Since its earliest days the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has emphasized the importance of strong families and gospel teaching in the home. That basic part of LDS culture and doctrine was formalized somewhat in 1915 by Joseph F. Smith when the first presidency of the church stated:
"We advise and urge the inauguration of a "Home Evening' throughout the Church, at which time fathers and mothers may gather their boys and girls about them in the home and teach them the word of the Lord…. This "Home Evening' should be devoted to prayer, singing hymns, songs, instrumental music, scripture-reading, family topics and specific instruction on the principles of the Gospel, and on the ethical problems of life, as well as the duties and obligation of children to parents, the home, the Church, society, and the Nation" (IE 18 [June 1915]:733). To assist parents in their stewardship, the first home evening manual was prepared that same year and distributed to members of the Church."
See Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
However, many associate teachings about FHE with David O McKay, who reminded parents that "No other success can compensate for failure in the home" during the April 1964 general conference. IE 67 [June 1964]:445).
Again, according to Encyclopedia of Mormonism: " In 1965, the weekly Family Home Evening program was more fully implemented, and a lesson manual was given each family to aid parents in teaching their children. Families were encouraged to participate in a home night once each week, which could consist of scripture reading, singing, and activities suited to the ages of the children. In 1966, stakes were urged to set aside a regular night for Family Home Evening and to avoid scheduling Church activities on that night. In 1970, Monday evening was designated as Family Home Evening, Churchwide, with no competing ecclesiastical functions to be held. Revised home evening manuals, with suggested weekly lessons and activities, were provided from 1965 to 1984"
Some families instituted very structured Family Night rituals with each member of the family being given specific assignments. Others opted for a more casual approach, simply reserving one night each week for family activities with no outside commitments.
Prophetic Promises for FHE:
In 1966 David O McKay stated:"Great blessings come to those who carry out this responsibility. Last year’s lessons have brought many families closer to one another, and have brought a great measure of peace and harmony in many homes. We feel to say to you again, with our love and earnest assurances, that the Lord will grant rich blessings to all who will prayerfully and sincerely carry out this program.”
Since that time many prophets and other church leaders have continued to emphasize the importance of Family Home Evening and to give very specific promises to those who will make this a priority in their homes. Among those promises include the following blessings:
(See Priesthood Manual Lesson 13: "Strengthening the Family Through Family Home Evening".)
My mother tried her very best to bring Family Home Evening into our family when I was a young girl. Having converted to the LDS faith the year before I was born, she was determined to follow the council of the prophets to the best of her ability. However, with no support at all from her husband and plenty of struggle with her wild brood of kids, it was pretty hit or miss how it happened at our house.
When Larry and I were raising our children, we were more regular about having FHE than I had experienced growing up, but we were far from consistent. Still, we have some great memories and even a few special art projects from those long ago FHE nights.
But what is a "Family"? What if there are no kids, or if the children are just babies or toddlers, or if they have special needs?
We have learned that Family Home Evening can be adapted to suit the needs of ANY family - from a person living alone, to a room mate situation among singles to Senior Couples whose children have moved away or any other living arrangement.
While living in Boise, we held "Empty Nester" FHE at our home once a month, gathering together friends from our ward who, like us, no longer had children at home. We definitely developed a greater sense of love and unity with each other through this. Here in the mission field we get together with the other Senior Elders & Sisters twice a month, taking turns providing a short lesson and a light meal, filling us all both spiritually & physically.
Some Family Home Evenings are more focused on spiritual things. Some are practical or just plain fun.
This week, Larry and I were in charge of the lesson for the Family Home Evening with the other Senior Missionaries. We talked about writing personal histories and other ways of preserving special memories. It went really well. Afterward we had a light supper of split pea soup, salad and rolls with yummy bar cookies for desert. (We made the soup, other missionaries did the salad and dessert, so it was a team effort).
We really have come to love the missionaries that we get to work with here. For now, they are like our family.