Lesson 31: Creating an Uplifting Environment in Our Homes

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 233–44


The purpose of this lesson is to inspire us to create an uplifting environment in our homes.

The Powerful Influence of Home Life

The time we spend at home and the atmosphere of the home have a powerful influence on our lives. Here our children form their habits and ideas. Dorothy Law Nolte wrote:

“If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

“If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

“If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

“If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

“If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

“If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

“If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

“If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

“If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

“If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

“If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world” (“Children Learn What They Live,” © 1963 by John Philip Co.; used by permission).

Women have an important responsibility to help create a good feeling in the home. We have a great influence on the atmosphere in the home through our example. We might ask ourselves these questions: Are we patient and happy? Do we correct our family’s mistakes in love, not in anger? Do we show reverence toward sacred things? Do we have faith in Jesus Christ? Do we share each other’s problems? Do we pray individually and as a family? Do we listen carefully to each other? As we do these things, we create a feeling that will inspire and help our family.

Making a House into a Home

A house is a place where people live in peace and happiness. A house can be a cave, a cottage, a tent, a palace, a cabin, or a hogan. The size or beauty of a building does not make it a home; happy people make a home.

Each of us should create a feeling in our home that will inspire our family. We want our family members to live gospel principles and to make good use of their time and talents. We should provide opportunities for study, recreation, and hobbies in our homes. Then family members will want to be at home and will be less likely to seek activities elsewhere.

  • What causes a good feeling in our homes? Write the responses on the chalkboard and discuss them. Be sure to include the following ideas:

    Being careful of other people’s feelings

    Having the Spirit of the Lord

    Feeling wanted and needed

    Praying

    Holding family home evening

    Studying the scriptures

Whether we are rich or poor, we can do many things to help our families enjoy being home. We can plan fun activities to teach and amuse family members.

  • Ask the sisters to tell about happy times at home when they were growing up.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Music

“Fred ate [his breakfast] dutifully and then slipped down from his chair.

“‘Now can I go over to Jimmy’s, mother?’ he asked.

“‘But Fred,’ I [said], ‘you were over there yesterday and the day before. Why not have Jimmy come here today?’

“‘Oh, he wouldn’t want to.’ Fred’s lip quivered in spite of his six years of manhood. ‘Please, mother.’

“‘Why do you like Jimmy’s house better than ours, son?’ I pursued. It came to me suddenly that Fred and all his companions were always wanting to go to Jimmy’s house.

“‘Why,’ he explained hesitatingly, ‘it’s ’cause—it’s ’cause Jimmy’s house is a singing house.’

“‘A singing house?’ I questioned. ‘Now what do you mean by that?’

“‘Well,’ Fred was finding it hard to explain, ‘Jimmy’s mother hums when she sews; and Annie-in-the-kitchen, she sings when she cuts out cookies; and Jimmy’s daddy always whistles when he comes home.’ Fred stopped a moment and added, ‘Their curtains are rolled clear up and there’s flowers in the windows. All the boys like Jimmy’s house, mother.’

“‘You may go, son,’ I said quickly. I wanted him out of the way so I could think.

“I looked around my house. Everyone told me how lovely it was. There were oriental rugs. We were paying for them in installments. … We were paying for the overstuffed furniture and the car that way, also. Perhaps that was why Fred’s daddy didn’t whistle when he came into the house. …

“I … went over to Jimmy’s house, even if it was ten o’clock and Saturday morning. It came to me that Mrs. Burton would not mind being interrupted in the middle of the morning. She never seemed to be in a hurry. She met me at the door with a towel around her head.

“‘Oh, come in. I have just finished [cleaning] the living room. No indeed, you are not interrupting. I’ll just take off this headdress and be right in.’

“While I waited, I looked around. The rugs were almost threadbare; the curtains … tied back; the furniture, old and scarred. … A table with a bright cover held a number of late magazines. In the window were hanging baskets of ivy … , while a bird warbled from his cage hanging in the sun. Homey, that was the effect.

