My family joined the LDS Church when I was in second grade. One of the practices of the Church that I noticed as being something new and different was “Family Home Evening.” LDS families are encouraged to spend one night a week, typically Monday, in family-centered activities. No Church meetings are held on Monday, and we are supposed to avoid splitting up the family members into other activities. Part of the program is that families are encouraged to share a spiritual message, sing hymns, and engage in other wholesome activities.
Are you freaking kidding me?
My family wasn’t what you would call “communicative.” Even in the days before cable, most of our discussion centered on what was on TV last night, what was going to be on tonight, and who had to watch the black and white set in the family room. Now we were supposed to set in the same room looking at each other, and even hold a mini-Church meeting. This was going to be a huge change of pace for us.
We tried. Honest we did. My dad went so far as to buy some books on family games that we could play together. We stayed home most Monday nights, and we sometimes even baked snacks. On a good Monday night, you might think the Ghios were sitting smack-dab in the middle of Salt Lake City itself, complete with well-coiffed hair and toothy grins.
But those were the good nights, and they were more of an exception than the rule. Family Home Evening never really got much traction in our home, probably because it was such a new and foreign tradition. My siblings already were teenagers when we joined the Church, so dramatic changes to an established family pattern (centering around all things Zenith) were a bit much to be expected.
As I got older, Family Home Evening became a less frequent practice. Once I got married and had a family of my own, we began trying to adopt the practice again. The main reason for doing so was a selfish one: We noticed that most of what we considered to be “successful” families tended to have a better track record with Family Home Evening than others. But as our lives got busier, and the number of attractions competing for our time dramatically increase, holding Family Home Evenings became a real challenge.
Several years ago, a good friend and bishop told my wife and me that he felt that consistency was more important that spectacle when it comes to Family Home Evening. In his words, the Lord said we need to have Family Home Evening every week; He didn’t say we had to do it well.
That sentiment really stuck with me. We had been trying very hard to have a full-fledged-look-at-us-President-Monson kind of Family Home Evening with songs, prayers, lessons, visual aids, fresh baked cookies, and heavenly visitations. Instead, we decided to do what we reasonably could and feel good about it. We still have been hit-and-miss, but we have found that when we hold Family Home Evening, we all tend to be a little more spiritually minded, a little firmer in our testimonies, and a bit kinder in our home (at least when a fight isn’t breaking out over who is going to give the lesson).
One of the great blessings of Family Home Evening has been giving our children the opportunity to prepare and share lessons. They have demonstrated a surprising amount of initiative and imagination in preparing their lessons, and some of our most memorable FHEs involved programs from our children. (Some of the more trying moments came from them, too: Our oldest daughter would, by the age of 10, prepare 45 minute lessons that made General Conference seem short and ad-libbed. But that same daughter is now teaching the Gospel in Italy, and I think that her Family Home Evening lessons helped prepare her for that).
The LDS Church is very serious about its focus on the family. We genuinely believe that the most important Gospel instruction that families ever will receive will take place in the home. Leading the family is not merely a parental responsibility, but a priesthood duty. The family unit is, first and foremost, a sacred institution. The Family Home Evening program is designed to help enrich the unity and spiritual health of the home.
Family Home Evening does not get the same level of attention in the Church that it used to. I am not sure of the reason for that, other than the reality that families find it so difficult to be consistent in their observance of Family Home Evening. I think that is a shame, and my family recently has made a commitment to improve our efforts on this front and to invite other families to our home on Monday nights to encourage the practice. We hope this will re-light our testimony of Family Home Evening. If nothing else, the invitation will guilt us into doing it, and there is a fair chance that the other families will bring cookies.