Presiding Spiritually in the Home

Sister Sally Seymore is making New Year’s resolutions. She wants to regularly hold Family Home Evening and have daily family scripture study in her home this year. She loves The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Sally’s husband, Brother Sam Seymore, isn’t the spiritual leader she hoped he would be. She doesn’t want to embarrass him or presume a priesthood role, but wonders if she should take the bull by the horns and wrangle the children into gospel habits.

>
What does spiritually presiding look like in your home? When commenting please take into consideration that the complexities of another’s married life are vastly different from your own. A couple’s relationship, and hence their family life, is a world unto itself. Comment kindly.

*If the quiz isn’t working, please let  us know.

59 thoughts on “Presiding Spiritually in the Home

  1. I am all for #1. There are times in every relationship when one partner or the other needs to be the good example, or just do what is right because it needs to be done, not waiting for the other to come around, but lovingly doing what the whole family will be blessed for. I have experienced both sides of this and found that in our partnership as parents, doing something positive, like rounding up the kids for scripture study, or letting everyone know that after the dishes on Monday night we are having Family Home Evening, is better than doing nothing, and regretting missing those teaching and strengthening moments. I think that the line of thought that the mother should not initiate FHE or scripture study because she does not hold the priesthood, is a short-sighted falsehood, robbing the whole family of important spiritual opprotunities.

  2. I have been very blessed to have a husband who feels the same way I do about gospel habits in our home.I can’t begin to imagine how hard it would be to go it alone.

    However, I have experrienced the pain of a very wayward teenager and that makes me have strong opinions about this question.

    I definitely say number 1. Through all my son’s growing up years we were very faithful about family home evening, family scripture reading, etc. The time came when he refused to join us, but we still plodded on with the other children…and continued to invite him to join us. Now several years later, he just recently married in the temple and has family prayer with his new wife. A big reason is because of those early days and the things we taught him when he was teachable.

    And that is the reason I have such a strong opinion about this. You only have a short time with your children—and an even shorter time when they are open hearted and easy to teach. If you wait for the ideal circumstances, that time might pass you by.

  3. I don’t think Sally needs to take the initiative in ALL family life. Priesthood is supposed to preside, not do everything.

    My husband doesn’t really take the initiative for a lot of family things. I get everything ready for FHE and my husband does the rest. Most of the time he just needs a nudge in the right direction.

    Same with family prayer; I call everyone together and he presides.

    My husband is just as dedicated to the church as I am, but he loses track of time and gets wrapped up in whatever he’s doing. Better that I am the catalyst than wait around for him.

    The important thing is that it gets done. It’s kind of lame of Sally to sit around waiting for somebody else to do it. On the other hand, nobody wants to be bossed, especially husbands. I think I’d have a heart to heart with my husband and tell him how I feel and give him the opportunity to get his act together.

    If he still can’t handle it then I’ll have to step in.

  4. I think Sally should do #1, #2, and #5.
    Both parents are responsible for the spiritual training of children. If Sally wants FHE to happen in her home, she should see that it happens.
    Sally should also nudge her husband to get involved. She shouldn’t, however, criticize or nag, or make him feel that FHE is all his responsibility because he is the priesthood holder. She should make it clear that she sees it as a team effort and that she is willing to do whatever she can to help him in whichever role he chooses to take.
    Every couple should be having regular heart to hearts on more topics than just FHE. In addition, they should be praying together and continually be discussing the ways they can both strengthen their children and their family.
    Of course, sometimes a spouse just isn’t prepared to fully do their part. Sometimes one spouse has to shoulder a greater load. In that case, my advice would be the same.
    As for #4, tread very carefully there. Yes, a 13-yr-old boy has the priesthood, but he is still a child. Maybe add a little more responsibility to his role in the family, but don’t leave him to shoulder the responsibility of leading his family on a regular basis. Better to be an example to him of what a parent should do to teach the gospel in the home, and also an example of continuing to be supportive of the spouse who isn’t engaged.

  5. I think Sally should do #1, #2, and #5.
    Both parents are responsible for the spiritual training of children. If Sally wants FHE to happen in her home, she should see that it happens.
    Sally should also nudge her husband to get involved. She shouldn’t, however, criticize or nag, or make him feel that FHE is all his responsibility because he is the priesthood holder. She should make it clear that she sees it as a team effort and that she is willing to do whatever she can to help him in whichever role he chooses to take.
    Every couple should be having regular heart to hearts on more topics than just FHE. In addition, they should be praying together and continually be discussing the ways they can both strengthen their children and their family.
    Of course, sometimes a spouse just isn’t prepared to fully do their part. Sometimes one spouse has to shoulder a greater load. In that case, my advice would be the same.
    As for #4, tread very carefully there. Yes, a 13-yr-old boy has the priesthood, but he is still a child. Maybe add a little more responsibility to his role in the family, but don’t leave him to shoulder the responsibility of leading his family on a regular basis. Better to be an example to him of what a parent should do to teach the gospel in the home, and also an example of continuing to be supportive of the spouse who isn’t engaged.
    One final thought…
    As LDS, we might find ourselves thinking of this father as a slacker and probably not a great husband and father, yet all we know is that he isn’t the driving force in their FHE. He may be a wonderful father and husband.

