Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when families spend time together on a regular basis. Relationships between members of a family - or members of a group of people living together such as college roommates – are improved by spending quality time together. Family nights or family home evenings should be held weekly.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to hold family nights since the First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose) introduced a formal family home evening program in April 1915. The program was endorsed for all members of the Church in the June 1915 Improvement Era. “We advise and urge the inauguration of a `Home Evening’ throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord. … This `Home Evening’ should be devoted to prayer, singing hymns, songs, instrumental music, scripture-reading, family topics and specific instruction on the principles of the Gospel, and on the ethical problems of life, as well as the duties and obligations of children to parents, the home, the Church, society and the Nation.”
The First Presidency concluded their counsel with this promise: “If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them.”
Many parents struggle to hold family home evenings and wonder if they are wasting their time and efforts. Elder David A. Bednar recognized the difficulties but said that consistency in holding family home evenings is the key to successfully rearing wholesome sons and daughters.
A successful family home evening can be held by including the following essential ingredients: 1) Prayer: Starting and ending with prayer “invites the Spirit, increases love, and teaches your family how to pray.” 2) The scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets can “help your family live the gospel.” 3) Music, such as hymns and Primary songs, can “create an atmosphere of love, peace, and joy.” 4) Keep the atmosphere light, loving and fun by “playing games, acting out scripture stories, and making treats.” 5) Consistently hold family home evening. The Church set aside Monday nights for families to be together; if Monday does not work for your family, find a night that does work. 6) Add variety to your home evenings by doing something different: “help a neighbor in need, hold a lesson at the park, or go for a walk as a family.”
A family home evening lesson is so easy to prepare that even a child can do when they know how to do it. Here are seven easy steps to help children, youth, and adults learn how to plan lessons. 1) Kneel in prayer and ask Heavenly Father for help in preparing a lesson. 2) Choose a topic and select one or more scriptures about the topic. 3) Look for a spiritual story about the topic. Jesus used stories to help people understand His teachings. Appropriate stories can be found in the scriptures, Church magazines, or from our own lives or the lives of family members. 4) Gather pictures or objects that relate to your topic. 5) When presenting your lesson, ask questions. Good questions require more than a simple yes or no and will lead to better discussions. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts on the topic. 6) A good lesson should be short and simple. An appropriate length of lesson for children is three to five minutes. 7) End your lesson by bearing your testimony about what you taught.
I learned a simple way to involve children in family home evening from my son and his family. Each child chooses a picture depicting a scene from the scriptures or Church history. At the appropriate time during family home evening, each child is given the opportunity to hold up the picture and tell the story. The older children are expected to give more details about their stories. This gives children the opportunity to be the center of attention for a few minutes as well as to gain experience standing and speaking in front of a group of people. It also gives them the opportunity to take part in the family experience.
President Thomas S. Monson emphasized the importance of families meeting together regularly in family home evening: “We cannot afford to neglect this heaven-inspired program. It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family, helping him or her to withstand the temptations which are everywhere. The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest.”
I encourage all of us to either begin holding family home evenings or to hold them more consistently. I know that spending time together in family home evening will strengthen our families and thus strengthen our communities and nations.