My 5 year old son asked me after his prayer one night, “Mom, can anyone hear me?” I told him that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, and he said, “no way, really? He can answer me? Mom, has that ever happened to you? What did it sound like?”
After Sister Mary R. Durham’s general conference talk “A Child’s Guiding Gift,” I knew that it was important to tell him about how he can recognize the Spirit according to his own learning style. I told him about times that I’ve felt the Holy Ghost after my prayers, ideas I’ve been given for teaching a lesson, comfort and peace the Lord has sent, and what this all feels like. After he went to bed, I kept thinking: What stories could I share with him? I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for a Family Home Evening lesson about answers to prayer. Since he was so interested in hearing real life examples, I decided to round up several stories from myself and people in our family that he knew and trusted.
I brainstormed stories from my own experiences, collected more from other family members, and looked in my Book of Remembrance. Several of the stories in my Book of Remembrance are from my grandmother. She created a small booklet of stories about our ancestors for Family Home Evening. Each story is on one page, nothing longer, and has a unique title, like “Giving All for the Gospel” or “Comfort and Help from Mother.” It was in this booklet that I found the perfect story for our FHE lesson about answers to prayer from the life of my great grandmother Blanche. On her mission, she was searching for an answer to an investigator’s question. During the lesson, her scriptures fell open to a certain spot and there was the exact answer she needed! My children haven’t met Blanche, but I knew her well. Telling my children Blanche’s story would be the perfect opportunity to build a bridge across generations and help them know my great grandmother.
Our FHE lesson about answers to prayer was one of our best ever. We could have gone on telling stories all night! We got out a photo family tree to look at a picture of who we were talking about for each story. We all loved learning about the lesson topic from the point of view of our ancestors and relatives. Telling stories from our family history brought the lesson alive! You can add family stories to any FHE lesson too with these 3 steps:
In order to share family history stories at FHE, we first need to collect stories. In our family, email is one of the best ways to communicate as a group. Other families use group chat apps or instagram to talk. If your family all lives close, ask around at the next family gathering. You never know what kind of stories you’ll find about your upcoming FHE lesson.
Interviewing older family members is one of the best ways to collect stories. I wrote letters to some of my grandpa’s siblings ten years ago as a teenager trying to learn out more about my great grandmother Ettie Belle who died before my mother knew her. The stories that I received back are priceless treasures to me!
Last month, we had a lesson about the Good Samaritan. My son loves telling the story because he memorized it for a primary talk. Since they knew the story so well already, I wanted to add a little something extra to the lesson. I started looking for stories about how our grandparents were good samaritans.
On FamilySearch.org, I found a transcription of funeral talks from my husband’s grandmother Nona with several stories about her dedicated service to strangers. Once, during a snowstorm, she invited stranded motorists into her home for hot chocolate. It was so helpful to apply the story of the good samaritan to our day and age with the help of Grandma Nona’s example.
To check Family Search for stories about your ancestors, go to their “Memories” section. If this is your first time using FamilySearch, after you log in and add the names of your parents and grandparents for the first time, you’ll begin seeing memories being added by others for deceased ancestors (living family members records and memories are private only to you).
Save Stories for the Future
Now that you have collected and found stories, save them for the future. If you’re the only one working on your branch of the family tree, make sure that you add all the stories you’re collecting to FamilySearch.org so they’re preserved for your children. As you do this, you can easily organize them using the new Family Search Gallery. You can now “save as a favorite” stories that others have added. You can add your own stories and documents, as easily as taking a photo of a page and uploading it, or copying and pasting the text from an email.
I created a “Stories for FHE” album on the left hand side of my FamilySearch Gallery. Now I can drag and drop any stories or documents from my gallery into this folder so that when it’s time to find a story, I’ll have several at my fingertips. Like my grandmother, who created a small booklet of stories for FHE, we can create booklets or online collections of our family’s stories of faith and service. We sometimes create coloring pages to go along with our ancestor stories for FHE too.
Why would we want to talk about stories of our ancestors so often? Bruce Feiler, at the Family Search RootsTech conference shared the benefits family storytelling can have: increased resiliency, self esteem, and family unity. Besides this, feeling connected to a family narrative that’s bigger than ourselves helps us gain perspective and learn the gospel in a more personal way.
Your Turn- How have you included family history into your Family Home Evenings?
I’m Nicole, and I love collecting and sharing family stories. I’m a former middle school history teacher and family history consultant at church. My husband and I have 2 kids, ages 5 and 2. I’ve been in love with family history since I was 16, when our family moved two states away and I didn’t make the volleyball team at the new high school. As I explored and experimented in genealogy, a whole new world opened to me. I discovered that “[researching ancestors makes] you feel wonderful!” (Richard G. Scott). I write at FamilyLocket.com along with my mother about ways to create and share family history. You can follow us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.