Alish and Doran Anderson had been looking forward to the time when they, with their four children, could attend general conference in the Conference Center.
“That was our goal — to come when we could all come together,” said Alish Anderson.
After their youngest child turned 8, they decided to make the drive from Reno, Nevada, to Salt Lake City so they could attend the October 2018 general conference.
Being together in the Conference Center was memorable, but to be in the Conference Center when so many changes were announced was more than memorable, it was historic.
A highlight was hearing President Russell M. Nelson as he discussed the need for a “home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward and stake buildings.”
Doran Anderson said: “We’ve been feeling like we needed a little more for our family and this is an answer to prayers, especially the focus on more quality time as a family discussing gospel topics.”
His wife, Alish Anderson, added, “I’m excited to put my best effort into my family teaching in the home.
“Focusing on our scripture study and family home evening — I’m excited to see the new 'Come Follow Me' for the family and how that’s going to change our week and focus to teaching our kids the gospel.”
What's new about the curriculum
Since the Oct. 6 announcement, Church members around the globe have been anticipating the arrival of the new "Come, Follow Me-For Individuals and Families" curriculum. While the actual distribution of the manual is up to local leadership, all active households will have a copy by the end of the year. Church members who would like to view content before they are given a manual can view the content online at comefollowme.lds.org.
“This resource is for every individual and family in the Church,” according to the "Come, Follow Me" resources. “It is designed to help you learn the gospel — whether on your own or with your family. If you haven’t studied the gospel regularly in the past, this resource can help you get started. If you already have a good habit of gospel study, this resource can help you have more meaningful experiences.”
A quick glance through the manual shows lessons broken up into a weekly study, each one including seven elements:
- A weekly reading schedule to coordinate study with the entire Church, including what will be taught during Sunday meetings.
- Designated scripture passages.
- Space to record impressions gained during study.
- Ideas for personal scripture study.
- Ideas for family scripture study and family home evening.
- Images correlating to the material being studied, including art that is less well-known.
- A prompt or invitation to act at the end of the lesson to help improve teaching and personal study.
Because the outlines in the resource are organized according to a weekly reading schedule, Sunday lessons in Primary and Sunday School classes will follow the same schedule. A study guide is available for every week of the year, with the exception of general conference weekends.
The manuals for Primary and Sunday School supplement what is being studied and taught at home during the week, providing opportunities for individuals to share experiences, ask questions and participate in a discussion about what they have been studying at home.
Because classes in the Sunday meeting schedule will be on a rotating basis, the schedule is meant to be a guide allowing Church classes to skip or combine the lessons when necessary due to a stake conference or other meetings.
The perks of the pilot program
When David A. Lemperle’s stake was asked to be part of the pilot program for the new curriculum, many of the stake members were uncertain of how they were going to do it.
“Once we got into the rhythm of doing it, it was not a difficult thing,” said President Lemperle, who serves as president of the Centerville Utah Stake. “Integration only took a week or two, and then everybody moved forward as if we had been doing it all along. When it ended, nobody wanted it to end. Nobody wanted to go back to the old way.”
President Lemperle said the material the Church provided — videos, commentaries, insights and prompts — made it so “you will never run out of stuff to do.”
“I felt like within our home, conversations were really great,” said President Lemperle, who had two teenage children at home when they were doing the pilot program. “I found myself trying to do my own study, and then we would read as a family. My family members had their own insights, and then when I would go to Sunday School the depth of the conversations with people were very enriching. We had different insights and perspectives.”
Single members who had studied on their own at home were able to bring their insights and experience to a greater conversation in class on Sundays, President Lemperle said. For those who come from a home where it wasn’t being done — a less-active member or part-member family — President Lemperle said class still became an enriching place of learning.
“When you come to Church on Sunday, you are able to share with each other,” President Lemperle said. “The most important thing of all of this — when people are gathered together to talk about the Savior, the Spirit teaches what we need to know and you leave feeling better than when you come.”
At the time his ward was first involved in the pilot program, President Lemperle was serving as the Primary music leader.
“When (leaders) would ask the children questions in Primary, they had learned so much at home and you could tell they were enjoying it,” he said. “It really improved conversations in music and sharing time and was a real positive thing for Primary.”
For Brian Noble’s family, the pilot program became an important part of their family scripture study in the morning before family members left for school and work.
“It became not just a time to read a bunch of verses or chapters, but (also) a time to discuss what we were reading as we went along with the manual,” he said. “I felt like it made scripture study a lot more meaningful. We were talking about things more than we would otherwise and it became a more spiritual experience.”
Noble, who is a father of five and serves as bishop of the Briarwood Ward in the Centerville Utah Stake, said the new curriculum helped members in his ward participate more in discussions than they would have otherwise.
“We saw in all the organizations people came prepared to discuss the neat things they have learned,” he said. “It changes the dynamics of the class.”
For those who are already having scripture study and home evening, these changes will come fairly easy, said Bishop Noble. For those who aren’t in the habit of studying at home, the new curriculum is an opportunity to start.
A greater responsibility
While many Church members are excited for the change and welcome more direction with learning in the home, they also realize the greater responsibility that comes with the new program.
“I feel like we are going to have to make some sacrifices to make this happen,” said Alish Anderson. “We’ve already cut back a lot on extracurricular stuff, and we’ll just have to make it a priority.”
For some, figuring out a time that works with a busy family schedule may be tricky; for others it may be difficult to study on their own.
“I always encourage people, even if all you can do is spend five minutes a day, then spend five minutes a day,” President Lemperle said. “Do what you can, even a little bit. Consistency is the most important thing. For us, it is exponentially easier to (study) at the same time every day. For our family, it happened to be in the morning, another family that time might be at night. It is more about creating the habit of consistent daily study.”
According to materials enclosed with the First Presidency letter dated Oct. 6, 2018:
“Gospel study at home deepens conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthens our families. A study of the scriptures, supported by the new resource 'Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families,' is the suggested course of gospel study at home. This rich resource provides a variety of study options for individual and family adaptation and aligns Sunday School and Primary curriculum with home study.
“Individuals and families, however, seek inspiration as they choose to study what will best meet their needs. They prayerfully consider options such as the Book of Mormon and other standard works, general conference messages, Church magazines, information available on LDS.org, and other materials suggested by general or local leaders. There is no expectation that members will study all, or even most, of these resources at any one time.”
During an LDS Business College devotional on Nov. 6, President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of the changes to Church curriculum and reminded listeners of President Nelson’s prophetic promise:
“Last month during general conference, many Latter-day Saints welcomed the announcement that the Church will soon implement a two-hour Sunday meeting schedule. Those listening by the Spirit, especially parents, heard in that announcement the Lord’s call to greater responsibility. You remember President Nelson’s promised blessings to those families who embrace the opportunity for increased Sunday stewardship:
In President Eyring's devotional, he shared a spiritual experience that gave him confidence when he was about to give up. Find out more here.
“‘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. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.’”
To those who are worried or concerned about the responsibility that comes with the new curriculum, Bishop Noble said to “exercise some faith and you will find remarkable blessings in your life and as a family and ward. You will be so glad leaders have been inspired and come out with this program.”