This family night lesson will help you teach your children the difference between a mistake and a sin using a fun basketball analogy. Score!
Living a perfect life isn’t easy. In fact, it isn’t even possible! We aren’t expected to go through each day without making mistakes. They are part of mortality. But, we can skillfully avoid most sins if we are aiming in the right direction.
Gather your family together and head to the basketball court. Technically, you can do this lesson in your home with an indoor play hoop, but I prefer an outdoor court at the park. Kids thrive outside in nature.
Before you start playing the game, sit on the ground in a circle for a short discussion about sins and mistakes.
Define the word sin. Sins result from willful disobedience of laws we have received by revelation from God. Breaking one of the Ten Commandments would be considered a sin. God has given us guidelines and we are asked to follow them. Sinning is making a choice between good and bad and choosing the bad.
For example: You see that your friend has a really cool water bottle in their backpack at school that has a spray feature and it lights up! You asked your parents for the same one, but they couldn’t buy it for you. After recess, you stay in the bathroom for a few extra minutes until everyone else is back in the classroom. Then, you steal the water bottle from your friends pack and hide it in your own backpack. You really want it, so you decide it is worth sneaking around.
We have been commanded not to steal. In this story, stealing the water bottle is a sin. It is choosing to disobey God.
When we sin, we are asked to repent. God will forgive us if we repent and try our best to make things right.
Mistakes are a little bit different. Mistakes result from making a bad decision. You could be misguided, or lack enough information or experience to make a good choice. Mistakes are not intentional and they usually produce an unwanted result.
For example: Before bed, you set your alarm to wake you up at 7:00. You have choir before school and you don’t want to be late. Then, you fall asleep. The next morning, your mom wakes you up at 7:45! You jump out of bed and realize that you are too late to make it to your choir practice. Mom looks at your alarm and sees that you set the time for 7:00 PM instead of AM. You are sad about missing your practice and have to hurry to get ready to be on time for school.
This example illustrates a mistake. You did not intentionally set your alarm wrong. You wanted to wake up on time to attend choir. You accidentally set the wrong time and you had to miss choir because of the error.
Mistakes do not require repentance. They are not sins. Hopefully, you can learn from your experiences and correct the behavior so it doesn’t happen again.
Elder Oaks said “Mistakes are inevitable in the process of growth in mortality. To avoid all possibility of error is to avoid all possibility of growth. In the parable of the talents, the Savior told of a servant who was so anxious to minimize the risk of loss through a mistaken investment that he hid up his talent and did nothing with it. That servant was condemned by his master (see Matt. 25:24–30).”
In life, we are all going to make mistakes. It is ok! Avoid beating yourself up and feeling bad about imperfections. When we are striving to keep the commandments and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we can, however, avoid most sins and make Heavenly Father happy.
Now it is time to play a little basketball! Line your children up at the free throw line in front of the basket. Let them shoot the ball, one at a time, to see if they can make a free throw shot. Have them try their very best.
Some of them may make the shot! Some may not. That is ok. This exercise is to show that they were all aiming in the right direction and doing their best to make their goal. This represents life. When you are trying to be good and choose the right, you are aiming for “Eternal Life.” Sometimes, you might make a mistake and get off track a little bit, but since your intent is righteousness, you are doing good! You can be proud of your efforts.
Now, line everyone back up at the free throw line. Tell them to make a basket, but point them facing in the wrong direction. Have them throw the ball away from the hoop. Give everyone a turn to throw the ball the wrong way.
This exercise demonstrates a sin. You were asked to make a basket, but you didn’t even try to get the ball in the hoop. In fact, you aimed the opposite way of the goal. You are never going to score spiritual points this way. Disobedience to the commandments is a sin.
Now that everyone can understand and apply the lesson material, it is time to play a friendly game of Challenge! You will need two basketballs for this game.
To play: Line up in a single file line at the foul shot line. The first two people in line have a basketball. We are calling them Player A and Player B. The first person in line, Player A, starts the round by shooting the ball at the hoop from the free throw line.
If Player A MAKES the shot, they are still in the game. They retrieve the ball and hand it to the next player in line without a ball in their hands, Player C. Then, Player A gets in position at the back of the line to wait for their next turn.
If Player A MISSES the shot, they can continue to try and try again until Player B makes their own basket. If Player B makes his or her shot before Player A, then Player A is out of the round.
Player B should wait to shoot their ball until Player A has had a chance to shoot their first shot. After that it is a race to make the first shot. If Player A makes a shot before Player B, then Player C has a chance to try and get Player B out of the game. If player C makes his or her shot before Player B then Player B is out and has to sit out until the next round.
Play continues non-stop until only one person is left in the game. It may sound tricky, but it is a really easy game. Just remember that the only person with the power to get someone “out” is the second player with the ball.
Play together on the court and enjoy being together! Some shots will make it. Some shots will fly wide. Some will fall short. But all will be ok, because mistakes are part of life!
There is a lot of pressure in today’s world to be perfect. God has never commanded us to be perfect. That is one of Satan’s tricks. Elder Oaks teaches, “We can learn by experience, even from our innocent and inevitable mistakes, and our Savior will help us carry the burden of the afflictions that are inevitable in mortality. What he asks of us is to keep his commandments, to repent when we fall short, and to help and love one another as he has loved us (see John 13:34).
It is important to do our best and to always be aiming towards God and Eternal Life. Avoid sins and accept mistakes as part of mortality. When we do that, we are always on the WINNING team!
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