I opened the wedding note from my father’s cousins. In memorable extended Mormon family fashion, they bestowed a blue hymnal with our names printed on its cover in silver. With it lay a Family Home Evening manual. I delighted in the prospect of having small children gathered around me and my husband as we read the stories of Sally and Jimmy, the ones from my childhood, and the difficult decisions they encountered in life, like whether or not to give back the extra change the cashier gave them by mistake; whether or not to cheat on that test; or whether or not to share the last apple with their little and troublesome brother, Peter.

But the stories weren’t there. I hadn’t realized my father made all those stories up. He had repeated them year after year for the youngest children as they joined our large family. My sister and I, bored from hearing about little Sally earning money and paying tithing for the third time, sat across the room from each other and played the game we often played,  a contest to see who could flip the other off in the most discreet manner. 

But I had little children now. My father’s stories were poignant. I wanted them. I didn’t have them. And so I headed out on a pursuit that would span a decade, collecting all the must-haves for any effective FHE lesson.


Whenever RS Enrichment classes offered FHE packets I was there, signing the top line. I gathered 3-ring binders full of lessons, not thin flimsy binders—the sturdy ones. I hoarded gospel-themed board books and collected various forms of Mormon kitsch.

Surfing on waves of nostalgia I raided my mother’s closets. I gathered books full of both bad     and gruesome art, collected boxes of pictures, flannel board stories, books of poetry, ideas for object lessons and quotes of the most random kind, cut and pasted on 3 by 5 cards. I called dibs on the ward house library’s leftovers. I dove into our meager budget and purchased cardstock pictures from the Distribution Center and spent hours cutting them out. And just to be sure they would last three generations, I laminated them.


Every week my email inbox reminded me that it was Monday night and bellowed a pre-planned lesson. Every week I contemplated all the resources at my disposal, and debated making trees out of candy bars in the spirit of the forest where Enos prayed; until I finally learned what my father knew all along, making it up as you go is the only way to do it.



Please note this post is not a criticism of what other families may or may not use in their own Family Home Evening lessons. For me, less is more. What works for you? Is less, more? Have you ever gone overboard like me?

April 14, 2011


  1. Amira

    April 13, 2011

    Gruesome is right. I bet your kids remembered the stories about Abinadi, mmiles.

    I don’t know if less is more, but less is just right for us and always has been. My kids think FHE is successful if there’s a treat, my husband thinks it’s good if there’s a lesson, and the little one just wants to choose the songs. I just have to show up.

    I do like flannel board stories with little ones though. We can branch out into the really good stories that don’t make the traditional books, like Hulda and Abish.

  2. Selwyn

    April 13, 2011

    As a convert, I never had FHE growing up. Whilst married, FHE fell to me to organise, and was as simple as possible due to my sons’ young ages and attention spans. If it had something to do with knocking things over, or throwing stuff it went well. As such, the Samuel the Lamanite story is a fond favourite at our place.

    Simple is best. I’ve tried some of the really complicated things, but always return to the basic, easy lessons. It works for us.

    Particularly if we get to throw rolled socks at each other.

  3. Heidi

    April 13, 2011

    I have several dozen homemade FHE kits — I was in a lesson-swap group when I was a young mom and had time for such things. When my oldest two were little I used one every week. Then they sat dormant for a long time and we mostly used The Friend or the gospel art kit as resources. But just this month my older kids have begun teaching the lessons. They are old enough to read instructions and use the kits. It’s fantastic!

  4. jendoop

    April 13, 2011

    We’re simple – Read BoM, Sing a song or two, prayer, simple lesson or family counsel, maybe play a game, and have dessert. We have several books and binders but it’s just too much to use them in addition to everything else in life. I like my children knowing that the gospel doesn’t have to be some elaborate production, the simple truths of the gospel don’t need gussying up.

  5. Mendy

    April 13, 2011

    When desperate, I always have my ace in the hole:

    Easter is almost here, after all.

