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Family home evening turns 40

Home can be a sanctuary from the world. Good people strive to make their homes havens of peace and places of love and learning. After all, as Thomas Jefferson said, "The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family."

Creating that peaceful, loving home is not always easy for families. The scriptural charge to bring up your children in light and truth is no small task (D&C 93:40).

Thankfully, through modern prophets, God has given his people the blessing of family home evening.

The month of October commemorates the anniversary of the God-given directive to set aside Monday nights as family night. For 40 years, members of the church have had the responsibility to strengthen their homes and families by spending time together on Monday evenings. Family home evening has a rich, prophetic history and has been an inspired influence for good in the homes of faithful people.

In October 1970, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially designated Monday nights for use church-wide as family night. On this night, no other ecclesiastical function was to be held so that families could gather at home for family home evening.

Although the designation of Monday night was new, the counsel to have a weekly family night was not. Members of the church were first asked to hold a regular family night in 1915.

"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," said the first presidency of the time, led by President Joseph F. Smith. "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."

Parents were asked to choose an evening and institute their own family night. It was to be a night to teach the gospel but also a night for parents and children to enjoy each other and grow in love. Although many years have passed, those basic tenets have not changed.

"Family home evening is more for the purpose of teaching values and gospel principles, displaying talents and enjoying different kinds of family fun and activities," said Stephen Covey, LDS businessman and author.

In 1966, stakes were urged to assign a specific night each week and designate it as family night in the stake. They were directed not to schedule church activities on that night, so families could spend the time together. Family home evening as we know it was emerging.

The 1970 declaration to set aside Monday night for family home evening came as one more step in helping families come to Christ. Church members were invited to draw their families in and share the gospel together on this newly designated evening.

"Well-planned family home evenings can be a source of long-lasting joy and influence," said President Joseph Fielding Smith and his counselors. "These evenings are times for group activity, for organizing, for the expressions of love, for the bearing of testimony, for learning gospel principles, for family fun and recreation, and of all things, for family unity and solidarity."

In 1983 the current Family Home Evening Resource Book was released for use by families.

The Family Home Evening Resource Book has two major goals: to build family unity and to teach gospel principles, according to the book's introduction. From first-aid to four square and testimonies to tithing, the book helps households to shape their family night endeavors.

The prophetic charge to hold weekly family home evening is still in effect today.

In October 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley and the First Presidency of the church, which included current prophet Thomas S. Monson, released a letter to the members of the church throughout the world.

Monday nights are reserved throughout the church for family home evenings, according to the statement: "We encourage members to set aside this time to strengthen family ties and teach the gospel in their homes. ... Where practical, members may also want to encourage community and school leaders to avoid scheduling activities on Monday evenings that require children or parents to be away from their homes."

The church has testified of the blessings of family home evening for generations, but recently other organizations have begun to sing the praises of family night as well. For example, toy company Hasbro has built an advertising campaign around the idea of family game night. The company may be in it to make a few dollars, but the idea is sound.

Family home evening shows children that family matters most.

"To combat the worlds evil influences, we need the strength that comes from family home evening," said President James E. Faust in a June 2003 Ensign article.

For 40 years, Monday nights in the church have been devoted to building family ties and strengthening faith in the home. Committed members have been blessed and will continue to be blessed as they follow the long-lived counsel to make family home evening a priority.