By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — The dogs, Roxie and Tucker, trot around the room before opting for a spot on the couch. Everyone else has already settled in and gotten comfortable in the family room, lemonade in hand. It’s Monday night. That means it’s time to pray, learn and talk about things, but mostly, it’s a time for the Reber family to just enjoy being together.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Rebers reserve one evening each week devoted to family. Known as Family Home Evening, the tradition was first instituted in 1915. In 1970, the church designated Monday night for the purpose.
“We basically set aside Monday as our family day. We try to spend that time as a family,” said Sherri Reber of Pendleton. Sherri and her husband, Blaine, have four children, Jacob, 16, Alexis, 14, Jocelyn, 12, and Ashley, 10.
“The most important thing is connecting as a family,” said Sherri. It also means focusing on core values.
The evening is likely to start with a hymn and a prayer. There’s usually a lesson, too, but the time is meant to be fun. The church makes lesson plans and guidelines available to take the guesswork out of FHE.
“When our children were younger, we followed them more closely,” said Sherri. Over the years, the Rebers have learned to be flexible to meet the needs of the family. Sherri noted, “Teenagers need something different.”
Sometimes, it’s a matter of just having time to talk, to plan, to coordinate schedules. Other times, they may help an ailing parent or neighbor. They might share an adventure. Sometimes they share the FHE experience with others.
This week, the Rebers were joined by another family from their church ward for FHE. Doug and Ana Beamer, and their children Ryan, 19, Alina,16, and Landon, 12, came to share the time at the Rebers’ home. They were also joined by the LDS missionaries currently assigned to this district, Elders Troy Gajdos and Zach Waite.
Everyone agreed that FHE is a familiar tradition, and one they enjoy. The Beamer kids said their family has a prayer and a lesson.
“We usually have a game and snack,” added Landon.
“It brings us together, that closeness we feel,” said Ryan.
This week, the group shared the time starting with “Every Word,” a devotional song Ryan played on the piano as his sister Alina sang. The rest of the group gathered around the piano to listen and be uplifted. After the song, Blaine Reber led the group in a prayer, before everyone gathered in the family room to discuss the Word of Wisdom, an LDS guideline on health. It was especially relevant since Jacob has had some problems related to his diet. Doug Beamer relayed his own similar experience and how he applied the church’s Word of Wisdom in ultimately avoiding surgery.
Terry Frandsen serves as the bishop who leads the Anderson congregation. He agreed Family Home Evening is important.
“In general, the concept is that families are so busy, if there isn’t some time set aside to be together, families kind of cease to function as a family,” said Frandsen. He noted that FHE gives families time to regroup, gives children an opportunity to get some direction from their parents, and reinforces the idea that family is important.
“It’s time to reinforce the communication links,” said Frandsen. “You’re not surprised at the dinner table by people you’ve never met before. It helps parents and children get on the same page.”
Frandsen and his wife, Susan, raised their three kids with the tradition of FHE. Now, their two married daughters carry on the tradition in their own young families. Last Monday, the Frandsens had FHE with one of their daughters visiting from California and her two children, ages 5 and 3.
“We had a nice little lesson and activity,” said Frandsen. After starting with prayer, they talked about being nice to people and sharing. They reinforced the lesson with a fun sharing game.
Empty nesters keep tradition
Even when the kids are grown, the church encourages couples to keep the tradition. A group of empty nesters from the Anderson church ward gets together twice a month for FHE, rotating the site of their get-together between houses. Last week, Carol and Dave Lukens hosted the evening with a total of 11 people at their Anderson home.
“We did a pioneer theme,” said Carol. She noted that the pioneer experience is important in church history, with July being the time when the arrival of Mormon pioneers to Salt Lake City is commemorated.
“We all look forward to it,” said Carol. “It’s a time we set aside, a time to get together and have fun, and a spiritual time as well.”
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