Before we got married, my wife and I made a commitment to each other that we would hold family home evening regularly. We made a point to start holding it before we had children so we would be in the habit when they arrived. Our youngest left home to serve a mission almost two weeks ago. The nest is officially empty. Now what?
We have been married for 35 years, 4 months, and 14 days. But by some miracle, we’ve stayed in the FHE habit. We didn’t hold it every Monday night, but we held it regularly and often. More often than not, we held it weekly.
We had family night tonight, just my wife and me. We sang, “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” We talked about our goals for 2015 and discussed a pro/con list my wife complied about a potential purchase. We closed by reading a few verses from Matthew chapter 2.
Family night has helped us, all of us in our family, stay close to the Spirit of the Lord. When you get together as a family, talk openly about your testimony, study scripture, pray, share spiritual experiences, admit to your failings, offer up your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and disappointments, and allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, it helps form connections and glues your family together.
Joseph F. Smith, together with the First Presidency, issued this statement almost 100 years ago:
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; at the same time familiarizing themselves and their children more thoroughly with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 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 obligations of children to parents, the home, the Church, society and the Nation. For the smaller children appropriate recitations, songs, stories and games may be introduced. Light refreshments of such a nature as may be largely prepared in the home might be served.
Formality and stiffness should be studiously avoided, and all the family should participate in the exercises.
These gatherings will furnish opportunities for mutual confidence between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, as well as give opportunity for words of warning, counsel and advice by parents to their boys and girls. They will provide opportunity for the boys and girls to honor father and mother, and to show their appreciation of the blessings of home so that the promise of the Lord to them may be literally fulfilled and their lives be prolonged and made happy. …
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” (“Home Evening,” Improvement Era, June 1915, 733–34, as quoted in Presidents of the Church Student Manual, (2012), 94–111).
Joseph F. Smith was a prophet. What he said was completely true. The promised blessings have been realized in our family. It was worth every drop of effort. I am deeply grateful. Finally, as the Savior said, there is an unimpeachable way to learn the truth—live it:
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:16–17.)