It’s been a tense day; I need a break. Luckily it’s Monday, here comes relaxation! Soon my kiddies will line themselves up on the sofa for FHE. One leads a song; everyone sings correctly (no funny voices); another offers a heartfelt prayer. A third gives a well-prepared lesson. A doctrinal discussion ensues, the Spirit is felt by all, and we move peacefully on to refreshments made by someone other than me, consumed without a single crumb reaching the floor. My young, souls occupied with contemplation, file calmly to bed. What, it doesn’t work that way at your house? Cretin.
The struggle to provide effective FHE’s is so common, that anything that makes the task easier is LDS-parenting gold. FHE on DVD won’t guarantee you that dream sequence, but it does give what it says it will: a complete, interactive, spiritual FHE lesson that requires no prep work.
When I first heard of this product I was skeptical; I tend to be wary of “all-inclusive” anything, and the big-eyed characters appeared to fall into the “too cute for adult consumption” category. But I found that the lesson I reviewed, Prayer: Where are Ben’s Glasses? definitely delivers. The first time I watched it with my kids (boys aged 5, 3, 3, 3, 1) I just popped it in and to get a feel for it. But this morning as the kids stared at the TV and my husband puttered around groggily, I decided to give it a true test, and have a totally impromptu “Family Home Morning.” (My ulterior motive being that it’s Monday and I hadn’t planned FHE.) I called the fam together, grabbed a triple combo, and let ‘er rip.
The aim of FHV on DVD is to facilitate an honest-to-goodness lesson involving the whole family’s participation. Let's walk through our “FHM”—The DVD directs the entire thing, pausing at strategic times for prayer, scripture look-up or discussion, resuming when someone presses “continue.” The first screen instructs us to choose a conductor. (My five-year-old gladly fills that role) Three opening song choices appear. These play Karaoke-style with words and pictures for the non-readers, then the conductor calls on someone to pray. The topic is introduced—in this case the concept and function of prayer are explained in simple terms.
The animated story (starring big-eyed characters) is a small part of the lesson. It’s around four minutes, and definitely appeals to children, with an easy to follow story and identifiable protagonist. (Can a red-mop-headed four-year-old with no hands really be referred to by that term?) As the lesson continues we have an opportunity to bear testimonies of prayer and discuss a specific scriptural passage. Five randomly-generated questions out of a list of 15 pop up for discussion. The open-ended design and thoughtful discussion points mean these lessons may be used over and over. I am truly impressed.
Now let’s talk downside—really it isn’t that big (the downside, I mean). I’ve got three gripes, er, observations
- As I have noted with other products, I’m a touch disappointed that all of the characters are white. As the mother of biracial children, this is a continuing concern for me. But, these products are pretty much in line with other Mormon offerings, so certainly shouldn’t be held out as unusual.
- I had a slight concern with the way the principle of prayer was taught in the story. After losing his glasses, Mom tells Ben that if he prays with faith God will help find them. Ben prays, and in the next scene he’s wearing the elusive eyewear; Mom says, “Now you have a testimony of prayer.” My concern is that it might give my kids the idea that God is similar to a genie. What if my son prays for help finding something and doesn’t find it? But, the lesson has to be clear and accessible to very young children, and it is that. It is good that Mom highlights the principle and the testimony. FHE, like any other aspect of a family’s spiritual life, is not experienced in isolation. My children’s daily lives-- interactions with others, practicing and observing the concepts in action—will provide context and understanding.
- Now my “kitchen sink” factor. (“For what it is it’s ______, but______” ) FHE on DVD can be a valuable (perhaps even invaluable) tool. The principles taught are true, so the Spirit will attend these FHE’s-- “where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you. “ (D&C 6:32) But there is also immeasurable benefit in children participating in preparing and presenting lessons. It would be a shame for families to rely solely on any product that does all the work for us. My husband and I will definitely invest in a few of these lessons. On days like today, used as part of a larger FHE strategy, they’ll be a great asset.
So, Bottom Line: for what it is it’s GREAT, but not every week.