Finally, Family Scripture Study that Works for Us

Quad, Greek NT Reader's Edition, Hebrew Bible Reader's Edition, Jewish Annotated New Testament, Jewish Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, Book of Mormon

Quad, Greek NT Reader's Edition, Hebrew Bible Reader's Edition, Jewish Annotated New Testament, Jewish Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, Book of Mormon

My family is not very large (C and, uh, me. Not even a cat), so schedules aren’t hard to coordinate. We’re both active in the Church, and bibliophiles who regularly read and study our own scriptures,  and yet we’ve never been able to have productive scripture study together. I am largely to blame for that, since our questions and interests tend to not overlap very much and mine are too arcane and rabbit-hole-ish to be productive for her. In spite of trying several times, it’s never lasted long.

I have memories of my teens, bleary-eyed hot breakfast at 5:15, slogging through Alma, taking turns reading in between bites of Hutterite pancake with cream and bananas. We read every day, but I never felt conscious enough to really pay attention, especially since I was competing with three brothers for pancakes. (My older sister wasn’t very competitive in the pancake horking department.) Somehow between hearing it at breakfast and sleeping through four years of Seminary (6:00-6:45), I learned enough through osmosis that my MTC group designated me the “scriptorian” of the group, thoroughly dismaying me as to how little one needed to know to be thus branded. Regardless, I was convinced at that point that group scripture study had value. If I with so little grey matter devoted to paying attention, could learn simply by being there, what could you accomplish if you actively engaged with the text and co-reader?

This week, with the arrival of my Jewish Annotated New Testament edition of the NRSV, C and I have begun anew.  Hope springs eternal, right? Someone reads out of the KJV while the other follows along in the NRSV; after a few verses, we switch, and talk about what stands out from the differences, whether textual (phrases missing or added) or translational, and any questions that arise. If we had kids, I think we might try giving everyone a different translation. The advantage to following along in a different translation is that when you’re not reading out loud, you’re still engaged and paying attention to the text, mentally comparing it to what you hear. So far, we both like it and we’ve had some good conversation.

If you’re not ready to take the plunge away from the KJV, the NKJV (New King James Version) is an acceptable gateway Bible. It updates some of the KJV language, but not the textual basis. (Link to comparison, can’t speak for the rest of the site).

What tips and tricks do you have for group or family scripture study? What works for you, in your family situation? Teens, mixed ages, empty nest retirees, young childless, other?

24 comments for “Finally, Family Scripture Study that Works for Us

  1. November 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I find it so difficult to coordinate my schedule with that of my cat that we never quite have family scripture study chez nous.

    Reading along with different translations sounds really interesting. I don’t think I could get away with it in Sunday School, even if I provided the other translations, but maybe it could be done in seminary, certainly in institute.

  2. MC
    November 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    “I learned enough through osmosis that my MTC group designated me the ‘scriptorian’ of the group, thoroughly dismaying me as to how little one needed to know to be thus branded.”

    Oh man, ain’t that the truth. The worst is when you get a greenie who thinks he’s Hugh Nibley because no one else in his MTC district had read the New Testament all the way through.

  3. Kevin Barney
    November 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I remember as a boy when my family was visiting the cousins in Syracuse, Utah, I happened to answer a question in youth sunday school class that the guy on the wall was Samuel the Lamanite. The rest of the class looked at me in reverential awe, mouths agape, that I would actually know such a thing. Which is to say that the bar for the title of “criptorian” in this Church is barely off the ground.

    Anyway, this is a great idea.

  4. Kevin Barney
    November 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Uh, “scriptorian.” Boy, was that a freudian slip!

  5. November 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    And the BoM? Does C take the blue book and you take the Readers Edition?

  6. Jax
    November 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    I have had many chuckles so far reading the post and previous comments. I too was the “scriptorian” of my MTC group for about the same reasons mentioned… I could recall names (samuel the lamanite) and stories but very rarely could give you chapter and verse to where to find them… alas, I still find that even among adults, there are very few that have read the through the Bible or recently through the BoM. It brings to mind Bruce R. McConkie’s answer to how he knew so much about the scriptures… “because I read them!”

