“Do We Have To?” Another Look at Family Home Evening


It was a typical Monday. I had a horrible day at work, and at home I found that my family’s day had been little better. Despite it all, I decided to go ahead with family home evening.

After a quiet dinner, we moved into the living room. Judging from the looks on the children’s faces, you’d think they were being lined up before a firing squad. Undaunted, I smiled and proceeded. Our discussion that night was about personal and family finances. I used real money, and a fairly dramatic presentation. It cleared the tension and it even kept Allen awake! By the time the discussion was over, the atmosphere in the home had improved dramatically. Such are the fruits of family home evening.

Our family was younger then, and broad swings of emotion were typical of our family home evenings. Our attempts at family home evening were usually met with resistance, which eventually gave way to resigned acceptance and—sometimes—alert interest. Whenever I planned home evening, I often heard comments such as, “Dad, do we have to have family home evening tonight? It’s always so boring!”

“Can I skip family home evening tonight, Dad? I have so much homework to do.”

“Let’s make it quick, Dad. I’ve got a million important things to do.”

Occasionally, after the evening’s activities, my kids would say, “That was a good lesson, Dad,” or “That was a fun evening.” But the scarcity of these comments concerned me. I began to wonder if, in fact, family home evening might be doing more harm than good. To evaluate the success of the program, I decided one Monday night to poll my children. “Tell me the things you like most about family home evening,” I said.

I was amazed at the responses. One said, “I particularly like when we discuss gospel topics. I learn so much more than in Sunday School.”

Another said, “We’ve had some really good times together in family home evening: bowling, miniature golf, picnics in the canyon.” Others remembered the time we did charades and when we wrote down the things we like about each other and, of course, one liked the refreshments best.

Amazed at this outpouring of positive recollections, I probed deeper. “Is there anything else that you consider to be particularly characteristic of family home evening? Anything at all?”

Again, I received positive responses:

“Your lessons are always good, Dad.”

“Family home evening has straightened out a lot of messed up days and ended the day on a high.”

“They just make me feel good.”

Finally, after further probing, my oldest daughter said, quite casually, “Oh, sometimes we complain a little about family home evening.”

“Sometimes!” I thought. “A little!” Those bad times were all I remembered. “What happened?” I asked myself. “How could I have missed all of that great stuff?”

Since then, I have studied the dynamics of family interactions and have concluded that family home evening is one of the greatest tools the Lord ever gave parents to help them rear their children in righteousness and to solidify family bonds. Here are six particularly powerful reasons for maintaining an active family home evening program in our homes:

In family home evening, the father is seen as the central authority in the home. At least once a week, my children see me in my role as head of the family. At these times, I am something other than a treasurer, a permission giver, a nonpermission giver, and a food provider. I am a central figure of leadership, their father, fulfilling my patriarchal role.

The importance of this image being established in the minds of family members is emphasized in scientific literature, where the tragic effects of its absence are dramatically documented.

Parents become examples of obedience. In the home, the emphasis is often on the child’s obedience. Although less obvious, parents’ obedience is also important. By holding family home evening, my wife and I demonstrate to our children, on a very personal basis, our obedience to the call of the prophet. My children often hear me say in response to their objections to family home evening, “We hold family home evening if for no other reason than that we are committed to follow the prophet.”

We model appropriate behavior. How children behave as adults—how they run their homes and families—depends primarily upon the model they see in their childhood home. If their parents yell at them as children, when they grow up they will likely yell at their children. If their parents were loving and patient to them as children, they will likely be loving and patient toward their children. If their parents held family home evening, they will likely hold family home evening.

Family home evening establishes a unique teaching moment. Our most impressive, dramatic teaching moments occur at home. Family home evening creates a unique setting for such moments. Many Sunday School, priesthood, Primary, or seminary teachers are not intimately acquainted with students’ needs. At family home evening, the opportunity for personal relationships dramatically increases the potential for learning.

It bonds the family together. During family home evening, we have the opportunity to get close to one another physically, socially, and spiritually. We sit together in a small area. We can see clearly into one another’s eyes. We can pick up subtle facial expressions, and feel each other’s emotions. If we go bowling or miniature golfing or picnicking, we are shoulder to shoulder. We are touching, slapping hands, hugging, laughing, congratulating. We are being bonded together.

We build and share testimonies. My children know that my wife and I have a testimony of the gospel. And our children either have testimonies or are acquiring them. I believe all other settings in the Church—including fast and testimony meeting—are a support to the home in building and sharing testimonies. In family home evening, where the family is close together and the feeling of love is strong, the spirit of testimony is rich. During those sweet intimate moments, we share from the inside out.

Precious blessings are available within the walls of our homes, blessings that can be generated by an active family home evening program. We must be careful not to let the frustrations and demands of life rob us of these blessings.

Through family home evening, the gates of heaven and the front doors of our homes are but a few steps apart.

Let’s Talk about It

After reading “‘Do We Have To?’ Another Look at Family Home Evening,” you may want to consider the following ideas and questions.

1. Why is family home evening “one of the greatest tools the Lord ever gave parents to help them rear their children in righteousness and to solidify family bonds”?

2. Have you experienced resistance when trying to hold family home evening? What are the roots of such resistance, and how might you overcome it?

3. What resources are available to you to hold effective, enjoyable family home evenings? Why is it important that the father, where available, take an active role in planning and conducting family home evenings?

4. Ask family members what they like best about family home evening. How would they improve this time together?

5. Have you ever shared your testimonies with each other at family home evening? If not, you may want to plan for the experience in an upcoming family home evening.

[illustration] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch

Glenn I. Latham is a professor of education at Utah State University and a member of the high council of the North Logan Stake. He and his wife, Louise, are the parents of six children.