“We are grateful for family home evening. It is time well spent,” write Wesley and Marnie Spencer, Providence Fifth Ward, Providence Utah South Stake, in response to a request for readers to share their family home evening insights and experiences. Though the Spencers acknowledge that at the time handling five young children was no easy task, sometimes everything came together like it did one night when their children felt the spirit of the Holy Ghost during home evening.
“It was my turn to give the lesson,” says Sister Spencer. “I found an article in a Friend magazine (Aug. 1993, 14). It was the story of the appearance of Jesus Christ to President Lorenzo Snow in the Salt Lake Temple.
“The children sat spellbound as I read them the story, recounted by President Snow’s granddaughter. When she was a young girl, she visited her grandfather in his office in the temple. As they were leaving, President Snow stopped and pointed out the spot where he had seen the Savior.
“As I concluded the story and read the prophet’s testimony of the Savior to his granddaughter, our six-year-old daughter said with awe in her voice: ‘That little girl will never wonder if Jesus is real. She will always know.’
“I said: ‘That’s right. She will always know.’ I was about to explain how the Spirit can bear witness of Christ, when our four-year-old son spoke up. In a quiet, serious voice he said, ‘The Holy Ghost is telling me right now that Jesus is real.’
“I looked at his solemn face and knew that he meant it. My heart swelled, and I ended the lesson with my testimony of the Savior. I recognized that even very young children could feel the Spirit when in the right setting. I am grateful that we worked to follow the prophet’s counsel and take time for weekly family home evening. In this instance, it provided an opportunity for our children to feel and recognize the Spirit.”
Following are responses from other Ensign readers who have discovered the joy that comes to families when they spend time together in family home evening.
James and Linda Bullough, of the Willow Creek Sixth Ward, Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake, have always used family home evening as a place to teach the gospel. When they discovered years ago that their son Adam had severe communication disorders, they decided to expand gospel teaching and family activities to include ways to help him.
“Each week during the family council portion of our home evening, we discussed ways to assist Adam,” writes Sister Bullough. “We reviewed the outline for Adam’s therapy sessions so we knew exactly what his weekly task was. Mom, Dad, two sisters, and a brother (at that time) became a fleet of five ‘quasi-deputized’ therapists reinforcing his task for the week.
“We spent several Monday evenings playing animal charades, shouting out the correct answers repeatedly to build Adam’s animal vocabulary. Once we made labels during family home evening and pasted them on all of our household appliances. During the week, family members would read the labels to Adam each time they were in the room with him. We played games like Simon Says and Twister at family home evening to help Adam learn multiple-step directions. And we wrote letters to missionaries.
“Adam’s progress has been phenomenal. He was mainstreamed into a regular classroom in the first grade. As a fifth grader, he performed at the top of his class. His professional therapists are in agreement that the intensive help Adam received from his family on a consistent basis over several years has been the crucial element in his success.”
As a missionary in Japan, Nettie Hunsaker Francis, Las Vegas Third Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Stake, had the opportunity to teach Seema from India, then a young mother. “Seema loved hearing about the gospel, but our lessons were sometimes interrupted by her two small children, five-year-old Maya and two-year-old Saya,” writes Sister Francis. “The girls were active and often demanded attention during our appointments. Several times Seema became frustrated and didn’t know quite how to entertain her daughters so that we could continue our gospel discussion.
“Finally one day when Maya and Saya were being especially disruptive, Seema closed her scriptures and said, ‘What you are teaching me about the gospel of Jesus Christ is fine, but I need some help as a mother. Does your church give any specific ideas to parents?’
“In a flash of inspiration, my companion and I told Seema about the family home evening program. She was very interested. The following day we gave her a copy of the Family Home Evening Resource Book.
“The next time we saw Seema, she was very excited. ‘I stayed up most of the night reading your family home evening manual,’ she said. ‘Do you know what is in the book?’ Before we could answer, Seema went on telling us about ideas for dealing with different age groups of children, first aid, family games, preparedness, and physical activities. She told us she was so delighted she was implementing it in her home. Seeing the family home evening program through the eyes of one who was not of our faith helped me realize just what we have.
“Now, as parents, my husband, Mark, and I find ourselves looking for constructive ways to spend time with our children. I, too, feel excited when I think of the blessings that can come to our family as a result of the time we spend together in family home evening.”
Maribeth C. Clark, Cedar Hills Fifth Ward, Cedar Hills Utah Stake, found life hectic after her marriage to Michael, who had four teenage children. He had returned to school, they were in the process of building a new home, and one of his daughters, Katherine, had come to live with them.
“A regimen of daily family prayers, regular scripture study, weekly family home evening, and ample neighborly service was a challenge amid our other heavy time demands,” writes Sister Clark. “One Monday night at the dinner table, we discussed going up to the site where we were building our new home. I suggested we stop and get an ice cream cone on the way and make it a family home evening. We all laughed, and throughout the rest of the evening, I continued to imply with each new activity that we were doing it for family night.
“That was our first family home evening as a married couple and Katherine’s first family home evening in more than five years. We tried in the busy months that followed to teach gospel lessons for family home evening, but occasionally we called whatever we were doing a family night activity and just enjoyed the time together.
“At the end of the school year, Katherine went back to live with her mother. I gave little thought to what our weekly efforts at family home evening might have meant to her.
“Then, quite unexpectedly, eight months later, Katherine and her younger brother, David, came to live with us. On the first Monday night we were together, David asked what we were doing for family home evening. I looked at him quite startled. He told me that Katherine said we always had family home evening.
“It was then that I realized the time we spent together every Monday evening learning the gospel, even in our “impromptu” family home evening activities, had left an impact on Katherine. Thus, we continued our Monday night tradition.”
Brent and Becky Young, Santaquin Eighth Ward, Santaquin Utah Stake, found a way years ago to extend their time together on Monday evenings.
“Our children feel that good treats at the conclusion of family night are an absolute must,” says Sister Young. “This has worked to our advantage. Over refreshments we like to talk about the things we have studied during the evening. The kids are honest and helpful in their ideas and feelings, and conversation is usually more relaxed and open at that time. We have discovered that having an atmosphere where our children can express their questions and ideas gives us valuable insight into their perceptions of what they are learning. We are sometimes surprised to find that what we thought we taught them and what they actually learned are two very different things. We use these opportunities to clarify and correct misunderstandings.
“By using family home evening as a tool to teach gospel principles and their practical applications, our family has drawn closer to each other and to the Lord.
“We have discovered that family home evening is a time when feelings can be shared, values taught, relationships strengthened, and love for the gospel and each other developed.”
Spending consistent time together is an important part of family home evening. When this becomes a priority, families can be strengthened, individuals helped, and testimonies shared.
“1. Take time to always be at the crossroads in the lives of your children. …
“2. Take time to be a real friend to your children.
“3. Take time to read to your children. …
“4. Take time to pray with your children.
“5. Take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening. …
“6. Take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible.
“7. Take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family.
“8. Take time to do things together as a family.
“9. Take time to teach your children.
“10. Take time to truly love your children.”
President Thomas S. Monson, quoting from President Ezra Taft Benson, To the Mothers in Zion (pamphlet, 1987), 8–12; in “Memories of Yesterday, Counsel for Today,” Ensign, May 1992, 5.