So, here we go!
Before you begin...
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
- How have I been converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ? What experiences led me to my testimony?
- Do my children/family know the name of the Church? Do they understand what it means? Do they know how our faith differs from others--what makes it special?
QUOTES FROM THE TALK:
- I love this succinct definition of the gospel: "The gospel is the glorious plan of God in which we, as His children, are given the opportunity to receive all that the Father has." It's the Plan of Salvation, made possible through Christ's atonement!
- "This is a magnificent Church. Its organization, effectiveness, and sheer goodness are respected by all who sincerely seek to understand it. The Church has programs for children, youth, men, and women. It has beautiful meetinghouses that number more than 18,000. Majestic temples—now totaling 136—dot the earth, with another 30 under construction or announced. A full-time missionary force of over 56,000, comprised of the young and less so, are serving in 150 countries. The Church’s worldwide humanitarian work is a marvelous display of the generosity of our members. Our welfare system cares for our members and promotes self-reliance in a manner unduplicated anywhere. In this Church we have selfless lay leaders and a community of Saints who are willing to serve one another in a remarkable way. There is nothing like this Church in all the world."
- "Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed. By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants? I repeat: we need the gospel and the Church. In fact, the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel."
- "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!"
- "When I Go to Church"
- "Saturday is a Special Day"
- "How Will They Know" (unless we teach them so)
- Apostacy and the Need for a Restoration--have a few blocks labeled with fundamental things in Christ's original church--such as apostles and prophets, baptism, the law/scriptures, priesthood authority, etc.--and build a building. Talk about how the Apostacy caused division in the Church as you dismantle the building and give some blocks to some kids, some to others. Explain that no single church had all the same parts as Christ's original church. Then rebuild the building together as you talk about Joseph Smith's revelations and the Restoration.
- Every Calling is Important to Building the Kingdom: Take the spring out of a pen. Hold the pen up and ask children what it is, what it's used for, and what they think the most important part of it is. Then have one child try to write with it--something isn't right! It can't write! Insert the spring back into the pen, and let a few children confirm that it is now working properly. Even something as simple as a ballpoint pen needs all its parts to work properly. Some parts may seem more important, like the ink, while others may seem less important, like the spring, but they are ALL needed for it to do what it is supposed to. In our church/class, each of our member's best efforts and talents are needed, too. Everyone has a job to do, whether it's conducting the meeting, teaching a lesson, singing, or simply sharing testimony by participating in class discussions. Some jobs may seem more important than others, but without everyone, the Church just wouldn't function. The apostle Paul said: "But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary." (1 Corinthians 12:20-22).
- Reverence at Church: parents place a piece of string on the front of their clothing. It should be obviously noticeable.( a color that stands out) Then they begin to talk/sing about what reverence is. After a couple of minutes they ask if anyone noticed the string and if it was distracting. Begin by having a brief discussion on reverence. Help your children understand that if something as little as a thread can distract us, how much more distracting is talking, tapping our foot, or any other form of inappropriate behavior or appearance? Our lack of reverence can distract ourselves and others from feeling the Spirit.
- Appropriate Sabbath Activities (living the gospel in and after Church): I loved this one. :) You can use real ice cream and toppings or just draw/find pictures/talk about it. You're going to make a big ice cream sundae to share--get out the ice cream, put it in a bowl, and pull out your toppings--pepperoni, Goldfish cracker, BBQ sauce, or other things your kiddos like but that don't really go with ice cream. Show them the toppings--they will probably gross out. Ask, "What, you don't like these things?" They'll likely say, "Yes, but not on ice cream sundaes!" This leads into a discussion of how there are lots of good things that we do during the week that just don't go with Sundays. Discuss what you as a family believe are positive ways to "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
- Put some cut celery or daisies in a glass vase filled with colored water (might want to make it black or brown, or it will be really pretty and the kids will LIKE it, which sort of defeats the point) a few days before FHE. Show it to the family and ask what happened to the beautiful, clean flower or veggie? Just as it absorbed the color from the water, we absorb what we are surrounded by day in and day out. We need to surround ourselves with clean, happy things--like the things we learn at Church, or living the gospel principles in our home--if we want to remain "unspotted from the world."
GAMES & LEARNING ACTIVITIES:
- Finger play--"This is the Church, this is the steeple, open up the doors and see all the people. Close the doors and hear them pray. Open up the doors, and they all walk away."
- Show a picture of Christ and read about the Church's name (D&C 115:4). Then show pictures (one at a time) of things that set our Church apart from others. After briefly talking about each one, sing a Primary song related to it. End with the song "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Some ideas:
- Living Prophet--Follow the Prophet
- Temple Work--"I Love to See the Temple"
- The Scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon--"The Golden Plates," "Book of Mormon Stories," "Scripture Power," or the 8th Article of Faith
- The Priesthood & its ordinances--especially Baptism and any Primary songs related to it
- Genealogy--"Family History, I Am Doing It."
- The Plan of Salvation--"I Lived in Heaven" or "I Will Follow God's Plan"
- etc. :)
- Create a simple puzzle where each large piece has a different family member's name on it. Hide the pieces around the house and have the children find them and assemble the puzzle. Talk about how each person belongs to our family. Where else do we belong? (To classes, neighborhoods/communities, to the Church). Show a picture of a baby getting blessed (or, if you have them, pictures of their OWN baby blessings) and talk about how we belong to the Church because of the name and blessing.
