"Kids! Scriptures!" Madre yells. I try to get one more minute out of my show, but she calls again. "We're waiting on you, Sister Johnson!"8:56 p.m. on a school night, and somewhat close to bedtime. The murderer on CSI finally breaks down and starts giving his monologue on why he shot his mother. The final nail in his coffin and the twist is...
With a groan, I turn off the TV and drag myself upstairs to the living room where my family, plus a spare brother, sits in a circle with their scriptures open on their laps. Four teenage boys and mi Madre have crammed themselves into the biggest couch. No doubt my brothers fought over who would sit next to Madre. I sit down in my usual spot, the left side of the smaller couch next to my little sister Melissa. I left my triple combination on the armrest the night before, so I open it up to Alma 49.
Papa Johnson, cross-legged on the floor by the stereo speaker, flips through the pages for the chapter. "30 verses."
I quickly do the math in my head. "Four each, except two people get five."
"Looks like you're the Power Couch."
"Power Couch!" Melissa and I cheer. Then we high-five each other as hard as we can. My hand tingles for a few seconds afterwards as Papa Johnson starts reading about another war fought by Captain Moroni.
I always go second so I can get my part done and stop paying attention. Otherwise, I'd have to stay focused through the whole thing. As soon as I finish reading about the Lamanites' astonishment at the Nephites preparedness, I pull out a piece of paper and continue one of my stories. If I write instead of doodle, it looks like notes on what we've read.
We go counter-clockwise. Melissa reads five verses. Jimmy, one of my brothers' friends who decided to stay the night ten minutes ago, who Papa Johnson sometimes calls the spare son, reads four verses. My younger younger brother Blake reads four verses. Then he pokes Madre to wake her up and we tell her what verse she's on. Rick, my older younger brother, reads four verses and finishes the chapter.
"Okay Sister Johnson," Papa Johnson says. "What did we just read?"
No! This is his job! I scramble to skim over the whole chapter without looking flustered and lost. "The Nephites were prepared for battle, so the Lamanites were afraid and Moroni is awesome. Then they go to war and the Nephites win because they're righteous?"
He gives me a, 'Pay attention next time,' look, then starts expounding what we read. I proceed to drift off again.
When Papa Johnson finishes, we all slide off the couches into a kneeling circle. Samuel Ellis, or Sammy, the dog runs in and sits in the middle of us. Mom gets his attention and commands him to stay for the prayer. "I hope no one thinks we pray to the dog," Rick says.
Papa Johnson looks at his watch and points at Blake. "Tuesday..." So we bow our heads and Blake gives the family prayer. Once we say, "Amen," Sammy perks up and looks excited. Our family does our traditional group hug, including Jimmy. I love those nights we forget to tell our guests we do this, but Jimmy had his long ago.
I run into the dining room, grab a treat for the dog, and hide at the top of the stairs going to the basement. "Release!" At my command, Sammy races for the dining room, slows down in confusion, checks in the kitchen, and then tries the stairs. I feed him his treat, pet his noggin, and then go to my room to play on my computer.
I can't really say that I've had any powerful spiritual moments while reading the Book of Mormon with my family night after night. To be honest, I didn't enjoy it much. I am a terrible Mormon. But in my 'active in church, less active in the gospel' part of my life, it was the only time I read the Book of Mormon, and I'm grateful that my parents made me do it. I needed that backbone to my life.
One of the guidelines of the church is that we have Family Scripture Study every night. It can be pleasant. It often will feel like a chore. But as a bonus, when you keep the commandments and do as the Lord has asked, you will receive blessings. Your family will be stronger and more united. Even better, they will be united in the Gospel.
Definitions of words used in the Johnson Household:
- Madre: My mom. Because the only language we speak in our house besides English is Spanish.
- Power Couch: Whoever sits on this couch reads one more verse than the rest of the group.
- Papa Johnson: My dad. First coined by Rick.
- Rameumpton: The ottoman Mom rests on when she prays. Sometimes we steal it from her. Not actually used in this post.
- Release: The word we use to tell Sammy that he doesn't have to stay anymore.
- Spare Son/Brother: My brothers' friends that don't seem to ever leave.