As a young man I heard President J. Reuben Clark (1871–1961), a member of the First Presidency, plead time after time that there be unity in the Church. He would quote frequently the message of the Lord: “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). Unity in the Church will always be a reflection of the unity in our homes. One of the most important ways to foster unity in the home is holding family home evening regularly. Whether we are young or old, single or married, whether we have children at home or have become empty nesters, family home evening can increase unity and love in our homes. Family home evening is for everyone.
One wonders why so many homes are now being weakened and why so many families are disintegrating. The reasons are complex. No doubt it has much to do with the social disorders of the day. We are all subjected to sparkling, enticing, false advertising. Violence is powerfully portrayed everywhere. Our society is permeated with the suggestion that selfishness and instant gratification are acceptable and even respectable conduct. The tragic consequences of alcoholism have exploded and been magnified by other forms of drug abuse. The sexual revolution has been crippling to the spiritual, mental, and physical health of families.
Why is one family strong, yet another family weak? The reasons are infinitely complex. Yet there are answers. Abundant evidence shows that the presence of a firm, loving father in the home is far more likely to produce responsible, law-abiding children than if the father is not there or if he does not fulfill his duties as a father at home. In either case an ineffective father throws a double burden on the mother.
The active presence of the father in the home—along with one or both of the parents being active in church and with discipline and gospel teaching in the home—seems to produce stable, strong families.
When I hear of a family breaking up, I question if family home evening and family prayers have been regularly held in that home. Surely, the most important ingredient in producing happiness at home for members of this Church is a deep religious commitment to God and His gospel. In family home evening, such commitment can be nurtured in children by the wise, mature supervision of parents. Couples can strengthen and sustain each other in living and understanding gospel principles. Single members can gather under the direction of their priesthood leaders in small groups for gospel discussions and appropriate activities. Devotion to God developed in these settings seems to forge the spiritual moorings and stability that can help families and individuals cope with the complexities of life. Some may say this is an oversimplification of a very complex problem, yet I believe the answers lie within the framework of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
May I suggest ways to strengthen our commitment to God and build unity and love during our family home evenings:
1. Pray. The source of our enormous individual and family strength is no mystery. It is an endowment from God. We need not consume addicting chemicals found in drugs and alcohol to make us capable of meeting life’s problems. We need only draw constantly from the divine power source through humble prayer.
It often takes a seemingly superhuman effort to get everyone together for family home evening. You may not always feel like praying when you finally do get together, but it will pay great dividends if you persevere.
2. Sing or listen to sacred music. Church hymns and children’s songs can invite the Holy Spirit into family home evening. The Lord has said that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12).
3. Study the scriptures. All of us need the strength that comes from reading the scriptures. Parents must obtain a knowledge of the standard works to teach them to their children. Those who lead family home evening discussions should be adequately prepared to use the scriptures in the lesson. A child who has been taught from the scriptures has a priceless legacy. We are all fortified when we become acquainted with the heroic figures and stories of the scriptures, such as Daniel in the lions’ den, David and Goliath, Nephi, Helaman and the stripling warriors, and all the others.
4. Work together and serve others. Children need to learn to work. Every household has routine daily chores for which children can be responsible. Meaningful service can be given during family home evenings through well-planned home or community work projects.
5. Focus on developing discipline and obedience. If parents do not discipline their children and teach them to obey, society may have to discipline them in ways neither the parents nor the children will like. If adults do not discipline themselves, setting the proper example for others, the consequences can be devastating for themselves and society. Without discipline and obedience in the home and in our personal lives, unity within a family collapses.
6. Place a high priority on loyalty to each other. The dictionary defines the word loyal as being “faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due.”1 If family members are not loyal to each other, they cannot be loyal to themselves.
7. Build self-worth. One of the main problems in society today is that we spend less and less time together. Some, even when they are together, spend an extraordinary amount of time in front of the television, which robs them of personal time for reinforcing feelings of self-worth. Family home evenings give individuals and families important time to talk and listen as parents and children, brothers and sisters, spouses, and friends. Time together is precious—time needed to encourage and to show how to do things. Less time together can result in loneliness, which may produce feelings of being unsupported, untreasured, and inadequate.
8. Develop traditions. Some of the great strength of families can be found in the traditions they have established. Traditions can include making special occasions of the blessing of children, baptisms, ordinations to the priesthood, or birthdays. Traditional activities such as fishing trips or skits on Christmas Eve can help create fond memories of times together. Weekly family home evenings can also be a time for traditions. Home evening groups of any kind can likewise establish traditions by the activities they choose to continue on a regular basis and the way they celebrate special occasions and accomplishments.
9. Do everything in the spirit of love. Elder LeGrand Richards (1886–1983) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared a tender relationship with his father. Said he: “I walked into my father’s apartment when he was just about 90 … , and as I opened the door, he stood up and walked toward me and took me in his arms and hugged me and kissed me. He always did that. … Taking me in his arms and calling me by my kid name, he said, ‘Grandy, my boy, I love you.’”2
Some parents have difficulty expressing their love through words or actions. I do not ever recall my own father using the words “Son, I love you,” but he showed it in a thousand ways that were more eloquent than words. He rarely missed a practice, a game, a race, or any activity in which his children participated.
The touch and time of the mother in the home make it warm, comfortable, and pleasant. Wives and mothers deserve special support from husbands and children. President George Albert Smith (1870–1951), addressing husbands and fathers, said: “Some seem to think that the woman’s responsibility is to take care of the home and everything else while the man goes to his meetings. I want to tell you that your chief responsibility is in your own home.”3
Family home evening is a time for patience and mutual respect. Let there be no ill will or anger between parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and kinsmen. Let there be unity and love between all members of the ward or branch. Lingering feelings of hurt or disagreement should be settled quickly. I pray that the rich humanness of warm, loving family life will prevail in all our relationships.
I wonder if having unplanned and infrequent family home evenings will be enough to fortify ourselves and our children with sufficient moral strength to meet the complexities of our day. Infrequent family scripture study may be inadequate to arm ourselves and our children with the virtue necessary to withstand the moral decay of the environment in which we live. Where in the world will we learn chastity, integrity, honesty, and basic human decency if not at home? These values will, of course, be reinforced at church, but teaching them in family home evening can be particularly consistent and effective. To combat the world’s evil influences, we need the strength that comes from family home evening.
The First Presidency stated in 1976:
“Family home evening is for everyone. It is for families with parents and children, for families with just one parent, and for parents who have no children at home. It is for home evening groups of single adults and for those who live alone or with roommates. …
“Regular participation in family home evening will develop increased personal worth, family unity, love for our fellowmen, and trust in our Father in heaven. It is our promise that great blessings will come to all who conscientiously plan and hold weekly family home evenings.”4 I testify that this is as true today as it was almost 30 years ago.
If we go forward with our family home evenings, our homes will be enriched, our wards and branches will grow and prosper, our lives will be purified, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
After prayerful preparation, share this message using a method that encourages the participation of those you teach. A few examples follow:
Tell about a favorite family home evening you have participated in. Invite those you teach to do the same. Review together President Faust’s nine guidelines. Help those you teach identify ways their family home evenings are successful and what they would like to improve about them.
Write “Family home evening is for everyone” on a piece of paper, and show it to family members. Read together President Faust’s message, looking for reasons everyone should participate in family home evening. Bear testimony of the blessings you have received from family home evening.
You may want to point out and discuss other articles in this issue relating to family home evening.