Monday, December 8, 2008

Family Home Evening

One night each week, usually Monday night, Mormon families everywhere gather together to spend a night together. They have a family "meeting" of sorts that is called Family Home Evening. This practice was introduce almost a century ago by one of the prophets. Joseph F. Smith, in 1915. 

In these Family Home Evenings the family grows together and parents have an opportunity to teach their children their core values and beliefs. They also get to spend uninterrupted time with their children. In todays busy age of technology and distractions, this time is invaluable.

A typical Family Home Evening starts with a prayer and then a song sung together by the family. Perhaps a scripture will be shared. A prepared lesson is given by one family member and then the family does some sort of activity together. At the end another song and prayer are said and a refreshment is enjoyed. 

Now that is pretty textbook. In reality, many Family Home Evenings (at least at our house) are not as well prepared as they should be and sometimes we combine the lesson and activity together. Still, the time spent together is worth all the trouble to pull something together. I know for those with teenagers it is sometimes difficult to get kids happy about participating, but our little kids LOVE Family Home Evening. We keep the lessons short to account for their attention spans and they adore the activities.  

Tonight we had a great Family Home Evening. I thought I would share what we did. We started with our prayer and then I asked the girls to sing a song they have been learning in church for the ward Christmas party. It is about how heavenly choirs must have had children and how they must have sung at his birth. It is a great song. They did a great job singing it.

For our lesson I read to the kids an email story sent to me by my cousin. It is about Santa coming and telling us to teach our children about Christmas and its true meaning. (I will paste the story to the end of this post so those who want to can have it). It goes over how so many of our Christmas traditions can point to the Savior if we look at them symbolically. 

After the lesson, we gathered together and made a gingerbread house out of a kit I bought at Costco. 
It was a fun time together. The kids loved it and Jon and I had fun too. Next, Jon sat to the piano and played a bunch of Christmas songs. Annie played Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and Jolly Old St. Nick on the violin, and we all sang. (The girls emptied the dishwasher while singing and I did the dinner dishes.)

By the end of the music it was time for bed so we had our closing/family prayer and put the kiddos down for the night. All in all, it was one of our better Family Nights. 

Family Home Evening may be a "Mormon" teaching, but it is a great idea for any family. The lessons can be whatever beliefs any parent holds. What is most important is that the program strengthens families. Even if it is just spending a night playing games together, the time spent together deepens family relationships. 

So whatever your beliefs may be, I challenge you all to pick a night and try spending a Family Home Evening with your family. Adapt it to your needs and situation. If you take the challenge, let me know how it goes. If you already do this, share one of your best Family Home Evening Ideas. I always love good FHE ideas!

Here is the email I got for those interested:

The Meaning of Christmas
Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room, and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out. "What are you doing?" I started to ask him.

The words choked in my throat, as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement, TEACH THE CHILDREN!

I was puzzled: What did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree.

As I stood there bewildered, Santa said, Teach the Children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that a now-a-day Christmas has forgotten! 
Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it on the mantle. Teach the Children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind. All the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven.

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. Teach the Children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of that promise.

He then reached into the bag and pulled out a CANDLE. Teach the Children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness.

Once again he reached into his bag and then removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree.

Teach the Children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection.

He then pulled out from his bag an ornament of HIMSELF. Teach the Children that Santa Claus symbolizes the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December.

He reached in again and pulled out a HOLLY LEAF. Teach the Children the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled out a GIFT from the bag and said, "Teach the Children that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Teach the Children that the wise men bowed before the holy babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men."
Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. Teach the Children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the shepherd's staff helps bring back strayed sheep from the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper. 
He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. Teach the Children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will.'
Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulledout a BELL. Teach the Children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of a bell, it should bring people to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.
Santa looked at the tree and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the  Children the true meaning of Christmas, and not to put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One who is, and I bow down and worship Him, our Lord, our God."


Hollie Wood said...

What a GREAT story! We will read that next Monday night for sure! Tonight we started a new tradition and took the kids to the Winder Dairy Country Store after our lesson and had fresh hot scones with hot chocolate for only $1.00 per person! It was wonderful!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

Just a quick question though you refer to the word "ward" a lot. May I ask what it means or symbolises?

much love,

Stephanie said...

A "ward" is a Mormon congregation. They usually have between 300-800 people in them. They are geographically designated, so if you move, you may be in a different "ward boundary." 7-12 Wards make up a "Stake" in our church.

These are just names for how our local church congregations are organized. Hope that helps.

Sleepless In St. George said...

