President Joseph F. Smith, introducing the concept of family home evening in 1915, said that formality and stiffness should be avoided. With the family home evening program now well established among Latter-day Saints, families plan lessons from formal to fun, as their needs suggest.
This article features examples that show how having fun together can make a great family home evening.
Frank and Ellen Sorenson of Illinois wanted their children to know their grandparents and great-grandparents who had died. “We often make a birthday cake in their honor and celebrate their lives in a family home evening,” says Ellen. “After relating memories, reading from personal histories, or looking at pictures, we play the ancestor’s favorite song or eat his or her favorite food. Sometimes we play a quiz game, giving hints about a relative living or dead and then guessing his or her identity. We’ve celebrated Grandpa Wilson’s birthday with his favorite dessert—strawberry shortcake. We’ve retold Grandpa Sorenson’s silly jokes and observed my father’s Croatian heritage by roasting lamb on a spit over a fire. We have increased our love for these ancestors and our commitment to the gospel plan that binds us to them.”
Vida H. Liddell of Utah describes playing a Book of Mormon game complete with a homemade papier-mâché Liahona. “We made a life-size game board on the floor of our house. Taking turns, each player tried to answer a question about the Book of Mormon. If that player knew the answer, he or she could look upon the Liahona, spin its pointer, and move as the Liahona indicated. Everyone played until they reached the kitchen, where we had refreshments. Two slices of pound cake formed the ‘golden plates.’ We used spray cans of whipped topping to write on our ‘plates’; then we ‘berried’ them by covering them with berries. It was fun for the youngest children as well as the teenagers and parents.”
Diane Adamson, a grandmother from Utah, describes a time when her extended family got together for a family home evening: “I had gathered supplies that could be used to create dioramas of Lehi’s dream: cardboard bases cut to size, play dough in various colors, aluminum foil, straws, cotton swabs, ribbon, cotton balls, tissue paper, plastic foam cups, index cards, scissors, and tape. Together, we read aloud the story of Lehi’s dream from 1 Nephi 8. Each small group went to work, and an hour later we had six very different imaginative depictions of the elements of Lehi’s dream.”
Andrew and Janeen Nuttall of Colorado decided to recognize their children’s acts of kindness. Janeen says: “Our family can get pretty busy, and sometimes the good things our children do go unnoticed. One Monday night, we decided to have an ‘awards night.’ Throughout the week I listed all of the things each of our children accomplished that were noteworthy. At the end of the lesson, I had each child come up one by one, and I told them the wonderful things I had seen in them. I was surprised when the rest of the family chimed in and added their own positive comments about the person being spotlighted. I told them how much we all loved them and that we are glad they are part of our family. The grins on the faces of our children were priceless. It was such a positive experience that we have continued to have occasional surprise ‘awards nights.’”
David and Janis Rowberry of Nevada enjoy singing together as a family in their family home evenings. Janis says: “Singing good music opens our hearts to accept love. It’s a way to make our home a heaven on earth and bring us closer to the Savior.”
Chris and Jenny Robinson of Virginia have used role-playing games with their young children. Jenny says: “We role-play sitting quietly in Church meetings and giving talks in Primary. We also role-play other situations, such as eating in a restaurant and using our best table manners. We pretend to stand in line, wait our turn, and raise our hands to answer a teacher. We role-play clapping our hands at the end of a performance to show our appreciation. We all enjoy this activity, and it has helped our children become more confident.”
Marian Pond of Colorado remembers a time when her husband decided to be spontaneous rather than skip a family home evening: “My husband, Stan, came home later than usual one Monday evening, and our children greeted him with squeals of ‘Daddy’s home!’ and ‘Now can we have family home evening?’ He found me on the couch with our three-month-old twins. Evidence of an overwhelming day welled in my eyes. We both knew we weren’t ready with a lesson for family home evening.
“‘Not a problem,’ Stan reassured me. I could tell that my husband had decided we would simply play together and have fun. With energy and laughter, he asked the children to ‘skedaddle’ and see who could get ready for bed the fastest. They returned giggling and snuggled around the twins and me on the couch.
“Stan asked seven-year-old Sara to lead the opening song. Lisa, who was five, said the prayer. For our lesson, Stan picked out a common object in our home and made a humorous but insightful comparison between it and our family, which left everyone laughing. Four-year-old Anna led the closing song, and little Molly said the closing prayer and asked a blessing on the refreshments. ‘But I didn’t make any,’ I said. Again Stan had the situation under control. He led our little band to the kitchen and retrieved a bag of bing cherries from the freezer. Ceremoniously, he placed five frozen cherries on each of our saucers, and we proceeded to enjoy pretending we were true gourmets.
“The recollection of this family home evening always brings a smile and helps me remember that sometimes just having fun together can make a great family home evening.”
“If you have any doubt about the virtue of family home evening, try it. Gather your children about you, teach them, bear testimony to them, read the scriptures together and have a good time together.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 212.