Lesson 13: Strengthening the Family through Family Home Evening

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 112–22


The purpose of this lesson is to teach us how to strengthen our families through family home evening.

Introduction

Every family should spend at least one evening a week gathered together to teach and strengthen each other. To encourage this, the Church has set aside Monday evening for family home evening.

  • Show visuals 13-a, “Every family should hold family home evening once a week”; 13-b, “The family is the most important unit in the Church”; 13-c, “Gospel study should be part of family home evening”; and 13-d, “Children need help in developing spiritual sensitivity.”

Since all families are different, so are all family home evenings. Some families have two parents with children at home, others have one parent, and others have a husband and a wife. There are also many single adults who live alone or with roommates. Whatever the size or shape of the family, home evening is for everyone. Parents and children should meet together weekly. Those living alone will be blessed by participating in family home evening alone, with other individuals, or with families.

“There is no more appropriate place for teaching the gospel than the home. Only at home can children learn the nature of family life as authored by our Heavenly Father. Monday night with the family together sets a spirit for all family experiences. Those who have this spirit in their midst find it the source of their greatest joy” (The First Presidency, Family Home Evening [manual, 1971], 4).

We should not be discouraged if every family home evening is not ideal; it is important just to spend time together. The Lord promises that if we patiently continue to hold family home evening, He will strengthen our families.

Planning and Conducting Family Home Evening

It is good to hold a short family council or planning meeting as part of each home evening to review the activities of family members for the coming week. This is especially helpful when there are many members in the family.

One father said that for family council “we gather around the dinner table, with Daddy in charge, and we discuss family business. … We make any announcements of importance to the family and discuss and compliment any achievements made by the children during the week. As each child hears his own [accomplishments] retold to the family he glows with pride—and so, I might add, do his parents” (Glen W. Harper, “Participation: Our Family Home Evening Success Key,” Ensign, Dec. 1977, 17).

Fathers are the patriarchs of their families and should preside over family home evenings. In the absence of a husband or father, the wife or mother should preside. Parents should plan in advance each family home evening and make assignments to family members.

  • Show visual 13-e, “Family home evening should involve all family members.”

The father either teaches the lesson or delegates the teaching to his wife or children. The teacher can make additional assignments to involve other family members.

There are many activities that are appropriate for family home evening, such as reading the scriptures, discussing the gospel, sharing testimonies, performing a service project, going on a picnic, or playing a family game. Family home evening activities should include a prayer.

Following is a sample of a family home evening plan:

  1. 1.

    Chorister: (name of family member to be chorister)

  2. 2.

    Opening song: (name of hymn or Primary song)

  3. 3.

    Opening prayer: (name of family member to give prayer)

  4. 4.

    Family business: (conducted by head of household)

  5. 5.

    Musical number: (name of family member to give musical number)

  6. 6.

    Lesson from Gospel Principles manual: (name of family member to present lesson)

  7. 7.

    Discussion and planning for coming week

  8. 8.

    Closing song: (name of hymn or Primary song)

  9. 9.

    Closing prayer: (name of family member to give prayer)

  10. 10.

    Enjoyable activity: (name of family member assigned)

  11. 11.

    Refreshments: (name of family member assigned)

We should not hesitate to ask even small children to help teach the family home evening lesson. One young member of the Church shared the following: “‘When Dad suggested that everyone in the family take a turn at giving the family night lesson, I thought that it would be funny to say, “Yeah, let John give the lesson next week.” John is three years old. So Dad assigned John the lesson, and with Mom’s help, John gave one of the best family night lessons that we have ever had, and the joy on that little guy’s face was worth more than we will ever be able to give him in return’” (quoted by Lowell Durham Jr., in “What Makes a Good Family Home Evening,” New Era, June 1972, 13).

Each family member can help make family home evening a success. Everyone can leave Monday night free for family home evening. Also, each family member can help prepare or present the home evening lesson or activity. Young children enjoy praying, leading the music, reading scriptures, holding pictures, performing, presenting simple flannel board stories, passing out refreshments, and participating in other activities. Mother or one of the older children can help them prepare these or other assignments during the week. Children participate more readily when their father and mother include them and are patient with their efforts.

One father discovered that careful planning without love and patience does not ensure a successful family home evening:

“Some years ago I felt a bit ornery one Monday evening. As we began our home evening, the children were poking at each other and acting wild. I became upset and announced in a loud voice, ‘Sit up straight and knock off the fooling around or else there is going to be some big trouble around here.’ The children could see by the red in my face that I was serious. They became quiet. I continued by saying, ‘I don’t know why you can’t sit still for a few minutes and listen. Now, I don’t want to hear anything out of any of you until I finish this lesson. And when I finish I’m going to ask some questions. You’d better know the answers.’ …

“Finally I finished the lecture and began to ask the questions. They knew every answer. I had taught the ideas very well. I then asked, ‘Do you children have any questions?’

