“Family Home Evening Suggestion Box,” Ensign, Sept. 2004, 52
Like most of us, Matthew and Judy Morrise of the West Hills Ward, Beaverton Oregon Stake, are always looking for new ideas for family home evening lessons and activities. The Family Home Evening Resource Book (item no. 31106) is the mainstay, but other ideas are also welcome. While looking through the resource book, Judy Morrise came across an idea calling for the use of a suggestion box.
“This seemed like a good way to find out how our children felt about family home evening,” says Sister Morrise. “I made the box and placed it on a shelf where I knew the children would see it. Imagine my delight when after a few days I found notes from my six-year-old and eight-year-old daughters. They wanted to use the family home evening ideas they saw monthly in the Friend magazine. We gave it a try, and within the next two months each girl gave a short lesson that included an opening song, scripture references, a story, and an activity. Of course, we ended with treats.”
The suggestion box worked for the Morrises. Following is a “suggestion box” for you, full of family home evening ideas and testimonies gathered from readers. As you read these suggestions, choose some that best fit your situation and give them a try.
The scriptures are a ready source of family home evening lessons. When Sister Fortunata Mandalari of the Reggio Calabria Branch, Calabria Italy District, took a vacation to visit her daughter’s family, she turned to the scriptures for a family home evening lesson.
“I prepared a piece of paper for each of the seven family members,” she says, “and I wrote on it: ‘For the next family home evening, come prepared with your favorite scripture and a comment. You will have five minutes.’
“On Monday, when we sat down at the table, there was already a peaceful feeling. I knew everything was going to go well. Each family member spoke of a different scripture, and everyone had a chance to speak up and learn from one another. We were so happy with this format that we used it for the remainder of my vacation.
“After I returned home, my daughter told me that her family still enjoys this approach for family home evening. Everyone studies, speaks, and listens. There is no time for boredom.”
Susan Wolf, now of the Vashon Branch, Seattle Washington Stake, remembers when she received inspiration for a special family home evening. “We had just moved, and I was expecting a new baby,” says Sister Wolf. “With two preschoolers, I wanted to find a family home evening on the topic of preparing children for a new sibling. Nothing I read seemed quite right. So I prayed. My great desire was for our children to realize that having more children in our family did not equate to less love for them. And I wanted to emphasize that Jesus Christ is the source of all love. As I got up from my knees, an idea occurred to me.
“That Monday evening after singing and having an opening prayer, I handed each child a paper cup. I poured water into each cup and asked, ‘What happens if I run out of water?’ My son answered, ‘You go to the sink and fill up the pitcher, Mommy.’
“I explained, ‘We are going to have a new baby, and Mommy will be much busier. I won’t have as much time to play with you. But Mommy won’t run out of love for you. Do you know why?’
“This time my son and his three-year-old sister looked thoughtful but didn’t have an answer. I said, ‘I’ll just pray to Heavenly Father, and Jesus will fill up my heart with more love. So everyone in the family will have all the love they need.’ My children broke into happy smiles, as did my husband. The feelings in our hearts confirmed the presence of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony of the truth that God is love.
“My daughter, now 23, recently repeated word for word this family home evening lesson of years ago. That was a testimony to me that even a very small child can be spiritually taught when love is the subject and Jesus Christ is the source.”
Even though she was 90 years old, Aletha Gilbert of the Lakeview Ward, Bountiful Utah Central Stake, loved to invite her family over for family home evening. Before her death in 2002, Aletha wrote of these special home evenings: “I make sure I have a supply of pens or pencils, writing paper, and envelopes. Sometimes I address the envelopes in advance. We each write a message to missionaries in the family and ward. What fun! Everyone likes this idea—the one who sends it and the one who receives it.”
Elder Nicholas D. Germer, who served in the Brazil Brasília Mission, has been on the receiving end of a family home evening activity. He writes: “I received three letters from members of a family that I knew before my mission. They wrote the letters during a family home evening, and the three-year-old daughter even got help from her father to write to me. I could feel their love and will never forget these letters.”
