Family Home Evenings That Work
February 2002

“Family Home Evenings That Work,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 21–25

Family Home Evenings That Work

Members’ experiences show that there are a variety of successful approaches to family night.

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut in your efforts to hold family home evening? Maybe all you need are some fresh ideas and perspectives. Family home evening can be approached in a variety of ways. Some approaches involve formal planning, while others make the most of informal teaching moments. By relying on the Spirit of the Lord for inspiration and guidance, you can find the approaches that work best for your family. Following are some possibilities and experiences shared by Ensign readers.

Sharing Our Prayer Experiences

As we have held family home evenings, there have been times when I wondered if anything meaningful was happening. But I came to realize that if we put forth our best efforts, the Lord blessed us.

For one of our family home evenings, my husband, Karl, and I felt strongly that we should talk with our children about prayer. We told them of times when Heavenly Father had answered our prayers. Karl then asked each of the children to share a prayer experience of their own.

Their responses touched our hearts, for we did not realize that our children had had so many wonderful experiences with prayer.

Richard told about the operation he had had on his foot and how his prayers to be healed had been answered. Nathan remembered having the pain from an ear infection taken away. Laralynn told about the time her dad and her uncle had given her a priesthood blessing when she was sick and she had gotten better. Robert and Amy shared stories. Then we talked about how we had been praying that little Jeffrey would be able to go to his nursery class and not cry, and now he was doing so much better.

These and other experiences that were shared reminded me that the Lord is truly willing to “bless our efforts day by day” (“God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray,” Hymns, no. 170).—Diane Stokes Stock, Copperhill 10th Ward, Salt Lake Hunter Copperhill Stake

Reinforcing Lessons During the Week

We have found a way to supplement and reinforce our family home evening lesson throughout the week. We create a bulletin board display using pictures and word strips that focus on the key message of the lesson. The board hangs beside the kitchen table so that we can refer to it often during the week. At bedtime we read stories from Church magazines that support and amplify our family night lesson for that week. We keep a file of visuals and stories organized by gospel topics that can be easily accessed for our nighttime reading.

In this way we hope to make our family home evening lessons more effective and help our family gain a greater understanding of the gospel.—Lisa Turner Whitsitt, Whitby Ward, Oshawa Ontario Stake

Fireside Chats and Family Support

One of our most successful family home evening ideas was simply to gather around a small campfire. There is something about the glowing coals of a campfire that helps children share their feelings. Once we got the fire going, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and chatted. We learned many things about our children they had never told us before. We found that the same cozy, comfortable feeling could be created indoors around a fireplace with the household lights turned off.

Another successful family night activity involved the whole family helping with one of the children’s projects, such as a merit badge or a Young Women achievement goal. One night our family attended a city council meeting because a son was working on his Citizenship in the Community merit badge. It was a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about our city and how government works.—Betty Jan Murphy, Pine Ward, Payson Arizona Stake

“That Is Joseph Smith”

One night our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Carrie, announced it was family home evening. So I asked her who would do the lesson. She said it was her turn and grabbed a copy of the Ensign. She sat down on the floor, and her dad and I sat behind her on the couch.

She pointed to the front cover and explained that it was Joseph Smith. She then proceeded to thumb through the entire magazine, pointing out images of Jesus, Joseph Smith, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and Brigham Young. Then, with a gasp, she paused when she got to the inside back cover, which was a painting of the Prophet in Liberty Jail.

“Oh, Mommy and Daddy,” she said, “that is Joseph Smith, and he is very sad. But he is on his knees. He is having prayer to Heavenly Father. You know what? Heavenly Father will bless him, and then he will be all happy again.”

It was not a planned family night, but it really opened my eyes to the depth of understanding that a little child can have. Carrie’s expression of faith that the Prophet would be blessed and “all happy again” gave my own faith a boost.—Robann S. Reichenbach, South Bend Ward, South Bend Indiana Stake

“Family Court”

Our daughter Marilyn had borrowed five dollars from her brother Matthew, with the promise to pay it back quickly, and now he wanted it. They had reached an impasse, and feelings were beginning to run hot. Marilyn was willing to pay her debt but couldn’t for a few more days. Matthew, however, demanded his money immediately for an activity he wanted to attend that same day.

As I viewed the situation, it was clear that Matthew was demanding justice, and Marilyn was asking for mercy—but it appeared that both could not have their way.

In past family home evening lessons, I had used the story called “The Mediator” told by President Boyd K. Packer, now Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see Ensign, May 1977, 54–55). Now I felt impressed to apply that story’s concepts to our family’s situation in order to bring the principle of the Atonement to life in our minds and hearts.