“My oldest son said in a subdued tone, ‘I do.’ He then asked, ‘Next week could Mom teach the lesson?’

“His words and my feelings told me that in trying to do right, I had done wrong. I had taught ideas, but I hadn’t taught my family. …

“I have learned a few things since then. I still don’t let the children get very far out of line—nor do they seem to want to—but I’ve found better methods of discipline. I’ve determined to control myself, and, with the help of prayer, I’ve done it. I simply refuse to get upset during family home evening.”

This father finished the account of his experience by sharing the following advice:

“Be pleasant. Save your best and friendliest behavior for home. …

“In our home, family home evening is not like the formal classes at the chapel. No law says we must sit in chairs; we often sit on the floor to make sure everyone feels relaxed. …

“Fathers get upset because they feel they must see that the lesson is taught and that the family members pay strict attention. That idea is partially correct, but when it becomes an obsession, family home evenings become unpleasant experiences” (George D. Durrant, Love at Home, Starring Father [1976], 44–46).

  • How can we use prayer to improve our family home evenings?

  • How much time should we spend each week preparing for family home evening? How can better planning improve our home evenings?

Members of the First Presidency asked parents: “Do you spend as much time making your family and home successful as you do in pursuing social and professional success? Are you devoting your best creative energy to the most important unit in society—the family; or, is your relationship with your family merely a routine, unrewarding part of life?”

They continued, saying, “Parents and children must be willing to put family responsibilities first in order to achieve family exaltation” (Family Home Evening [manual, 1973], 4).

Family Home Evening Strengthens the Family

  • Hold a bundle of sticks or matchsticks in your hand. Tell the class that these represent members of a family. Take one of the sticks out of the bundle and break it in half. Tell the class that when we stand alone we are not as strong as when we are with our family. Then take a string or elastic band and bind the sticks together. Tell the class that the string represents the strengthening influence of the gospel. Show how difficult it is to break the sticks. Explain that we are stronger when we are united as a family and strive together to live the gospel.

Well-planned weekly family home evenings can help us assist family members to overcome the evil influences in the world. Satan is attacking righteousness, using many different temptations to promote sin and wickedness. The youth are his special targets. If we teach them the gospel and strengthen them spiritually in the home, they will be more able to withstand the temptations they face in the world.

“In our Home Evenings and other positive family experiences we can fill our souls with the things of God, thus leaving no room for evil to find a place in our hearts or minds” (The First Presidency, Family Home Evening [manual, 1972], 4).

In 1915 the First Presidency of the Church gave us this promise: “If the Saints obey this counsel [to hold family home evening], we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them” (“Home Evening,” Improvement Era, June 1915, 734).

  • What blessings have come to your family through family home evening?

The family home evening program can build love and peace in our homes. As this feeling grows, our families will desire to live the gospel, and much of the quarreling and contention in our homes will be eliminated. As our families pray, sing, and discuss the gospel together, the Spirit of the Lord can come into our homes and replace any spirit of contention found there.

Elder Marion D. Hanks shared a personal story illustrating this Spirit: “I knelt with my own family, at the conclusion of a great family home evening, the night before our lovely daughter was to be married in the temple. I think she wouldn’t mind my telling you that after we had laughed and wept and remembered, she was asked to pray. I don’t recall much of her prayer, the tears and the joy and the sweetness, but I remember one thought: she thanked God for the unconditional love she had received. This life doesn’t give one very many chances to feel exultant and a little successful, but I felt wonderful that night” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 119; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 106).

  • How can regular family home evenings bring more love and peace into our homes? How can they help family members fight the forces of evil? (Write the ideas on the chalkboard.)

  • Ask the assigned class members to share special family home evening experiences they have had.

Conclusion

Family home evening is part of the Lord’s plan to help us return to Him. It is a time set aside for us to teach our children the principles of the gospel and to help our families draw closer in love and understanding. These times together can help us strengthen our family and teach us how to live together in greater love and harmony. Our family members will thus be better able to combat the influences of evil in the world.

“Again most earnestly we urge parents to gather their children around them in love and patience and understanding, and instruct them in truth and righteousness. … The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life” (The First Presidency, Family Home Evening [manual, 1975], 3).

Challenge

If you are not holding regular family home evenings, begin this week. Prayerfully plan them to meet the needs of your family. Involve all family members in family home evening as much as possible.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Prepare a bundle of small sticks or matchsticks to perform the object lesson suggested in the lesson.

  2. 2.

    Ask a few class members to prepare to tell briefly of special family home evening experiences they have had.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.