  6. I think Sally should do #1, but occasionally ask her husband to come up with a lesson, or do the scripture reading, etc…
    If he isn’t taking the initiative, but isn’t against the church, he probably won’t mind her taking the initiative.

  7. I’m with Jennie. Once I take the initiative to start something, my husband jumps right in and upholds his priesthood duties without complaint…and I don’t feel like a nag either. He, like her husband, get’s side tracked with other things. Right now we have just started having family prayer and scripture study each night. I was the one who instisted we get it started, but now every night when it’s time to get our son ready for bed he get’s out the Book of Mormon and gets everything ready to go. It has become a habit he enjoys and wants to participate in.

    When we were first married I thought I needed to wait for him to initiate everything, because he is the priesthood holder. Now I know I need to do my part as well. He’s still upholding his priesthood duties, but I’m his partner and I have just as much responsibility in the spiritual teaching of our children as he does.

  8. Sally no worries, If you got an impression that you should amp up your spiritual life, then go with those feelings. When we feel the spirit and act on it’s impressions Heavenly Father can bless us in ways we can’t comprehend. The only person we can change is ourselves. I even bet with the increase of the spirit in your home Sam may just surprise you and step up. If he doesn’t well at least you and your children will be getting spiritually fed! We can’t delay our spiritual needs. Love, hugs and courage to you!

  9. I think women are endowed with the power to nurture their families in a spiritual way. I used to be dissatisfied with the fact that I always had to lead out in gospel ways; I thought it was my husband’s job. But my efforts to guide my family spiritually have helped all of us, and now I am thrilled whenever my husband is the one to suggest FHE or family prayer. I don’t spend time (anymore) resenting my husband’s lack of spiritual initiative. I’m just glad that my family is developing good habits!

  10. For the majority of our marriage, my husband’s job and callings took him away from our home most evenings, and then he was exhausted when he was home. I stepped up to the plate with family home evening. So I wasn’t overwhelmed, our children were given opportunities to teach, conduct, choose the activity, etc. Every once in a while, my husband would be able to join us, and take part, and he would see and appreciate my efforts. Gradually, he instigated early morning family scriptures and family prayer. He saw it as another opportunity to see us together with his busy schedule. His time is still precious (bishop & high school principal) but we know we will definitely have him every morning. If I had waited on him, I am not sure we would have even that.

  11. I think what I would do, is go to my husband and say to him, “I really feel that Family home evening and scripture study along with family prayer is important for our children’s growth and will help bond our family, I’m hoping you feel like this is something that will help make our family and marriage stronger. what are your thoughts and feelings on this? would you be willing to spearhead this? If not, do you mind if I try and organize this? I really feel it is important to our family and I need your support in this.”

    This or something similar is what I would probably do.
    Best of luck Sally

  12. I vote for #1 UNLESS it causes Sally’s husband to feel resentful. In that case they would have to discuss their personal values and family goals and reach a compromise beneficial to themselves and their children.

  13. #1 would be a good choice only when Brother S is not opposed to it. It is better to do nothing than to do something that will hurt the relationship.

    Doing those things that one can appropriately do alone, without causing damage is the better than doing everything to implement the full program all at once.

  14. Our house is a little different because my husband is not an active Church member, so asking him to preside because he has the priesthood doesn’t work. However, I’m willing to brag about the fact that we’ve had FHE consistently for several years now. I’m still trying to get scripture study with my kids going, but we do have nightly prayer as a family after we read stories.

    I made a simple FHE chart for us (we have two kid, 3 and 6) and we keep our expectations simple. The chart has opening prayer, music, lesson, and closing prayer. Then we have a treat. I guess when we have FHE it’s like a lot of other things–dinner time, bedtime, breakfast. One of the parents says ‘it’s time to do this’ and then we just do it. I don’t think my husband or I have a strong sense of ‘presiding'; we just sort of work together to keep people on track and doing what they need to do. I definitely initiate more of the spiritual stuff around here, since it’s not my husband’s ‘thing’, but he’s supportive and I feel like we generally work pretty well as a team. His lessons for FHE aren’t generally Church-based, but he is a participant and that’s what’s most important to me.

  15. I agree a mixture of 1, 2 and 5. I used to get really frustrated with my husband for not heading our FHE and family prayer efforts, especially after he said several times he felt like it was his responsibility. Then I decided I’m an equal partner in the relationship and I have just as much responsibility to get those things going as he does. I imagined myself standing before God and having to answer the question of why we didn’t have daily scripture study, and my only excuse being “it was my husband’s job.” Then, like other sisters have said, once I got things started he jumped in whole-heartedly. The fact is that I am much better than him at organizing and time management, and he really needs my help and encouragement to be able to “lead” the family. When I am behind him helping him, he does great. When I am resentfully sitting on the sidelines waiting for him to do the work, then not only does it not get done, but he also feels my resentment and actually does even less.

