It's an exciting time to be a member of the Church. New curriculums, new programs, new meeting schedules, new temples—and while we feel renewed energy with these new tools to deepen our faith in the Savior, sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming.
Recently a Church member, Carla, commented on one of our Facebook posts explaining that she is married to an inactive husband, her 21-year-old has left the Church, her 16-year-old is struggling with depression, and her 11-year-old has Down syndrome, but they "make life worth living." Considering her unique situation, she asked, "Any tips for a mom who is the one in charge of bringing any gospel into the home and feels like this is a totally overwhelming thing?"
We know that the majority of the members of the Church have family and living situations that don't look like a mom and dad with their happy children gathered around on the couch. We all struggle with something that makes our family situation tricky or unique.
That's why I love the simple, direct title of the new Church curriculum: Come, Follow Me. That's the entire point, to come closer to the Savior and think of Him. So if your current study or church routine doesn't draw the Savior and the powers of heaven into your life, maybe it is time to rethink your approach.
This curriculum is not meant to complicate our lives, discipleship, or focus. Instead, it is supposed to refine our lives, discipleship, and focus by pointing us to our Savior. And the manuals make it clear that they are merely resources to help us, not checklists we have to complete or obligations that weigh us down.
"Use this resource in any way that is helpful to you," Come, Follow Me states. "Come, Follow Me is not meant to replace or compete with the good things you are doing. There may be ways to learn from the New Testament regularly and still accomplish your other scripture study goals. . . . Follow the Spirit’s guidance to determine how to approach your own study of the word of God."
Here's a beautiful example: Before the new year, my bishop sat down with our ward for a real heart-to-heart about the new curriculum. One phrase he said, in particular, stunned me and made me laugh because of its relatability. Here are his words, as best as I can remember them: "In my family, we have so many kids scripture study can get out of hand real fast. We used to try to read a chapter of scripture a night, but that was a nightmare. With that many kids, it made me start hating the scriptures and them. So we decided to scale back. Now, we only read one verse together each night and then talk about that verse and what we learned. And it works. We can still learn about the gospel without wanting to kill each other."
My bishop counseled each of us to take the same approach to Come, Follow Me. First, we should feel out what works best for our family. If things seem too stressful, forced, or chaotic, take a step back and simplify. Start by reading one scripture together or asking your family one question or by putting on a Church video some night instead of Netflix. As our families become more accustomed to gospel conversations, we can all feel more empowered to share our thoughts, begin learning on our own, and truly come to know how the Savior influences our lives.
My bishop's brutal yet hilarious honesty helped me relate to our ward and its leadership. It helped me realize that I am not the only one who struggles with integrating this new curriculum into my life in a natural, genuine way. Like Carla, my situation isn't what you'd consider typical. It's going to take some time for me to figure out what works and what doesn't in my family, and that's okay. Even if it is only one verse one night a week or even if it is simply asking family members about what they learned in church each Sunday, what matters is that we are trying. We are willing to commit ourselves to learning about the Savior—it may take some trial and error to figure out the best way to do that, but we're getting there. And we're learning how to not be overwhelmed, frustrated, or annoyed with each other in the process. (Thank goodness the Church has pages of resources we can use to try new things and discover what works and what doesn't for our situation.)
And, as we do, I'm realize that this change isn't about programs or curriculum or gaining biblical knowledge. This change is about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and improving our relationship with Him. That's beautiful simplicity. That is the gospel in action. That is what Jesus Christ meant when He said, "Come, follow me."