Church History
Family Home Evening
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“Family Home Evening,” Church History Topics (2022)

“Family Home Evening,” Church History Topics

Family Home Evening

At a conference of elders in November 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation that delivered “a law unto the inhabitants of Zion” to “teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” and warned that children were “growing up in wickedness” and greed. 1 Throughout the rest of the 19th century, many Latter-day Saints encouraged families to teach and model gospel principles in the home. Shortly before his death in 1877, Brigham Young said, “If we do not take the pains to train our children, to teach and instruct them concerning these revealed truths, the condemnation will be upon us, as parents, or at least in a measure.” 2 Latter-day Saints founded various organizations to support families in educating and raising children, including the Primary, Sunday School, and Mutual Improvement Associations for young women and young men. 3

At the turn of the 20th century, Frank Y. Taylor, president of the Granite Stake in Salt Lake City, voiced concerns that many parents deferred to Church-sponsored organizations for teaching gospel principles and urged priesthood leaders to help families nurture children in the gospel and “make home the most pleasant place that the boy or girl can find in this whole world.” 4 In 1909, he assigned a committee to develop a plan for a regular stake event—a “home evening in the families of the Saints.” 5 The committee presented their recommendations in a special meeting for parents attended and endorsed by Church President Joseph F. Smith. The plan suggested that parents remember the commandment in Doctrine and Covenants 68 by dedicating one evening each week to gathering their families at home and sharing in prayer, singing, scripture reading, short gospel lessons, child-focused activities, and refreshments. The committee encouraged parents to avoid “all formality and stiffness” and avoid making other appointments on such evenings. 6

Observing the success of the home evenings, President Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency directed all stake presidents and bishops in 1915 to set aside one home evening each month for families and recommended to parents the same activities as the Granite Stake’s program. 7 Families and organization leaders principally relayed ideas for home evenings in Church magazines and manuals until 1946, when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles initiated a “revival … of this project inaugurated under the leadership of President Joseph F. Smith.” 8 The Relief Society was assigned to supervise the newly named “family hour” program in wards and branches and to prepare support materials for parents. 9 Elder Ezra Taft Benson prominently advocated for the program as a “great responsibility” and “spiritual foundation.” Serving as both an Apostle and cabinet secretary in the United States federal government in 1954, he hosted a live home evening with his family on the nationally televised “Person to Person” program. 10

In 1964, Church President David O. McKay and Elder Harold B. Lee considered further improvements to home-oriented gospel instruction. In general conference, Elder Lee announced that the ongoing priesthood correlation effort would direct a new family home evening program through stake priesthood leadership. 11 The Church released the Home Evening Manual containing instructions, suggestions, and lessons adaptable to all ages. Within a few years, the manual was translated into 17 languages. 12

Enthusiasm for the regular family night extended beyond Latter-day Saint homes. In 1973, an article in the New York Times highlighted the family home evening program as bringing greater solidarity to families, which sparked inquiries among various churches and organizations into the updated Family Home Evening Manual. 13 That year, missionaries adopted a new curriculum, the Uniform System for Teaching Families, that included family home evenings as additional preaching methods. Missionaries across the world promoted the program with civic events, press articles, street presentations, and home lessons. 14 Also that year, Latter-day Saints discussed the family home evening program with the governor of Virginia, who later declared May 1974 “Family Unity Month.” Other cities and states followed, with mayors and governors across the United States holding family unity activities and recommending family home evenings among their citizens. 15

Stake councils typically designated a day of the week for family home evenings until 1970, when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged stakes, missions, wards, and branches to reserve Monday nights for families. 16 Among his first actions as the new President of the Church in 1994, Howard W. Hunter directed that all Church buildings and facilities be closed on Monday nights and that stake and ward councils ensure interruptions to family home evenings be avoided. 17 Five years later, President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors in the First Presidency reiterated President Hunter’s policy and urged members of the Church to encourage their communities and schools to avoid scheduling activities that could draw children or parents away from home on Monday evenings. 18 A revised Sunday meeting schedule announced in 2018 reserved an hour for gospel study at home. In an effort to include and support single adults, the Church changed the name to “home evening” in the General Handbook and other materials. The First Presidency encouraged “individuals and families to hold home evening and to study the gospel at home on Sunday,” though Monday evenings remained free of other meetings or building use. 19 The broad embrace of home evening traditions continued to distinguish Latter-day Saints, particularly in passing on religious heritage. The regular home gatherings fostered for over a century provided Latter-day Saints with one of the strongest measured intergenerational connections of any modern religious group. 20

Related Topics: Primary, Young Women Organizations, Young Men Organizations, Sunday School

  1. See Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–32; Joseph Smith, “Revelation, 1 November 1831–A [D&C 68],” in Revelation Book 1, 113–14, josephsmithpapers.org; see also Smith, “Revelation, 1 November 1831–A [D&C 68]: Historical Introduction,” josephsmithpapers.org.

  2. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 172; see also Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 19:92.

