The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church or LDS Church) states, “Family Home Evening is a special time set aside each week that brings family members together and strengthens their love for each other, helps them draw closer to Heavenly Father, and encourages them to live righteously.”
The Mormon Church places great importance on the time families spend together. Indeed, they place so much importance on it that they set aside Monday nights for the Family Home Evening program in 1970. No Church activities are to be scheduled on Monday nights.
Family Home Evening usually begins with a song and a prayer. The family may also read a scripture or poem after the prayer to set the mood for the lesson. After the lesson, the family will often participate in an activity, then close the meeting with another prayer. Traditionally, the family will have a snack or dessert together afterwards. Members of the family usually take turns filling different roles – like leading the music, giving prayers, teaching the lesson, or coming up with an activity.
The family has always been central to Mormon religion and life. In 1903, the then Mormon prophet (formally called the President of the LDS Church) Joseph F. Smith said that the family has a central role in teaching the gospel. A few years later, in 1909, Salt Lake City’s Granite Stake began a weekly home evening program for families. President Smith said that the stake had been inspired to start this program. The program was a success. In 1915, President Smith asked all members to adopt the program on a monthly basis. President Smith further said,
“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. They may thus learn more fully the needs and requirements of their families. If the Saints obey this counsel, 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.”
Family time should be a time of togetherness and a time of instruction. Family Home Evening gives parents an opportunity to teach their children both by word and by deed – by bearing testimony of their belief and also standing as examples of it. Parents who faithfully hold Family Home Evening will show their children consistency and valiance in acting on their Mormon beliefs, rather than just professing them. They will also show their love for their children in their willingness to set aside everything for an hour – just to spend time with them and to tend to their spiritual and emotional needs.
The Mormon church put more emphasis on Family Home Evening in 1965. Manuals with weekly lessons were published – and, in the first manual, then LDS Church President David O. McKay stated, “The problems of these difficult times cannot better be solved in any other place, by any other agency, by any other means, than by love and righteousness, and precept and example, and devotion to duty in the home.” Parents cannot expect their children to grow up well if they neglect their spiritual instruction, or assume that just taking them to church will be enough. Parents cannot expect their children to act differently than they themselves do. Family Home Evening is a together time, and it is also a reminder of how families ought to love each other and spent time together – especially when the world can be unfriendly, unforgiving, and unmerciful. The home should be a safe place where both children and parents draw strength. Family Home Evening helps foster that.