    As for advice, my wife recalls Russell M. Nelson’s talk on family scripture study when he said something like “it wasn’t always a howling success, often more howling than success. But we didn’t quit.” That is about how we do it as well. So we get the kids up early before school and read them together.

    I’m continuely dismayed by how many members don’t know the articles of faith, so before bedtime we get together again and recite a few of them, concentrating on one for each child that they need to master. When the missionaries come over my 3 yr old now has to coach them because niether of them no more than number 1. My oldest (9) knows them all even though we’ve only been doing this for about 1-2 months. I’ve found that this routine of morning scriptures and evening AoF brings us together regularly for family prayer and councils…

  7. November 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    After making it through the Book of Mormon a couple of times, my kids wanted to read the Bible next. I thought about using a better translation but after a few chapters into it I started thinking that obscuring the meaning was a good idea (there was a whole lot I didn’t really want my kids to understand).

  8. Ben S
    November 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Ardis- Yeah, it’s like herding cats.

    Kevin- I believe that’s “cryptorian,” for knowing all the hidden scriptures.

    Christian- Uh, haven’t gotten that far. I have my own edition of the Book of Mormon, but it’s not even all of 1 Nephi. And we don’t own a Reader’s Edition. Yet.

    Jax- We fumble in Elders Quorum whenever an AoF comes up.

    I’m not sure of the utility of being able to recite something word-for-word. I’m a fan of memorizing, but I think limited memory resources are better utilized in learning what something says, in context, and knowing exactly where it is. Particularly when teaching, having a list of topical scripture references, chapter and verse, is more useful than being able to recite something.

  9. Ben S
    November 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Steve- You’re fairly safe with the New Testament. Mostly.

  10. November 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    With the kids, we either focus on parts of the scripture that have a strong narrative or poetry. So when we do our regular reading, we tend to zip through the boring parts of the Book of Mormon, although the kids are not allowed to skip them entirely. On the Old Testament, however, we skipped around quite a bit after Genesis. Sometimes a kid will pick a topic and we work on how to look up scriptures and use the cross references. The last one of those my 11 year old picked out was “leviathan.”

  11. lyle
    November 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    try acting it out; or ‘reading for it’ like your trying out for a part in a play. keeps things interactive like your use of diff versions.

  12. ricke
    November 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    “the NKJV is an acceptable gateway Bible”
    Ben, do you think one could read the NKJV for the improved clarity and still keep the connection with Joseph Smith’s revelations and discourses?

  13. Matt S.
    November 18, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Gateway Bible. What’s next, the NIV? The NEW WORLD TRANSLATION??? At what point is an intervention necesary?

  14. Rosalynde
    November 18, 2011 at 12:41 am

    We’ve been reading Murray Watts’s Bible for Children:

    I like the writing, and the illustrations are beautiful. The chapters are about the right length for our scripture sessions. As a bonus, I’m encountering a bunch of OT stories I’d never read before, because they aren’t emphasized in Gospel Doctrine.

  15. November 18, 2011 at 3:41 am

    I like any post that uses the phrase “pancake horking.”

    I have an old cassette of Nibley teaching a gospel doctrine lesson — translating on the fly from Greek. My aspirations to be a scriptorian died that day.

    P.S. We did really well at family scriptures until my oldest turned 14 — and started to attend seminary. Then we came unglued and didn’t really recover until I realized that we could have legitimate “family” scripture study, even if not every single person in the family was there.

    Once I stopped feeling compelled to wait until Sam and I AND all six kids were in place, did our consistency begin to resemble what it had when all the kids were young and less likely to have a billion places to go.

  16. Ben S
    November 18, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Ricke- I looked up a few passages in both.

    Acts 3:21 “restitution of all things”>”restoration of all things”

    Eph 1:10 “dispensation of fulness of times”> “dispensation of the fullness of the times”

    Jude 1:6 “angels which kept not their first estate”> “angels who did not keep their proper domain”

    Matt 8:12 “shall be cast into outer darkness”> “will be cast into outer darkness”

    So, out of all translations, the NKJV is the closest to the KJV, and preserves some of the traditional LDS phrasing, which is a mixed blessing. (See Grant Hardy’s full paper here for examples.)

