Curriculum developers teach skills to help families understand scriptures

Credit: Sarah Harris
Credit: Sarah Harris


Paul B. Murphy and Mark E. Eastmond, who have helped write the curriculum for seminary and institute in recent years, shared insights at BYU Education Week on Aug. 23 about how parents can help their families understand the scriptures.

“The goal here is [not to] deliver an effective scripture study,” Murphy said. “The goal here is to teach them a pattern for scripture study that they can use in their own life when you’re not around, so that when they’re on their missions or they’re with their friends, they can be able to be self-reliant spiritually in their study of the gospel.”

Murphy taught that the pattern we should follow as we study the scriptures is to understand the account, identify a principle and apply it to our lives. He said identifying these principles bridges the gap between what is currently happening in our families and the ancient language, culture, lifestyle, geography and customs in the scriptures.

“We believe and the prophets have testified that as we find the principles that are found in the scriptures, that the youth can then use those and we can use those to apply to our lives in a variety of circumstances,” Murphy said.

He said just reading through a few verses as a family will yield some of the promised blessings from scripture study that prophets describe.

“However, if we really want to truly understand the scriptures — ‘unfold’ them, allow our children to be able to see what is in there for them — it’s going to take more work than that,” Murphy said. “It’s going to take more discussion — more opportunity to be able to share with one another what they’re learning.”

Eastmond gave a class member a folded up picture printed on a piece of paper to illustrate the concept of “unfolding” the scriptures. Just as a new part of the picture was revealed each time the class member unfolded a section of the paper, individuals will uncover additional principles of the gospel in the scriptures each time we study them, he said.

“There’s more each time we unfold it,” Eastmond said.

Some tools Murphy and Eastmond suggested for parents to help “unfold” the scriptures to their children were: visualizing what is taking place in a passage; explaining the background; identifying cause and effect in a story; likening the scriptures; recalling previous studies; asking questions; and using the Bible Dictionary, maps, photographs, definitions and footnotes.

“All of these things allow your children to become invested into the scriptures, … and it becomes a very powerful experience for us,” Murphy said.

Eastmond added that “experiencing” the scriptures can also be an effective tool in helping our families to understand them. To show an example of this, he asked one class member to stand at the front of the room holding up a closed projector screen, acting as Moses holding up the rod in Exodus 17 that allowed Israel to prevail over Amalek.

When the class member’s arms got tired, two others joined him, holding up his arms, like Aaron and Hur in the scriptural account. From this activity, Eastmond taught the principle that sustaining the prophet will help us and our loved ones prevail over the attacks of the adversary.

“That’s a great promise if I’m a parent, a grandparent: If I’ll sustain the prophet, there are blessings that come to my loved ones,” Eastmond said.

In order to use these tools for understanding the scriptures effectively, parents must take time to study and prepare prior to teaching their families, Murphy said.

“It’s going to be difficult for you to unfold the scriptures for your children if you haven’t unfolded them for yourself maybe a few minutes or a few days before you sit down with your children,” Murphy said.

Eastmond testified that consistently studying the scriptures will yield new things to “unfold.”

“There are great treasures of spiritual strength that are available to us in about any chapter that we could open and study,” he said. “May the Lord bless us in our personal study, as well as in our study with our families, to find those diamonds hidden there.”

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