Every Stroke Disarms a Foeman, and other terrors

We’re delighted to have another installment of our occasional series of guest posts from members of the Dialogue Editorial Board. This one is from Katie Blakesley, an historian (MA, U of U), guest blogger at JI, author of the definitive treatment of the history of “modesty” and women’s dress in the Church, and mother of two adorable kids living in the DC area.

Last Sunday, at 6:20 pm (yes, you read that right) as I was trying to get my two kids in the car to go home from church, while juggling a purse, carseat, church bag, and a couple of gifts, my three year old said, “Mom, why don’t you have three arms. It would sure be helpful.” Indeed. I asked him how Primary was and what he learned about–he is thrilled to be in Sunbeams and sing with the big kids. “Jesus. I learned about Jesus. We learn about Jesus every week.”

My son has had fabulous nursery and Sunbeam teachers, and we try to teach him the gospel at home. He is at the age where he is eager to learn new things, and is a fan of Family Home Evening in general. He is especially attentive if a story has to do with President Monson (we get in trouble if we don’t pray for him) or Le-phi (sometimes we get the Book of Mormon prophets a bit mixed up)–we know this won’t last, and so we are trying to capitalize on his excitement. My husband and I are avid readers, and he loves to have stories read to him. We read before naptime (a girl can dream) and bedtime. Recently, it dawned on me that I could use the pre-nap story time to read him a chapter from the illustrated Book of Mormon Stories book I purchased at the Distribution Center, followed by other books.

Which brings me to my point: I have never thought of the Book of Mormon from a toddler’s perspective. It’s scary. It’s violent. In the same week, we learned that the Lord who shocks Laman and Lemuel (known as the bad guys at our house) and sends Sherem a sign is not entirely similar to the Jesus he’s learned about in Primary. It is relatively straightforward to explain miracles, or the Liahona, or trekking in the wilderness (just like the father and son outing, only a whole lot longer) to a preschooler. I can even do reasonably well with repentance and angelic visitations. But cutting off Laban’s head? Laman and Lemuel continually wanting to kill their little brother? The evils of sign seeking (which in this case lead to death?) That’s a lot to handle, even for an adult sometimes. And to offer a more extreme example, recently, my three year old nephew headed to the ER, but was worried about seeing the mean doctor, who “cuts off chins. And cuts off arms.” My sister in law realized they had read the story of Ammon earlier that week–it was her only clue as to why her son was worried about getting body parts chopped off.

It’s clear to me that little ones remember and perhaps even begin to understand far more than we think they will. As you know, after Sherem died, the people started to repent. In Book of Mormon Stories, there is a picture of people reading the scriptures, and upon seeing it, my son said, “They do that so they can feel the spirit.” Surprised, I asked him how the Spirit felt. “Happy,” he said. Of course, then our discussion turned to why lions can’t feel the Spirit (apparently they have hair and eyes but can’t talk, so they aren’t like us.)

I’m not suggesting we completely sanitize the scriptures, even for little ones (although I have started using “be mean to” or “hurt each other” instead of the ubiquitous “kill,” thanks to a friend’s suggestion. Not that much better, but I’d rather have him chasing his friends on the playground, yelling “I’m going to be mean to you now” instead of “I’m going to kill you!”) If I’m wondering about this now, I can’t even imagine how we are going to go about teaching Church History or even the Old Testament to our kids (note: not the focus of this post).

Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers to offer on this topic. Could/should the stories be re-written by the Church in a more pre-K friendly way? Or should I continue to soften the stories as I read, skipping some or strategically hiding the more graphic pictures. Is there value in reading the scriptures chronologically, or is it okay to just tell stories based on the gospel art pictures, etc.? As far as reading them as they are, Laban and all, I would never read him other violent/disturbing stories this young–if I am reading scripture stories, does it justify the violence? My thought, obviously, is no–at least not until they are old enough to understand context.

How do you teach the scriptures to your children, Primary class, family members, etc? Do you have different scripture teaching aids, for the Book of Mormon or other standard works, that work for you? Other books that you enjoy? I’d love some input on this.

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Comments

  1. It’s a violent world out there. When we read fairy tales (they put red hot shoes on her and made her dance until she died) we figured that exposure to death and violence at an early age by people who cared is not a bad thing.