    Of course there are situations where husbands are never going to pick up the slack, and I think in that situation it is up to the wife/mother to figure out what works for their family.

  16. All of us are living out “interesting scenarios” in our marriages and in raising our kids, yes? If you are living the exact life you dreamed of at age 7, congratulations! :)
    So, the only thing I, personally, can definitively answer is NO on #3, (and be very, very, very careful with #4; it is great for him to excercise his newly bestowed priesthood, and experience the blessings he can contribute to his family, but far too great an onus to be put on one so young.). If you have been inspired or impressed to amp up your family’s spiritual strength and growth. DO NOT WAIT. I strongly agree with JoLyn’s [#4] concluding paragraph:

    “And that is the reason I have such a strong opinion about this. You only have a short time with your children—and an even shorter time when they are open hearted and easy to teach. If you wait for the ideal circumstances, that time might pass you by.”

  17. My husband and I work together as a team. Its what works for us. One day I may be more spiritually inclined than him and another day just the opposite. Working together we give and take as we can and need to :D

  18. My situation is much like FoxyJ’s. I feel a *huge* burden of being the only parent to have an interest in helping my children develop faith and testimonies. In our marriage/parenting relationship I am usually the one to instigate things, and my dh is supportive of them. For instance, each December, I plan/calendar all of the FHE’s for the upcoming year. We all get assignments for the lessons/activities then, so when dh knows that it’s his week to teach FHE, then he does so (but I will just remind him the day before or earlier in the day, since he frequently doesn’t look at the calendar). And, surprisingly, it was my dh that finally was able to get our family reading scriptures together (Children’s Illustrated Bible). We have had couple prayer and scripture reading together since the second year we were married, before dh became disaffected.

    If there comes a time when dh doesn’t want to participate in scriptures or such, then he doesn’t have to, but I’m going to do my darndest to keep up those things with my kids. Because FHE doesn’t have to be religiously based, that will stay no matter what.

    Sally should take time to discuss with her dh what he is comfortable with in “presiding” in the home and then move forward with making sure her children are consistently having FHEs, reading scriptures, and praying together. While Sally isn’t responsible for her dh’s salvation, she does have a stewardship over her children.

  19. PS: if anyone is interested in learning about planning out FHE for a whole year, I’m happy to share how I do it. I will send you a couple of Word documents — one was an RS handout, the other will be a sample of one of our year’s plans. Just email me: jnjcherp at sbcglobal dot net

  20. I just have to get my husband in the habit. Once routine and habit is established, then we don’t have to remember – we’re already doing it. :) But yes, it’s a bit of a struggle for me to have most of the initiative with FHE and family prayer.

  21. Great comments all. I am enjoying this discussion.

    For those of you who have felt or feel frustrated that your husband isn’t leading FHE the way you wanted, what were your expectations going into family life? What would you like it to look like? Was it different in the house you grew up in?

  22. I would say #1, but that she should lovingly defer to his leadership whenever he is willing to exercise it. That should forestall any crankiness from his view. If not, you have bigger problems.

    I think there is a tendency to take over, and then feel bitter and/or angry about it. That undoes all the good work by trying to teach the gospel in the home.

    For all of you whose husbands are willing to support your efforts to encourage righteousness in your household, you are very blessed.

  23. My dad told this story lots of times, in an admiring tone of voice: President Kimball asked, in General Conference, for families to work on holding regular scripture study together. Mom suggested to Dad that we have scripture study every day. He didn’t really want to. So she started holding it in the mornings, after he had gone to work, with me and my older sister. After about three weeks, Dad said, “Hey, I have a great idea! Why don’t we have scripture study in the mornings!”

    I used to have slightly? mixed feelings about this story– I think if I had been him, I might have felt undermined– but he clearly didn’t take it that way. And then I heard Elder Faust say this in Conference:

    Thanks to my dear wife, Ruth, I can say that our home has been a place where we have sought to honor the spirit of holiness to the Lord. We did not always succeed. Of course not. But we tried. When I was overwhelmed as a young father with the responsibility of providing temporally for my family, taking care of my Church callings and many other civic duties, Ruth would lovingly and gently bring me back to my parental responsibility in our home.

    For example, she would remind me when it was time for home evening and then tenderly suggest what we might appropriately study in our home evenings. She would also help me keep track of important family events such as birthdays and activities of the children when they needed my time and support. She still does that important and appreciated service.
    (“Standing in Holy Places,” April General Conference of 2005)

  24. My Mom still says she’s waiting for my Dad to be the spiritual leader of our home and he’s been inactive for at least 20 years (and I no longer live at home). She has massive guilt that my siblings didn’t get a stronger gospel influence in their lives, yet she hasn’t taken the initiative herself either. The amazing thing is that once I got married I did the same thing she did, sat on my hands wondering sadly when my husband would be a spiritual leader (he came from a strong spiritual family so I expected it to just happen). In the meantime my Heavenly Father was probably wondering when I would be a spiritual leader.

