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Cover story: Foundation for a happy family

Encouraging family home evening

Saul Jose Vargas sat down with his 10-year-old daughter, Maria Isabel, a few weeks ago and began reading from the Book of Mormon. Together they studied passages where Mormon speaks in letters to his son, Moroni. The loving words of a prophet to his scion saddened Saul Jose. He had lost his own father just days earlier and now hungered for spiritual comfort.

"My daughter began to console me, telling me that her grandpa was now in a place where he was no longer suffering," said Brother Vargas, a member of the Verbenal Branch, Bogota Colombia Granada Stake.

Young Maria Isabel then told her father of the Plan of Salvation, the blessings of the temple and eternal families. A bit surprised, Brother Vargas asked Maria Isabel if she had learned such things in Primary.

No, she reminded him, "we learned about them at home during family home evening."

"My tears of sadness changed to tears of joy and love," Brother Vargas said. "Family home evening has been the foundation of our happy family. . . Family home evening is where we have learned and feasted on [God's] words."

President Gordon B. Hinckley worries not enough people are enjoying such family home evening blessings.

"We are fearful that this very important program is fading in too many areas," said President Hinckley during the recent priesthood session of the 2002 semiannual general conference.

The Church leader said the program was established 87 years ago to bring families together for an evening of teaching, scripture reading and family discussion. The need for family home evening today is greater than ever.

"In the increasingly frantic rush of our lives it is so important that fathers and mothers sit down with their children, pray together, instruct them in the ways of the Lord, consider their family problems and let the children express their talents," President Hinckley said. "I am satisfied that this program came under the revelations of the Lord in response to a need among the families of the Church."

Nanda Brock seconds President Hinckley's convictions. A mother of two young children, Sister Brock says she and her husband, Michael, have made family home evening a priority despite their busy schedules. Brother Brock is studying law at Penn State University. Sister Brock holds down a job — and even Michael, 8, and Daniel, 6, have school work and other interests competing for their time. Yet the hour or so they spend together in family home evening each week has proved a profitable investment.

Regular family home evening "has brought us closer as a family," said Sister Brock of the Carlisle Ward, Harrisburg Pennsylvania Stake. Each of the Brocks take turns teaching the lesson — including little Daniel, who uses pictures and stories from the Friend magazine. The boys have even learned about sharing the gospel first-hand via family home evening. The Brocks occasionally have invited non-member friends from campus to join in.

"It's a good opportunity for the kids to learn about sharing the gospel," Sister Brock said.

Bishop Alex Bedoya always asks moms and dads who are struggling with their teenage children if they are holding regular family home evenings.

"Family home evening is a simple antidote to many of the ills of the world," said Bishop Bedoya, who presides over the Pasco 4th Ward, Pasco Washington Stake. He plans on emphasizing President Hinckley's family home evening admonitions again and again in his ward. A father of four, Bishop Bedoya said he always finds time to make it to weekly soccer practices or to the mall when there's a sale.

"So if we make time for those things that will ultimately have little effect in the eternities, why not do the same thing for family home evening?" he asked.

Family home evening has long been a tradition for Amado Rojas and his family. But now the Rojas children are raised, most have moved away and a few have children of their own. Yet family home evening remains a vital part of the week for Brother Rojas and his wife, Leonila, of the Muzquiz Ward, Mexico City Mexico Anahuac Stake. Whenever possible, Brother and Sister Rojas gather with their children and grandchildren living nearby for family home evening.

"To improve our family home evenings, we've used the Family Home Evening Resource Book. It's a marvelous resource that has provided us with help in every situation. It's helped us with topics such as service, sacrifice, missionary work, the Atonement, redemption of the dead and many other subjects," Brother Rojas said, adding the Resource Book is full of other activities and games for the entire family.

Brother Vargas can't imagine raising his children without family home evening.

"I'm so grateful for this program that has done so much for our family," he said. "I need to remember not to let a Monday pass without family home evening."

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