Using the New Family Home Evening Resource Book


“If the word dishes triggers your family’s disappearing act, or if you hear ‘just a minute, Mom’ from a distance, this activity is for you.” And if that opening sentence creates a hunger within you to know what the promised activity is, then the new Family Home Evening Resource Book is also for you. That’s where you can find this activity and more. Lots more!

The new book isn’t just another yearly family home evening manual. For one thing, it’s larger—designed to last for a number of years. And it’s a compilation of many resources, rather than simply being a collection of lessons. According to Elder Loren C. Dunn, Managing Director of Adult Curriculum, “It is not a programmed Monday-night manual. Instead, it is a resource for the entire week.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Managing Director of Melchizedek Priesthood, adds, “This new manual is the finest resource book for families the Church has produced. We should take advantage of it and use it often.”

The idea for the book took root several years ago as the Brethren contemplated the impact the consolidated meeting schedule would have on families and on family home evening. They wanted a book that would help parents become even more effective at teaching the gospel, and at the same time help them grow and succeed in their other important responsibilities as parents.

As the idea progressed, so did enthusiasm for the concept. The resource book would have many advantages. It would offer help to parents by giving them a greater amount of material to work with. It would not only provide resource material for gospel instruction, but would also give suggestions for fun family activities. As Elder Dunn pointed out, “It would promote independence and initiative in a family setting.” And all this could be combined in a single book for easy access.

It also became evident that the new book would be economically advantageous. With Church population soaring to five million people, the cost of producing close to one million family home evening manuals each year was becoming phenomenal. It was felt that one good resource book, one that would train parents to create their own home evening lessons and give them the resources to do so, would last for eight to ten years instead of one. This would mean a great financial savings to the Church and Church members.

In addition, the time spent writing and producing a yearly manual would be saved. And excellent material from past home evening manuals could be reused, allowing new Church members a chance to receive valuable lesson material they would otherwise have missed.

From idea conception to production, hundreds of dedicated Latter-day Saints gave time, talents, and knowledge to the book. Brother Grant Hardy, who served as chairman of the project under the direction of the Brethren, estimates that between forty and forty-five people were involved in the writing. Many more were called to share ideas and help to do editorial and graphics work.

“The main concern in choosing writers,” Brother Hardy says, “was to get a variety and balance of people and situations. We had young parents, older parents, single parents, grandparents, never-married singles, and a balance between mothers and fathers. Some of these writers were lay people; others were professionals in the fields of family psychology and education.”

In addition, to help the committees understand the needs and desires of families, a survey was circulated among over thirty wards of the Church. The respondents, who represented a variety of family circumstances, were asked questions to determine what parents had and hadn’t liked in past manuals. This gave the writers valuable insight into what works best in home evening lessons.

The product of all that work is exciting. Of course, it’s bigger—but the real difference can be seen by glancing at the table of contents.

The book is divided into five sections:

1. Lessons. The first section contains thirty-seven lessons dealing with such topics as loving and serving God, developing faith in Christ, following the guidance of the Holy Ghost, improving family relationships, and loving neighbors. This section of the manual is somewhat similar to past home evening manuals. But because this book will be used for a number of years instead of one, these lessons contain many more suggestions than a family could possibly use in one evening. It’s up to each family to decide which suggestions to use. A family may want to take one topic and thoroughly discuss it for three or four weeks—or they may want to use only part of the lesson and save the rest for another year. They may even want to skip an entire lesson and use it later on when they feel it would be more applicable to family members.

There are also activities and ideas for adapting the lesson to different age groups. With these helps—and guidance from the Spirit—families can tailor every lesson to fit their exact needs.

Ten of the lessons are devoted to special occasions, such as honoring a family member who is about to receive the priesthood or be baptized or married. Others deal with birth, illness, and death. These special lessons can be saved and used when needed.

2. Making Home Evenings Successful. The second section has eight chapters describing how to plan and present good family home evenings, no matter what your particular family situation is. These chapters give ideas on how to keep home evening going from week to week with every member of the family looking forward to it. Units such as “Involving Your Teenagers,” “Reading Scriptures with Children,” and “Creating Your Own Lessons” can make a great difference.

3. Lesson Ideas. The third section contains thirty-seven topics with over one hundred fifty suggestions for lessons dealing with specific gospel concerns. It is designed to help families solve problems of daily modern life. The topics are listed alphabetically, starting with “Adversity” and ending with “Work.”

