Family Home Evening
Author: Mitchell, James P.
Author: Mitchell, Terri Tanner
Family Home Evening is a weekly observance of Latter-day Saints for spiritual training and social activity, usually held on Monday evenings. In 1915, the First Presidency of the Church wrote: "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 obligation of children to parents, the home, the Church, society, and the Nation" (IE 18 [June 1915]:733). To assist parents in their stewardship, the first home evening manual was prepared that same year and distributed to members of the Church.
This emphasis on home gospel instruction echoes the call of prophets throughout the ages who have instructed parents to teach their children diligently of love and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6:5-7; Eph. 6:4). The Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations that admonish parents to "bring up your children in light and truth" (D&C 93:40) and to teach them "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" (D&C 68:25) and "to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (D&C 68:28). President Brigham Young urged parents to take time to "call their families together and teach them the principles of the gospel" (MFP 2:288).
Between 1915 and the 1960s, a large proportion of Church membership shifted from a family-centered rural population to an urban one. With that change came renewed emphasis from the First Presidency on the importance of the family. In General Conference, April 1964, President David O. McKay reminded parents that "No other success can compensate for failure in the home" (IE 67 [June 1964]:445). In 1965, the weekly Family Home Evening program was more fully implemented, and a lesson manual was given each family to aid parents in teaching their children. Families were encouraged to participate in a home night once each week, which could consist of scripture reading, singing, and activities suited to the ages of the children. In 1966, stakes were urged to set aside a regular night for Family Home Evening and to avoid scheduling Church activities on that night. In 1970, Monday evening was designated as Family Home Evening, Churchwide, with no competing ecclesiastical functions to be held. Revised home evening manuals, with suggested weekly lessons and activities, were provided from 1965 to 1984.
In 1985, a Family Home Evening Resource Book, designed to be used for a decade, was introduced. It provided broader resource material for gospel instruction and additional ideas for family activities, and was designed to be adapted for use by single adults, couples, single-parent families, and families with children of all ages. In 1987, a Family Home Evening video supplement was made available. Nineteen video vignettes were included, treating important educational and moral topics.
A typical Family Home Evening might proceed as follows: A parent or older child, whose turn it is to plan the lesson, selects a lesson, such as "Heavenly Father Provided Us a Savior," from the Family Home Evening Resource Book. After an opening hymn and prayer, the lesson material, adapted to the needs and interest level of the family members, is presented. After the lesson the family discusses family schedules, family business, and special concerns. A family activity follows that helps strengthen bonds of love among family members. This could be any activity that the family enjoys doing together, such as playing a game, helping the needy, gardening, or attending a cultural event. Following the activity, the family kneels together in family prayer and then often enjoys refreshments. Single adults or others who live alone may join as a group to participate in Family Home Evening activities, or they may observe appropriately modified weekly activities individually. Home evening activities allow for considerable variation in the desires and needs of each family or group. Always, however, the emphasis is spiritual enrichment.
Family Home Evening is intended to be a regular event that helps parents teach, protect, and prepare children for responsible living. Family councils, personal parent interviews, scripture reading, serving or playing together, family prayer, and meaningful family home evenings all help to build quality family relationships. Families who do these things are promised that "love at home and obedience to parents will increase, and faith will develop in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat [the] evil influences and temptations" that beset them (Family Home Evening Manual, 1965, p. v).