    The situation has changed since then. IMHO both parents are leaders in the home. It takes great tact and sensitivity to lead together, but it can be done. Ultimately when the rubber hits the road, my husband is head of the home (chooses person for family prayer, conducts FHE, etc.) but largely we lead together. I’m not very good at numbers so he does the budgeting and bill pay. On the other hand I take more of the spiritual lead. Our different strengths are the beauty of marriage – together we seem to create a fully functional being ;) At first he was reluctant about FHE, scripture study, etc. But as he participates he becomes more fully converted just like the rest of the family. Now he reminds us to get started.

    Nagging about it is counter productive. I realized at some point that this is what my nagging translated into when it reached my husband’s brain: “You should be doing this and you’re not. What a loser. Now your wife will do it and every time she does you can remember what a loser you are.” While that is not what I meant, it is what he heard. Sometimes I wonder if my desire to push him was about pride. That I wanted to prove to someone that I was better because I wanted to do it and he didn’t. Now it hurts me to think of it.

    These things don’t have to be set in stone, proclaimed from the mountain top. After dinner on Monday night just casually say, “Let’s all go to the living room for family night, I have a fun game planned!” or just pull out the BoM at dinner ask if it’s ok with everyone if you read a few verses together.

  25. None of the above. Too many of the choices imply frustration at your husband’s choices. That undermines your marriage.

    Love and accept and your husband as he is, just as you hope he loves and accepts you as you are. Feel free to make a cheerful request that he do specific things in regards to FHE and scripture study. If he chooses to fulfil that request, support and love him through it. If he declines, love him through that too and tell him cheerfully that since it’s something that you’d enjoy doing, you’d like to head it up yourself. If he is adamantly opposed to participating in FHE and scripture study, create your own variations of those things and integrate them into your own interaction with your children at other times. Make involvement in FHE and scripture study as pleasant an experience as you can (notwithstanding fussy children). Remember? You said this is something you’d *enjoy* doing. The purpose of the tasks is to strengthen the relationship. (Let me repeat that. THE PURPOSE OF THE TASK IS TO STRENGTHEN THE RELATIONSHIP) The purpose of the task is not to accomplish FHE and scripture study, no matter how important those two things are. Lovingly keep the door open for any member of the family to instigate FHE or scripture study but don’t expect it or get frustrated about “doing it all yourself”. Just enjoy the process.

    Life is much happier if we are not keeping track of who is doing what or worrying about the fact that we are doing something that we wish someone else was doing instead. Ask him, respond cheerfully accordingly, appreciate whatever level of “being in charge” your husband feels he can or cannot do (sounds like the Fausts did their own variation on that theme)and enjoy what you are able to create.

    We spend way too much time worrying about what others should be doing and getting miffed at them about it.

  26. Responding to mmiles:

    I was expecting that my husband would be excited for the responsibility to conducting FHE. That he would try to remember it. But then he told me that, like mine, his dad wasn’t big on remember FHE either. Neither of us had that familial habit. That was disappointing, but it helped me learn that I can’t just depend on somebody else for the spiritual welfare of my family. In some ways I lead, and in others he leads. I guess I had too many expectations about what “my husband” would do – we’re both only human, right? :) It’s kinda fun to learn what we do and don’t do well.

  27. My husband’s father didn’t take much of a lead in holding FHE, scripture study, etc, and so my husband wasn’t used to doing these things. In my family we had many years of having FHE and scripture study, but my mother usually instigated these activities and often felt resentful. At some point, when my younger sisters were still at home, my mother decided she no longer wanted to be in charge of spiritual matters and she just stopped planning FHE, so that was the end of FHE. My parents were struggling in their marriage around this time and eventually divorced, and since my mother stopped going to church after their divorce, my younger sisters stopped going as well. I grieved over their inactivity for many years.

    Coming into my marriage, I wanted to establish strong spiritual habits in our home, but it did take some prompting on my side to get my husband to catch the vision. He just wasn’t used to having regular FHE, prayers, and scripture study. I have had to try very hard not to fall into my mother’s pattern of doing it by myself in silent resentment. But over the years we’ve fallen into a comfortable pattern; my husband now feels these spiritual habits are just as important as I do. Usually I’m the one who prepares the FHE lesson, because I’m home during the day and he’s at work, but he often prepares a lesson or assigns one of the children to prepare one, and he usually takes the lead with scripture study. I don’t feel like I’m doing it by myself because I know he is as committed to doing these things as I am, and I feel like we’re a team. I think he presides in the home by honoring and using his priesthood, but we make decisions and try to take responsibility for the spiritual teaching of our children together.

  28. So I’m reading all these and wondering, does anyone’s husband take the first step towards FHE, scripture study, etc? If not, then why is it so expected?