One of our favorite FHE's is the story of Samuel the Lamanite. We take turns being Samuel and standing on the wall (couch or table or chair) The person then starts to preach repentance to the rest of us. At this poin the rest of us wicked citizens start to throw arrows (minature marshmellows) at Samuel. Since Heavenly Father protects Samuel the arrows don't hurt him! This is definately my kids favorite activity. We have done this lesson many times. They loved that the first time we did it Daddy was Samuel, but didn't know what was going to happen. They like to do this activity when we have guests, because they don't know what will happen! They for sure know this scripture story well!

Maine Mom said...

What? Family night didn't turn into family fight? That is awesome!

Seriously, that sounds like a great Family Home Evening. Thanks for sharing it with us, and for sharing the story, too.

Terri Feilzer said...

I have this story and in fact we did a RS Enrichment project where we made a 24 days of Christmas book and each day has a scripture,song and story to read. I would be happy to share if anyone wants it. My friend made a copy of my book and then download all the songs onto a CD for us to play b/c we are NOT musically inclined at our house.

Terri, a friend of Leslie Wiley in Las Vegas who told me about your blog.

Peggy said...

I shared your Stellilalagoogoos story with my family for FHE last night. They loved it! Thank you.

Julie said...

OK Steph I am going to try this!

It wouldn't be a regular night for our family, with my husbands crazy on-call schedule. But surely there is one night a week we could do this!

Up until now, we do family game night but I think incorporating Scripture and a refreshment : ) they would enjoy even more!

Thank you so much for sharing! You really do enrich my life! Have a wonderful day and I hope you and your growing babe are feeling well.


Jill said...

I have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old and I have to say, fhe has been a challenge. We know it's important and always try to 'be together' on Monday nights, but usually lack any sort of message or lesson. When and how did you start lessons with toddlers? Last night we drove around to look at christmas lights but cut it short because of crankiness. Any ideas on making it more meaningful for teeny-tiny attention spans?

Hammond Family said...

Sounds like a fun night!! We too did the Costco Gingerbread House for our FHE activity last night!!!

Stephanie said...


Yes, FHE is way hard to do lesson wise with toddlers. We started by using the gospel art kit (it can be purchased through the distribution center). It has hundreds of nice pictures in it of scripture stories or other gospel things. Each picture has info on the back about the story or scriptures it refers to.

We picked a picture each week and let the kids see the picture while we told them what was happening. We cut it off as soon as their interest was gone.

I promise it gets so much better as they get older. We still have the attention problems with Lauren who is 3 and sometimes put her to bed mid FHE. But my 5 and 7 year old BEG to do FHE and have done the lesson or activity sometimes and love to do it. They wish we could do FHE more than once a week.

Hang in there! Just spending the time together sets the habit for later when they are more ready for lessons.


Erin Lafleur said...

Our family will read the forgotten carols during the next few FHEs up till Christmas. It is such a great way to remind all of us about the real reason for the season.

For those with toddlers one of our favorite FHE nights with our son (20 months at the time) was a Blues Clues themed. I took the primary song "I love to see the temple" (you could use any song or phrase)and made pictures of an eye, a heart, and a temple along with 3 paw prints. I put the paw prints on the pictures and "hid" them around the livingroom at his eye level. My son knew how to play Blues Clues so he ran around saying "a clue, a clue!" and then told me what the item was. In the end we peiced it all together, talked about why we go to the temple, and sang the song. It was so much fun for all of us.

Darleen said...

I'm going to read that story for our next FHE. We made a paper nativity scene for FHE this past Monday. We should start singing all the songs.

Nerell said...

I am new reading your blog. I get a lot of enjoyment reading yuor creative blogs. Last night we watched the Christmas Devotional for FHE and afterwards had hot chocolate.

We have had many enjoyable FHE but one that sticks in my mind is when we finished painting the playhouse that we built earlier in the summer. The kids really enjoy FHE and my 4 year old asks quite often is it FHE night!

Bella said...

Terri Feilzer,
How can I get a copy of your 24 days of Christmas book? I think that is an awesome idea!

Cardalls said...

A little spooky...we had the EXACT same family home evening last night with the same story of Christmas symbols, made a gingerbread house from Costco, listened to kids play Christmas songs on the piano and sang Christmas carols....did you by chance also make snowflakes out of white paper?? We also live in your town....great minds think alike I guess! :)

The Tehvand Trio said...

I love the Teach the Children story. I love it. I first heard it when I was a beehive in Young Womens and we had a little bag with a tree and the ornaments, etc, to go with it as we told the story. I tell it every year.

Jennie said...

What a great story. I may have to use that one next week. One of my kids very favorite is, "Hold to the Rod." I wrote about it in October. It is a great extended family activity as well.