When this section was being written, many Latter-day Saint parents were invited to share their ideas on how they teach and solve specific problems. These parents were selected because of their creativity, experience, and success as parents. The result is a group of lesson ideas that deal with real problems in workable ways. Stories, questions, and object lessons are given to stimulate family discussion.

Again, these lessons would not be all taught in a single year. You may never see a need to use some in your family; others you may teach over and over in the same year, altering them each time in order to teach a different aspect of the principle.

4. Building a Strong Family. The fourth section consists of guidelines and case studies designed to help parents understand and guide children of God. This non-lesson material helps parents understand the different stages of a child’s development and explains what to expect in each stage. It deals with three basic principles that make a firm foundation for a family to grow on: (1) becoming a good example for our children, (2) learning to let our children use their agency, and (3) giving unconditional love.

This section is written so that parents can read it together, contemplate the questions and examples, and discuss how the principles may be applied to their own children. For example, the discussion in “Helping Children Learn” gives a short vignette on the importance of investing time in a child, another on how to help a child overcome failure, and another on recognizing a child’s true capacity and avoiding unwise comparisons. Following each vignette is a series of questions designed to help parents identify the problem and the solution. Parents can answer the questions and then talk about how to help their family members in similar ways.

However, as one committee member points out, “Too often parents want a ‘quick fix.’ They want twenty minutes of reading and a five-minute talk with their teenager to solve a problem that took ten years to develop. If parents will go to this section prepared to pay a price in personal prayer, scripture study, and a willingness to change themselves, this section can and will help them become better parents.”

5. Family Activities. I have to admit—this is the first section I turned to when I first saw the book. And I was delighted at what I found. This section is divided into six units: “Family Unity Activities,” “Learning Activities,” “Cultural Activities,” “Nature Activities,” “Physical Activities,” and “Family Preparedness Activities.” Each of these units contains many different games and activities that will be fun for families to do together during home evening or any other time during the week. Some of the activities are designed to teach a concept; others build family harmony through fun times and togetherness.

In the “Learning Activities” unit, for example, there are “making work fun” activities, as well as puzzles, treasure hunts, memory feats, word games, traveling games, homemade clay recipes, and magic tricks. Sound fun? It did to me.

I couldn’t wait to try a game called “Inkie-Pinkie” with my family. It is a rhyming game where the family tries to guess what rhyming words are being described. For instance a family member says, “I have an inkie-pinkie that is a tidy vegetable.” The answer is a neat beet or a clean bean.

Our red-haired six-year-old, Mariah, listened intently as we played and finally became visibly excited when she caught on to what we were doing. “I’ve got one, I’ve got one!” she shouted. “I have an ink-pink that is me.” Her sisters looked at her blankly, thinking she hadn’t quite caught on. But Mariah, unable to stand the suspense any longer, shouted out the answer, “It’s me, red head!” The thought that a six-year-old had put one over on us caused everyone to join in the laughter, and we spent an unforgettable evening “inkie-pinkie-ing” everything in the house.

With these and the other activities contained in the six units, any family can build memories and strengthen family ties. Happily, most of the activities cost nothing.

As I first browsed through the book I was amazed at the many exciting and helpful things it contained. But perhaps the greatest strength of the book is that it is written in such a way that every family can start wherever they are—and build. In other words, the new Family Home Evening Resource Book is for every family in the Church. With the help of this book, family members can learn to enjoy the companionship of each other more, and also grow in gospel concepts and principles together.

“There is a big difference,” says Brother Hardy, “between knowing about the gospel and doing something about it. The best place for transferring knowledge to the doing level is the family unit. It is our hope that this new manual will help families learn and do things together.” Elder Dunn adds, “This manual is one of the best resources, behind the scriptures, to help in the accomplishment of the mission of the Church—to preach the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead. This manual will move us closer to these goals because it encourages and helps us to look to the home and family as the place where this learning should take place.”

As a parent I heartily agree. My husband and I are grateful for a book that will help us in our awesome job of parenting—and in such a fun, exciting way. As one of my daughters expressed it, “Wow, there’s enough fun stuff in here to last for eternity!”

[photo] Photography by Marty Mayo

[illustration] Illustrated by Mark Robison

[photo] A Family Preparedness Activity, such as learning the Heimlich Maneuver, teaches lifesaving skills. (Photography by Jed A. Clark.)

Sherrie Johnson, mother of eight children and a free-lance writer, serves on the Relief Society stake board in her West Bountiful stake.