Chillin’ with the Family

I didn’t see my dad much growing up. He was an Army Ranger with the 82nd Airborne Division. Rangers “Lead the Way,” and the 82nd goes “All the Way,” so with American forces perpetually engaged in some operation around the world, Dad led the way, all the way, all the time.


That meant many evenings without Dad at the dinner table. He missed a lot of opportunities to watch my sister and me grow. Mom missed him too. But we were a proud Army family. I walked around the house in Dad’s spare combat boots, pretended to shine them, and laced them up to my knees. I wanted nothing more than to be a paratrooper like Dad and so I routinely practiced my airborne techniques by jumping off the back of a truck bed with my pet chicken.

Because Dad was gone so often, and much of the time we never knew where he was or how long he would be gone, we made sure every moment he was home was spectacular. I remember one time, when we were stationed in Italy, that we had the rare opportunity of knowing when he’d come home. My mom prepared a skit for all of us to perform once he walked through the door. I can’t remember what we sang or all the movements, but I do remember two things:

1) My dad’s smile.

2) I felt uncomfortable and silly.

I was five years old.

I’m not sure why I felt this way, but ever since I can remember, family functions are odd for me. Maybe it’s because I’m more of a lone wolf. But none of that matters when you have a family. Now that I’m older and have kids and a wife of my own, I can see the importance of family time together and how that impacts our children.

This sort of quality time is a rarity among families today due to our high impact, high-octane society. There is always an event to go to. Soccer game, board meeting, late night at the office…

When was the last time you ate dinner at the table with your family? When’s the last time you played a board game or just chilled with your kids?

One very important component of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reminded me of the centrality our family should hold in our lives: Family Home Evenings.

Family Home Evenings were instituted in 1915 by President and then modern Prophet, Joseph F. Smith. He described them as a time set apart for “prayer…hymns…family topics…and specific instruction on the principles of the gospel.” These evenings with family were set aside for Mondays, however this day of the week isn’t a hard and fast rule. Any evening will do so long as it is consistent and with a defined purpose.

The LDS website has fantastic ideas for how to conduct a Family Home Evening, such as:

  • Singing hymns
  • Nature walks
  • Arts and crafts
  • Helping our neighbors
  • Studying scripture
  • Acting out scripture stories and events
  • Take time to speak about family/household business

In other words, hang out together. I know, I know, it’s hard to slow down and step away from the grind. My day is hectic and filled to the second with tasks and chores–and that’s just with Project Conversion–not including things I need to do around the house. Right now, as I write this post, my wife and kids are in the kitchen having school (we home school). Why am I not in there?

My Mentors this month (the Elders or missionaries of the local branch) advised me that living the LDS faith means taking family seriously; that it is the most important aspect of their religion apart from Jesus Christ. So to honor that, we set up our own Family Home Evening. Ours is on Sunday evenings (as long as my wife isn’t called into work).

Because I’m the only honorary LDS member in the house, we take a different approach to our evening.

Back in February when I was a Baha’i, a wonderful lady offered me a book as a gift–a book she used with her own family. It’s called The Family Virtues Guide. What’s awesome about this book is that it covers a 52-week course in virtues such as assertiveness, caring, respect, passion, etc, and offers scriptural support from several world religions. No wonder a Baha’i carried this thing around! So, for our Family Home Evening, we decided to begin and follow this guide for the year.

I'm having more fun than I look, promise.

 Here, we go over the lesson and virtue for the week, and talk about how we can implement this virtue in our lives. From there we might play a game or make a pizza. The kids and I love cartoons, so maybe we’ll have a movie night. The point here is that you are spending time together, because in a world increasingly consumed by self-interest and egotism, family is all we have.

Do you think a Family Home Evening would work for your household? Do the math: how much time are you spending with your family compared to your career? At the end of your life, are you going to wish you had spent just one more hour in the office or one more afternoon playing catch with your child? I’m not the best dad or husband, but humility and recognition of an issue is the first step toward healing.


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  • Jessi

    Family Home Evening and  Daily Family Prayer kept my  kids so close to us, the parents, and to the Lord, their teen years were just a lot of fun watching them grow into happy contributing adults.   The dynamics of family life is a testimony to me that we have a loving Father in Heaven who knows exactly what we need to grow up to be well rounded emotionally healthy people.   With every choice we make personallly and every law we enact as nation,  the first question we should ask ourselves is “How is this going to impact the family?”

    • Anonymous

      Excellent point there at the end Jessi.

