Family home evening should be a priority

Two-and-a-half-year-old Benjamin Smith often sings while he plays.

He'll be with other children in his Vancouver, British Columbia, neighborhood and he'll sing, "I love mother; she loves me. We love daddy, yes sirree." (From "A Happy Family," Children's Songbook, p. 198.When another child asks what he's singing, he responds, "I learned it in family home evening."

"He doesn't know what it's like to not have family home evening or family prayer," explained his mother, Alison Smith of the Vancouver 1st Ward. "He knows Monday night is family home evening."

This routine - setting aside Monday evenings for families to gather for gospel-centered discussions and activities - is what Church leaders have encouraged since President Joseph F. Smith first announced family home evening in 1915. Today, 83 years later, that counsel is no less urgent. In fact, the Church last year released a slightly revised Family Home Evening Resource Book, now including the First Presidency's and Quorum of the Twelve's "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."

"With all that is pulling the family apart, it was absolute inspiration for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to issue `The Family: A Proclamation to the World.' Part of this emphasis on helping the family is emphasizing family home evening," said Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Church's Priesthood Department.

"Everything we do now is preparation for eternity and the time when families will continue forever, so we want to use the time now in mortality to prepare for that eternal family organization. Family home evening is the opportune time for that preparation."

Elder Hillam emphasized the importance of making family home evening a priority - despite the demands of daily life. If time is not made for families, he said, some of the sweetest moments of life will be missed.

However, he continued, don't be discouraged when a successful family home evening is simply a completed family home evening. "Sometimes you just connect and the Spirit is there. Then there are times you're just grateful to get through the evening and get the kids tucked into bed. If it isn't a great one that goes down in your journal, don't get discouraged."

Just continue - and be patient, Elder Hillam added. In the long run, it's worth the weekly effort.

And take advantage of Church resources, such as the Family Home Evening Resource Book, he counseled. "We have the resource book that gives suggestions for topics and activities that build family relations, and it's good for many years because there are opportunities to alter the lessons in new and refreshing ways for them to be presented. A member of the family can be assigned an evening and can go to the book and find topics and suggestions for a successful family home evening.

Each of the 37 lessons in the resource book contains "Suggestions for Future Home Evenings." In addition, many of the lessons offer ideas on adapting to the needs of individual family members, such as young children or teenagers. There are also ideas for lessons on various topics, such as adversity, forgiving, manners and Word of Wisdom, and a section for gospel-centered family activities. One section offers counsel for improving family home evenings. (Please see box on this page.)

The introduction to the resource book suggests readers carefully study the section, "Building a Strong Family," which includes counsel on "Achieving Oneness in Marriage," "Resolving Conflicts in Marriage," "Building Confidence," and "Reclaiming a Wayward Child."

Elder Hillam explained that the resource book does not have to be used every week. He suggested having family home evenings on Church leaders' speeches soon after general conferences or other special Church occasions.

And, he emphasized, you don't have to be a parent and spouse to enjoy family home evening. "All of us ought to be involved in the family home evening experience," he said, noting that single members can arrange to have family home evening with friends or can make it an evening at home with the scriptures. They might even want to assemble their family history.

He added that it builds the family by doing these types of things. "Being alone doesn't excuse us from doing something to put us close to our family."

And, according to Gary and Alison Smith of Vancouver, having young children also isn't an excuse for postponing family home evening. A week doesn't go by that they don't hold family home evening with Benjamin and 8-month-old Jake - even if it only lasts 15 minutes. "For instance, we might work in our garden for family home evening and sing "The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden (From Children's Songbook, p. 237)," Sister Smith related. She added that they teach the Plan of Salvation to their son through their gardening efforts of planting and harvesting to illustrate birth and death.

Speaking of beginning family home evening when children are young, she said, "If you wait until they're 5 years old, they'll want to watch movies and other things.

Regardless of the activity, spending time together is what's important. "I may have a pile of laundry or dishes to do, but that's less important than spending time with my family."

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