“Home Evening Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect,” Ensign, Mar. 1991, 59
None of us had prepared for family home evening. We realized that fact on Sunday morning as we drove to church. Unfortunately, our schedules were such that we could hold home evenings only on Sunday afternoons. Five-year-old Drew immediately announced that he would make popcorn for refreshments. Stuart, our twelve-year-old, groaned when we reminded him that he was responsible for the lesson and game. It sounded as though the special talent assignment wouldn’t be so special, either.
A meeting kept the children and me after church while my wife, Sandi, played the piano for the choir. On the way home, Stuart informed us that while we had been waiting, he had checked out a family home evening manual from the meetinghouse library and was ready with the lesson. Things were starting to look up.
That afternoon, seven-year-old Curt welcomed everyone and called on Holly, our two-year-old, to say the opening prayer. Right then, Holly was breaking a house rule by trying to get into Sandi’s piano-teaching materials. We coaxed her up front, where I tried to help her with the prayer. She would only say “Amen.” We then discovered that her diaper needed changing, so Sandi took her out.
The boys and I discussed how we were going to attend Stuart’s jazz band concert, watch Drew and Curt’s T-ball game, and give Sandi time to do family canning—all on Wednesday night. Sandi and Holly returned in time to hear and approve our plan.
Curt then announced talent time. While Holly played a few random notes on the piano, ten-year-old Spencer convinced me to bring his bass upstairs. Drew and Curt each played piano solos, followed by Spencer playing his most recent piece on the bass. Then Sandi and Stuart played a piano duet, “The Washington Post March,” that was lively enough to put us all on the edge of our seats.
We had spent so much time on the concert that we all agreed when Sandi suggested that we keep family singing to just one song. Because it was the Fourth of July weekend, she got out the patriotic songbook and played “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Stuart and I moved to the piano to sing over her shoulder, the three little ones marched noisily around the living room, and Spencer lay on the couch.
We enjoyed the singing so much that we begged Sandi to play another song. We sang “Yankee Doodle Boy,” and Spencer now joined us at the piano while the little ones expanded their march route to include the upstairs bedrooms and a few bounces on the living-room couch. Sandi continued to play while I made sure the bounces were deleted from the parade route. We sang “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle.”
Stuart’s lesson began with a treasure hunt. We followed some paper arrows he had previously placed on the floor to two covered baskets, a smaller one on top bearing a large paper X. The kids crowded around as we opened the small basket—labeled “Hidden Treasure of Goodies”—and all enjoyed a gumdrop. Stuart then opened the large basket, labeled “Hidden Spiritual Treasure.” Inside was a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Stuart told us that the Book of Mormon had been a “hidden treasure.” He asked what that meant, and Curt and Spencer took turns telling us how Joseph Smith had obtained the gold plates from their hiding place in Hill Cumorah. Sandi and I sat back and listened while the kids answered Stuart’s questions and Holly wandered off downstairs after more hidden treasure. She came back with some cards from a board game. We ignored her because she wasn’t bothering anyone. The discussion went on briefly while Holly made several more trips downstairs. Drew lost interest and began to play quietly with Holly and her cards. Stuart concluded with his testimony of the Book of Mormon and challenged each of us to read it every day for a month. He gave us each a chart to record our reading.
Spencer commented that he and his friend Adam had been looking at the Old Testament after Primary that day and had found a passage that said “Truth shall spring out of the earth.” (Ps. 85:11.) He got his Bible and read the passage, pointing out that the footnote indicated that the reference was to the Book of Mormon.
The discussion was now informal and spontaneous. Curt had lost interest and began playing with Holly and Drew. I pointed out that there are other biblical phrases referring to the Book of Mormon and to its below-ground hiding place—for example: “And thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (Isa. 29:4.)
Spencer commented that other churches would not interpret these passages in the same way. For this reason, he said, we need a spiritual witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. That inspired me to ask Stuart how he had received his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He replied that he had received it through study and prayer. After some searching, he read us the promise in Moroni 10:4–5. [Moro. 10:4–5]
Stuart’s lesson, one of our better ones, had now gone on for about twenty minutes, and the three smaller children were starting to fight over the cards. Since Stuart hadn’t planned any games to go along with the lesson, someone suggested that we play our old standby guessing game using only Book of Mormon stories.
Stuart climbed onto the piano bench and preached while dodging imaginary stones and arrows. We quickly guessed Samuel the Lamanite. I acted out Enos hunting in the forest and praying all day. Sandi dug a pit and buried her sword a la the Ammonites. The smaller kids could only think of Bible stories, so we got out The Book of Mormon for Beginning Readers. We eventually had pantomimes of Ammon defending King Lamoni’s flocks and Christ appearing to the brother of Jared. This game can go on all night at our house, but we stopped after one round.
Spencer, Drew, and I set up the popcorn popper, and Sandi mixed some punch. We talked around the table until the popcorn ran out. Everyone liked Stuart’s suggestion that we plan a time to go to the park to run and walk, so we organized a family outing while we sat around the table. Later on, at bedtime, we had family prayer.
Though our home evening wasn’t perfect, it was a good one for us. We enjoyed ourselves together, we learned a few things, everyone participated at least part of the time, and most participated most of the time. Perhaps some of the things we have learned from holding home evening with small children can help others as well:
Have a regular day and time for home evening.
Follow up on assignments. We were lucky to have such a good home evening, considering that we hadn’t properly prepared for it. Important assignments shouldn’t be left to chance.
Keep family business short and relevant to most family members. If business lasts too long, too many members lose interest. Much family business can be done at other times.
Be flexible. When we saw that the family singing was fun, we extended it awhile.
Make the lesson a single idea illustrated in a way most of the family can understand. The Family Home Evening Resource Book is full of useful ideas and will save you lots of time.
Keep the lesson short. Five to ten minutes is plenty in some cases.
Make the lesson topic relevant to your family.
Leave younger children alone temporarily when they lose interest, but involve them again if they start to bother others.
Seize teaching moments.
Play a game that everyone likes, and have refreshments. Kids love games, and they help build a reservoir of goodwill toward home evening that carries over when lessons aren’t perfect or family business drags.
Like ours, your home evenings won’t all be perfect. But as you continue to hold them, you will receive inspiration about how to improve.