  • Pagolesher

    Here I am, a divorced mom of 3 homeschooled girls. I work part time, go to school full time. My life *still* revolves around my kids (attachment parenting doesn’t end when they become more independent & self-sufficient – i.e. when they wean & can wipe their own butts).
     This lifestyle choice has nothing to do with my spirituality (which plays a part in my life & choices all the time, just not in a ‘focused’ or ‘directed’ or ‘planned’ way). This has to do with being a caring, responsible parent. I had children because I wanted them, wanted to raise them, wanted to have them in my life & subsequently be a part of their lives. I started out a stay-at-home mom, and when I couldn’t do that any longer because their father left us, I made whole-life choices that would enable me to be involved with & present for my girls as much as possible. The Mormons don’t have a corner on family time, or being a loving attentive parent. It is a choice anyone can make, regardless of religious affiliation or spiritual beliefs.

    • Anonymous

      It is very tough being in a single parent home. I’m sure my mother felt as if she was one while my dad was gone. In the LDS church, a single mother is considered the spiritual leader of the home because she must take on additional roles. And no, the Mormons do not have a corner of family time, nor does any other religious/philosophical tradition. They do however, have a corner on my mindset this month, and therefore I present their methods to those who read the blog. It is my firm belief that one can glean powerful and helpful life practices and techniques from different faith/philosophy traditions without adopting them fully.

  • Lauren Elizabeth

    Good post! But I wonder what family home evening is like for couples who ate married but don’t yet have children? How do they spend FHE?

    • Anonymous

      With one another of course! Husband and wife (and I’ll add here, domestic partners) are still a family. Spending time together is what counts.

      • Lauren Elizabeth

        What if they already spend a lot of time together – aside from FHE – does that invalidate the need for FHE? Or I guess, what I’m trying to say is what would a couple do differently in FHE that they don’t do during their other time spent together?  

        • Anonymous

          FHE focuses on time spent together in the study of scripture. Remember that I speak this month from the LDS perspective, so this will naturally become the focus. On a more universal level, there is no difference so long as we are spending quality time together. The medium does not matter, it’s the principle that’s important.

          • Jessie

            My husband and I just had our first baby, but before we had children we would use FHE time to do some family goal setting/planning for the future as well as focus on things like scripture study, etc. 

          • Anonymous

            That’s wonderful, Jessie. How do you find FHE different now that there’s a little one?

          • Jessie

            I find FHE a lot harder to hold now that there’s a little one :) But we’re doing our best to make it work and trying to focus on teaching her the basic principles of the church by having morning and evening prayer as a family, studying the Book of Mormon together and on Monday nights we alternate between a short, sweet, spiritual message and a fun family activity. Tonight we’re headed to a dinosaur museum!

          • Anonymous

            Dinosaurs win every time!

  • Beth Irwin

    I have no living family members, but I have an extended “family” of people who’ve come into my life. Some of us who live locally are meeting every other week on a consistent basis to eat, talk, and have a devotional. Last night we had 2 beliefs and 3 languages flying around the table between 7 of us. You don’t have to be married or have kids to set aside some regular time with your “family.”

  • AustinSFaux

    I’m glad, whatever the religious faith, when someone is motivated to spend more time with their family.  My wife and I are both in school and depending on homework we  do Family Home Evening on a different night just about every week.  You have two beautiful daughters, and I’m glad they get to spend time with their parents. 

     How is your relationship now with your Dad?  Maybe you could include your parents in your family home evening over Skype every once in awhile?


    • Anonymous

      I can imagine how hard it must be, balancing school with time for your wife. You are setting a great pattern for any future addition to your family.

      My dad and I have an…interesting relationship. He has a very dark past, mostly due to Army experience, that few people understand, however we have always been close. We live less than a mile away from my parents, so time with them is pretty common.

  • Liz Bradbury

    A lot of the time, people, even practicing Mormons, operate under the mindset that Family Home Evening is only for the traditional nuclear families that have young children. As a single Latter-day Saint woman, some of my most memorable Family Home Evenings have been with my friends and roommates.  

    As many of those friends and roommates have gotten married in the past several years, I have had the opportunity to watch them begin to establish the habit of family night as young couples.  If childless couples have a difficult time finding time to spend together, it will become exponentially more difficult when children are in the picture… lack of time spent together would also make it more difficult for a couple to bring those children into the picture anyway.A lot of us don’t live anywhere near our biological family, or we have family members that choose not to participate in such things. So we form our own attachments, build relationships where it is appropriate, and we utilize time like Family Home Evening to strengthen those relationships and attachments.

    • Anonymous

      That is a wonderful method Liz, and a great reminder that the “family unit” doesn’t always fit in a nice, square, traditional box.

  • Anonymous

    I hear you there, B. My kids love to play Trouble. I loath that game with every fiber of my being.