  3. See Topics: Primary, Sunday School, Retrenchment, Young Men Organizations, Young Women Organizations, Church Academies, Seminaries and Institutes.

  4. Frank Y. Taylor, in Conference Report, Oct. 1902, 59.

  5. Home Evening: With Suggestive Exercises and Explanations, Also a Sermon on Family Government by Pres. Joseph F. Smith (Salt Lake City: Granite Stake of Zion, 1909), 3. This committee consisted of Edward H. Anderson, Joseph W. Musser, William Bradford, Thomas J. Yates, Joseph S. Tingey, and Jesse T. Badger.

  6. See Home Evening, 5–9, 50.

  7. Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, Letter to Presidents of Stakes, Bishops and Parents in Zion, 27 Apr. 1915, in “Editors’ Table: Home Evening,” Improvement Era, vol. 18, no. 8 (June 1915), 733–34.

  8. Rex A. Skidmore, “Do You Need the Family Hour?,” The Improvement Era, vol. 57, no. 9 (Sept. 1954), 626–27, 657–58; Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 27; see also “Announcement,” Improvement Era, vol. 18, no. 12 (Oct. 1915), front matter; Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations Manual for Junior Classes, 1916–1917: The Development of Character (Salt Lake City: General Board of YMMIA, 1916); Syllabus for Stake Institutes in Teacher Training, Social and Recreational Leadership, Charities and Relief Work: Manual for Stake and Ward Social Committees (Salt Lake City: Social Advisory Committee, 1920), 30; Claude Richards, Home Evening Handbook for Use of Parents and Older Children: Adopted as Official Guide by the Highland Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1936); Joseph F. Merrill, “Home Evening,” Improvement Era, vol. 21, no. 3 (Jan. 1918), 203–7; J. C. Hogensen, “The Home Evening,” Improvement Era, vol. 32, no. 7 (May 1929), 567–69. Between 1956 and 1970, the Instructor periodically spotlighted individual families’ home evening activities and agenda.

  9. Skidmore, “Do You Need the Family Hour?,” 626–27; Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 27.

  10. Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 27; Edward R. Murrow’s “Person to Person” Program on CBS Television, 1954 September 24, Ezra Taft Benson File Footage, circa 1984–1994, AV 1797, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

  11. See Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 80–87; see Topic: Correlation.

  12. See Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 80–87; see Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 118–22.

  13. Judy Klemesrud, “Strengthening Family Solidarity with a Home Evening Program,” New York Times, June 4, 1973, 47; see James A. Cullimore, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 38–41.

  14. “Family Home Evenings,” in The Uniform System for Teaching Families (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 1973), B1–B13; see also Dennis A. Wright and Janine Gallagher Doot, “Missionary Materials and Methods: A Preliminary Study,” in Reid L. Neilson and Fred E. Woods, Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2012), 91–116; Germany Munich Mission Manuscript History and Historical Reports, Feb. 19–July 4, 1972, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; Kenneth Harold Golding, Missionary Journal, 13–27 Dec. 1972, 20–27, https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/135507982; Germany South Mission Family Home Evening Program Scrapbook, 1972, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; Roy Remund, “Strengthen the Home,” Bayanihan [Philippines Manila Mission, LR 6887 20] (July 1973), 7; Australia East Mission News, vol. 4, no. 12 (Oct. 17, 1973), 1, Australia Sydney Mission Records, 1918–1920; 1941–1991, LR 10871 39, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

  15. See Cullimore, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 39–41; “It’s Family Unity Month in Virginia,” Ensign, June 1974, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1974/06/news-of-the-church/its-family-unity-month-in-virginia; Robert A. Walsh, “State Observes Program; Urges Unity in Family,” Church News, May 4, 1974, 15; Whit Wirsing, “Family Unity Is Stressed in Virginia,” Church News, June 8, 1974, 15; “Dateline,” Church News, Oct. 26, 1974, 11; “Dateline,” Church News, Nov. 15, 1975, 11; M. C. O’Bryant, “Golfer Johnny Miller Urges Family Unity,” Church News, Nov. 29, 1975, 7; “Citizens Strive for Family Unity,” Church News, Oct. 30, 1976, 11.

  16. Rex W. Allred, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 52–53.

  17. First Presidency Letter, in “The First Presidency Reaffirms Importance of Family Home Evening,” Church News, Oct. 1, 1994, 7.

  18. First Presidency Letter, Oct. 4, 1999, in Ensign, Mar. 2003, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2003/03/family-home-evening.

  19. First Presidency Letter, Oct. 6, 2018, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/content/ldsorg/general-conference/16435_000_First-Presidency-Letter.pdf; see also “Church Announces New Balance between Gospel Instruction in the Home and Church,” Newsroom, Oct. 6, 2018, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/church-announces-new-balance-between-gospel-instruction-home-church. The General Handbook advised: “Home evening is flexible according to members’ circumstances. It may be held on the Sabbath or other days and times”; see “Home Evening and Other Activities,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2.2.4, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/2-supporting-individuals-and-families#title_number10.

  20. Vern L. Bengtson, Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down across Generations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 202–3.