Stand everyone in a circle. Tie the end of a ball of yarn around one finger, say something nice about someone else and throw them the yarn. Keep tying and passing until there is a tangled web in the middle. Pull the string taut, but having everyone step back, and throw in a beach ball and discuss how working together and building on strengths helps the family withstand adversity. Now, cut the strands one at a time as you talk about how backbiting, criticism, and jealousy can hinder unity and progress. Throw the ball in and see how much more difficult it is to hold up.
Put a paper cup with its open end down on the floor to represent one member of the family. Place a board on top then stand on it, representing the demands of the family. You'll crush the cup. Now place a lot of cups under the board to represent each member of the family. If there are enough, they will hold up the board when you stand on it. Discuss the support that can come from each member of the family as they work together in sustaining the family unit.
Take your family outside to look at a budding fruit tree. Look at the branches and notice that no two branches are alike, even though they all come from the same tree trunk and they will all produce the same kind of fruit. Explain that family members unified in their love for God, represented by the trunk, can produce nourishing qualities like love, kindness, and selflessness, represented by the fruit.
The City of Enoch
Enoch was a prophet who lived during the Old Testament times. When the Lord first called him to be a prophet, he felt inadequate because he was young and "slow of speech." However, the Lord talked with Enoch in many visions and taught him about the Restoration and the future of the Church.
The people around Enoch were very evil and did not keep the commandments. During his lifetime, Enoch taught, converted, and baptized many people who were so righteous that they lived in a holy city called Zion. Enoch unified the righteous people of Zion and because of their unity, the entire city was lifted up into heaven.
During the lifetime of Joseph Smith, another Zion-like community was created in Independence, Missouri. Only those who were strictly following the commandments and helping the poor could be unified there. Zion is often described both as a place and a state of being. In fact, Jesus Christ will live with the righteous in Zion for one thousand years, during what is known as the Millennium.
Today, the Lord expects his followers to be unified in belief and action. The Lord said, "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27).
The world has so many contrasting demands and sometimes it may be difficult to make the right decisions according to our priorities. It's almost impossible to schedule everything, with school, work, family night, friends, callings, hobbies, sports, etc. It's so easy to get caught up in the daily routine of things and forget about what matters most. However, we should keep a perspective on what our priorities are and how we can better focus on the more important things in life.
Fitting Everything In
Use a large vase, rocks, pebbles, and sand to demonstrate prioritizing effectively. Before family home evening, figure out how much of everything can fit in the vase by filling it with rocks first, then pebbles, then sand. Set everything out and invite the family to try to fit everything in by starting with the sand, then pebbles, then rocks. When it doesn't fit, suggest they start with the big rocks, representing the need to do the important and spiritual things first, then fill in with less necessary things.
Many families choose to use family home evening as a time to schedule important events throughout the week. If you don't already have one, create a family calendar and include birthdays, holidays, appointments at the doctor and dentist, Church activities, concerts, sporting activities, and of course, family home evenings. Teach your children that by prioritizing your time on the calendar, it's easier to plan daily schedules and remember special dates. Make it a habit to discuss upcoming events and keep the calendar in a heavy-traffic area, like the kitchen.
Set up a store in your living room with items such as candy, small toys, jewelry, stickers, baseball cards, etc. The items should have various prices; for example, a piece of candy could cost $5 and a teddy bear could cost $20. Give each child $100 of play. Assign someone to be the clerk and allow the children to purchase items from the store. As the time passes, introduce new items, such as a set of scriptures, pictures of the family, school supplies, and a sign that reads "testimony." Give these items much higher prices, even for the whole $100. Encourage your children to prioritize when making purchases to include the most important things in their lives. Explain that although some things may take more effort, like getting along with your siblings and doing chores around the household, putting them higher on your priority list will eventually make your happier.
When Destiny Calls
Joe Paterno loved his position as the head football coach at Pennsylvania State University. He had been head coach for seven years when the phone call came in 1972. He was offered $1.3 million, a part ownership of a pro-ball franchise, and a $100,000 signing bonus--if he left the school he loved. The offer was too much to resist since he was only making $35,000 at Penn State. His wife showed her support regardless of his decision, and Joe accepted the offer.
Later that night, he woke up around 2:00 A.M. and saw his wife sobbing while nursing their baby. Joe stayed up thinking about everything he was leaving: the school where he and his wife met, the home of their five kids, and the entire football team. He questioned what made him accept the job, and deep down the answer was simple: the money.
The next morning, Joe told his wife that he wasn't going. That night of inspiration revealed to him what college football really meant--something that, for him, pro football could never replace. Although he loved winning games as much as other coaches did, he knew that there was something more than victory or defeat. He loved watching his players develop self-discipline, study skills, and as human beings. To him, having that experience was more important than having a larger salary.