When I left on my mission, Preach My Gospel was brand new. I have pictures in my mission album of the last day of the MTC, when they put out a box for old materials to be recycled, overflowing. They handed us the fresh manual, kicked us out the door and wished us luck in the field.
Consequently, I hold that manual dear to my heart. I’ve since then retired my old mission PMG and started working on another fresh one, and have found how useful it is even after the mission, especially chapter 8.
Chapter 8 was boring to me on the mission – How Do I Use Time Wisely? Mostly, it involved details on how to conduct a weekly planning session, a daily planning session and making goals. There’s a very spiritually packed section on accountability, and some good quotes about goal making, but overall, I breezed through it when it came around for study once more. I admit this with shame.
Since I’ve been married though, I started reading through it once more. I’ll admit; our scripture study has been sketchy, especially when it comes to studying together. Dantzel’s family would select a child, and that child would read a portion of the scriptures out loud for the whole family. With my family, we read in a circle, verse by verse. Both seemed less effective for two grown adults. This doesn’t mean we never talked about the gospel; we talked about the gospel a lot. But as far as a sitting-down-for-scripture-study couples study, we didn’t have any habits established.
Additionally, our planning was sporadic. Most of the time, we would plan to attend events only a couple days before, or decide what we would eat or where we would go or what we would do that evening at that very moment. This lead to many rash decisions (such as eating out, going shopping or watching television all night). As I’ve been transitioning from an hourly wage job to more project-based freelancing work, my awareness of goals and how I spend my time have increased (also, playing certain video games have also piqued my interest in goal setting, but that’s another post).
I suddenly saw Chapter 8 in a new light. Replacing “missionary” or “companion” with “wife” suddenly made this chapter painfully relevant. Replacing “investigator” with “child” made it family oriented. Of course, it can’t translate perfectly, but why not plan for a child’s baptism, confirmation, priesthood, temple ceremonies, future activity in the chuch, etc.? It would make raising children less ad hoc and frightening, and give you a plan on how to tackle parenthood.
Why not have weekly companionship planning sessions with the wife? Why not have a weekly companionship inventory with her? After all, the idea of “discuss[ing] any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient” sounds like a good idea for any marriage. “Resolve conflicts. Share with your [spouse] what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions how to improve.” Those all seem important for a marriage, and sound like it would help keep a relationship healthy and on track, not to mention nipping any problems in the bud before they blossom into something out of control.
On my mission, my mission president told me that Preach My Gospel should be in every home, and that after my mission, I should continue to study from it consistently, if not daily. I now understand why. Focusing on the basic, fundamental principles of the gospel not only ground us, but build a base for us to launch into deeper gospel thinking. Reminding ourselves of the true principles of the gospel and remembering that anything outside of it is essentially commentary keeps us from deviating from the pure gospel. And, of course, there are all kinds of goodies in here, from how to study the scriptures more effectively to sections like chapter 8, which make future parenting seem less daunting. This is a comforting thought.
Moral of the Story: Read Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel, if you want some good information on how to organize your life and live effectively in a family unit. Also, I am the only blog to use “companionship inventory” as a tag in the WordPress blogosphere. Shameful.