Katie Webb said...

Teach The Children is my favorite Christmas story and we read it every Christmas Eve before opening 1 gift from Grandma and Grandpa.

Lisa & David said...

I am a blog lurker and have been reading your blog for awhile now. I really enjoy reading about your life and your stories are entertaining. I sincerely LOVE this idea. Although we are not Mormon, I believe setting aside a night where there's no TV, computer, video games, etc. and spending it together is a great idea. Thanks for sharing - I am going to make that an early NYE resolution! Happy Holidays.

Heidi said...

Oh, that was great! (And I love that you got the same kit from Costco that I did. It looks like it turned out well--I hope ours does, too!)

April said...

A fun adaptation of the gingerbread house idea is to make a 2D model of the city of Bethlehem using gingerbread (or graham crackers) and the typical candy decor. We did this for a family night and it was great fun. If you have older children you can even mention that Bethlehem means "house of bread" and mention that one of Jesus' titles was Bread of Life. For a picture of our gingerbread scene, see my blog at Thanks for the great Santa story! It was just what I was looking for!

Kat said...

About the word "ward" doesn't it also have something to do with Moses temple in the wilderness, I believe the wards were the ropes that held the temple (tent)up and the stakes held it firm in the ground. Yes, I'm sure I've heard that before but you may want to check it out yourself, maybe it wasn't Moses, anyway you could check it out, it is symbolic and I know you can put things into words better than I.

Leslie said...

Oh hey, Stephanie, we have a gingerbread house just like that! Hehe. Except we did it on Sunday and my girls took some exterior design leeway and went a little off the plans. It was a lot of fun, though, they really make it so much easier with those kits! I love the previous poster's suggestion to turn the house into a stable. My 9yo's are just really starting to grasp that Christ was born in a stable. Really. It's too bad the live nativity isn't happening any more a the chapel on Charleston. That is such a part of our Christmas season and the kids always loved going.

kids taxi driver said...

I borrowed your story of the meaning of Christmas to share with my children and those that I teach at my church. I have followed your blog for a while (I also live in Las Vegas) and you are a true inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully- Maybe you can answer this for me. Why does the LDS (or Mormons) seem to take the Book of Mormon above the Bible. I may be wrong, but it seems that the Bible is what started it all, so why don't Mormon people seek the Bible the same way that they do the Book of Mormon?

Leslie said...

Hopefully- Maybe you can answer this for me. Why does the LDS (or Mormons) seem to take the Book of Mormon above the Bible. I may be wrong, but it seems that the Bible is what started it all, so why don't Mormon people seek the Bible the same way that they do the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon isn't more important than the Bible. They are all things God wanted recorded for us, for the future generations. If you read all these books of scripture -- the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon -- you'll understand what I mean.

There are some things I very much like in the Book of Mormon. Lehi's dream is one that comes to life, it's so depictive of what we are living through in our day. And, I think's the case with a lot of the Book of Mormon that it seems to speak to things we need to know today even though it recorded words of prophets many hundreds of years ago. But, there are things in the Old Testament we need to know that are not in the Book of Mormon (or New Testament). It's not that one is any more important than the other, they are all important. But, one of them the world challenges believers more about and that is the Book of Mormon so we are pretty protective of it just like Christians in the past likely were when the Jews wondered why the several books of the Old Testament weren't enough and why they needed to believe in the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

than why, especially on here (this exact blog site) do people list their favorite book as Book of Mormon. the bible, to me, is more important. it symbolizes something that could never be redone. the Lord is one and only and there is none like him, and never will be and the bible is a perfect demonstration of that. i just get confused with why the book of mormon seems to overrule it in the LDS Church.
the bible demonstrates that Jesus Christ died, was crusified on the holy cross for US and that is something that all of us are thankful for. God loves everyone, He forgives us of our sins, and the Bible shows that.. why do you need another book to show that too?

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon,

I just caught up on my comments and saw your original question and while Leslie' s answer is correct, it didn't address some of the points I would have that your resonse seemed to desire.

Your response to her seemed ... more debate-like than I would normally answer. However, I will give you the answer I would have given to your first question taken in light of your concerns portaryed in your second comment. But I want to emphasize that while it is fine for you to disagree with me or Mormons in general I would appreciate you not leaving comments about how you think we are wrong, if that is how you feel. I know many do not agree with Mormons on many things. And there are lots of places on the web where people can debate who is right about religion. This is not one of those places. This is my blog and I only put doctrinal explanations up to help those curious to understand how I see things the opportunity to better understand my view. I don't do it to prove I am right or that anyone else is wrong.

