“Need a Family Discussion? Try a Church Magazine,” Ensign, July 2001, 62–63
My 16-year-old son looked at me in disbelief. “It can’t be my turn already,” he protested. “It seems like I just gave the family home evening lesson.”
I replied: “You’ve won trophies for extemporaneous speaking, Morgan. It shouldn’t be too hard for you to put together a lesson.”
He did, and it turned out to be one of the best lessons he had ever given. He used a New Era article on a subject that was important to him at that time in his life, one he was eager to share with the family. We had an excellent discussion, and his presentation impressed me so much that I later used the article as a basis for a Relief Society leadership lesson.
It has been years since my son planned that family home evening discussion. But something that happened a few weeks afterward reinforced the lesson I learned from his experience: that Church magazines are excellent sources of material for family home evening discussions. I read in the Ensign a “Speaking Today” article by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, titled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” (Mar. 1994, 60). He referred to President Ezra Taft Benson’s urging that Church members read and study the Book of Mormon to avoid the kind of condemnation of which early Church members were warned if they took the book lightly. Elder Oaks wrote of how this ancient scripture bears witness of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a way that none of the other standard works do. His article so enlightened my mind that I had to share it with my family at the next family home evening. Afterward, we rededicated ourselves to study the Book of Mormon as a family.
The words of our prophets and related material approved by the Church can be found in each of the Church magazines—Ensign, New Era, Friend, and Liahona (the Church’s international magazine). But how do we develop a home evening discussion from a magazine article or conference talk?
It helps to start with the principle or theme, the major truth you wish to teach your family. Once, for example, I constructed a lesson from “To Be Healed,” a conference address by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Ensign, May 1994, 7–9). As a principle, I took the quote printed directly under the title: “The surest, most effective, and shortest path to healing comes through application of the teachings of Jesus Christ in your life.” As I read the talk, I saw that for me two ideas stood out to support its theme: help from the Lord always follows His eternal laws, and healing help comes through Jesus Christ when we have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
To support that first main idea, I chose a picture of Jesus Christ praying in Gethsemane, and I explained to the children that even our Savior had to submit to the will of Heavenly Father. It is usually not difficult to find pictures that help make your points in Church magazines or among other materials you already have at home.
Other ways of emphasizing main ideas might include a Primary song for the young children (for example, “Keep the Commandments,” Children’s Songbook, 146), hymns for older family members, scriptural references, or word strips.
The best illustration—and often the best way to start a family discussion—is usually a story, especially when teaching children. The best story is one that happened to you or to someone else your children know. Once you capture their attention with a narrative, it is easy to share your thoughts on the particular principle involved. They will know that you know what you are talking about.
Every family home evening discussion benefits from a conclusion that helps family members retain what they have heard. Most Church magazine articles or talks offer excellent conclusions. Elder Scott summarized his topic with these points: “Do what you can do, a step at a time. Seek to understand the principles of healing from the scriptures and through prayer. Help others. Forgive. ‘Submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord’ [Mosiah 24:15]. Above all, exercise faith in Jesus Christ.”
Knowing your family helps you personalize your discussions. I like the approach my daughter used to reinforce her points after one discussion. Propped on my mirror is a card with this admonition printed in her hand: “Always give love. Don’t sit around and wait for it.” Simple. Direct. Effective! It is something tangible that will remind me always of the words she taught, like hearing her testimony again.
With a little thought on your part—and remember, thinking can be guided by the Holy Ghost when you prayerfully seek our Father’s help—you can find a wealth of material in Church magazines for vital, topical family home evening discussions.
In a modern society whose cultural climate often seems parched by worldly ideas—amoral, immoral, and profane—our souls and the souls of our families quickly become spiritually thirsty, in need of the refreshment provided by righteous ideals and words of faith. Next time your family home evening well seems to run dry, try turning to one of the Church magazines for water.
Each magazine has a guide on the last page that suggests ways to use the articles at home, church, and in our personal lives.
The magazines also have an annual index in the December issue. This can help you find articles on specific topics. In addition, the Ensign prints an index in each general conference issue—May and November—listing both the subjects and speakers from that conference.
The Ensign places “Let’s Talk about It” questions at the end of some articles, suggesting ideas for discussion. All articles have a list of gospel topics at the end, suggesting principal topics for which the article might be useful in teaching.
Each magazine offers short accounts ideal for illustrating principles. In the Ensign and Liahona, look for Latter-day Saint Voices. Stories can often be found in longer articles also. The New Era offers both true and fictional stories. The Friend offers story texts of interest to older children and illustrated scriptural stories and activities to catch the interest of younger children.