., Laman turned into a tribe of Lamanites. I make a point of telling the kids that such-and-such died before the next guy took over (Laban and Sherem make two deaths total in ten lessons that cover something like two hundred years.)

    Oh… and Dinah and the arms being cut off and Lot’s daughters and beheadings and a prophet of God sending a man to his death just to steal his wife (but we still read his poetry)? They freak me out and I’m 27. I don’t think it’s terrible to refrain from telling those stories to a young child.

  41. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, and I don’t even have kids yet…

    Regarding Researcher (#27)’s comment, I’m not sure I agree. PG-13 movies might cover the specific acts, but I don’t think they come anywhere near the moral complexity represented by your average wacked-out Bible story (my current favorite: the story of Tamar in Genesis 38. I wrote a 5,000-word personal essay trying to work out what it all means, with not a lot of definitive conclusions). Most PG-13s (and most movies, period) take place in a pretty simplistic universe of good vs. evil or else they just don’t deal with very heavy moral issues.

    And it seems like this is how we teach scriptures to kids and teens as well. It wasn’t until I got to college that I spent more than a minute or two thinking about whether Nephi’s killing of Laban REALLY was justified, or why it was OK for Jacob (and his mom) to do all that scheming to get the birthright. All the way up through seminary, these stories are presented in a basic/formulaic context: “Story X teaches Principle Y. The end.” (At least this is what I recall.) But in my own study now I am constantly struck by the feeling that (A) this story doesn’t mean what people always told me it means, or (B) I don’t think I’m getting all the information here, or (C) if everything I’m reading here is accurate, then God has a much more complex understanding of morality than I do.

    But, sigh, what to do about it? I’d prefer my kids get a strong testimony that the scriptures give us good guidance and inspiration BEFORE they start worrying about all the nitpicky stuff, so it seems that the only thing to do when they’re young is give them the relatively non-controversial stuff, at least when we’re talking about moral messages.

  42. Stepheny says:

    Asphodel, you make a good point. Nothing we read or see as entertainment or for education can be taken in completely with a first reading or viewing. Evan cartoons intended for children (think Disney and Warner Brothers) contain material that children will not understand because they don’t yet have the experiences, vocabulary and understanding of nuances to pick up on double meanings, etc. So it takes years to come to understand something that is rich and deep and full of meaning on various levels.

    When it comes to any kind of media, written or electronic the reader or viewer brings all their own experience to the table and what they understand from watching or reading tells as much more about them than it does the book or visual production.

    I was so surprised when I talked to my MIL about the movie Dead Poet’s Society. I had a completely different view of the ending than she did. She thought the institution that punished the teacher did exactly the right thing. I felt that he had been unfairly blamed. We both saw the same flick but we each had different experiences with parents, institutions and teachers that affected our appreciation for the movie.

    So as much I don’t enjoy the cartoon versions of the scriptures either on video (the kids see what color the shoes are and other irrelevant minutia) or in books I have decided it is not a terrible thing to start there. As long as one progresses to the real thing later and keeps an open dialogue going. Ultimately, over time, the right questions will be asked and the answers will make themselves evident.

  43. Personally, I’d choose Veggie Tales over the Living Scriptures videos any day. I watched a few of the LS videos that I borrowed from friends. The story of Nephi and the brass plates was enough to turn me off of them. What did it was the creator’s interpretation of the personality of Zoram. They made Zoram out to be a snivelling, cringing coward. In all the times I have read 1st Nephi, I was never left with this opinion of Zoram. They totally interpreted other personalities wrong too. I’d rather have my kids read the scriptures and have the Holy Ghost witness to them about the character of the people they are reading about than have them accept erroneous interpretations presented by some Hollywood wannabes. At least with Veggie Tales, you know up front that the films are meant to be a joke.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,622 other followers