Popular family home evening gathering at BYU continues despite pandemic

Think you know your latter-day temple facts and figures? Have a shot at these questions:

  1. Which temple was the first to have an angel placed on top?
  2. Which temple was the first to present ordinances in a language other than English?
  3. Which temple has a piece of Disney animation from the film “Pinocchio” in its cornerstone?

Answer all three correctly?

If so, you would have likely contended for top honors in the “Temple Tidbits” online quiz staged during the Monday, Feb. 8, edition of BYU’s Education in Zion Gallery virtual family home evening program.

(And if not, just keep reading.)

The temple quiz was a fun, participatory element of the most recent iteration of the gallery’s popular and long-established family home evening events. The event has evolved during a health crisis that frowns upon public gatherings.

First, some history.

Located in the school’s Joseph F. Smith Building, the Education in Zion Gallery is a permanent campus fixture that examines, according to its website, “the study-experience-revelation cycle” as it relates to education in Latter-day Saint history.

The gallery includes a permanent exhibition and temporary displays that emphasize the central figures, themes and moments in Church education. Anchoring the gallery is the principle “on which the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is based: that learning is for the whole soul, the spirit as well as the intellect.”

In its efforts to help students interact with this guiding principle, the Education in Zion Gallery has long presented family home evening programs on a variety of topics integrated with the gallery’s exhibitions and curricula from various BYU professors.

Traditionally, the family home evenings have been popular in-person gatherings. But the ongoing pandemic does not care about tradition, so gallery curator Heather Seferovich and her staff of student employees have had to step back, recalibrate and adjust.

“When COVID-19 hit last year, all classes transitioned to some form of online instruction, but this year many are following a hybrid model, mixing online with in-person attendance,” said Seferovich. “So it seemed logical to also move some of the gallery’s FHE programs online.”

The curator and her staff know their audience well. Most BYU students spend their days in front of devices for their virtual classes. Many are battling advanced cases of “screen fatigue.” Asking them to connect with yet another Zoom conference is a tough sell. 

“So we have worked hard to make the [FHE] programs engaging and as interactive as possible,” said Seferovich.

Read more: How youth worldwide are gathering virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic

Their efforts are paying off. More than 130 people participated in Monday’s virtual family home evening focusing on the blessings of the temple. 

The gathering was hosted by Kattie Millett, a gallery specialist.

“I love hosting the virtual FHE programs,” she said. “Everyone is so willing to pray, sing and share incredible comments. It almost feels like being in person again. I love that even in the midst of a pandemic, I can still experience the social, spiritual and emotional support of an FHE program in a safe and satisfying way.”

Casey Griffiths, an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine, encourages his students to attend the online events.

“The virtual family home evenings held by Education in Zion have been a great opportunity for my students to learn more about many of the themes taught in my Church history classes,” he said.

Seferovich said the past year has taught many lessons that will serve the gallery well long after the pandemic ends, including ways to best produce virtual, hybrid instruction that can better connect, educate and inspire.

“It has been a giant learning curve,” she said. “We’ve tried different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. We’ve tried to find things that will be engaging and interesting.”

(And for any who missed Monday’s FHE gathering and are stumped by the “Temple Tidbit” quiz questions: A – Nauvoo. B – Mesa Arizona. C – Orlando Florida.)