    On the other hand, fairy tales can be told with a step removal from what is real and present. The reader and the listener, even young, can appreciate that. Scriptures, on the other hand are supposed to be real. Would we read about machete slaughter in Rwanda to our children? Probably not.

  2. Thank you for asking. I love this question (it’s the one area of parenting I feel successful in, but of course that doesn’t mean I’ve done it right…)

    Anyway, when my oldest son turned three and went into Primary they presidency decided that they wanted to challenge the whole Primary to read the Book of Mormon that year. So we started as a family. We’d read a verse, then stop and explain it. Then another verse. Then another. We tried to do a chapter a day, but the mists of time obscure how successful we were with that. We read out of the original Book of Mormon, then the KJV the next year when we were challenged to read the Old Testament.

    For the Old Testament the Primary presidency went through and chopped out some chapters, but the ones they deleted were not the gory ones, or the one about Lot’s daughters, or the one about Judah and Tamar, they were the boring genealogy chapters. So we took a deep breath and read them. And… our children are as non-violent, non-sexually deviant as any kids I know, and they’re now moving into their twenties. Kids are products of their whole environments, and using the scriptures as a starting point for conversations is important, I think.

    I will say that we broke down on explaining verse by verse in the New Testament. I defy anyone to explain Paul’s writings one verse at a time. But we did verse-by-verse explanations (that is, the kids explained too) for more than 15 years before deciding that we really did want to read Paul and that we’d read big chunks or the whole chapter and then try to make some sense of it. And that’s what we’ve been doing now in the other books, too.

    Also, don’t be so quick to say your kids will decide they don’t like FHE as they get older. The only one of ours who’s had difficulty wanting to come to FHE was a daughter struggling with OCD and oppositional/defiant symptoms. When the symptoms calmed down in other areas of her life, she was once again happy to participate in FHE and scripture time.

  3. I recently listened to this open Yale course about the Old Testament. Prof. Hayes said that she wouldn’t let her kids read the Old Testament because it had too much adult content. I found this very interesting.

  4. I can understand the desire to protect children. But there is also value in educating them. And I think a big part of a moral education involves grasping that evil is real. Really real. Too many American children are so protected that they grow into teenagers/young adults/even adults who have trouble grasping emotional truths about the suffering in this world. (This is especially tragic when much of it is man-made and exacerbated by indifference.)

    I remember being frightened and a bit overwhelmed by many scripture stories as a young child. Looking back, I am just glad I felt that engaged. Maybe I had a few nightmares, but feeling vivid emotion is not the worst thing in the world. The countless children who can’t escape abuse or famine or war zones need counterparts who care. And our neighborhoods and nations needs citizens who instinctively know that hate/lust/greed/sin have real consequences.

    What scripture offers is a moral context in which to present the full experience of life. Certainly, it is better to be exposed to decapitation from the story of John the Baptist than from a video game. The former story carries tremendous emotional weight. The latter depicts no real consequences — but an American child will almost certainly be somehow exposed to it by age five or six. At that time, what a blessing it would be for a child to have already received a scriptural inoculation.

  5. I agree about letting kids know evil is real. The problem I see is that, whereas, for instance, Grimm’s fairy tales have clearly evil characters who generally meet violent ends, the scriptures have violent and sometimes morally ambiguous heroes–do we really want our boys to “liken” the story of Ammon to themselves, and conclude that administering vigilante justice is a good way for missionaries to endear themselves to the locals and persuade them to listen to the gospel?

  6. one of my kids had to do a TV violence report for school, and count how many episodes of violence/killing/name-calling etc were in an hour of cartoons. since we don’t watch tv, we used living scriptures book of mormon videos–and my daughter had the highest violence counts of anyone!

  7. Wow anita, another reason why I will never buy any living scriptures videos.

  8. This is not about violence, but yesterday we were having a discussion about the sacrament while eating lunch. My oldest (9) piped in that the wine that Jesus used was more like grape juice.

    I cringed a bit, because I know she learned this in Primary as a way to sanitize the scriptures and somehow make them fit to our current WofW practices. So I told her I believed it really was wine and there were plenty of places in the scriptures where good people did drink wine (I left out the part about prophets like Noah getting drunk, because I didn’t want to rock her world too hard). This was big news to my 9 yr old as it went against what she’d learned in Primary.

    We then had a discussion about the Word of Wisdom being a commandment for us in our day, but not a universal law. It turned out to be a pretty good discussion.