  29. At our last Stake conference, Elder Snow was in attendance (presiding), and shared with us that presiding means “being responsible for the outcome”. He taught that often others will do hard work, pray, and cry about the situations at hand (he was referring to both presiding in church ie. YW Presidents, and presiding in the home) but that ultimately, those other people would not be the ones held responsible for the outcome – it would be the one called to preside.

    This has changed the effort I put into instigating the spiritual element in our home, and how I see the role of helpmeet.

    …I feel like I should have something else to say, but I’ve been staring at the screen for a while now, and can’t put anything into words.

  30. mmiles, I think my husband does. It’s still a group effort with both of us involved, for sure, but he has a real testimony of some of these things as he saw how they worked in his life as a youth.

    My family was way more hit and miss when I was a kid – we were all recent coverts, which I’m sure played a part. My husband, in a lot of ways, is light years ahead of me in gospel knowledge. But I have a real testimony of the power of meeting together as a family to learn the gospel together, in no small part because of my husband.

  31. My husband usually remembers about the prayer on the meal, but we are serious slackers in most departments. When we have FHE my husband shows up, participates and handles prayer, but I have always done all lessons and activities and songs, although once in awhile he takes care of refreshments (which we hardly ever have!). For the most part, men just aren’t going to shoulder FHE.

  32. My husband is definitely the one to initiate FHE and scripture study and family prayer in our house. It would all get done on a fairly regular basis if I were the only parent around, but he makes sure it all happens every day. Both his dad and his stepdad are the same way.

    Since I hear many women wishing their husbands would take the lead in these things more, I wonder why we expect husbands to initiate these things. If he does these things, does it make him the spiritual leader in the home? If the wife does them, does it make her the leader? I don’t think so, on either question.

  33. I think it is ridiculous to think that only the husband is responsible to see that prayer, scripture study, and FHE happen. I also think that if you know you should be doing it with your children and you don’t because you think it’s someone else’s job to be in charge, you will be held just as responsible. Who cares who is the “spiritual leader”? You can only control yourself. Don’t let your children grow up without a good foundation in the gospel because of what your husband doesn’t do.

  34. You know, discussions like this make me wonder what it would feel like if my husband thought he had to fix me or change me as a mother or homemaker, or if he expressed dismay over the way I perform my role as “nurturer” in the home. Imagine coming home and seeing all the ingredients for that night’s dinner laid out on the counter and your husband standing next to it with a helpful (and slightly smug) smile on his face and him saying, “I noticed that you haven’t been embracing your role as nurturer as fully as I would have hoped, so I thought I’d help you with tonight’s dinner by laying out all the ingredients for you!” I don’t know about you, but such an approach would DEFINITELY not work at my house.

    Instead, my husband simply makes dinner some nights. He doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t seem displeased with me or resentful, he’s simply working as my teammate. I just can’t imagine that overtly “helping” a man fulfill his responsibilities as one who presides (with the whiff of manipulation in the air and the unmistakable message being that you hope your husband will change) would work any better than a husband “helping” his wife in her responsibilities as one who nurtures.

    There’s a lot of work to be done in running a family and a household. Sure, each of us has our role, but we’re also individuals with particular strengths and weaknesses. If your husband’s strength isn’t leading scripture study or planning family home evening, I think acceptance and love would go a lot farther than disgruntlement and/or manipulation in fostering family unity–which is what FHE is all about in the first place.

  35. A few more thoughts, not completely sure of them, but they do seem relevant:

    If men should be to their wives as Jesus is to the church, this means a couple of things to me:

    a) Not in a testimony sense but just in a this-is-how-I-view-the-gospel sense, I think that Heavenly Father does not equate directing an activity with leading it. I wrote a paper once in which I was trying to analyze Jesus’ language in the New Testament. I found something completely unexpected: he came when he was called. Not just by Heavenly Father, but by anyone, it seemed like: the centurion, the ruler of the synagogue, his mom (at Caena, at least). So, if all a husband does is exactly what his wife wants him to do, to bless the family, it seems to me like he is definitely following Jesus (though, of course, Jesus DID do plenty of things on his own, and following only half a pattern is not as good as following a whole one).

    a) I also believe pretty strongly that neither Heavenly Father nor Jesus is not a micro-manager. (After all, why else would we test new programs in small corners of the Church before letting them go Church-wide? among other reasons.) IMHO, a husband who trusts his wife to come up with great FHE ideas, assign specific parts of the lesson to specific children, and call the children to the meeting at the specified time, may, again, be following Jesus.

  36. My husband is the one who helps us be consistent in doing the daily things to keep our family on course. We help one another along, but he has greater determination to be consistent. That said, I’m not really into planning super-duper family home evenings. FHE groups scare me and my hubby, too. This means that we do hold FHE and family prayer and scripture study fairly regularly, but it’s not always cutesy and rarely perfect. Somehow it works, though.

  37. Runnermom, Justine, Amira (and anyone else I left out),

    Thanks for speaking up! My husband is the best at gathering the kids for family prayer and scripture study every night, although I’m better at remembering to have family prayer in the morning.