Another family has a new idea for writing to missionaries. They spread out a large piece of paper. Then each family member takes a colored marker and writes a message in a circle, pattern, or other fun and interesting way. The young children frame off a section and draw a picture. Then they fold up the paper and mail it in a large envelope. Missionaries can hang this “banner” on their walls and enjoy it for weeks.
When your family shares an experience that results in gospel questions, family home evening can be a place where discussion and scripture study help resolve pressing questions.
During a family vacation, the Bart and LeAnne Dahneke family of the Grandview Fifth Ward, Provo Utah Grandview Stake, shared an unusual experience.
“My husband and I decided to take our children for a walk along the beach in search of shells,” says Sister Dahneke. “While walking we met a nice couple. Bart struck up a conversation with them, and we became quick friends.
“The next day we had dinner together and discovered that this couple was soon going to be married by a local minister. They had no family with them, so they invited us to serve as witnesses. We agreed.
“The wedding was held on a beautiful beach as the sun was setting over a calm, clear ocean. The bride and groom were radiant as they held hands and made the promise to love, honor, and respect each other. My children were happy for our new friends, but they had a lot of questions about the wedding ceremony. So our next family home evening was on eternal marriage.
“We talked about the importance of eternal marriage as found in D&C 132:15, 19. We taught our children about the importance of living their lives so they are worthy to go to the temple to be sealed for eternity. We felt the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as we talked about the beauty of a temple marriage and its eternal sealing power, compared to an earthly wedding and its ‘until death do us part’ promise.
“Drawing upon this shared experience provided a powerful foundation to teach the gospel principles surrounding eternal marriage. Our children were receptive because they had experienced firsthand the wedding on the beach. We were motivated because we know firsthand the joys of temple marriage. The result was a powerful family home evening.”
“You don’t have to be a child to enjoy the activities in the children’s section of the Liahona,” says Martha Mabel Martínez of the Caleta Olivia Ward, Comodoro Rivadavia Argentina Stake. “Our family consists of my father, my mother, and me—their grown daughter. It used to be very difficult for us to hold family home evening, but ever since we started using the children’s section, everything has improved—especially the good spirit we feel when we’re together. Sometimes other members of our family just happen to come by, and they participate too and are just as enthusiastic about family home evening as we are.”
Ideas for family home evening are found in all Church magazines—on page 1 of the Liahona, on the “Making the Most of This Issue” page in the Ensign, on the “What’s in It for You” page in the New Era, and on the “Guide to the Friend” page in the Friend. A family home evening can also be built around a subject from the topic index found in each Church magazine. Linked to each topic are stories or articles found in that issue. It is easy to read a story or article together and then discuss a particular topic.
When you hold family home evening week after week, lesson after lesson, some Monday evenings may seem like failures and others may exceed your greatest hopes. But it’s consistency that is essential.
One young woman shares her testimony of the power of holding family home evening each week. “I cannot recall one single family home evening that significantly changed my life,” she says. “Rather it is my memory of family home evenings as a whole that has strengthened my testimony and led me down the path of truth. We spent each Monday night as a family for as long as I can remember. We studied the scriptures, played kickball, held family councils, played games, and learned to love and respect one another despite our individual faults and weaknesses. My father eagerly tried to instill in us a love for the gospel and the happiness that could be ours if we obeyed the commandments.
“By the time I turned 14, I refused to go to church, but family home evenings continued. My father continued to have hope for me. Eventually family home evening became my only link to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I headed down the wrong path and made several mistakes, but somewhere deep inside my heart I knew that the gospel was true and that nothing I did could change that fact.
“At the age of 18, I knew I had to make a decision: Would I follow the Savior or would I follow the world? I could not serve two masters. I chose to follow the Lord and through repentance returned to full Church activity. I believe it was the determination of my father to continue to hold family home evening—even though I chafed against it—that made the difference.
“Now my husband and I hope to help instill a love of the Savior and His Church in our children through, of course, regular family home evening.”