From Miracle Babies to Molasses: Members Share Memorable Family Home Evenings

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 13 April 2015

President Joseph F. Smith first introduced family home evening to the Church 100 years ago this month. The program was given renewed emphasis 50 years ago by President David O. McKay.

“Our tenacity and persistence in the home evening program touches the lives of our family in ways we may not recognize at the time.” —Cheryl Banner, Brighton Colorado Stake

Personal revelation and miracle babies

For Darwin L. and Beverly Thomas, the subject of family home evening brings to mind warm memories of personal revelation and miracle babies.

The Thomases of Spanish Fork, Utah, are among members who responded to an invitation to share their memories and insights about family home evening, which was introduced in the Church 100 years ago this month by President Joseph F. Smith and was given renewed emphasis 50 years ago by President David O. McKay.

Their responses and others are being highlighted in a series of articles in the Church News.

The Thomases met while attending Brigham Young University and were married in 1959. By 1964, a son and two daughters had joined their family

Then they moved to Minnesota, where Brother Thomas, who today is a professor emeritus of sociology and former director of the Family and Demographic Research Institute at BYU, would obtain a doctorate.

“During the Minnesota years we became concerned because no more children seemed to be coming to our family,” Brother Thomas wrote. Moreover, Sister Thomas was experiencing a health problem. Surgery recommended by more than one doctor to correct it would have precluded any more children coming to the family.

“After considerable discussion and much prayer we decided not to proceed with the suggested surgery, largely because of the strong and recurring feelings that Beverly had that we would have more children,” Brother Thomas recounted.

Moving to Pullman, Washington, in 1968, the Thomases were fortunate to find a doctor in nearby Spokane who thought more limited surgery could be performed than had been recommended earlier. Even so, the chance of pregnancy after the surgery was extremely remote.

“Three years later, in January of 1972, tests confirmed that Beverly was indeed pregnant,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I accepted a teaching and research position at BYU. After a spring move to Provo, Utah, our ‘miracle baby’ was born in August.”

They named her Kristi to ever remind them of Christ and how divine inspiration had played a part in her arrival.

A second surprise baby girl came in 1975 after Brother Thomas had been called as a bishop and the family was trying to have regular family home evening. They found to their delight that one of the lessons in that year’s home evening manual was about a family naming their newborn daughter. The story in the lesson seemed appropriate because the names of the two sisters were Christine and Sara. Sara was one of the names the family had been considering for their newborn daughter, and the Thomases settled on that name.

“Sometime later Beverly told me that during the family home evening, it came to her that our family was not complete,” he wrote. “There was one more child waiting to come to our family. It would be a boy, and he was to be called David.”

He was born in 1977, and they did name him David, meaning “beloved.”

“Our family knew again that with the Lord, nothing is impossible,” he said.

Persistence Pays Off

Cheryl Banner, a member of the Brighton Colorado Stake, said she and her husband, Dean, soon after they were married, committed to hold family home evening each week.

“At first we did so as a couple, discussing scriptures and gospel principles together,” she said. “As our children came along, they also joined in every Monday evening to pray, learn, sing, and play together.

“The family grew, and we found ourselves with children of varying ages and interests who were sometimes reluctant to be called away from homework or friends for a gospel discussion. Home evenings didn’t always run smoothly as brothers and sisters teased, poked, taunted, and agitated one another.”

The parents persevered but often wondered whether they were getting through to their children or if it was worth the hassle.

On one occasion, they were assigned to speak as a family in sacrament meeting about family home evening.

“With some anxiety, we told the children about the assignment and asked them to say a few words about what we do in our home evening every Monday night,” she said. “We got the usual complaining, moaning, and eye rolling, but eventually they agreed.”

The family even wrote a song together and sang it in the meeting “in order to fill what I thought was going to be a very short program,” Sister Banner said.

“To my delight and surprise, our children bore testimony to the blessings of our faithfulness in holding family home evening and the influence it had been in their lives beyond anything that I had expected. Who knew that they were actually listening when we thought they were only counting down the minutes?

“The children filled the entire sacrament meeting, and there was no time left for me to speak! Needless to say, I didn’t mind for a second. What a blessing it was to see that our efforts were not in vain but instead appreciated and making an impact. Too often the results of our attempts to teach gospel principles in our homes are not seen for years and we are left to wonder if it is worth it. But this experience assured me that our tenacity and persistence in the home evening program touches the lives of our family in ways we may not recognize at the time.”

Pancakes and molasses

Gloriadawn Robison of Orem, Utah, shared a memory of family home evenings she experienced as a child.

She said her parents met in 1921 when they were both missionaries in the Central States Mission. After returning home and marrying, they moved to northern Wyoming, where they raised their five children.

“I can’t remember when we did not have family home evening,” she wrote. “They taught us from the experiences they had as missionaries, and we loved to hear the same stories over and over again.”

One story in particular stands out in memory. As was the custom of missionaries in the day, her father had been going “without purse or scrip” and had not had anything to eat for several days.

“One day, a nice woman invited them in for pancakes, and she served them with Brer Rabbit Molasses,” Sister Robison recounted, “Dad always told us that was the best thing he had ever tasted. It sounded so good we could hardly wait to taste it. So dad found some and promised us a treat after family home evening. He made his famous sourdough pancakes and Brer Rabbit Molassess on top of them. We all wondered why Dad thought they were so special!”