When I was a young teenager, our family home evenings were not the typical tableaux of mainstream Mormon families consisting of two parents, assorted children gathered around a manual, and banana splits waiting in the kitchen. At that time, my family at home consisted of my widowed mother and myself, both fairly recent converts to the Church who were trying to fill the script with a depleted cast of characters.
We eventually gathered into our home evening net three elderly ladies—the extent of the nonstudent singles in our area. My mother was the Special Interest leader in our ward, and she saw this as an opportunity to draw closer to them. In time, we came to think of them as family.
One of the sisters had been a Church member in name for several decades, but in spirit had never left the church of her upbringing.
Another sister, in her eighties, was a recent convert who had never read the Book of Mormon, but who knew that the Church was true. She had once received a spiritual witness that someday another book like the Bible would come forth, and the church that had the book would be the church to join.
The third sister was plagued with the ill health that often accompanies advancing age and problems with the Word of Wisdom.
The lessons I learned at home evening in company with these sisters did not come from a lesson manual. Instead, I learned of love as I listened to softly recalled memories of distant youth. I learned of patience as Mom read aloud from the Book of Mormon to one whose eyes had dimmed. I learned of compassion as I watched my mother squeeze the hand of a bed-bound sister. Such were my first family home evenings.
Families are rarely made to order. But that doesn’t mean we can’t put order into our families and draw into our homes the lone and the lonely. My first home evening “family” was a very mixed quintet brought together in beautiful harmony by my valiant mother, a willing instrument in the hand of the Master.