“It’s study time!” A phrase that will soon be heard throughout the world every week, thanks to the Individual and Family scripture study initiative recently introduced by the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to strengthen our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as we come to know him better through a study of the New Testament.

As we each work to implement this new directive, we will spend more time talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ so that our children may know where to look for hope, peace, and a remission of sins (1).

Years ago I worked in Cub Scouts, an organization run by a diverse band of volunteers with a variety of backgrounds and experience. While attending one particular meeting, we broke into smaller groups of six or seven. The instructor pointed to a gentleman in our group, requesting he be our spokesman. His response surprised and intrigued me. “Well, of course”, he replied with a smile, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me, because all things are possible with Him.”

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I was surprised by his open declaration of faith without regard or concern for others’ beliefs or judgment. He spoke humbly and simultaneously with confidence. Here was a man of faith, who knew Jesus personally and trusted Him, and was not afraid to let people know it. I was also impressed with his quickness to acknowledge his dependence on God.

I was intrigued, because I wondered why he felt he needed Christ to strengthen him in this particular assignment. It was just a simple Cub Scout discussion after all, not really something of eternal significance. Did he really need Christ’s help?

Over the years, as I have pondered his eager response, I have wondered, ‘Why wouldn’t I want Christ’s help with the seemingly insignificant things?’ Often, it takes great faith to carry out the monotonous, tedious, and yet, necessary tasks of daily living. You know what I’m talking about. The never-ending piles of laundry and dishes, the continuous need to make nutritious, healthy meals day after day after day, the project list that continues to grow as you add two or three for every one that gets crossed off, the seemingly endless amount of paraphernalia that magically appears on just-cleaned counters and empty floor space and the perpetual numerous deadlines. There are days when I know I make it through with a positive attitude only because Christ has strengthened me. I know that God can strengthen us to be content with any circumstances, because all things are possible with Him. Not necessarily easy, but possible. But do my children know?

I have a few children. Well, ten to be exact. And one of the challenges that I have found, is that I forget that I need to ‘re-teach’ concepts. Let me explain. When my oldest children were young, we were great at doing imaginative and creative lessons to teach various basic gospel principles. Then I had a few more children, and we did different lessons to learn different principles. And then more children came, more lessons for different principles. What I sometimes forget is that I need to teach some of the basic principles again, because my younger children weren’t at those lessons. I can’t assume that they have an understanding of the basic doctrines and principles. So I am excited about this new opportunity to share basic ideas and doctrines that will strengthen my children. And I expect to learn from them as well.

This year we have the chance to get to know Jesus Christ, how he lived, and learn about his interactions with the people around him. We can ponder and discuss his character and attributes and come up with ideas on how to incorporate them into our lives. We can learn from those who personally and physically interacted with him and decide how we might emulate their Christ-like qualities. As we help our children come to know Him, we can all gain a stronger trust that He can and will strengthen us to deal with any circumstance.

Of course, with this opportunity there will be challenges. It’s a fact of life. Our challenges, activities, and difficulties are not going to take a break so that we can study the scriptures together as families. In fact, we can actually expect, and therefore anticipate, that Satan will be working overtime to make this difficult for us. He loves to see us struggle and get frustrated. He is especially joyful when we give up. So we need a plan to succeed.

We have four teenagers at home right now. Three are active in sports and extracurricular activities. One has special needs. My husband’s job and calling take him out of the home–a lot. I, myself, am finishing up a degree and teaching seminary. What works for us, may not work for you, and visa versa. The beauty of this program is that you work it out based on your personal and family’s needs.

What works for the neighbors across the street, may be ridiculous for you. And that is totally okay. The important thing is to do something. Make a plan and try it out, if it works, great! If not, make adjustments and try again. Nothing is impossible with God. Our prophet and leaders have asked us to do this. Jesus Christ told us that whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same [2]. And if Jesus has asked us to do this, then we can do it.

Our family has decided that we will start our discussions and readings on Sunday, after our meeting block. Then we will revisit invitations, ideas and goals throughout the week during our nightly family reading of the Book of Mormon. Since there will be some evenings where not everyone will be at home at the same time, we may opt to do some activities with only a part of our family. We can then share what we have learned with the others on another night. We, also, plan having a notebook to record our ideas, goals and lessons learned, so that we can review our progress. That is our plan.

This week’s lesson, Matthew 1 and Luke 1 can teach us much about how we can gain confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ. Included here are some ideas that can help as your get started on a plan of study.

Read & Search:
As you read through these chapters, make a list of the people and note what transpired and their reactions. Then, consider their attributes or characteristics. Decide if you will do this individually or as a group.