  6. Rosalyn

    April 13, 2011

    I’m glad to hear so many people weighing in that simple can be just as effective–ours are simple of necessity (time and small kids), but I sometimes worry that I’m shortchanging our kids. Good to know that’s not necessarily the case.

  7. Justine

    April 13, 2011

    We rotate around having all the kids teach. It’s always entertaining, for sure. But it also means I rarely rotate into a turn, and then I usually do simple, and it always involves lots of scripture chasing. Boring, maybe, but it seems to work for us. Our little kid days are pretty well over though, so it is finally starting to feel different from those little kid-wrangling days.

  8. mmiles

    April 13, 2011

    We rotate too. It’s fun to see what is best for each kid. My son looks up a lesson on the internet. My daughter drew more than 20 pictures props the last time she taught.

    The funny thing is, I never used any of it. I grew up with everything pictured, but not in FHE lessons.

    And for little ones, I’m still all about flannel board stories.

  9. Cindy

    April 13, 2011

    Mendy_ SO Funny! I loved it!

  10. Emily M.

    April 13, 2011

    Simple is good. My kids’ favorite thing right now is acting out scripture stories. We sometimes do more involved things, like getting lost on purpose and then making our GPS guide us to the temple. That was fun. We don’t do that often, though–right now I’m just happy if we are consistent about having FHE. We are all about catering to short attention spans.

  11. Jewls

    April 13, 2011

    Our lessons last are about three-minute, extremely watered-down versions of gospel stories. It’s about all our one-year-old can sit through right now!

  12. Grandma Honey

    April 13, 2011

    I am impressed that you have taken your Dad’s passion for FHE and just ran with it!

  13. Braids

    April 13, 2011

    I’ve found that the more I plan FHE, the more annoyed I get when things don’t go as planned. So instead, we follow a loose structure and spend a few minutes talking about a scripture story or principle. Then we play games for a few minutes, and make smoothies or popcorn or some other treat that we already have on hand. It works great for us, the kids love it, and we do it consistently which is what counts. Things will probably change as our kids get older, but we’ll continue to be flexible.

  14. Sara

    April 13, 2011

    Gasp!! Mendy–that’s BRILLIANT! And I love the post! We’re all about short & simple too. Better to end the lesson too early than too later. That’s my motto. My ace in the hole is to watch one of the church’s videos and then talk about it. Our kids love them and I don’t have to plan a thing.

  15. Sara

    April 13, 2011

    By videos I mean the new ones off the internet. Here: http://lds.org/pages/mormon-messages-gallery?lang=eng

  16. Paula

    April 13, 2011

    I love this post. I could have written it myself. I have a two boxes in the basement with FHE ideas/kits. We used them for a while but now they are gathering dust. It’s probably because I have four kids ranging in age 17 to 2 so finding things that engage all of them is very difficult. Sometimes I have the older ones teach the younger ones but it isn’t doable every week. My kids love stories from the New Era and Friend. We often read a couple of those and discuss them. My husband and I both agree that short and sweet is good for all our kids no matter their age. Good idea about the videos. I may use one for next week’s lesson.

  17. Paula

    April 13, 2011

    Mendy, I can’t stop laughing. That is so funny!

  18. Laurel C.

    April 13, 2011

    Oh my heavens! I’d totally forgotten about the light blue book with Abinadi being burned alive on its front. (Appropriate for children? Really?) It was a staple of my 1970s childhood. That book was one volume of a set, if I remember right. Where have all those books gone?

  19. mmiles

    April 13, 2011

    Laurel C.

    The set I grew up with are in my garage. When I was a little girl we pressed flowers in them.

    Aren’t they horrid? Lots of blood.

