We are often reminded by song and the spoken word that the family is the basis of a righteous life, and no other institution can take its place or fulfill its essential functions.
A house is built of wood, stone, or brick. A family is made of love, sacrifice, and respect. And a house can be a heaven when it shelters a family. The family may be large or small, young or old. It may be in excellent condition, or it may show signs of wear, neglect, or deterioration. It may consist of mother, father, sons, and daughters all at home, or of only a single individual. But always the family 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 all learn from the Lord. He is the master architect. He has taught 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. He declared, “Every … house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25.) Later He cautioned, “Behold, mine house is a house of order … and not a house of confusion.” (D&C 132:8.)
In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, 27 December 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 be the kind of house Matthew described, even a house built “upon a rock,” a house capable of withstanding the rains of adversity, the floods of opposition, and the winds of doubt everywhere present in our challenging world. (See Matt. 7:24–25.)
Some might question, “But that revelation was to provide guidance for the construction of a temple. Is it relevant to family life?”
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 Master Architect for the family—even the home—we build. Then each of us are the builders. I would like to mention some guidelines from God, lessons from life, and points to ponder as we begin to build.
“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 world are filled with individuals who are beset with emotional problems as well as physical distress. Our divorce courts have a thriving 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, placed a small sign on his desk for those with unsolved problems. It read, “Have you tried prayer?” That director did not realize that he was providing counsel that would solve more problems, alleviate more suffering, prevent more transgression, and bring about greater peace and contentment in the human soul than could come in any other way.
A prominent judge in the United States was asked what we, as citizens of the countries of the world, could do to reduce crime and disobedience to law and to 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.”
Aren’t we grateful that family prayer is not an out-of-date practice with us as a people? There is not a more beautiful sight in all this world than to see a family praying together. There is real meaning behind the adage that “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 this 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 any of us has 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 weakness should remember that a man never stands taller than when he is on his knees.
For our example of service, 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 crippled, 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 neighbor.” Through His kindness to the woman taken in adultery, He taught compassionate understanding. In His parable of the talents, He taught each of us to improve himself and to strive for perfection. Well could He have been preparing us for our role in building an eternal family. Lifters are not leaners. Doers are not doubters. Servers are not sulkers.
An example of stepping up to serve is found in the life of our own 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, the 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 which flowed freely. The result? Each of the children later served a mission. Each stepped up to serve.
On the journey along the pathway of life, there are casualties. Some depart from the road markers which 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 in many families who, for unexplained reasons, rebel, later to learn that they have found only sorrow and suffering.
As the year 1985 drew to its 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.”
We must offer this same loving invitation to those in our own families who have strayed from the paths of truth. Love is the binding band, the healing balm. We must never stop loving even those in our families who may have caused us pain. The Lord has commanded us that we should “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. I pray most humbly and sincerely that this blessing may come to each of us.