Every family can be strengthened by holding weekly family home evenings. Family home evenings (FHE) are simply times when family members get together to pray, sing, learn, work and/or have fun together. Just as each family is unique, each family does their FHE in their own way.
In April 1915 the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day first counseled members of the Church to hold FHE. The First Presidency at that time consisted of Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose. In a letter to stakes and wards, the First Presidency reminded members of the Church of the counsel given in Doctrine and Covenants 68.
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion … that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents; ...
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” [see Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28].
The First Presidency added that “children of Zion should also observe more fully the commandment of the Lord given to ancient Israel and reiterated to the Latter-day Saints: `Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth the’ [Exodus 20:12].
“These revelations apply with great force to the Latter-day Saints, and it is required of fathers and mothers in this Church that these commandments shall be taught and applied in their homes” (“100 Years of Family Home Evening,” Ensign,April 2015, 80).
I cannot remember when I first heard counsel about holding FHE simply because it has been given to parents and families for all my life and previously. I do remember begging my parents to hold FHE; as I remember, our family did not hold them very often – at least formally. We lived on a farm with our nearest neighbors at least half a mile away; we were responsible for evening chores. We spent our evenings together at home on most evenings.
We did not own a television and very few of our neighbors had one. We prayed together, played together, we sang together, and we communicated with each other, but we did not hold FHE. Why? I do not know. I believe my parents did not hold them because they had never experienced a FHE. They did not know what they were supposed to do. We had the same problem in my home because neither my parents nor my husband’s parents held them in their homes.
I did not know what I was doing, but I attempted to hold FHE somewhat regularly while our children were growing up. I did not receive much support from my husband, which made it difficult to convince the children the program was important. Now my children are grown with children of their own, and they hold weekly family home evenings. Their FHE are simple and child-centered, but they are regular. The children know what to expect and seem to enjoy their time.
The Church leaders regularly encourage members to hold FHE. In a letter dated February 11, 1999, the First Presidency stated:
“We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”
The April 2015 Ensign includes at least two articles on FHE; in fact, the entire magazine gives ideas for FHE. Besides excerpts from the 1915 First Presidency letter, there is an article, entitled “Family Home Evening – You can do it!” This article urges us to keep these “attitudes in mind as you make family home evening part of your week”: (1) “This applies to me.” (2) “I can find time.” (3) “I can find what works for my family.” (4) “I can start this week.” (5) “I want the blessings.”
The article also includes some general suggestions for organizing a FHE: (1) “Start and end with prayer.” (2) “Use music, including hymns and Primary songs.” (3) “Learn from the scriptures and modern prophets.” (4) “Include a variety of physical activities, service projects, and gospel-centered activities from week to week.” (5) “Have fun! Play a game or make refreshments.” (6) “Be consistent. If you can’t do it on Monday, find another day that works.”
Family home evening was first suggested one hundred years ago when children and youth had fewer temptations. Today’s children and youth are bombarded with temptation! Although I am far from being one hundred years old, my childhood was much different that children have today. Technology was fairly new, but most families had radios of one kind or another. Televisions were not introduced to my farming community until I was a teenager. Even then, television programs were fairly wholesome and family friendly.
One hundred years later family home evening is a necessity for every family in order to prepare the children and youth to face their everyday world. New technology is regularly introduced, and each new type has its own way of bringing smut into the lives of its users. Wise parents will use family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening as “armor” to protect their children.
Prophets have promised great blessings for participating in family home evening: more love and obedience at home, stronger faith in our children and youth, and “power to combat the evil influences and temptations” that surround us. With these promised blessings, parents are fools to not hold weekly family home evenings!