Highlights for Psalms – Week 3
Consider this delightful set of verses from Psalm 145:
10 All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.
11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;
12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.
There’s nothing quite like getting together with super faithful friends and discussing empowering gospel truths. I’ve been able to do that frequently, and it’s a fantastic pastime.
For most of my adult life, I thought we were discouraged from the counsel given in these verses.
I repeatedly heard that independent gospel study groups were not approved outside of Church. Something about avoiding fringe groups, false teachings, splinter groups, etc. But I can’t find a reference for that policy anywhere. I did find other people describing the same policy on older forums, but no actual rules in the older handbook.
It may have been one of those well-meaning, false cultural teachings passed around and enforced at our expense.
It’s regrettable because we missed out on a lot! I am grateful to President Nelson for clarifying that policy in the here and now.
1st Presidency Letter – October 6, 2018
“The adjusted Sunday schedule allows for, and members are encouraged to hold, home evening and to study the gospel at home on Sunday—or at other times as individuals and families choose. A family activity night could be held on Monday or at other times. To this end, leaders should continue to keep Monday evenings free from Church meetings and activities. However, time spent in home evening, gospel study in the home, and activities for families and individuals is scheduled according to individual circumstances.”
“Informally, and as organized by those who so desire, young single adults, single adults, single parents, part-member families, new members, and others can gather to enjoy sociality and to strengthen one another through gospel study.”
Here is a summary of the significant changes and clarifications:
- Official FHE is now Sunday (no one talks about this)
- FHE can be any day or time you choose with President Nelson’s blessings
- If you want to do a family activity, it could be Monday or any other time. It’s optional and no longer a scheduled expectation.
- People can gather independently to have gospel study and enjoy sociality
First – the Serious Part
Question: Why move FHE to Sunday…
…as well as identify family activities as a separate item, apart from family home evening?
Answer: In short, to clarify a point.
The Brethren have been trying for years to correct what “family first” and “family time” actually mean. As a group, we’ve developed some cultural beliefs surrounding “family first,” which are not correct nor functional. We are a generation that seeks to be entertained. For some of us, that crept into our cultural doctrine regarding priorities surrounding the Church, family, and callings. I won’t go into the complete discussion here except briefly summarize – “family first” refers explicitly to ensuring we teach the gospel to those in our home first, including how to serve. That is the highest priority.
Instead, for some people, “family first” and “family time” evolved to mean that whatever can be associated with family (including anything recreational) comes first before service in the Kingdom of God. That is a false interpretation and doesn’t match our temple vows, scriptures, or the examples of the Ancient and Early Saints. You will find no precedent or doctrine which backs up recreational activities as more important than taking up the cross, playing the Good Samaritan, service on the Sabbath, or magnifying our callings.
I completely understand why the brethren moved FHE to Sunday…to prioritize the gospel teaching in our home and for clarification about “family time” and “family first.”
For more detailed information on this topic and quotes from Church leaders. See “The False, Sneaky God of Family First.”
Now, the Wonderful Part
Perhaps it is time to do something new and different? Oh my goodness, let your imagination and creativity flow. Generate positive vibes and light that weren’t there before. What can you see yourself doing for FHE or independent study groups? Maybe, step outside the manufactured, cultural box of what gospel study is supposed to look and sound like. Let the Spirit inspire you.
You can use the “Come, Follow Me” book, go over General Conference talks, study by topic, pick a standard work to read through, or whatever feels inspired.
President Nelson validated you:
“Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, is the suggested course of gospel study at home…Individuals and families, however, seek inspiration as they choose to study what will best meet their needs. They prayerfully consider options such as the Book of Mormon and other standard works, general conference messages, Church magazines, information available on LDS.org, and other materials suggested by general or local leaders. There is no expectation that members will study all, or even most, of these resources at any one time.” (1st Presidency Letter – Oct 6, 2018)
Our first responsibility and priority are to make sure our family learns the gospel. There is no hint or suggestion that gospel learning should be done in isolation or that parents are the only teachers. We can creatively and joyfully include others in our FHE, just like we were encouraged to do with our Monday FHE.
We’re all God’s family anyway.
If it fits your family’s personality to enjoy a wider circle, include others! (Or join others.) For example, make it a special event for more people, at least monthly. Gospel discussion is heartening and great for the soul. Sometimes, our learning is heightened by including others. Sometimes, hearing others outside the family unit teach gospel principles strengthens what parents teach. (Especially if you have teenagers.)
Independent Study Groups
I love how the first suggested group listed for independent study groups is: “those who so desire.” The last recommended group is: “and others.” Between those two listed groups, you are included.
Do you have some friends who are drawn to gospel discussion? Do you know some individuals who have no one to study with? Invite them? Perhaps, make the Sabbath day a delight for more of you? You have permission.
May you find engaging ways to study the gospel with family, friends, and others. Thank you, President Nelson, for empowering all of us.