    Generally speaking, the NKJV modernizes pronouns (ye>you), syntax and verbal forms (“why eateth your master”>”why does your Teacher eat”, the past tense “is come”>”has come”) and some vocabulary (“oft”>”often”, “publican”>”tax collector”).

    Due to the instructions given the translators, the language of the KJV was already archaic when it was published. Readers would have pronounced “eateth” as “eats” for example.

  17. Jax
    November 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Ben S. ,

    I should clarify. We do want them to memorize them word for word, but give lavish praise when even if they miss a word or two but get the message correct. For #8 for instance, the 5yr old said “We believe the Bible is true and also the Book of Mormon”. That is a correct answer for us, but we might recite it as a family afterward as well. We love to see them take the concept and use their own vocabulary to tell us what it means – we don’t want robots who parrot us, we want them to tell us how they understand things.

    I have been thinking about getting other translations for our Bible reading… I’m just not sure which one I’d prefer (but if I don’t even try any of them then I’ll never know )… Guess I’ll take the plunge with a NKJV.

    Alison… while many of us think the bar for the title “scriptorian” is way to low, trying to make Hugh Nibley the bar would make it nigh unreachable. I’d have more luck clearing an olympic polevault competition than mastering scriptures like he did. Perhaps that standard is a bit too high?

  18. Dave K.
    November 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks Ben. Now I know what to get my wife for Christmas.

    Seriously, though, I wonder if a similar method would be beneficial for reading with the kids. My wife and I read the BOM, while the kids take turns reading from the children’s BOM picture book. Then we compare how well the modern abridgers did in boiling down the full text. That will lead into discussions as to how much trust to put into Mormon’s abridgement. My six year old will be thrilled.

  19. Matt Evans
    November 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Is this a new Rosalynde who writes in #14 that reading a children’s bible has introduced her to a bunch of OT stories for the first time? Our Rosalynde would never (ever!) say such a thing.

  20. jks
    November 19, 2011 at 12:33 am

    I read with the kids before the first one goes to school. It has worked for a few years. Far longer than any evening attempt over the years while my husband is around.
    However, next year early morning seminary starts. There is no way I’m waking up the other kids (12, 7, 3) at 5:40 for scriptures & prayer. In fact, I’m hoping my husband takes her most days and I can sleep until 7 am.

  21. jks
    November 19, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Wait, I forgot that I have insomnia now. I’m hoping my husband will take her so I can lie in bed wishing I could go back to sleep but definitely not wanting to get out of bed.

  22. November 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

    For our family scripture study (with two children, ages four and six) we sing a primary song, read our family memory verses aloud (we’re working on the 23rd Psalm and 2 Nephi 21: 6-9) read 5-6 verses in the BoM, and talk a little about what we’ve read.

    We read Bible stories too, as bedtime stories. We read them straight out of the KJV, but use Penny Gardner’s list of verses (, which “packages” each story separately, and omits some of the more salacious material.

  23. November 21, 2011 at 10:16 am

    My wife and I study the Book of Mormon in much this same way. She reads it in English, and I translate it from the original plates (on loan from Moroni. He owed me a favor).

    Seriously, they also called me a scriptorian. When on my mission, one of the elders tried to stump me by asking who were the two kings when Israel divided into North and South kingdoms, I surprised him when I answered, “Rehoboam and Jeroboam”. Of course, I didn’t mention that I’d only read that part a couple days before, and so it was still fresh in my mind.

    I do scripture study with my wife. We’ll read a few verses and then discuss their impact. Right now, we’re not flowing through any particular book, but just opening up the scriptures, reading a section at random, and then discussing it.

    I do like Ben’s method. We may try that with 2 versions of the Bible.

  24. charlene
    November 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I once suggested a similar plan when studying with a friend. I had picked up a 1949 version of BoM published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. The friend was so scandalized that I wanted to read that version that we never did it.

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