I called our family together and explained that we were going to hold a “family court.” Matthew and Marilyn each took a turn presenting their cases to the rest of us. When they finished, we opened up the time for questions from the other family members.

I asked Matthew if it mattered who paid him back the money. After all, as long as he received the five dollars, his demand would be met and justice would be served. He answered that it didn’t matter, as long as he had the money in his hands right away.

I then turned to Marilyn and asked, if someone paid the debt for her now, would she be willing to owe the money to someone else and try to repay that person as soon as she could? In this way, mercy would be extended in her behalf. She accepted readily.

I then pulled five dollars out of my wallet and gave it to Matthew.

I explained to the children that this was an illustration of what the Lord had done for us. Because of His infinite love for us, He paid the price for our sins, and He extended to us a plan of redemption from sin that was within our ability to grasp and accomplish. He satisfied the demands of justice and offered mercy to us.

I am grateful for the opportunity this situation gave our family to discuss and more fully appreciate the Savior’s great sacrificial offering.—Douglas C. Dickey, Holland Ward, Grand Rapids Michigan Stake

“Look at the Rainbow!”

One of our most memorable family home evening experiences came about in a completely unexpected way. Our six-year-old son, Eric, was in charge of the lesson, but he was having trouble deciding what to do. All of us made suggestions, but he said no to everything, mostly because he didn’t want to have a lesson at all!

We were gathered in the living room, waiting for him to decide—and wondering if we should skip the whole thing—when suddenly Eric looked up and ran to the window. “Look at the rainbow!” he said.

It had been raining earlier, but now the sun was coming out. It provided a breathtakingly beautiful rainbow that was practically in our front yard. We oohed and aahed for a while, and then Eric said, “Let’s draw rainbows.”

We set out crayons, markers, and paper, and while we worked on our drawings we talked about what the Lord said the rainbow stood for after the Flood. As the kids finished up their pictures, I read the story of Noah.

The rainbow outside our window faded, but our children learned that God’s promises are sure and will never fade.—Molly Larson, American Fork 31st Ward, American Fork Utah North Stake

Learning to Give Talks

Before I was eight, my parents decided to devote a family home evening to helping us learn how to give a talk. They explained a basic approach to giving a short talk: state the gospel principle, provide two or three supporting examples from the scriptures or from your life, bear testimony of the gospel principle, and close. The best part of the evening came when we each got a chance to practice. All five children were given subjects and were helped through the steps of preparing and giving a talk. We loved the chance to show off for Mom and Dad!

Not long after our family night lesson, I was assigned to give a talk in Primary. Unfortunately I forgot about it, so I was not prepared when our Primary meeting was about to start and I realized I was supposed to speak. I told the Primary president I would give a talk anyway. She seemed doubtful (after all, I wasn’t even eight yet). Remembering what I had learned during family home evening, I quickly prepared a talk while the opening songs and other matters were going on. Then, when the time came, I was able to give a short talk. The Primary leaders seemed impressed, and I felt good all that day.

I am grateful that I learned some basic skills during family home evening that helped me in this situation. My early experiences in public speaking gave me confidence that has carried over into my adulthood.—Paige Ladd, Ahwatukee Second Ward, Tempe Arizona West Stake

We Heard It among the Grapevines

Some of our best family teaching has occurred at unplanned moments when we have done little more than make sure we were together. For example, working as a family on a fairly mindless and boring task can be the setting for valuable, constructive interaction.

One time when the grapes in our yard needed pruning, I found a sale on hand pruners and bought some for the four members of our family. On Monday night, out we marched. After a few basic instructions we all began in earnest. Soon our youngest son was telling us about a conversation he had had with a new boy in school. The boy said that at his former school the basketball coach had told him to swear during games because it was intimidating to the other team. The family discussion that followed was one we could not have planned any better, and it gave us the opportunity to review and reinforce gospel standards.—Thaylene Barrett, Pleasant View First Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake

A Protection against the Evils of Our Time

Elder L. Tom Perry

“In all the family units throughout the Church, evaluate again the progress you are making in holding regular family home evenings. The application of this program will be a shield and a protection to you against the evils of our time and will bring you, individually and collectively, greater and abundant joy now and in the eternities hereafter.”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “‘Therefore I Was Taught,’” Ensign, May 1994, 38.

More on this topic:“Family Home Evening—Any Size, Any Situation,”Ensign, Dec. 2001, 40–43; G. G. Vandagriff, “Need a Family Discussion? Try a Church Magazine,”Ensign, July 2001, 60–61; L. Tom Perry, “‘Therefore I Was Taught,’”Ensign, May 1994, 38.
Visit www.lds.org or see Church magazines on CD.

Illustrated by Daniel A. Lewis

Photography by Kelly Larsen