- Priesthood ordinances--show pictures and talk about baby blessings, baptisms & confirmations, father's blessings, blessings for the sick, the passing of the sacrament, a married couple outside of the temple, etc...anything they might be familiar with. (The VERY affordable Gospel Art Kit has pictures of all of these things.) Show pictures of Joseph Smith's receiving each of the Priesthoods and talk about how our Church is the only one with the authority to do each of these ordinances.
- From the nursery manual: "Before (FHE), draw four simple pictures—an eye, a hand, an ear, and a mouth—on separate pieces of paper. Tell the children that there are many things we can do at church. (Post the picture of an eye.) We can read scripture stories. (Post the picture of a hand.) We can play kindly with our friends. (Post the picture of an ear.) We can listen carefully to our teachers. (Post the picture of a mouth.) We can speak softly while we are in church. Have each child come up and point to one of the pictures. As a picture is pointed to, tell the children again what it stands for."
- Have each child draw a picture of themselves in their Sunday best and, on the back, write or draw something he or she can do to be a good member of the Church.
- I LOVE this idea--so simple but so cute--learn how to say "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in a few different languages, or especially from your mission language. Teach your kids about how the church is a worldwide Church and even though we might meet at different places, speak different languages, etc., we all believe the same thing.
- Cut out a bunch of footsteps and have them lead to different places around the house and back again (or just play follow the leader, you could do it outside if the weather is lovely). Talk about whose footsteps we follow (our parents, good friends, the prophet, Jesus Christ). Talk about how Christ is the head of the Church, and He shows us the way to go through His prophets. :)
- For older children/youth, have a few numbers/statistics about the Church (find them in the statistical report HERE) and accompanying words (like number of missionaries, operating temples, stakes, members, etc.) and make your own memory game (can be fancy and make printable ones from HERE but you certainly can just write it on paper, too :). You can also make your own word searches or other games with Church-related words/topics HERE. Talk about how you feel when you hear those statistics and how they have changed even in your own lifetime.
- Also for older children/youth, the theme for 2003 in Primary was I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they have a cute puzzle with accompanying scriptures to read HERE. You could have each family member find a different puzzle piece and put it together, reading their accompanying scripture.
- Possible with all kids but especially with older children: play Playdoh Pictionary with Church- or Sabbath-related words (sacrament, singing time, reverence, talks, scriptures, etc...or Sabbath-appropriate activities such as journal writing, scripture reading, preparing for Church, writing letters, etc...).
- The Redheaded Hostess has some AWESOME graphics representing different parts of the Plan of Salvation as a free pdf HERE. I STRONGLY recommend you print it off, cut it out, laminate it, and put it in a baggie--you will get SO MUCH use out of it over the years. If you're artsy, you could always draw your own, of course. Someone on Paul's mission made one similar to this and we used it every Sunday in our lessons--we'd time the kids and see how quickly they could put it all in order, and at the end of every lesson we'd ask how whatever principle we were teaching that week fit into the Plan. If you teach obedience to Church leaders, commandments, and principles in context of the PLAN, they will more easily see the blessings associated with obedience and the gospel becomes so much more than a list of "do"s and "don't"s. :) This is a HUGE part of becoming active in the gospel and not just the Church, which is what Elder Hallstrom's talk is all about!
HANDOUTS AND FREEBIES:
- Melonheadz Coloring pages (click the description for the link): Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy; Follow the Prophet; Baptism; Confirmation
- From the Nursery Manual, a coloring page: click HERE. There's also another one of a Church building HERE. There's also a bunch of small pictures related to the Church and Sunday worship HERE (it was meant to be cards in a game, but I kinda like it as a coloring page, too).
- There are some cute, simple badges to print out HERE. Just put on cardstock and turn into a sticker, or use tape or a pin backing or string or whatever else you have on hand. :) There's another badge where kids get to draw themselves and write their own names HERE.
- There's a cute, simple paper Church building puzzle made out of different blocks labeled for important Church foundations HERE.
- There's a little printable booklet HERE to help your children learn the words to the song "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"
- There's a nice infographic about the Church you could turn into scripture bookmarks HERE.
- I've made a little 8x10 subway art (you can resize it if you wish) with the words of the song "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" that you can download for free:
|(Pink download HERE)|
|(green download HERE)|
|(Blue download HERE)|
|(Rainbow download HERE)|
CRAFTS & MORE:
- If you're teaching about the worldwide church, represent this with little "world sticks"--little globes out of playdough or blue/green paints on styrofoam with a popsicle stick shoved inside. You could even put a little monopoly house on it.
- Make one of the handouts/freebies with your kids AS your craft and frame/display it if possible.
- Again, build church meetinghouses out of blocks, sugar cubes, etc.
- Make a FELT memory game with stylized pictures representing different important aspects of the Church/Sabbath day worship/living the gospel. You could use these for a quiet game not only in FHE but anytime, and they will last a LONG time compared to paper. :)
- Sugar cookies in the shape of a house/church.
- Put chocolate frosting on top of graham crackers and make "missionary nametags"
- Ice cream SUNDAES--as you eat, discuss what your favorite part of Sundays are, what is/is not appropriate to do on Sundays, and why we go to church every Sunday (see coordinating object lesson above).
- Bread and water--and talk about the Sacrament, what each of these symbols mean as we partake of them each week at Church.
What other ideas can you come up with?
I know that membership in Christ's true and living Church is absolutely essential to our spiritual progression. God's house is a house of order. I'm grateful for the truths that come from the scriptures and prophets. I'm grateful for the priesthood authority that makes saving ordinances possible. And I'm thankful that the gospel can be a part of every moment of our lives--indeed, it MUST be if we are to be saved. I'm happy to sing out, "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!"