Family home evening is one of the most prominent institutions on Latter-day Saint teachings and culture. Although it has been around since the early days of the Church, April 27, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the formal institution of it.
It was on that day in 1915 that President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency sent the following in a letter to local Church leaders:
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
We counsel the Latter-day Saints to observe more closely the commandment of the Lord given in the 68th section of the Doctrine and Covenants (25-28):
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of Baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents;
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized;
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
“And they shall also teach their children to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord.”
The children of Zion should also observe more fully the commandment of the Lord given to ancient Israel, and reiterated to the Latter-day Saints: “Honor thy father and mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
These revelations apply with great force to the Latter-day Saints, and it is required of fathers and mothers in this Church that these commandments shall be taught and applied in their homes.
To this end 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 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.
We request that the Presidents of Stakes and Bishops throughout the Church set aside at least one evening each month for this purpose, and that upon such evenings no other Church duties shall be required of the people.
We further request that all the officers of the auxiliary organizations throughout the Church support this movement and encourage the young people to remain at home that evening, and devote their energies to make it instructive, profitable and interesting.
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 influence and temptations which beset them.
JOSEPH F. SMITH,
ANTHON H. LUND,
CHARLES W. PENROSE,
(in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:339).
That formalized family home evening, although it had been a practice since the early days of the Church. In a letter by Brigham Young to the Church, for example, we find evidence that he urged parents to bring their children together and teach them the gospel in the home frequently. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, chapter 13).
This month might be a great time to emphasize family home evening with your children. If you haven’t been as regular with it as you would like to be, now is a great time to recommit.
And regular home evenings are not just for families with children. Couples can study the gospel together and singles can meet with other singles.
Learn more about the history of family home evening.