It’s a good idea, perhaps even vital, that families find time to be together to pray, talk, sing and play games without the interference of the television and cell phones.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this coordinated event is referred to as family home evening. Families in the Church, similar to those of other faiths, work hard to bring harmony, fun and spiritual education into their lives, but a singular night set aside brings families closer together at a time when outside influences can tear them apart.
The Church’s official website, LDS.org, has launched The Family. The updated site offers three major components to help families improve the quality of their family home evening. They include prophetic counsel on the importance of the family home evening program, most memorable family home evening stories from members around the world, and links to resources to plan and create family home evenings.
In 1909, a Utah stake (similar to a diocese) began the first organized home evening for the family. In 1915 the First Presidency began a Churchwide effort to strengthen the family. They called on parents to gather their children around them once each week for a “home evening.” Then in 1970, the First Presidency designated Monday evening as family home evening. Since that announcement, the Church has kept Monday evenings free from Church activities and meetings so families can have this time together.
Throughout the history of the Church, leaders have focused on strengthening the family. Stressing the need to hold family home evening, President Thomas S. Monsonsaid Latter-day Saints 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.”
“Family home evening is a fun time at our house,” said Heidi Robb, mother of five children. Whether it’s talking about the plan of salvation with her husband, Ken, leading the discussion, making a game of a scripture story or inviting new families in the neighborhood to get to know them, “We try to have the Spirit of our Father in Heaven with us.”
Although family home evening should begin and end with prayer, it is not intended to be a formal class. In a statement regarding family home evening in 1915, the First Presidency said, “Formality and stiffness should be studiously avoided.”
Latter-day Saint Brian Burton recalled a family home evening from his youth about the Ten Commandments. “We had an opening prayer and song as usual and then my father announced that we had a special guest. He slipped down the hall to his bedroom. A few minutes later a bearded man, who looked strangely like my father, emerged from the room with a bathrobe, a staff and two cardboard cutouts of the Ten Commandments. I don’t recall many of the other details, but I will always remember the time that Moses made a special appearance at our home.”
The First Presidency, in 1999, renewed its counsel about having a weekly family home evening. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, called attention to that instruction. “Are we focused on the things which matter most? Are we following the inspired counsel of the prophets?”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “We need to make our homes a place of refuge from the storm, which is increasing in intensity all about us. Even if the smallest openings are left unattended, negative influences can penetrate the very walls of our homes.”
In 1976, the First Presidency stated that family home evening is for everyone. “It is for families with parents and children, for families with just one parent, and for parents who have no children at home. It is for home evening groups of single adults and for those who live alone or with roommates.
“Regular participation in family home evening will develop increased personal worth, family unity, love for our fellowmen, and trust in our Father in Heaven.”
The updated website isn’t just for Latter-day Saint families. Families wishing to strengthen their homes against the negative influences of the world will benefit from The Family.
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