  20. FoxyJ

    April 13, 2011

    We’ve had FHE pretty consistently for several years now, even though are children are small. It’s one of the few things we do consistently as a family, especially since my husband is inactive. We’ve also discovered that short and simple means it gets done; sometimes you have to be careful to still make it meaningful, but I think usually it is. We rotate the lesson as well, but lately I’ve been thinking that I need to do more to help my kids teach a good lesson because they tend to just throw something together and we often end up playing “Clue” with an opening and closing song. I guess that’s all right, but I would like ours to be a little ‘more’. I have been using some of the Mormon Messages videos in my lessons and they work really well. We used one about two boys leaving coins in a man’s shoes one week to talk about making good choices and I felt like my kids really understood the lesson well.

  21. Mendy

    April 13, 2011

    I should clarify that peepsofmormon is not my blog. Just one we like to look/laugh at and copy with our own edible snacks.

  22. mormonhermitmom

    April 13, 2011

    I went “overboard” for a while. I still have the laminated lesson plans that I cut and pasted onto cardstock from a book my mother gifted me. I don’t use them much anymore. These days we grab The Friend, pick a story, look up the scripture that they always have at the beginning of each story, a kid picks a song and if we’re lucky there is a treat. When I have been busy, I tell one of the older ones they are in charge and I hand them the stack of Friend/New Era magazines to go through. It’s so nice to have kids who can read now so I don’t have to do everything.

  23. living in zion

    April 14, 2011

    I agree with #13 whole-heartedly. Every time I was inspired by a RS lesson to “step up” my planning and execution of FHE, I ended up mad and frustrated when the lesson turned into a wrestling match or my husband fell asleep.
    I have learned to let my Martha Stewart side go and just enjoy a simple gospel conversation VS the elaborate object lesson, activity and art project.
    Can never go wrong with a short video, Peeps on Parade Mormon-style or dragging out the gross 1970’s picture of piles of bloody arms falling out of a blanket being presented to the king. Still haunts me in my dreams…

  24. Merinda

    April 14, 2011

    Amen. It’s amazing how much effort I put into FHE in the early days of our family, getting so annoyed when it NEVER went as planned. Then I’d get annoyed when my husband would spontaneously pull out a Gospel Art Kit picture and tell the story and have the kids eating out of his hands. Part of it was his great storytelling ability, part of it was the Spirit.

    FHE works so much better now. It probably has a lot to do with the kids being older and with me being more relaxed and letting the fancy lessons collect dust.

    I loved Elder Bednar’s talk about this topic. It’s the Spirit that counts–that and teaching from your heart.

  25. Jewel

    April 15, 2011

    I am seeing a lot of references to the “Friend.” and have to agree that it is definately a stand-by.

    I saw an idea in LDS Living recently called “Read and Report” that works for multiple ages. Meet at a certain spot. Set timer for 10-ish minutes. Read anything gospel related. Meet back and each person gives a 2-3 min. report.
    We tried it Sunday (not for FHE but just a Sabbath activity) and were pleased. We will do it again for sure.

    The laminated, alphabetized FHE files make me FEEL organized whether I use them every week or not. Most of them were gifts to me, and much appreciated.

  26. handsfullmom

    April 16, 2011

    Love this! I’ve never used all the elaborate stuff I’ve collected over the years either. I just did a guest post about our FHE’s here: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2011/04/family-home-evening-at-bartholomews.html

  27. Catherine A.

    April 16, 2011

    mmiles – I can relate! I have a file crammed full of FHE kits from an FHE swap I did with women in my last ward. I pulled them out for a time, but now FHE is mostly on the fly. I tell a lot of stories from the scriptures, and lately I’ve been using the Friend – there’s always an activity (appropriate for the month) or good story to be read. I am realizing it doesn’t have to be much. It’s the atmosphere and opportunity to teach or share testimony (albeit brief) that matters. Thanks for this.

  28. mmiles

    April 17, 2011

    Hooray for The Friend!

    Oh how I wish I had never collected it all. I never used it, and just felt guilty for not using it.

    Thanks all for your comments.

Comments are closed.