I hope you understand what I am trying to say. This is the reason I will delete any antagonistic or debate provoking comment. I am just not going there.

Okay - now to answer your question. One of our basic Articles of Faith says, We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

So, while one is not more important than the other, the Bible has certainly been translated more times by more people than the Book of Mormon. Today there are numerous variations of the Bible to be read and purchased. These different translations can lead to differing ideas and interpretations about doctrinal points. Is it any wonder there are so many Christian religions?

That is the reason it is so wonderful to we who believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God to have ANOTHER witness. As an attorney, we try to get as many witnesses we can to testify about an event or a person's character. Each person's testimony adds more information and depth to the overall picture. The same is true in this case.

The Bible itself uses this logic as it compiles multiple accounts of the same miracles performed by the Savior. More testimonies give us a fuller view of the same event. So Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all give their own testimonies of the Savior's life. As the scripture says, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Cor. 13:1).

The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe it was translated directly through the power of God, not a man's intellect after studying in a university. So we believe the translation to be completely correct.

There are many passages of the Book of Mormon that are nearly identical to the Bible. The Book of Mormon helps us understand much of the Bible's teachings.

Both books do testify of Christ. Both testify of His divinity, His death on the cross, and His ministry. The Bible tells us of his ministry to those in Isreal. The Book of Mormon tells of his ministry in the Americas. If a new book of scripture was discovered with an account of Christ's ministry to the Chinese or the Australian natives or whatever, I would want to read that too. The more I can know about my Savior the better I think.

Personally, I love both books. The Book of Mormon has a unique place in my heart because it led me to my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in the LDS church. You can read my former post about this experience if you like.

I think to really understand this fully, you would have to read the Book of Mormon in the mindset that you believed it to be a true record. But if you are not inclinded to do so I hope I have helped you understand at least a little why we love having both books.

Merry Christmas to you,

Anonymous said...

Oh, well I'm sorry if I seemed "provoking." I am a lover of people of all religions, sinners and LDS, and just all religions. I should love people of all religions.
Just one more question :)
Why are only men called to have testimony?
I hope you don't think that I was/am disrespecting.

Stephanie said...

No worries. I try to give comments as much of a "benefit of the doubt" as possible because I know how much can be lost in the written word without the benefit of voice tone and body language.

As to your question -- Actually EVERYONE in the LDS church - Man, Woman, teenager, boy and girl child is encouraged to find their own testimony. The definition of testimony being a personal experience or series of experiences that leads one to believe that certain doctrines are true. For example, we are all in need of a testimony or personal witness from God that He is real. That He lives and loves us. We all should further have a testimony or witness from God (this can be through feeling His Spirit or from an inner voice or just a peaceful "right" feeling) that Jesus is the Christ and Savior of all mankind and that in Him we have hope for salvation. You sound like you already have these testimonies.

LDS people additionally need a testimony of the Book of Mormon as scripture. This comes through reading it and praying about it and getting a personal witness from God. We also need a testimony of modern day prophets and the call of the prophet Joseph Smith to restore Christ's church on the earth.

These "additional" testimonies are necessary to believe the LDS church teachings and doctrines. Every member of our church is highly encouraged to find it for themselves. Also when people meet with missionaries to learn more about our church they are encouraged to ask God for their own personal witnesses about the truth of the things they learn. We expect no person to believe just because we believe. No. People need to have their own witness to truly believe.

If you were instead meaning to ask why only men hold the priesthood - which is entirely a different question - I ask that you read the post I wrote on that subject to answer another readers question about it. I also recommend you read the comments afterward as some other readers added some insightful additions to my own view on the subject.

Again, I hope you understand my cautions in my last response were not only directed to you. I just know how "provoking" a subject religion can be. I know very well how misunderstood and sometimes hated Mormons can be. I also know there are many out there who think we are going to hell and want to "save" us from such an awful state. I love all these people whatever their view but I do not want comments of hate or debate or even criticism on my blog. ya know? And no I didn't find your comment disrespectful. Loves to you :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much :)
Your so comforting! I feel that God has chose me, just like many others, to serve Him and show others what faith is about- and I think you feel that too. I am still seeing what religion is the right one for me, and knowing that the LDS church is a definite possibility makes me feel really good. I think it may just be hard for me to understand, and I do need to be sensitive to those religions that I'm still trying to seek out. Thanks for your Word and your help :)

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon,
Good luck in your search and may you feel the Lord guiding you in the process.

Much Love,

Mandi said...

to commenter: Terri Feilzer

Hey i would like a copy of that book if possible. here's my email address.

Thanks so much..