    The question of Church History stuff is also interesting, though it wasn’t the focus of your post. :) I’m not sure when to introduce the history of polygamy in the church or some of the other uncomfortable topics that are hanging out there. I first learned about polygamy in High School seminary and felt I should have been told about that earlier in my life. I don’t know what age is appropriate for her though.

  9. On the topic of violence, the last time we got through the Book of Mormon as a family I subtly skipped the chapter in Alma where the believers were thrown into the fire. I thought it would be too upsetting. This year each kid (ages 9 and 6) is reading verses with us instead of listening to me drone on, so I don’t see how were going to skip it this time without some really fancy footwork.

    as an aside, the 3 yr old has been quietly sitting with the graphic novel versions of the scriptures as we read. Its been neat to see him take an active interest in scripture study and sit quietly through the reading. This has never happened before.

  10. Natalie B. says:

    The violence in the Book of Mormon never remotely scared me as a child, largely, I believe, because the scriptures were taught so that the recipients of the violent acts were either paradigmatic bad guys who “deserved it” or where persecuted martyrs who “needed it” so as to give all to Christ. While those binary distinctions did bother me a lot, they also served to make the violence seem removed from daily experience.

  11. Kristine says:

    Steve G. (#8)–I believe I’ve had the identical discussion with my 9-year-old. I didn’t think I’d need to be countering overt falsifications of the scriptures until Seminary! ;)

  12. Steve G. says:

    Kristine, I guess 9 is the age then. This whole conversation about the sacrament started when my 6 yr old asked why they don’t serve better snacks than bread and water in Sacrament Meeting. Amazing what goes on in kids’ heads.

  13. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I only have iPhone Internet access today, so I’m slow to respond.

    Deborah, thanks for giving me hope that the enthusiasm for FHE can continue. :) I agree that the best place to have difficult conversations (I think Judah and Tamar qualifies) is at home. It’s hard for me to know what is age appropriate–last week my son wanted to know exactly how God created our bodies. I told him I wasn’t sure exactly how. He told me to look it up, learn about it, and teach it to him the next day. I did my best…

    Julie–I agree. My husband and I often talk about how to best raise our kids to be part of their community, to be caring and moral individuals, to realize that not everyone lives like them, and to be charitable to those around them. I guess I worry that 3 is a bit young to do more than say–there are bad guys in the scriptures, there are bad guys in the world, we love you, let’s try to help people who need help. Not surprisingly, I am anti violent video games, but not naive enough to think they will never be exposed to them, or even that if I could control it, they shouldn’t be exposed. Like I appreciate your point about John the Baptist vs video games– I guess I hope we can provide some context to violence (understanding that there are a lot of things in the world that are impossible to make sense of).

    More a bit later–apparently there is a t Rex battle raging in my living room.

  14. Kristine says:

    “my 6 yr old asked why they don’t serve better snacks than bread and water in Sacrament Meeting”

    Awesome.

  15. My now 10 year old used to call it the “snackrament”.

    We have older and younger scripture time. In the younger one I do skip stories (Alma 14 anyone?). I read the book of mormon (out of the book of mormon) as a story-not necessarily paying attention to chapters. To be honest we repeat 3 Nephi 11-20 a whole bunch. Lehi’s dream is generally easy to understand. They really come for the songs anyway-so we sing lots of songs with the little people.

    I’ve also found that topical guide studies are great for the whole family. I can control content(though we sometimes take turns which ends up with Unicorns or swords or something random), the older ones learn a different scripture study technique and it’s as short as you want (everyone choosing 1 favorite scripture from a topic-to finding 3 or more). We are also reading psalms-which while still having war in it (it was david after all), is generally short and sweet-pleading for a personal relationship with God.

    The new missionary book-uggh my mind fails me-has some good topical studies as well-and some good ideas on how to study the scriptures-especially looking more for Christ.

    The four gospels are nicer for children

    i really like the new nursery lesson manual. it can be found online and has great activities and short lessons.

    I also frequently find myslef say-ya that’s pretty harsh (violent, scary, sad)…I don’t know that it hleps but I think it helps to just admit it’s scary and you don’t always understand why it was like that.