Mary:
Matt 1:18; Luke 1: 26 – 39, 46 -56

Joseph:
Matt 1: 19-25

Zacharias
Luke 1: 5 – 23, 62 – 79

Elizabeth
Luke 1: 5-7, 24-25, 39-45, 57-63

John
Luke 1: 39-44, 76-79, 80

Discuss:
Discuss what you found.
What Christ-like characteristics do you see in the examples of these people? How is each person like Christ? Do you see any types or shadows of Christ in the lives of these people? How could these qualities help you with your faith in Jesus Christ?
Spend some time on analyzing each person. You can divide them up and have each person focus on one of the people in the chapters, or you can work as a group to discuss each. You could choose to spend some time each day, this coming week, to focus on one person at a time.

Apply:
It is really in applying what we learn that real change happens in our hearts and lives.
Choose one attribute to work on this week. You can choose to individually select attributes or determine a characteristic to work on together as a family or group (or both). Make some concrete goals as to how you will implement this attribute in your lives.
For example: If you decide that you would like to work on the attribute of acknowledging God, you might consider the following:

  • When you pray, add compliments and adorations about God, and praise Him in various ways, acknowledging His wonderfulness.
  • Take time to discuss how God has blessed you each day and acknowledge that you recognize His influence in your life.
  • Write an entry in your family history together about how you have seen God’s hand in your life this week.
  • Dedicate a journal entry to this concept.
  • If you are artistic, dedicate a piece to God that represents Him and what He means to you.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings about God with someone this week.

Lesson Enhancements:
Here are some ideas of activities you can do throughout the week.

–Pick a favorite verse to share and find a conference talk that goes with it. Using the Citation App makes this easy. You could also draw a picture (or more) to go with it.

–In Luke 1: 46-56 Mary sings a song that is sometimes referred to as ‘the Magnificat’ and is similar to Hannah’s praises in 1 Sam 2: 1-10. Zacharias’ prayer of prophecy resembles comparable feelings in Luke 1: 68-79.
Write your own Magnificat/psalm/poem—add it as a glue-in. (To make a glue-in, print your poem in a size that fits your scriptures and then cut it out, leaving some extra paper on the left edge. Use a glue stick to coat the edge of the left side of the paper and push it between the pages as close to the binding as possible. Shut the book and let it dry. )

–In order to understand how Zacharias might have felt when his ability to speak was taken, make some goodies to deliver to a friend. When you arrive, you must personally deliver your treat without speaking. You may want to bring some paper so you can still communicate. Afterwards discuss how it felt to have something wonderful to share and not be able to say anything verbally. What lessons do you think Zacharias learned from this experience? Remember his experience lasted for at least nine months.

–If you could choose to be one of the people involved in your studies this week, who would you be and why?

–What would you like help with in your life?

–Compare Matthew 1 with the Joseph Smith –Matthew

–Make a ‘Dump Cake’. (You can find recipes online.) Basically, you dump all the ingredients into a pan and then bake it. After making this treat, compare and contrast how this recipe is like Christ-like attributes in our lives.

Videos:

Angel foretells Christ’s Birth to Mary:
https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/jan-7-13-matthew-1-luke-1?lang=eng

Mary and Elisabeth Rejoice together
https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-10-003-mary-and-elisabeth-rejoice-together?category=jan-7-13-matthew-1-luke-1&lang=eng

Zacharias and Elisabeth
https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-11-02-chapter-1-elisabeth-and-zacharias?category=jan-7-13-matthew-1-luke-1&lang=eng

John the Baptist is born
https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-11-04-chapter-3-john-the-baptist-is-born?category=jan-7-13-matthew-1-luke-1&lang=eng

Available from other sources:

From ‘The Bible Project’:
On Matthew—Part 1: an overview of the book of Matthew
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dv4-n6OYGI

On Luke—Part 1: an overview of the Book of Luke
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIb_dCIxzr0

Other Possible Lesson directions:

  • Pick a something within these chapters to study more in depth. It could be a principle, doctrine, characteristic, or person. Try to find a way to emulate what you are learning and practice it daily.
  • Find three principles of the gospel taught in these chapters. Pick one and write about it in your journal. What is it? Why is it important to you? Share an example of it from your own life or the life of someone you know. Share your testimony about that principle. Make a goal that will help you strengthen this principle in your life.
  • In Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus Christ is listed. It connects Jesus to the Old Testament, from Abraham to David, and from David to Jesus. One reason for this might be to prepare us to recognize the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Why do you think it was important to establish this link?
  • There is a talk by Bruce R. McConkie on this topic, entitled ‘Who Shall Declare his Generation?
  • There are many Old Testament prophecies that are quoted or referred to in these chapters. Try to connect the references and look up the Old Testament prophecy quotes.
  • Do you find any parallels to the life of Christ in any of the experiences in either of these chapters? What do you learn about the attributes or characteristics of Jesus Christ?

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Nephi 25:26
  2. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38

References:

[The Bible Project]. (2016, September 22). Read Scripture: Luke Ch. 1-9 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIb_dCIxzr0

[The Bible Project]. (2017, June 20). Read Scripture: Matthew Ch. 1-12 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dv4-n6OYGI

McConkie, B., (1975, December 2). Who Shall Declare His Generation? . Retrieved from https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie_shall-declare-generation/?M=V