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The Power of Repetitious Teaching

Note: A portion of a talk I gave at the Shadow Mountain Stake Conference held May 2019 in Las Vegas, NV.

I recently conducted a social experiment on my children. Wait, let me phrase that another way.

I recently taught my children something new.

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to see how long it would take for my kids to pick up on a phrase and put it into their vocabulary. I had to find a phrase that they would have never heard anywhere so I could know it was the first time they were being introduced to it.

I decided on a phrase that was used in a marketing campaign from the forties by some appliance stores. More recently, I’ve heard it a number of times from a sports radio host from New York City. It was the perfect phrase.

For months I would work it into our regular conversations. I’d say it during dinner. I’d say it while playing sports outside with the kids. I’d say the phrase during Family Home Evening. I’d say it in conversation and in text messages.

I was careful never to bring special attention to the phrase. I wouldn’t say it louder or anything. I’d just use it as part of our conversations. I wanted it to be a natural pickup in their vocabulary.

(Why do I feel like I’m being judged right now?)

Anyway, after seven months of speaking my phrase, it finally happened.

Candace and I were going through a car wash one evening and our two little girls (Samm, who was 6, and Jane, who was 4) were in the back seat teasing each other and giggling.

We were chatting about normal parent things and the girls were going back and forth in their own conversation. It was a deep conversation.

To the best of my recollection the playful insult Samm said was, “Jane, You have a pet pizza named spot.”

Then they would laugh.

Jane countered that sharp blow with, “Oh yeah, your bed is made out of french fries.”

More laughing.

Samm then returned, “Well your hair is spaghetti.”

And then Jane, in one of my most proud parenting moments, responded “ Oh Samm, NOW YOU’RE COOKING WITH SOME GAS!”

There was the phrase. It was beautifully used with a new york accent and all. It took seven months and now it’s in there. Maybe I could have used a more meaningful phrase, but little Jane Taylor did sound so cute with a New York accent.

I’ve thought about this little experiment. It’s a reminder that our minds can learn and absorb things with nothing more than repetition.

If you hear a phrase often enough, it will become engrained in your mind and part of your vocabulary. We think we are impervious to advertising but we can all finish the product phrases that are said on television.

We shouldn’t justify watching a movie with bad language just because we hear the same language at work or school all day long. Instead, we should give our mind a rest from the onslaught of filth. We should be “willing to politely walk away or change the subject when those around you use inappropriate language.”

The good news is that repetition can certainly be used for good reasons too. There is a “spiritual value and importance of repetitious learning and teaching.”

Repetitious learning and teaching as a line upon line and precept upon precept pattern of revelation can invite the Holy Ghost to renew, enrich, and enlarge the knowledge we already have obtained; it also can bring new knowledge and understanding into our minds and hearts.

David A Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

You’ll know you’re being consistent in reading the scriptures when the words on the page are the least interesting part of your morning study. 

Studying Come follow Me in our home has been wonderful in repetitious learning. “The kind of gospel learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miraculous change of conversion doesn’t happen all at once…It requires consistent, daily efforts to understand and live the gospel. True conversion requires the influence of the Holy Ghost.” 

I’m convinced that among the most important reasons for Come Follow Me is so that children and spouses can hear each other say over and over, “I know Jesus Christ is my Savior.”

Dads: Testifying in this way shows humility, and a humble father is one of the most powerful forces on earth and in heaven. 

Are you studying Come Follow Me at least weekly in your homes? We are five months into the study guide. If my family science experiment is accurate then just a couple more months and your testimony will have become part of your children’s vocabulary. I think that’s great. Now that is parenting with some gas.