  16. I find that if I expose my children to a stead stream of violent movies, the scriptures aren’t upsetting to them.

  17. Steve, re#8: I got to be the Primary teacher who smashed that fallacy a couple months ago. I have no idea what the lesson was supposed to be about, but some of the kids had questions that day, so I answered them (I teach the Valiant boys, so they were 8, 9, and 10). They were all goggle-eyed and amazed that I said Jesus drank real wine. I haven’t heard back from any parents yet, though, so maybe they didn’t go home and talk about it.

  18. Steve G. (9),
    The other week in Sacrament meeting, somebody mentioned the families in Alma thrown into the fire. And my 4-year-old looks up and basically asks, “Why did they do that? That’s not good to do.” She’d been coloring, and I had no idea she’d been listening.

    Of course, this is the same 4YO who stopped eating bacon (her favorite food) after reading Charlotte’s Web, and swore off chicken after finding out that chicks grow up into chickens. (I didn’t think my daughter would turn vegetarian until at least she was a teenager.)

    Of course, she loves Hansel and Gretel and all of the other dark fairy tales, but she insists on asking if something is “for real life” or if it’s just made up. Morally, that seems to be a hugely important distinction for her.

  19. StillConfused says:

    The first time I remember reading the Old Testament in a group setting was in my high school English class (which I thought was a bit odd in a public school). Anyway, that Old Testament stuff is so Rated X. I would have never told my children those stories.

  20. I feel the same way about the hymnbook. Singing about every stroke disarming foeman, and every step conquering… is very disturbing to me. It makes me wonder if it is an artifact of peace and good times that we can sing about violent acts during worship services. Our hymnbook is not so nice. I understand it’s a metaphor and all, but c’mon.

  21. Katie,
    Yes, ultimately we as parents and leaders need to consider each child’s age and temperament as we teach them. And the responsibility to discuss/provide context probably can’t be emphasized enough. When taught with the Spirit, even hard topics can be opportunities. Some of the best lessons I learned as a kid came when my parents readily admitted they didn’t have all the answers but still exercised faith.

    Mainly, I just want to suggest that I don’t think our main goal in presenting material should be to prevent children from getting upset. There are some things that probably should make all of us more upset. (Lest we become complacent….) On this note, while I believe Jacob J’s comment was intended at least partially in jest, it perfectly illustrates an attitude I occasionally come across and find disturbing.

    In any case, whether it is our children or ourselves who find a topic disturbing, learning to manage such feelings productively is an important lesson too.

  22. It is an interesting debate, one that continues on. Jacob did preach that tender feelings were precious to God, for what that is worth.

  23. #17:

    If you really want to confuse them, don’t go as far back as Christ. Just explain to them that even though Joseph Smith gave us the Word of Wisdom, he also drank wine. And while drinking wine now will keep you out of the temple, early Church leaders actually drank it in the temple.

  24. Steve G. says:

    18 we had a similar experience. Years ago we took the kids to Hogle Zoo while vacationing in Salt Lake City. We were eating lunch at one of the restaurants inside the zoo and there was a bunch of loose chickens wandering around the picnic tables around us. My daughter was eating chicken strips and said”hey chicken and chicken, they have the same name!”. My wife, without thinking about the ramifications said, “they have the same name because they are the same thing”. My daughter than slowly put down the chicken strip and said she wasn’t hungry anymore. It didn’t make a vegetarian out of her, but it certainly was sobering for the poor kid, I think she was about 5 at the time.

  25. Interesting post. I remember first having this conversation on my mission with a mom who found the Book of Mormon so violent. It had never occurred to me before that.

    We have read scriptures with our kids at all sorts of ages and in different ways (a chapter a day, a verse at a time, using the illustrated stories). I love a set of Bible Stories we have (several volumes) aimed at early readers, and long for such a collection of Book of Mormon stories (and I keep threatening to write it myself, but haven’t yet…).

    Our kids learned to take the violence in the Book of Mormon in stride as we talked through it, just the way we’d talk through those icky fairy tales.

    I agree that our children are a product of their entire environment, and at least one of the benefits of reading the scritpures together is the chance to talk about them and having the kids learn that such conversations are possible; they can ask questions and get answers (and so can I).

    Although we’ve read with all of our kids at one time or another, we have not read consistently through the years. We’ve recently started a new routine with our youngest two (13 and 9) at home that is working well for now.

