Huddled together on the bottom bunk bed, covered with sheets to block out all the light, Ether and Enoch Daire giggled with glee when their dad, Brent Daire, suddenly flooded their dark makeshift fort with light by turning on a handheld lamp.
"We asked them where the darkness had gone," Brent Daire recounted. "They said, 'It's gone!'"
After turning the light on and off a few times, Brent Daire and his wife, Maika Daire, explained to their young sons that darkness cannot exist in the light.
"We gave them a turn on the torch (flashlight) each. We then spoke about the scripture we had read previously in John, about Jesus Christ being the 'light,' and 'darkness' being some of the bad or sad things,'" Brent Daire explained. And when he asked his sons who is a light that can help them when they feel sad or bad, Enoch, age 2, proudly exclaimed, "Jesus!"
Ether, age 4, excitedly added, "Heavenly Father will send Jesus to help me!"
It was an exciting lesson, Brent Daire said, and after a few more laughs and a closing prayer, the little Tasmanian family, members of the Devonport Australia Stake, spilled out of their makeshift fort to continue on with their evening activities.
The lesson, which lasted only a few minutes to help keep the attention of the two young boys, is just one example of the creative ways the Daire family — and thousands of other Latter-day Saint families — has begun implementing the new "Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families" curriculum in their home each week.
Making the Sabbath more holy
Before the start of the new year, which marked both the implementation of the new Sunday Church meeting schedule and the implementation of the new home-centered curriculum, Sundays were an exhausting day for the Daire family.
Driving to and from Church took 45 minutes each way, and with their callings and responsibilities at Church and the three-hour meeting schedule, they were typically away from home at least six hours each Sunday.
"We had very little time for each other and if we did we were just as likely to collapse into bed for one of those long Sunday naps," Brent Daire said.
And even though they've only had a few weeks to implement the new schedule and new curriculum, things are already different, Brent Daire explained.
"We have more time in the morning together now to prepare and get ready. When we get to church, our load feels as if it’s been halved. When we get home … we have a family time."
For Judy Gilbertson, a member of the Adelaide Australia Marion Stake, her two youngest daughters who are still living at home, and her husband, Glen Gilbertson, Sundays have become special each week as they have increased their focus on keeping the Sabbath day holy.
Her daughters, ages 14 and 7, ask a lot of questions during their weekly 'Come, Follow Me' family study time.
"We have become more prepared and more focused on learning together. We now prepare for the Sabbath on a Saturday night by getting everything prepared for Sunday like our clothing, shoes, 'Come, Follow Me' journal, pens, pencils, etc., our scriptures and so forth … so in the morning we just need to have our breakfast and then start on our Sunday spiritual journey."
In some wards, attendance and participation at Sunday meetings have also noticeably increased since the start of the new year.
As the Sunday School president in the Orem Utah Vineyard Stake, Mattson Newell has spoken with many families about the new curriculum in addition to family he has in Sweden and in England. "We all agree that we have never seen so many people come prepared having read the material before. It is amazing!" said Newell, who also has three Primary-age children. "You see so many more people participating and discussing. In the Primary classes … children are sharing more comments and many are starting with, 'My family talked about this,' or 'My family did that.' It's wonderful!"
It fundamentally shifts the gospel experience back onto us and gives us the tools and the time to do what the Lord would have us do.
Newell said he has also noticed that his children are retaining more of what they learn. "They are hearing it at home, from their parents and each other, and then they are hearing it from their teachers and peers at Church. Their retention is increasing with what they are learning because of this repetition and focus and they are becoming better versed in the gospel and more importantly it is strengthening their testimony."
A fundamental shift
When the new curriculum was announced and detailed by President Russell M. Nelson in his closing address during the October 2018 general conference, he said, “The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith.”
Putting that home-centered curriculum into practice since the beginning of the new year has been empowering for their family, Brent Daire explained.
"It fundamentally shifts the gospel experience back onto us and gives us the tools and the time to do what the Lord would have us do," he said. "It even facilitates time and gives a reason for us as a couple to sit down and seek revelation together. … Every time we do that, our revelatory capacity and experiences increase, our testimonies become stronger, our marriage becomes stronger. … Home truly becomes heaven on earth."
Rather than struggling to get their boys to sit down for a few minutes while they attempt to read a few scripture passages, family study time has become something to look forward to for their family.
"The boys now run to the couch when we say it’s scripture time," Brent Daire said. "They are excited to give answers to questions. They are excited to say the prayer or pick someone to say the prayer, and they are excited to watch a video, or play a game."
For Jessica Beevers of the Nottingham England Stake and her family, the switch to the new curriculum was a big change from the way they previously studied the scriptures.
"I had been so focussed on getting through a lot of pages every day, but the 'Come, Follow Me' program only covers one or two chapters a week. It's been a real change to slow down and focus on what things I can get out of individual chapters and verses rather than getting larger stories in one sitting."
And her personal study, in turn, helps contribute to their family study.
Beevers, along with her husband, Joel Beevers, and their three children — Katie, 4; Timothy, 3; and Nathaniel, 1 — all participate in gospel study and family time centered around the new curriculum.
"One thing that will always be true of very young children is that deep doctrinal discussions are very rarely practical," Beevers said. "I admit I wondered how we would put 'Come, Follow Me' into practice for our children at the ages they are, because the focus has seemed to be on getting doctrinal discussions, and I just didn't know how we would manage that. However, I've found that most of the chapters outlined have had a story that worked well to talk about with young children."
She explained how having the children act out the various scriptures has prompted them to point out elements of the stories that they as parents haven't really noticed or thought about. The children also recall the stories really well, she said, and they enjoy telling the stories back to their parents throughout the week.
The curriculum puts the focus onto the scriptures and the doctrine and gives each person a chance to engage with them on a personal level and, as Gilbertson explained, it has "impressed upon my mind how we still have a lot to learn and how sometimes our teachers can be our children."