We are frequently reminded by song and the spoken word that “the home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions.” (The First Presidency, 1962.)
Actually, a home is much more than a house. A house may be constructed of lumber, brick, and stone. A home is made of love, sacrifice, and respect. A house can be a home, and a home can be a heaven when it shelters a family. Like the structure in which it dwells, the family may be large or small. It may be old or young. It may be in excellent condition or it may show signs of wear, of neglect, of deterioration.
Some Latter-day Saint families are comprised of mother, father, sons, and daughters all at home, while others have witnessed the tender departure of one, then another, then another of their members. Occasionally only one member remains. The family, however, continues—for families are forever.
Whether we are preparing to establish our own family or simply considering how to bring heaven closer to our present home, we can learn from the Lord. He is the master architect. He has taught us how we must build.
When Jesus walked the dusty pathways of towns and villages that we now reverently call the Holy Land and taught His disciples by beautiful Galilee, He often spoke in parables, in language the people understood best. Frequently He referred to home building in relationship to the lives of those who listened.
In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, on December 17, 1832, the Master counseled: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” (D&C 88:119.)
Where could any of us locate a more suitable blueprint whereby he could wisely and properly build? Such a house would meet the building code outlined in Matthew, even a house built “upon a rock” (see Matt. 7:24–25), a house capable of withstanding the rains of adversity, the floods of opposition, and the winds of doubt everywhere present in our challenging world.
Some might ask, “But that revelation was to provide guidance for the construction of a temple. Is it relevant today?”
I would respond: “Did not the Apostle Paul declare, ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’” (1 Cor. 3:16.)
Let the Lord be the general contractor for the family—even the home—we build. Then each of us can be subcontractors responsible for a vital segment of the whole project. All of us are thereby builders. Hence, I speak to all participants and provide guidelines from God, lessons from life, and points to ponder as we commence to build.
Point number one: Kneel down to pray.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5–6.) So spoke the wise Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel.
On the American continent, Jacob, the brother of Nephi, declared: “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith.” (Jacob 3:1.)
This divinely inspired counsel comes to us today as crystal clear water to a parched earth. We live in troubled times. Doctors’ offices throughout the lands are filled with individuals who are beset with emotional problems as well as physical distress. Our divorce courts are doing a land-office business because people have unsolved problems. Personnel workers and grievance committees in modern industry work long hours in an effort to assist people with their problems.
One personnel officer, assigned to handle petty grievances, concluded an unusually hectic day by placing in jest a small sign on his desk for those with unsolved problems. It read, “Have you tried prayer?” What that personnel officer did not know when he placed such a sign upon his desk was that he was providing counsel and direction that would solve more problems, alleviate more suffering, prevent more transgression, and bring about greater peace and contentment in the human soul than could be obtained in any other way.
A prominent American judge was asked what we, as citizens of the countries of the world, could do to reduce crime and disobedience to law and bring peace and contentment into our lives and into our nations. He thoughtfully replied, “I would suggest a return to the old-fashioned practice of family prayer.”
As a people, aren’t we grateful that family prayer is not an out-of-date practice with us? There is not a more beautiful sight in all this world than to see a family praying together. There is real meaning behind the oft-quoted adage: “The family that prays together stays together.”
The Lord directed that we have family prayer when He said: “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (3 Ne. 18:21.)
Will you join me as we look in on a typical Latter-day Saint family offering prayers unto the Lord? Father, mother, and each of the children kneel, bow their heads, and close their eyes. A sweet spirit of love, unity, and peace fills the home. As father hears his tiny son pray unto God that his dad will do the right things and be obedient to the Lord’s bidding, do you think that such a father would find it difficult to honor the prayer of his precious son? As a teenage daughter hears her sweet mother plead unto God that her daughter will be inspired in the selection of her companions, that she will prepare herself for a temple marriage, don’t you believe that such a daughter will seek to honor this humble, pleading petition of her mother whom she so dearly loves? When father, mother, and each of the children earnestly pray that the fine sons in the family will live worthy, that they may in due time receive a call to serve as ambassadors of the Lord in the mission fields of the Church, don’t we begin to see how such sons grow to young manhood with an overwhelming desire to serve as missionaries?
As we offer unto God our family prayers and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him. If we have been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. Those who feel that prayer might denote a physical weakness should remember that individuals never stand taller than when they are upon their knees.
Point number two: Step up to serve.
For our example, we turn to the life of the Lord. Like a glowing searchlight of goodness is the life of Jesus as He ministered among men. He brought strength to the limbs of the cripple, sight to the eyes of the blind, hearing to the ears of the deaf, and life to the body of the dead.