  26. I’m not sure violent depictions – in scriptures or anywhere – is always a problem for kids. Sometimes such stories might actually help the child’s imagination engage with the text more than if it was just a dry didactic list of perfectly moral instructions.

    I remember when I was little that I loved the story of David and Goliath. It was one of the stories that helped me learn to love the scriptures and want to read more.

    Every time I’m in the temple I see those white leather bound scriptures and when it’s an Old Testament I think to myself “wow, that made it in here – despite all those stories.” But then again, would there be a temple without the Old Testament? What other book could be more appropriate in that location?

    Sorry – just random stuff I”m thinking about at 2:30 in the morning.

  27. I am also unfortunately up at a late hour, so I will keep my comments brief (and hopefully cogent). I appreciate people sharing their thoughts and experiences regarding children and the scriptures. In college, I studied Hebrew, and spent a lot of time studying the Old Testament with serious students and scholars of the book. I learned that the Old Testament is a beautiful and deeply symbolic collection of scriptures, one that for the most part requires real effort to understand and appreciate. Sometimes the “hard stories” are among the most interesting and beautiful, but with a quick and cursory reading, you can miss out on a lot.

    I suspect teaching children the scriptures is similar– it takes effort and a love of the scriptures to help them see the beauty of God’s love for us, to begin to understand the difference between good and evil, and to learn to process difficult things. My children are still so little, I appreciate the experiences and thoughts shared on the matter. I learned from being in nursery that little kids both listen to and remember a lot more than I ever realized.

  28. And I appreciate the reminder that violence isn’t categorically “scary” or should be kept away from kids. Violent video games, on the other hand, are a tough sell. On a funny note, we have a young man named Daniel in our ward that my son knows and loves. When telling him the story of Daniel and the lions den, I said “now this Daniel is not our Daniel, he lived a long time ago.” After the story, he wanted to tell me a similar one. He started out, “mom, this story is about ‘sam’ and the tigers, (another young man in our ward), but don’t worry, not our Sam.” I laughed. And at our house, like other commenters, he has figured out that the animal chicken has the same name as chicken we eat. Just waiting for it to click.

  29. Antonio Parr says:

    I read my youngest child all of the hopeful scriptures and passages that I can find. With limited exceptions, I have not yet shared with her the violent passages of the Book of Mormon or Old Testament, nor do I read her the more salacious passages of any scriptures. By way of example, she does not know that the boy Joseph grew up to have lots of wives other than Emma, nor does she know that some of Joseph’s wives were first married to other men. She does not know about Old Testament accounts of what are portrayed as God-sanctioned massacres. She does not know that Blacks were not allowed to hold the Priesthood during her parent’s lifetime. Etc. There will be time enough for her to discover tales of the darkest shadows of human existence. For now, I try to provide as much sweetness and light as her young, innocent, trusting mind can contain.

    She does, however, know about Jesus’ life. She knows that even amidst the splendor of Christ’s birth, Herod was out to get Him. She knows that people often were angry at Jesus when He spoke of His Father’s kingdom. She knows that this anger eventually boiled over to lashings and a crown of thorns and hammer and nail and wood. She knows that Jesus was betrayed by one of his best friends, and denied by another. She knows that He died, just as loved ones in her life have died. She knows that He came back to life, and, because of this, beloved family members will have their physical lives restored, as well.

    There is a power to Christ’s life that is so uniquely extraordinary that its telling — even the painful parts — bring comfort and great light and assurance to even the youngest of children. His is the greatest story ever told, and I look forward with the coming of Palm Sunday to revisiting with my children in “real time” His final week: the wisdom and pain of Holy Thursday; the tragedy of Crucifixion Friday; the somber Saturday following His death, and the glory of Easter. I will attempt to teach my youngest as I attempted to teach her older siblings before her of the travelers on the road to Emmaus, and hearts of fire, and the assurance that He is with her always, Immanuel. That is good news, indeed.

  30. I told my then 5 yr old son the story of Nephi and Laban, substituting “killed” for the more descriptive and accurate beheading. I then told him how Nephi masqueraded as Laban to get the brass plates. At that point my son stopped me and said there’s no way that could have happened because Nephi would have to lie in order to hold himself out as Laban and Nephi would not tell a lie. My son completely glossed over Nephi killing a defenseless, passed out Laban, though I may not have described it that way. At any rate, the violence didn’t give him pause, but Nephi’s dishonesty was a real problem.