    All,
    This post was prompted by a sister in my ward for whom this is a real struggle. I know we are all very different. I am thankful to all of you for your candor. I feel a lot like many of you. I admit I am a bit trouble by the wording of the question from this sister, which I have toned down for this post. I leave out her wording still, but my questions, and feelings are similar to Amira’s:
    Since I hear many women wishing their husbands would take the lead in these things more, I wonder why we expect husbands to initiate these things. If he does these things, does it make him the spiritual leader in the home? If the wife does them, does it make her the leader? I don’t think so, on either question.

    I also feel a lot like Angela. In my own house, my husband does not have time to prepare an FHE lesson. So on Mondays we both know what needs to happen: homework, piano, tidy up, pajamas, dinner, FHE, scripture study, prayers, teeth brushed. We just do it. Sometimes he fixes dinner, sometimes I do. Sometimes he leads FHE (although always prepared by me), sometimes I do.
    These questions make me wonder where our expectations come from. I am unable to recall offhand any lesson, talk, or proclamation that says the father is supposed to do these things (FHE, scripture study) while the mother waits in the sidelines. (It makes me wonder if there are mothers in the sidelines in other things as well.) This troubles me not because I think they are necessarily doing something wrong, but because maybe they feel like they have to, despite their desires for their families.

    Looking at the poll, there also seems to be a disconnect between actions and expectation. So far 148 people have answered the questions, 72% saying they should just go ahead and do it, yet most comments discuss waiting in the sidelines full of frustration. Of course, not everyone comments.

  38. I grew up in a home where neither of my parents took the lead in spiritual education and family home evening. My parents were both converts, and they are from a generation where the man was supposed to take the lead in most if not all things, and my mom was used to patriarchal leadership, so she probably assumed my dad would take the leadership role in this area, but it never really happened. Consequently, we had VERY sporadic FHE and scripture study.

    Now that I am an adult, I have great intentions of having regular FHE and scripture study with my kids. When I was married to their dad who is an RM and did have a testimony when we got married, he never took any initiative at home with any aspect of child raising or spiritual teaching or leadership. As a single mom, it was very difficult for me to find the time or the energy to do these things, even though I clearly understand it was solely my responsibility. Now that I am newly married to a non-member, it is again VERY clear to me that it is my responsibility to take the lead and plan and carry out these activities in my home.

    My question is this… HOW do any of you find the time and the energy to even remember to do this before you are falling asleep at 11 pm? I am so busy with work and a new husband in grad school, and three busy and wonderful kids that I am so tired that I literally can’t remember that I need to read scriptures every day, let alone plan a coherent FHE lesson that would hold anyone’s attention for 5 minutes (and my kids are NOT small). I really need help in this area, and it is something that I fully understand that the adversary wants me to fail at. I have read C.S. Lewis, I know that we should not fill our lives so that we are too busy to do what is of the greatest worth, and I don’t feel that I have over scheduled myself or my kids. This is something I really want to be successful at, I want to bring the spirit into my home and I want to introduce my new husband to gospel topics in a safe environment where he feels comfortable asking questions or talking about the lesson material. Please help, I need to find a way to do better this year.

  39. Laurie–

    Here are a few ideas that helped me get going with FHE:

    1. Define realistic expectations for yourself. How long, how complicated do you want it to be? How much do you want the rest of the family to participate? We have a simple chart with lesson, opening prayer, closing prayer, and choosing music. My kids are six and three and I generally help them plan a lesson, but the six-year-old often comes up with something herself. Usually her lessons are more ‘interesting’–like this week she shared some things she recently learned about black holes and had us draw pictures of planets. With my three-year-old I often use things he has brought home from nursery on Sunday and try and have him remember a little about the lesson.

    2. There are a lot of great resources available from the Church for free or for a low price. All the Primary lesson manuals are online, there is an FHE manual online, and so are about thirty years worth of the Friend magazine. With little kids I really love the new Nursery manual for lesson ideas. A subscription to the Friend is only $8 a year and it’s a good one to actually have physically on hand. If nothing else, you can grab it and read a story or two for your FHE lesson. They have a coloring page almost every month (I print it off to make it easier to have multiple copies) or sometimes I use the Sharing Time helps for lessons as well.

    3. Plan a specific time each week for planning FHE, especially if you want to get your kids involved. Maybe you have an extra 1/2 hour on Sunday right after Church. Or Sunday night. Or a bit of time on Monday afternoon.

    Not everyone may agree with this, but I’d rather have some sort of FHE consistently every week than a fabulous, spiritual one sporadically. Obviously the goal is to have a fabulous spiritual FHE each Monday night consistently, but for me it was freeing to accept that it probably won’t happen. Some weeks we sing a few songs, read a quick story from the Friend, eat cookies, and go to bed. Other weeks we have a nice lesson with elaborate activity and a fancy treat.

