FHE and New England

Growing up, I can remember that at least occasionally our weekly Family Home Evening was regarded as a burden by some of the 12 children in our family.
There were various reasons for that, including the dynamics of teaching/entertaining an audience of children with a wide range of ages. Sometimes the issue was a function of the subject matter of the lessons. Unfortunately, an important factor was sometimes the less-than cooperative/energetic/willing attitude of some older siblings towards activities that presented an impediment to maximum time spent playing sports, or reading.

Sorry mom, sorry dad.

Now, a couple of decades later, I pursue my path towards repentance by pouring inordinate amounts of energy into our large, triennial, family reunions. And, in my own family, I have a goal that until they leave home, our 3 children will enjoy and look forward to our FHE.
Our children are now 13, 10, and 7, and so far, so good, I’m happy to report.

We have moved to Boston for a year, and in addition to the typical New England chores we’ve assigned ourselves as a family (get to know Capes Ann and Cod, visit Revolutionary War and abolition movement sites, find the best places to fish blues and stripers, skate frozen ponds and rivers, etc.), we’ve been visiting New England sites that were important to early Mormonism. Each of those, of course, lends itself to some interesting subject matter for FHE lessons/discussions/projects.

In addition to the well-known Mormon historical sites in Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate NY, there are places in the Boston area, including Boston, Lowell, New Bedford, and Salem.

In the 4 months we’ve been here, some of our FHE Mormon history moments or discussions have dealt with Walker Lewis (early black church elder from Boston and Lowell), Joseph Smith’s multiple visits to Salem, the church trial of John Hardy (early Boston church leader), Mormon abolitionists (including Walker), and the impact of the whaling and cotton mill industries on Mormon conversion patterns.

For our next FHE, I’ve been assigned to present a Mormon history moment and
lead a short ice-skating practice session (we’ll practice developing a power stroke (lengthening our stride) in sock feet on our wood floor).

For the former, and with somewhat of a stretch, we’ll recount the Boston version of the story of Mother Goose. That is, Mary Goose (died 1690) was buried at Boston’s small Granary Burying Ground (with about 3,000 others). Not-so-solid legend has it that she is the “Mother Goose” from the children’s fables. We’ll read and sing some of the Mother Goose stories and enjoy the graphic I’ve posted with this blog (thanks Connell), which is the title page from the 1833 edition of Mother Goose’s melodies, published in Boston and New York, and which satirizes the preface to the then-recently published Book of Mormon. Click on the thumbnail, or read the full title below, and part of the satire will be obvious “every [fable] recently found in the same stone box which holds the golden plates of the Book of Mormon.”

– Stirling Adams

Background reading:
1. Mother Goose’s melodies : the only pure edition ; containing all that have ever come to light of her memorable writings, together with all those which have been discovered among the mss. of Herculaneum, likewise every one recently found in the same stone box which holds the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. The whole compared, revised, and sanctioned, by one of the annotators of the Goose family, C.S. Francis and Company (Munroe and Francis), Boston, NY, 1833.

2. Dean Jesse, “A Prophet’s Goodly Grandparents,” review of Richard Lloyd Anderson’s Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 7:2, Summer, 1972

3. Connell O’Donovan, “The Mormon Priesthood Ban and Elder Q. Walker Lewis: “An Example for His More Whiter Brethren to Follow“.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 26 (2006): 48-100.

4. Val Rust, Mormonism and the Radical Religious Movement in Early Colonial New England, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 33:1, Spring 2000

5. Richard Bushman,Rough Stone Rolling, Alfred A. Knopf, NYC, 2005.


  1. You’re quite welcome Brother Adams! And thanks for the tip that the “only true Mother Goose” (being Elizabeth Goose, not Mary Goose) was from Boston! I had no idea. I had always assumed she was a “fabulous” as certain records found at Herculaneum and elsewhere….

    Have fun at FHE! Hugs to Kif and the Munchkins!

  2. find the best places to fish blues and stripers,

    Stirling, if you’re looking for a fishing buddy, I’m your guy. Have you ever fished blues under the birds? It’s unbelievable. I know a few places, and am always looking for more. Next Spring, let’s do it!

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    There were twelve children in your family, Stirling? Wow!

    I can relate a little bit, because in September I visited Boston for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. I have a goal that until they leave home, our 3 children will enjoy and look forward to FHE.

    If you can pull that off even in a mildly successfull fashino, you should write a lesson book, and I’ll buy it.

  5. I need that book now, it won’t do me any good in 10 years.

  6. Book? He doesn’t need a book. He’s got the lesson manual. Yeah, I’m sure, John Hardy’s trial is right there, in lesson 14.

  7. Mark IV,
    I’m in. Recently (October), I’ve fished for blues and stripers from a kayak in the harbor (putting off at Winthrop, across from Logan airport), and before that in Gloucester and Scituate (from the breakwater). When I lived in Cambridge in the early 90s, our Elders Quorum organized a couple of charter-boat bluefishing excursions.
    My email is sadams at novell dot com. Write me about where you suggest we go, and I’ll start learning.

  8. FHE with in-house ice-skating, an excommunication trial, and abolition , and then bluefishing for Elders Quorum activities.
    My church experience appears to be unfairly foreign to yours. Where do I sign up?

    On a more critical note, how, exactly does the Hardy excommunication trial fit into a FHE lesson?

  9. Given your interest in Church and New England history, you probably already have read Bushman’s initial chapters in Rough Stone Rolling that deal with Joseph’s NE roots. But, in case you haven’t seen this Ensign article by Milton Backman, Jr., it’s a nice summary of some of the interesting NE ties to the church. Here’s a teaser from the article:

    “Of the known members of the Kirtland Stake during the decade of the 1830s, 46 percent were born in New England and another 32 percent were born in New York. While favorable religious changes developed in New England preceding the Restoration, the Church was not organized there; New York provided a more favorable climate. The struggle to separate church and state by eliminating mandatory support of state religions was longer and more intense in New England than in any other section of the United States.”

    Milton V. Backman Jr., “Preparing the Way: The Rise of Religious Freedom in New England,” Ensign, Jan 1989, 16

  10. Thanks, I should add RSR chapters to my reading list in the post. From RSR I noted that some of the New England locations the Mack and Smith families lived in (prior to Joseph Smith’s era) were Massachusetts towns Montague, Ipswich, Topsfield, Salem, and Boston, New Hampshire towns Gilsum, Derry, Windham, Manchester, Lebanon, and Hanover, Vermont towns Randolph, Turnbridge, Sharon, Norwich, Wales, and Putney, and Connecticut towns Hartford, Lyme, and East Haddam.
    Also, I hadn’t read Backman’s Ensign article, thanks.

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