  31. Violence in the scriptures is kinda like the birds & the bees — best for kids to hear it from the parents first.

  32. Ilkka Sillanpaa says:

    ‘Disarm’ doesn’t seem to have the gross meaning of severing an arm (that I implicitly took from previous comments) – rather removing one of his weapons to hurt (see below).
    That’s how I always understood it (the hymn) and I don’t see anything horrific in that. (I don’t know if scriptural references use the word differently)

    I feel like being straight with my children about news and violence – I do not seek to expose to such imagery, but when it comes to their attention, I plan to be there to give it context (also and more importantly! in gospel sense). Also, I don’t see polygamy or blacks as issues to be hold off ’till later time. Polygamy comes across pretty easily if you go through the stories of the Old Testament patriarchs, I think.

    All the best!

    from dictonary.reference.com
    dis·arm   /dɪsˈɑrm/ Show Spelled[dis-ahrm] Show IPA
    –verb (used with object)
    1.to deprive of a weapon or weapons.
    2.to remove the fuze or other actuating device from: to disarm a bomb.
    3.to deprive of the means of attack or defense: The lack of logic disarmed his argument.
    4.to divest or relieve of hostility, suspicion, etc.; win the affection or approval of; charm: His smile disarmed us.

  33. Its a tough line to walk. I firmly believe that if children don’t learn the evils of the world in the safety of their own home with people who love them. They will quite probably learn these evils firsthand in the world by people who hate them or lust after them. I know the post is more concerned with when and how than it is with the “if” these things should be taught. But I would like to emphasize that the ugly truths should be taught in the home, and probably at a young age, IMO.
    I think John Milton’s Areopagitica is relevant here:
    As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.

    I would have rather learned that Joseph Smith had multiple wives when I was a child than when I did – the mission. It seemed ridiculous to me that in the 18 years I lived at home the subject had never come up. And at age 20 I had to reconcile the beliefs that had already firmly formed to the reality of the matter. It would have been much easier if it had been explained to me by loving parents when I was 10.

  34. FWIW, I shared some of the things we have done with scripture study here. I love trying to shake things up so we do lots of things to make family study meaningful and also a safe place to talk about hard things.

    I can’t say that we have really shied away from messy stories for the kids’ sake. If you look at the picture storybooks, they don’t really avoid the hard stories, esp with the Book of Mormon. My opinion is that if children see adults (esp parents) trying to model a calm head about hard stuff (not giving it undue attention, focusing back on the core doctrines), they can learn that they can, too). I think it’s also really important to just say, “I know, that seems weird, huh?” or “I don’t get that, either, but _____” and then fill in what we DO know. Faith is not a perfect knowledge and all that.

    I am sobered with an example of how easily kids can pick up on parents’ pet issues. , Once at a baptism when they opened up for testimonies (while the children changed) a boy (maybe 10 years old) got up and started pontificating about how 8-year-olds are too young to be baptized. Of course, you know he didn’t hear that in Primary! Whew.

  35. Kristine says:

    m&m–unless you know that boy’s parents, it’s really not safe to assume those are his parents’ issues. I have a cousin whose parents who have no problem with the age of accountability and were perfectly ready to have him baptized when he was 8, and he felt that he wasn’t ready and wanted to wait. (Ben Spackman can back me up on this :))

    Judging parents by their children’s behavior is an awfully, awfully sticky business.

  36. Kristine, what I’m talking about is different from a child not feeling ready, btw. I respect parents who let their children wait if they don’t feel ready. That happened to a faithful friend of mine as well.

  37. Kristine says:

    What I’m saying is that you don’t know whether that was the child’s opinion or his parents’ “issue.” That’s all.

  38. I know what you were saying, and you may or may not be right. But you’re kinda missing my point and maybe that’s my own fault for not being more clear about my thoughts.

    My point is that kids *will* pick up on the attitudes (good or bad) of those around them — parents, teachers, leaders, etc. Elder Holland gave a powerful talk about this. It’s one that we use as a guidepost talk in our home when we talk about how and what to teach our children.

  39. m&m, that’s a great talk, but I’m having a hard time seeing its relevance here. Are you saying that not wanting to expose your child to excessive violence constitutes an “issue” with the church or the gospel?

  40. Jason, to me the talk seems relevant in that whenever we work to find the line about how much to teach children when, I think a key is to be sure that there is no doubt about the foundation of our faith along the way.