    Also, while I think FHE is a great time to introduce gospel topics (and I always try to have at least a scripture), if you have nonmember or inactive family members sometimes they are more comfortable with different types of lessons. A few weeks ago we reviewed safety tips with our kids and had a fire drill. We’ve done things like going for a bike ride or playing kickball. My husband is not active, but is willing to be on the lesson rotation and comes up with some fun stuff. Last year for MLK day he talked with the kids about who Martin Luther King was and we watched part of his speech on You Tube.

  40. I’d rather have some sort of FHE consistently every week than a fabulous, spiritual one sporadically. Obviously the goal is to have a fabulous spiritual FHE each Monday night consistently, but for me it was freeing to accept that it probably won’t happen. Some weeks we sing a few songs, read a quick story from the Friend, eat cookies, and go to bed.”

    FoxyJ,
    You are spot on!

  41. Laurie, I think FoxyJ has some great ideas for FHE.

    For scripture study, you might simply try reading out loud to your children for 1-5 minutes a day. We’ve found that bedtime works for us, but first thing in the morning can too, or maybe during a meal. Maybe it only happens a few times a week at first. Maybe it’s only a verse or two most days. But we always take the time to talk about or explain what we read. We’ve talked about a huge variety of gospel topics based on what we’ve read in the scriptures. The scriptures proivde the topics for us. BTW, if you read the Bible, I highly suggest not using the KJV.

  42. LOVED what Angela had to say. I totally agree. I remember the part in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when the mother says something like, “He may be the head of the house, but I am the neck that turns the head” with a wink. I have had yearnings for my husband to take the lead in FHE, but it’s not something his family ever did, and I think in the past it’s been hard for him to see the big picture, long-term value of it — when it seems like the kids are doing anything but listening. Rather than nag him or even request that he put more focus on his role as the spiritual leader, I ask more questions. “How do you think our kids are really doing?” (If he doesn’t know, I share some of my observations, concerns, and good news.) “What do you think we should teach them about in FHE this week?” “Do you have time to make up a lesson, or do you want me to do it?” (Asking these question helps too, if your husband travels or for some other reason can’t be there. You can say to your kids, “Dad wanted us to talk about…) If we haven’t talked about it on Sunday night, I’ll sometimes call him at lunch on Monday, or while he’s commuting home, to give him some time to think about it. When it’s time for FHE, I do the round up, but once we’re all sitting, I tell our little kids to listen to Dad. He just goes along with it and ‘starts the meeting’. Most of the time, he turns the time over to Mom! But my kids still see him as the leader. The magic happens when he sees a need and comes up with a lesson he thinks the family needs. On those nights, he is much more engaged. Once he even got one of our kids to teach something that he had helped her prepare because he thought it would help her not feel so shy when she was giving a talk in Primary the next week. When I teach, he is worse than the kids, fidgeting or falling asleep! haha The key is to let them be the head. Oh, and once they’ve done it, don’t criticize. Thank them for their effort! (Nagging and criticizing don’t get you what you really want.) P.S. ALWAYS put it on the calendar!

  43. Some of your comments have given me hope that it is possible to work as a team in a marriage. I’ve kind of lost my faith in that.

    If your husband is willing to take ANY initiative in doing things that need and ought to be done, rejoice! Why waste time nitpicking over whether or not he does one specific thing or the other?

  44. I would suggest to plan for family home evening and scripture study, but invite the husband to call the children together and “lead” the family meeting, i.e. call on someone for prayer then turn the time over to mom for lesson. Before you know it, he just might be the one to suggest gathering together to read scriptures because of habit without even being prompted. And, hopefully he will feel like he is showing initiative and will recognize the blessings that come from acting in his priesthood role.

  45. This is a hard one and a problem that definitely depends on the couple and their relationship. If they have the ability to communicate in their marriage then they should decide what works for them. It may be different that the typical FHE chart kind of night. It may be based more on outings or more casual. The important thing would be to have a time set aside that everyone is aware of and can look forward to being together. We want a home with an atmosphere of love and pushing, nagging or throughing up our hands doesn’t help.

  46. Laurie, my FHEs are mostly very basic, along the lines of what Foxy J said. Another really easy idea is to take a picture from the Gospel Art book, tell the story, and then act it out. We have used that a lot. Also we play “name that tune” with Primary songs when I haven’t planned an actual lesson.

    I second the vote for the new Nursery manual. My older kids have both prepared FHE lessons from it with very little help from me, lessons which brought the Spirit and engaged my preschooler. For this it is my Favorite Church Manual Ever.

    I am also super basic with treats. Very seldom do I put forth any effort here. They get candy leftover from the most recent holiday for their treat, and since it’s all they know they are happy with it. More power to the baking women of the world! If I felt like I had to make special treats every Monday, though, I would feel very daunted.

    I don’t know what my kids will remember about any of our FHEs, maybe nothing, except that we tried to be consistent with having them.

