Since President Joseph F. Smith introduced family home evening in the Church 100 years ago this month, it has influenced at least five generations of Latter-day Saints, a fact that is demonstrated in the extended family of Carmen Houmand of Sandy, Utah, and her daughter, Catherine Gardner of Oak City, Utah.
For Sister Gardner, it carries an association of one spiritual experience that occurred in the aftermath of a family tragedy.
Sister Houmand and Sister Gardner are among readers who have answered an invitation in a Feb. 1 Church News article marking 100 years of home evening in the Church and 50 years since it was revitalized by President David O. McKay. Readers were asked to share their insights and memories about home evening.
“We had family home evening in our home many years after President Smith introduced it and many years before President McKay gave it renewed impetus,” remembered Sister Houmand. “Although not on a weekly basis, our mother gathered us together at various times and taught us an interesting lesson. Sometimes my sister and I would perform a beginning piano piece. She always served a special treat at the end. This is one of the fond remembrances of my childhood.”
Fond enough that, as a mother with young children, she readily embraced the renewed emphasis when it came along in 1965 and, with husband Jay, implemented it in their own home.
“I remember one family home evening in particular where my mom gathered us one afternoon when I was about 19,” said her daughter, Sister Gardner. “Dad worked nights and so was often not there. It was she and [us] four children. She had us delve into the scriptures and taught us how to cross-reference. I know she won’t remember it, but I remember feeling the Spirit and enjoying it and thinking it was fun. I learned and felt.”
Later, as a young mother herself, Sister Gardner and her husband, Dean, after the accidental death of their baby daughter, would use family home evening as an instrument to convey consolation and understanding.
“Our son, just two years older, was having a terrible time understanding where his baby sister and playmate had gone and when she would be back,” Sister Gardner recalled.
“We pulled out a glove, as instructed in the family home evening manual, and taught him about the spirit and the body and how they separate at death but the spirit lives on. Each time we put our hand in the glove, representing our earthly life, and then pulled it out representing death and the spirit leaving his body, his eyes shined with understanding. Even at the tender age of 3, he seemed to grasp it. After that, he never asked again where she was. He continued to miss her, but going forward, he talked about her living with Heavenly Father and no longer asked where she was.”
Today, that son and other children in the Gardner family are grown with children of their own. They carry forward the home evening tradition that began so long ago with their great-grandparents.
Mary Lou Ensign of Freeport, Illinois, recalls a family home evening lesson in the 1960s, that gave four simple rules for avoiding contention in the home:
“I will speak kind words.”
“I will ask before taking.”
“I will do my fair share of the work.”
“I will allow others to have their own opinion.”
“We found these rules applied to children and also to adults,” she said. “We made a chart, and when there was a problem, we would ask what rule was broken.
“Amazing how even the youngest of five understood and we could talk about the solution (in private or as a family).
“FHE was even better when the number six child came along and the older ones taught her the ‘rules’ she needed to understand.
“We continue to use those reminders in lessons, talks or chats with our neighbors, and we all have a key chain with the four rules. Now, our children have children of their own and are using the same charts, etc.”
Liz Sartori of Garland, Utah, has shown that family home evening can have application in one’s life even in a single-person household.
“As a never-married single woman, retired, I’ve adapted FHE to my life,” Sister Sartori wrote. “I am fortunate that I have been invited to a few home evenings either to present my unique conversion story or to partake of someone’s lesson.
“I also enjoy an occasional Sunday night FHE with my friends’ family. Twice I have invited a family from the ward for a home evening at my house — an activity night with treats in my game room, which their children enjoy.
“I feel that a lesson, activity, etc., is a family home evening if held on a Monday night if I start and finish with prayer. Sometimes it is reading, sometimes it is a bike ride, and sometimes it is writing letters and/or emails to family or friends. It may be service if it doesn’t involve anyone else on Monday night.”
Sister Sartori said she observes family home evening by reading for entertainment, studying scriptures and Church magazines for spirituality and searching the Internet for knowledge and learning. “I’ve also organized my genealogy (honoring father and mother) or taken on a project like cleaning the garage (appreciation for my home and all that I have).
“I guess if my time is dedicated, planned, edifying and enjoyable, I’ve got a good thing going.”