Fostering strong families

An omniscient God always warns His children through His prophets of impending problems.

Leadership of the Church frequently admonishes families to hold regular family home evenings in order to combat the forces aimed at destroying family values. And at least twice in this century, the Church has placed major emphasis on holding family home evenings.The most recent warning came 30 years ago in 1964 when the Church instituted an organized weekly home evening program.

Looking back over the last 30 years it is easy to understand why the Lord, through President David O. McKay, warned of the need to build strong family relationships.

The breakdown of family values, the growing numbers of non-traditional families, and the disregard by many for making and keeping marriage vows testify to the wisdom of what was said to Church members three decades ago.

In the April 1964 general conference, President McKay sounded a strong, clarion call for family unity when he said: "When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and has flunked in the final test of true manhood. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles. Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of heaven." (See Improvement Era, June 1964, p. 445.)

In the October 1964 general conference, Elder Harold B. Lee, then of the Council of the Twelve, represented President McKay in introducing to Church members a revitalized weekly home evening program complete with inspired manuals of instruction.

Elder Lee recalled the first emphasis in this century of the need for family home evenings when he quoted from counsel given by President Joseph F. Smith in 1915: " `We advise and urge the inauguration of a home evening throughout the Church at which time father and mother 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 instructions 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.

" `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.' " (See Gospel Doctrine, p. 301.)

Elder Lee added his own promise as he stated: "I say to you Latter-day Saint mothers and fathers, if you will rise to the responsibility of teaching your children at home . . . the day will soon be dawning when the whole world will come to our doors and will say `Show us your way that we may walk in your path.' " (See Improvement Era, December 1964, p. 1081.)

The adversary has thrown down his gauntlet and is at war with family values. More than ever we need the stabilizing influence of families studying the gospel together and building love and strength through gospel principles, scripture study, wholesome activities, and family prayer.

Every child has a right to feel secure at home. Regular, consistent family home evenings can help provide that sense of security, and can help ensure that future generations will espouse family values that will bring the success in the home that President McKay envisioned.

None at any age or individual circumstances is exempt from the call of the prophets to spend quality time together as families.

In a larger sense, the special emphasis given 30 years ago, and even 79 years ago, is but a reiteration of what the Lord said thousands of years ago through His Prophet Moses:

"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deut. 6:6-7.)

Just holding regular family home evenings will not solve every family problem, but it will go a long way toward creating an atmosphere in which the blessings of heaven can be called down on family members, and love can then smooth out all differences.

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