This year marks the 100th anniversary of family home evening in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1915, the First Presidency of the Church encouraged members to set apart one night per week for teaching children the gospel:
“… (W)e advise and urge the inauguration of a ‘home evening’ throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord. They may thus learn more fully the needs and requirements of their families, at the same time familiarizing themselves and their children more thoroughly with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This home evening should be devoted to prayer, singing hymns, songs, instrumental music, scripture reading, family topics and specific instruction on the principles of the gospel and on the ethical problems of life, as well as the duties and obligations of children to parents, the home, the Church, society and the nation.”
After 100 years, Church leaders continue to counsel members to engage in family home evening. Here’s what five members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have said about family home evening:
1. Elder David A. Bednar — “At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated.”
“Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile,” said Elder David A. Bednar in a general conference address. “Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as ‘He’s touching me!’ ‘Make him stop looking at me!’ ‘Mom, he’s breathing my air!’ Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.
“Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.”
2. Elder L. Tom Perry — “What a special experience it was.”
“I remember (an event) that occurred over the Christmas holidays one year when we had the grandchildren on an outing with us,” said Elder L. Tom Perry. “In order to have a real togetherness experience, we had arranged for a van to travel together. In the van were Grandpa and Grandma and my son and his three older children. My son’s wife had stayed at home with the younger members of the family. I was taking my turn at the wheel, and my wife was seated next to me acting as our navigator. From the back end of the van, I heard Audrey, the eldest child, counseling with her father. She was saying, ‘Dad, one of our goals this year was to finish the Book of Mormon in our family study. This is the last day of the year. Why don’t we complete it now so that we will be on schedule?’
“What a special experience it was to listen to my son and his three children, each taking turns reading aloud the final chapters of Moroni and completing their goal of reading the entire Book of Mormon. Remember, it was a young woman who made this suggestion, not one of the parents.”
3. Elder Robert D. Hales — “Our children need to have us share”
“Hold family home evening every week,” Elder Robert D. Hales said. “As parents, we are sometimes too intimidated to teach or testify to our children. I have been guilty of that in my own life. Our children need to have us share spiritual feelings with them and to teach and bear testimony to them.”
4. Elder Neil L. Andersen — “We must not be deterred.”
“Certainly there are times when getting the family together to read the scriptures does not stack up as a spiritual experience worthy of a journal entry,” Elder Neil L. Andersen taught in 1999. “But we must not be deterred. There are special times when the spirit of a son or daughter is just right and the power of these great scriptures goes down into their heart like fire. As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts.
“We all know the struggle necessary to retain family home evening. There are thieves among us who would steal our Monday nights. But the promises of the Lord made to families who hold family home evening, that were spoken by the First Presidency 84 years ago and reiterated by our Prophets today, have never been revoked and are there for us. … For you and me, the disciples of Christ, these moments of building faith in the lives of our children must be strengthened. We will at times fall short as parents. I know I do. But we must begin again. The Lord sees our righteous efforts and will open the blessings of heaven as we give our families our highest priority. My brothers and sisters, there are spiritual mole crickets at work on our roots, and we must be even more serious in our family stewardship.”
5. President Henry B. Eyring — “Opportunity to combine genuine caring, teaching the gospel, and the bearing of testimony”
“There are in those hours on Sunday and in a family home evening on Monday the opportunity to combine genuine caring, teaching the gospel and the bearing of testimony,” said President Henry B. Eyring. “Across the earth there are families who love and understand their covenants who do that. From my front window I have seen parents, their children at their sides, move down the street to the home of a neighbor to offer comfort, to give Christlike service. I wasn’t there to see it, but surely the warmth of those moments lingered later at home when a song of Zion was sung, a prayer given that likely included a plea for the person visited, a scripture read, a short lesson taught and testimonies of the restored gospel borne.”