"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

LDS Firesides

by Ronald Patrick

Firesides are informal gatherings of Church members and friends, often in homes or other congenial surroundings, as if around a fire. The premises are that the home is sacred ground and that all members are to "teach one another" and share experiences and training, that "all may be edified of all and that every man may have an equal privilege" (cf. D&C 88:122). Typically, firesides feature a single speaker reporting new developments, insights, or interesting experiences.

Religious firesides exhibit ties to the ancient fascination of the warmth and protection of a fire. In LDS life, firesides may be traceable to the exodus across the plains. After an arduous day of travel, the pioneers in the evening would arrange their wagons in a circle, and gather around the campfire to pray, sing, share their spiritual experiences, and rejoice in the progress and blessings of the day. Eliza R. Snow wrote a typical song of this exodus:

The camp, the camp—its numbers swell—
Shout! Shout! O camp of Israel!
The king, the Lord of hosts is near,
His armies guard our front and rear [Journal of Eliza R. Snow].

In this spirit, one journal records, "It verily seemed that the glory of God rested down on the wagons and overspread the prairie."

Holding firesides has become a common Sunday evening practice for socializing, fellowshipping, and learning. Wards, stakes, or regions commonly sponsor firesides. They are frequently a forum for returned missionaries presenting cultural insights from their mission experiences, often with the use of slides, tapes, photos, and so forth.

By extension of the term, there are "morningsides" for high-school seminary students who attend religious classes before school, and "noonsides" for some who want to add meaningful religious moments to their lunch hour. Multistake firesides with large audiences are regularly held at Brigham Young University. Some satellite broadcasts beamed throughout the world from the Salt Lake tabernacle and featuring presentations from the general Church leaders are also called firesides.

In all firesides, essential elements prevail: prayer, music, the spoken word, and sometimes special activities or workshops. All in all, they encourage lay participation, sharing, and free expression, and lead to deeper comprehension of one's heritage, both religious and cultural, and a "knowledge of history and of countries and of kingdoms" (D&C 93:53; 88:79).

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Journal of Eliza R. Snow. Bancroft Library, UCLA Berkeley.




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Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Firesides

Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company