Better Home Evenings

By Wayne B. Lynn

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    Try using these resources next Monday night.

    “Bart, will you hold up this picture?” asked Sharon, his teenage sister. “Tim, will you help me tell my story by leaning this poster up against the fireplace?”

    This was the first time Sharon had given the whole family home evening lesson by herself, and she wanted everything to be as good as possible. At the end of the lesson, her parents and brothers and sisters told her how much they liked the lesson.

    “I liked those pictures. They really helped us understand the story, Share! You’ll make a great missionary someday,” added her brother who had just returned from a full-time mission.

    “Honey, I’m as proud as can be. You really kept everyone’s attention,” said her mother. “Where did you get all the ideas and all the pictures?”

    As they moved toward the kitchen for their treat, Sharon explained, “I asked the ward librarians for some ideas. They have so many visual aids, videos, and story ideas. I hardly had to do anything. The most difficult part was just choosing what I’d use. Did you notice that most of the pictures even have a summary of the story printed on the back to help teachers?”

    While eating the treat Sharon had prepared, everyone shared their impressions of the lesson, especially telling about their favorite picture or story. For Sharon’s family, that was the beginning of higher quality home evening lessons—lessons that were more memorable, more appreciated, and just as important, with no more work than any of the lessons given before. Sharon took advantage of just one of the many resources available to us for teaching the gospel at home.

    Know Your Resources

    How much do you know about your own meetinghouse library? How often have you used a Church video to enhance a home evening lesson? When did you last refer to a manual or magazine for lesson ideas? Do you know what the distribution center catalog offers parents with preschoolers or teenagers? Your family would likely appreciate you for finding out. Of course, no resource should replace the scriptures. In order to teach your family by the Spirit, you will want to drink deeply from them to see how they apply in your family’s life.

    To assist members in giving instruction or sharing gospel truths, the Church has created a wide array of helpful materials designed for individuals of any age or circumstance. Meetinghouse librarians are encouraged not only to obtain these materials, but also to circulate them so that our homes can be the central place where we learn about the gospel.

    “We can create a bit of heaven right here on earth within individual families,” President Ezra Taft Benson has said. “After all, eternity will be but an extension of righteous family life.” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, p. 5.)

    Members are encouraged to obtain the Family Home Evening Resource Book, which contains 360 pages of suggestions, lessons, activities, and ideas. This resource should also be available in meetinghouse libraries.

    For families with preschoolers and others who may have difficulty reading, there is a wide variety of simplified and highly illustrated storybooks or readers containing scripture stories and lessons. These scripture stories are also available on both audio- and videocassette.

    One single mother of five reports that her family has used the recorded scripture stories for several years now, every morning. “I couldn’t seem to make time each morning to help get the kids off to school with a healthy breakfast and lunches ready, and still have time for prayer and scripture reading. So we began playing the recordings as we got ready. I began to see before too long that even the young ones were beginning to pick up quite a bit from those brief morning influences. I am grateful the Church encouraged me to do something that I just wouldn’t have done otherwise. And I am grateful for the materials that make it possible.”

    Gospel-Friendly Videos

    Many families have tried to build up a video library with entertainment of a high quality. Now, like user-friendly computers, our televisions can show “gospel-friendly” videos for all members of the family. Numerous Church movies have been transferred onto videocassettes. Twenty-seven such cassettes are available for meetinghouse libraries or home libraries, each containing four to five movies.

    That means that more than a hundred movies teaching a wide variety of gospel principles are accessible to members of the Church. These provide a treasure-house of family home evening resources to be viewed and discussed by families.

    A two-hour cassette tape entitled Family Home Evening Video Supplement contains nineteen segments on gospel topics cross-referenced to one or more lessons found in the resource book. A second tape of similar topics has just been released.

    All parents will want to be familiar with the Salt Lake Distribution Center catalog, which is sent each year to local leaders and meetinghouse libraries. One valuable section of this catalog is labeled “Family Resources” and offers brief descriptions and prices. This is the most complete listing of resources for the family.

    Likewise, every Church magazine subscriber is familiar with the family resource catalog, which is included with the September issues. This catalog describes materials available and includes instructions on how to order them.

    Another Dimension with Music

    “We never knew how much we missed in our home evenings until we discovered the difference music makes,” reports a father. “None of us has musical talent, and we had no access to a piano. So we decided to try playing the recorded hymns and singing along. Though the singing on the tape was louder than we were at first,” the father adds with a chuckle, “we soon gained confidence and sang with enthusiasm. In fact, now we play the recordings with music only, so that just our voices are singing. It is a beautiful addition to our times together.”

    Families have also turned to the Gospel Principles manual for stories and lessons. This manual is used in developing areas of the Church and by new members in the Gospel Essentials Sunday School class. With its own visuals, lessons, and scriptural references, this volume contains enough materials for a full year of lessons and discussions.

    Using Articles and Stories from Church Magazines

    Another rich resource of fresh contemporary material is printed each month—the Church magazines. Since they are also designed for the needs and interests of age groups, they become even more valuable as family home evening resources. As President Benson reminds us, the conference editions of the Ensign contain the most recent counsel from the Lord through his servants the prophets. Some couples also make good use of the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society personal study guides for their joint study or for extracting stories that can be told to children and grandchildren.

    The importance of quality family time together cannot be overstated. Family home evenings and Sunday family hours are bonding times for parents and children, for brothers and sisters.

    I can remember one time several years ago while I was presiding over a mission of the Church. I received a telephone call late one night from some troubled elders. The home where they had been teaching had an undesirable spiritual climate, causing family members to feel gloomy, discouraged, quarrelsome, and impatient with one another. The family had earnestly sought help from the elders to remove this unhappy spirit from the home. The elders had tried exercising their priesthood and were temporarily successful, but the oppression had returned.

    Knowing that it is often not enough to get rid of bad feelings and influences, I suggested that it is also important to replace them with something better.

    “But how do we do that?” they asked.

    Before proposing what they might do, I considered carefully. “Begin with a cheerful attitude,” I finally said. I felt the Spirit prompting my counsel. “Invite the family to join with you in singing some Church hymns. Kneel together in humble prayer. Perhaps you will want to take turns praying. Select some choice scriptures to read and ponder together. Share testimonies one with another. Express your gratitude and love for your Heavenly Father and for each other. Ask the Lord to help you know what to do.” They thanked me and promised to give it a try.

    They reported later that they had enjoyed a sweet experience as the Spirit of the Lord had rested upon them and the family. It occurred to me as I reviewed their circumstances that the very activities I had suggested for them might well describe the elements of a successful family home evening.

    A well-conducted family home evening should and will invite the Spirit of the Lord into our homes. As we continue to feel the Spirit and to live in harmony with the Lord’s teachings, his Spirit will remain.

    The means are at hand to help us get our children’s attention so we can teach them the important things in life. But those resources can’t help us unless we use them.

    Photography by Steve Bunderson

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    • Wayne B. Lynn is the Curriculum Development and Evaluation adviser for the Church.