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Mormon families set aside time for fun, learning

Caleb Scow, 13, gently cupped the tablet computer in his hands as he shared a video portraying Jesus’ baptism with his family.

“Look, it’s Jesus! Jesus!” his baby sister 22-month-old Macy jumped up and down in her footed sleeper and squealed. “Whoa, they’re swimming.”

“I think that shows an example to us,” Caleb said as the video concluded. “Jesus got baptized even though he was perfect and lived a perfect life. It shows that to be righteous we need to get baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. And he will help us to become more like Christ and prompt us to do good things and choose the right.”

Caleb, his sisters Bailey, 10, and Jane, 7, and even his brother Spencer, 3, take turns teaching the lesson when the family gathers Monday nights for Family Home Evening. Their parents, Brad and Julie Scow, help out, but they don’t always run the show.

“We have a little chart that we rotate so that everybody gets a chance to be in charge,” Brad Scow, explained.

Reserving one evening a week to focus on family lessons and activities has been a practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a little more than 100 years.

Lee Timothy, president of Las Vegas’ East Stake, a group of eight Mormon congregations on the east side of town, said Family Home Evening, called just Home Evening at the time, was initiated by then-church President Joseph F. Smith in 1915.

“Over the years it was encouraged and continued, but there wasn’t initially a dedicated day, like Monday for Home Evening until about the early ’70s,” Timothy said. “Then the church recognized the value of setting aside a day to do that.”

Though each family can select any day that works for them, Mondays were set aside as a day where no other church meetings are scheduled that may conflict with Family Home Evening.

“I know in my busy life, if I don’t set time aside to do things, it’s always well, I thought about it, or I always intend to do it,” Timothy said. “Kind of like the New Year’s resolutions. Unless we dedicate that time to the family, it usually doesn’t get done.”

The Scows do everything they can to be together Monday nights. The kids scramble to get homework done early in the evening, and their parents have been known to volunteer for sports coaching positions so they can encourage teams to pick another night for practice.

“So much today pulls you away from the family. This pulls you in,” Julie Scow explained.

While some families use the night as an opportunity to take the kids out bowling, to a movie or more, the Scows prefer to keep it simple.

“It’s nice to have an excuse to just stay home,” Brad Scow said.

They start the evening with a prayer and a simple song. Scriptures are shared and then there’s a short lesson, games and a treat.

While lessons in church are typically one-size-fits all for a whole congregation or class, Family Home Evening allows families to pick a topic specifically for their needs. The Scows have been talking about baptism and the Holy Spirit to prepare Jane, who turns 8 on Jan. 19, for her upcoming baptism.

In Timothy’s family, he said they’ve covered all kinds of lessons, some spiritual such as striving to follow Christ’s example when dealing with challenging friends, some temporal such as learning to change a tire or study for a test.

Timothy said the value of Family Home Evening was demonstrated most strongly to him when he was a young father facing the illness and eventual death of his wife. She was 26, he was 28 and their children were 3 and 5.

“Of course, the concept of death and dying is something that is always hard to address, especially with little children who don’t always fully understand that,” Timothy said.

“The comfort that Family Home Evening brought to myself, my children and their mother about the belief that the family can be together forever, and we will have the opportunity to be together again someday has really carried us through and helped us to understand that sometimes as one door closes, another one opens up. Just the opportunity to share those special moments with the children has been great.”

Timothy said his children have gone on to share those same simple lessons with their own children when explaining the deaths of grandparents.

As a teen growing up in the turbulent ’60s, Timothy is certain that Family Home Evening is one of the keys that kept him from straying.

“There was a lot of stuff going on with the hippy era and Vietnam,” he said. “And I just felt like Family Home Evenings, and of course the things I learned in church, grounded me, and I was able to avoid a lot of the things that my friends experienced in life and wish they hadn’t.”

For the Scow children Family Home Evening is a way of life. Spencer likes the treats, but for his siblings it’s more than that.

“I think it helps our family draw closer to Heavenly Father and to our family,” Jane said.

“I really like Family Home Evening,” Bailey added. “It gives a chance for everyone to be together not off doing their own crazy thing like homework and stuff. So we can have a chance to discuss things also. And it just helps me feel the spirit.”

“I like it,” Caleb said. “It’s a good time for each family member to express themselves and learn more about the Gospel. It helps everyone to teach each other. It gives good experiences for learning and teaching and helps you grow.”

Brad and Julie Scow are quick to point out their family isn’t perfect, and their way of practicing Family Home Evening is something that works for them, but isn’t the only way.

“Ours you could say is a family who is trying,” Brad Scow said.

“That is us in a nutshell,” Julie agreed. “We’re trying. We’re doing our best.”

The Scows both come from families that had Family Home Evening, and even as newlyweds before they had children they met together and with friends.

“I remember we discussed it, was it worth it to do it when it was just us,” Brad Scow said. They decided it was.

Timothy said Family Home Evening isn’t required for church members to be in good standing. But much like the advice to prepare for emergencies and stock up on food storage, he said it’s a good idea.

“Just like any recommendation from a living prophet, there are blessings associated with the recommendations that they give us,” he said.

He added that the church has great resources for lessons available at lds.org, and they share those lessons, films and Scripture resources with everyone, member or not.

“I think in today’s world it’s probably more important for us to safeguard our children and protect them, yet teach them correct principles so they can govern themselves,” Timothy said.

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