    On scripture reading: we have very low standards here too. Two verses a person. If no one is bickering, then we talk about the verses and try to get meaning from them. Then we pray. That is all. Sometimes I get all ambitious and try to have everyone read three verses, or two verses twice, but we do not yet have the attention span for such feats.

    (in case you’re wondering, two verses per person per day gets you through the Book of Mormon in about two years :-). )

  47. in case you’re wondering, two verses per person per day gets you through the Book of Mormon in about two years

    Depending on how many people are in your family. I think it took us 6 years the first time.

  48. When we were first married I was under the impression that my hubby would be the lead on every spiritual matter. Needless to say there was a lot of festering. Perhaps I also wanted to be lazy. ;-)

    I have since learned, that if I want something done – I start it…and do it joyfully – and he just naturally starts to do those things as well. FHE is fantastic now because there are some nights I’m too tired to start it off…and he does. Nights he is too tired – I start it off. I’ve found that when I focus on what I know will help bring the spirit in… our teamwork increases… because we all have good and bad days… I wouldn’t say either of us leads more than the other – we trade off… and we’re working each day to be equally yoked.

    Once I started to own my role… he bloomed. ;-)

    Then again… that’s just who my hubby is… he and I are a team. I have breakdowns…he puts me back together. He gets pumped up and I calm him down. It works for us.

  49. I don’t think the Lord will accept any of us blaming someone else for failing in the responsibility to teach our children the gospel.

    Also, I think there is a very real temptation to become a martyr when our husbands “won’t/don’t” preside the way we think they should. This would be an error that is harmful to everyone. I would be cautious that if you must take the lead in ensuring certain things happen in your home, you do not make your husband feel he doesn’t need to.

  50. It can be (and often is) hugely exhausting to be the one to make sure the scriptures are read, FHE is held in some form, family prayers are done and personal prayer remembered – but it means that it all gets done.

    I don’t preside over my home in any way – I’m the Mumma, and that’s where the authority comes from. My son received the priesthood last year, however he doesn’t preside over anything as a result. My sons both know if they want to organise FHE they are more than welcome to do so!

    I have learnt that the teachings of the church are teaching the IDEAL (i.e. families together forever, prayer, priesthood), and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our real life falling outside the pages of the Ensign or Friend. The gospel and promises are still true, no matter how messy or unideal our real lives and selves are.

    I loved Elder Bednar’s talk at General Conference which related some of HIS FHE’s ( http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1117-6,00.html ) – messy, unideal, but real life and real events.

    Great post and comments!

  51. Just a quick word about FHE. We moved to Sunday FHEs many years ago–and it’s worked very well for us. It seemed like we were always trying to find “Sabbath appropriate” things for the kids to do anyway, and so having them prepare a lesson (if it was their turn) and gather for fun gospel instruction seemed perfect. Having it on Sunday works well for making refreshments too. Again, we take turns with refreshments, and that is by far the favored job. All our kids learned to bake primarily by making treats for FHE.

    (We still have FHE on Monday night too in the sense that we make sure we are home together as a family, but we don’t have our formal lesson then. Sometimes we do a fun activity and sometimes we just do homework!)

  52. I totally agree with comments 36 and 37. And I wonder where all this – waiting for someone else to get things started came from. I think I follow the pattern set for me when I was little. Mom gathers everyone, Dad calls on people.

    Sometimes, FHE can just be each person choosing a song. Singing is a great unity builder.

    Also, Laurie, sometimes family scripture study is having a child recite a memorized scripture or read a couple of scriptures in the car on the way to school. Then talk about what it means. We had quite a few scripture sessions like that during a ward challenge for everyone to have daily scripture study for a month. I thought we were so lame and last minute. Then I found out that there were a lot of other people doing the same thing! (Some of them families that I admired greatly and thought would be having long daily scripture sessions at home.) The interesting thing is that even that little bit can make a difference.

  53. No expectation of my husband being “in charge” of FHE or family scripture study, or whatever. And with our personalities, I think we both struggle with resentment when we feel the other person is trying to take control because they think they are better at something than the other, rather than resenting the lack of action.

    So, in our house, Monday night is just FHE night. We’ve made it enough of a habit that its like reminding the other person that we have a meeting or need to take the garbage out. Its just a fact. And no, ours aren’t always well planned, although at times, one of us will have thought of something we want to teach and so we prep ahead and are in charge that night. Otherwise, with 2 little kids, its more of a free-for-all as we try to have any say in it (our kids love planning their own lessons, leading the songs, etc. . ., so we let them do a lot of it quite often–I figure its good they are so excited about it.)

    We aren’t so good at the other stuff, but I feel like its both of our problem, so anytime one of us remembers to read scriptures, then we do. Whoever is in putting the kids to bed that night usually reminds everyone to have prayer, and usually the kids remind us of mealtime prayers.

    I guess I really don’t see the spiritual needs in our home as being my husbands job, anymore than anything else is automatically one of our jobs. We are both spiritual people, we are the parents and do have responsibility to our children to teach them, but that’s a job for both of us, not just him.

Comments are closed.