    I understand the concerns about not exposing kids too early to the violence in the scriptures. But the flip side to that is that if they see parents help them process hard things while they are young in a context of faith, I think those can be powerful teaching moments, too.

    Yeah, I still remember watching the BoM videos with my kids and realizing that this definitely isn’t G-rated material. But I don’t remember ever deliberately skipping stories from the BoM, either (although other parents may take a different approach — we each have to do what feels best). In the end, though, my personal feeling is that there is so much power in that book that even the hard stories can be taught in a way that even young kids can understand. If there was a book to teach that life is messy and full of tension, the Book of Mormon is it…from family struggles to societal-level war and real horror that exists out there — contrasted against the power of faith and obedience and covenants.

  41. Steve G. says:

    Just got done read 2 Nephi Chapter 28 with my girls and helped them sound out whore and whoredoms. Luckily they didn’t ask what the words meant. Classy stuff.

  42. I appreciate the many comments. As I’ve been thinking about this subject for the last month or so, and after reading through the comments, I’ve been reminded that the important thing is that we teach our children the scriptures, the language of the scriptures, and how they can benefit their lives. How we teach them will vary based on temperament, age, parents, etc. Thanks for the comments and insights. Like many people, we’ve been talking a lot about the last week of Christ’s life–I’ve been struck by the power in those scriptures, even for a three year old.

  43. I read the Book of Mormon, straight-up, no watered-down version for me, at the age of 7. And I don’t think I have any lasting psychological problems or violent tendencies. :)

    Then again, this was a child who was tackling Shakespeare by 11, Dostoevsky by 15, and Cyrano de Bergerac (in the original!) by 17. Obnoxious br- I mean, precocious genius, of course.

    Honestly, I feel there is so much other literature out there for my future children to read, that any sort of scriptural canon will be low on the priority list. I’m sure I will be some hipster parent who insists on my children soaking up the greatness of The White Stripes and film noir and random Polish books recommended by Goodreads. This does not exactly sound like a home where we’ll all gather round for BIBLE STUDY, of all things. :P I think I would approach the BoM in the overall ethical education of my children, and yeah, I feel like I learned more from my elementary school’s “meditations” (touched things like the golden rule, and the priceless being things that have no monetary value, etc., in snazzy little aphorisms) and the Tennyson poems we had to memorize.

    Basically, yeah, I think Nephi is sort of a self-righteous douchebag, do NOT want any future young son of mine running about thinking cutting off arms is macho, and will be glad to inform my children that the ancestors of the Native Americans are primarily Asian, genetically. How does the BoM even fit in, then? Well, it has some valuable lessons in terms of faith, prayer, Jesus . . . I’d be fine “picking and choosing.” But yeah, knowing how it goes, I’ll get a kid that will become some super-Mo and go through my CD collection and tell me it’s all sending me to hell. ;) I REALLY look forward to the tears about us not being a “forever family” . . . because I was that kid! Hmm; we’ll see if my feelings on the temple (currently pretty strongly against) change with kids. I’m sure being 22 and on the cusp of marriage, I am an idiot (precocious genius, remember!), and at 32 and 42, I will see things differently (probably more active in parenting itself in 32, and worrying more about hauling children around, and a bit more lenient and less black-and-white at 42, and less tired. I’m always tired!!!).

    Which leads me to a conclusion sort of tangential to the original post, but important nonetheless: I think all of us, whether active-but-doubting or out-and-out-apostate, could be well served by remembering that in the grand scheme of things, we probably are more idiots/sinners/clay to be moulded than the GENIUSES we think we are. :) I’m sure there’s a conference talk/scripture/buddhist saying somewhere to back me up.

  44. (Wow, it just hit me, writing that, that I framed my very pedestrian, hormone-fueled teenage cru-bsession on the freakin’ Notes from the Underground, a dark, political, quite-frankly-disturbing work that I probably wouldn’t 100% understand NOW, at the age when most girls are comparing their undying love to, oh, dreck like New Moon. This simultaneously makes me love myself and fear very seriously for my sanity and social adjustment.)

  45. (three strikes you’re out? Please note that my referent for ‘at the age’ was my 15-year-old self, not my 22-year-old self, though one has to wonder, quite frankly, sometimes, about the teenageization of generation Y . . . )

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