His parables preach power. With the good Samaritan, He taught: “Love thy neighbour.” Through His kindness to the woman taken in adultery, He taught compassionate understanding. In His parable of the talents, He taught us to improve ourselves and to strive for perfection. Well could He have been preparing us for our building role in the eternal family. Those who are lifting are not leaning. Those who are serving are not sulking.
An example of stepping up to serve is found in the life of our prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, and the family of which he is a member. President Benson has described to the General Authorities how his father was called to fill a mission. He left behind his wife, who was expecting another child, his seven children, his farm, and all that he had. Did he lose anything? President Benson tells how his mother would gather the family around the kitchen table and there, by the flickering light of an oil-fueled lamp, read the letters from her husband. Several times during the reading there would be a pause to wipe away the tears that flowed freely. The result? Each of the children later served a mission. Each stepped up to serve.
Point number three: Reach out to rescue.
On the journey along the pathway of life, there are casualties. Some depart from the road markers that lead to life eternal, only to discover that the detour chosen ultimately leads to a dead end. Indifference, carelessness, selfishness, and sin all take their costly toll in human lives. There are those who, for unexplained reasons, march to the sound of a different drummer, later to learn they have followed the Pied Piper of sorrow and suffering.
As the year 1985 drew to an end, the First Presidency took note of those who had strayed from the fold of Christ and issued a special statement entitled “An Invitation to Come Back.” The message contained this appeal: “We encourage Church members to forgive those who may have wronged them. To those who have ceased activity and to those who have become critical, we say, ‘Come back. Come back and feast at the table of the Lord and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.’ We are confident that many have longed to return but have felt awkward about doing so. We assure you that you will find open arms to receive you and willing hands to assist you.”
Perhaps an oft-repeated scene will bring closer to home your personal opportunity to reach out to rescue. Let us look in on a family with a lad named Jack. Throughout Jack’s early life, he and his father had many serious arguments. One day, when Jack was seventeen, they had a particularly violent quarrel. Jack said to his father, “This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m leaving home, and I will never return!” So declaring, he went to his room and packed a bag. His mother begged him to stay, but he was too angry to listen. He left her crying at the doorway.
Leaving the yard, Jack was about to pass through the gate when he heard his father call to him: “Jack, I know that a large share of the blame for your leaving rests with me. For this I am truly sorry. I want you to know that if you should ever wish to return home, you’ll always be welcome. And I’ll try to be a better father to you. I want you to know that I’ll always love you.” Jack said nothing, but went to the bus station and bought a ticket to a distant point. As he sat in the bus watching the miles go by, he thought about the words of his father. He realized how much love it had required for his father to do what he had done. Dad had apologized. He had invited him back and had left the words ringing in the summer air, “I love you.”
It was then that Jack understood that the next move was up to him. He knew that the only way he could ever find peace with himself was to demonstrate to his father the same kind of maturity, goodness, and love that Dad had shown toward him. Jack got off the bus, bought a return ticket to home, and went back.
He arrived shortly after midnight, entered the house, and turned on the light. There in the rocking chair sat his father, his head bowed. As the father looked up and saw Jack, he rose from the chair, and they rushed into each other’s arms. Jack often said, “Those last years that I was home were among the happiest of my life.”
Here was a boy who overnight became a man. Here was a father who, suppressing passion and bridling pride, reached out to rescue his son before he became one of that vast “lost battalion” resulting from fractured families and shattered homes. Love was the binding band, the healing balm. Love—so often felt, so seldom expressed.
From Mount Sinai there thunders in our ears: “Honour thy father and thy mother.” (Ex. 20:12.)
And later, from that same God, the injunction
“Live together in love.” (D&C 42:45.)
Kneel down to pray. Step up to serve. Reach out to rescue. Each is a vital page of God’s blueprint to make a house a home and a home a heaven.
Let us build with skill, take no shortcuts, and follow His blueprint. Then the Lord, even our building inspector, may say to us, as He said when He appeared to Solomon, a builder of another day, “I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” (1 Kgs. 9:3.) We will then have heavenly homes and forever families.
Some Points of Emphasis
You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:
The Lord has given us a blueprint for building strong and happy families.
These guidelines are:
—Kneel down to pray.
—Step up to serve.
—Reach out to rescue.
Relate your feelings about the way the Lord’s teachings bless us as we work at building strong families and strengthening our relationship with the Lord.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?