“The kitchen door was open and I saw Jerry, the baby, sitting on the clean linoleum, watching Annie as she pinched together the edges of an apple pie. She was singing. …

“Mrs. Burton came in smiling. ‘Well,’ she asked, ‘what is it? For I know you came for something; you are such a busy woman.’

“‘Yes,’ I said abruptly, ‘I came to see what a singing house is like.’

“Mrs. Burton looked puzzled. ‘Why, what do you mean?’

“‘Fred says he loves to come here because you have a singing house. I begin to see what he means.’

“‘What a wonderful compliment!’ Mrs. Burton’s face flushed. ‘But of course my house doesn’t compare with yours. Everyone says you have the loveliest house in town.’

“‘But it isn’t a singing house,’ I objected. ‘… Tell me how you came to have one.’

“‘Well,’ smiled Mrs. Burton, ‘if you really want to know. You see, John doesn’t make much. I don’t think he ever will. He isn’t that type. We have to cut somewhere, and we decided on non-essentials. … There are books, magazines, and music. … These are things the children can keep inside. They can’t be touched by fire or [financial problems] so we decided they were essentials. Of course good wholesome food is another essential. … The children’s clothes are very simple. … But when all these things are paid for, there doesn’t seem to be much left for rugs and furniture. … We don’t go into debt if we can avoid it. … [However] we are happy,’ she concluded.

“‘I see,’ I said thoughtfully. I looked over at Jerry and Fred in the corner. They had manufactured a train out of match boxes and were loading it with wheat. They were scattering it a good deal, but wheat is clean and wholesome.

“I went home. My oriental rugs looked faded. I snapped my curtains to the top of the windows, but the light was subdued as it came through the silken draperies. … [My house] was not a singing house. I determined to make it sing” (May Morgan Potter, “The Singing House,” as quoted by Reed H. Bradford in “Priorities,” Instructor, Nov. 1969, 410, 415).

  • What was meant by a “singing house”? What are some of the reasons this home was happy?

Some of the music in the world today is not uplifting. It encourages us to think immoral or irreverent thoughts. Such music prevents us from having the Spirit of the Lord.

Music can bring families closer together and closer to the Lord. Singing hymns together as a family brings us closer to the Lord. Folk music reminds us of our ancestors and how they lived. Good music uplifts and inspires us. We learn to love it by hearing, singing, and playing it often.

We should encourage family members to develop their musical talents. Church leaders have asked us to do this, even if it is hard for us. Sister Margrit F. Lohner, a Swiss Church member, told the following story:

“My mother’s beautiful voice filled our home in Switzerland morning, noon, and night. She did not know any nursery rhymes, but she sang the songs of Zion. … As a result, I could sing these anthems even when I was only a very small child.

“My parents could not afford a piano, and so each day I walked for 20 minutes through the rain and snow for a year to practice the piano in the cold front room of some members in our branch in Zurich. I soon caught pneumonia because of this, and my parents went without some of their needs to buy me a piano. My mother also cleaned rooms at a neighbor’s apartment to earn money for my music lessons. As a result of these sacrifices, my life was enriched with many choice relationships through music” (“With a Song on Your Hearth,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, 27).

  • Write on the chalkboard: Art. How can we encourage art in our homes?

  • Display visual 31-d, “A picture of the resurrected Christ enhances the atmosphere of this home.”

The pictures we use in our homes remind our families of what things are important. We can surround ourselves with pictures that remind us of our families, our ancestors, our religion, and our goals. These pictures could be of the Savior, the temples, or our prophets. We can also decorate our homes with pictures that help us love nature, peace, beauty, history, and so on.

We can also develop our own abilities in painting, sculpture, needlework, and weaving, decorating our homes with our handiwork. We can encourage family members in art by giving them supplies and tools and displaying their work in our homes. We should never make fun of their work or their efforts. At family home evenings we could have a workshop. Everyone could work together to create something of beauty. Then we could give it to someone who is ill, homebound, or lonely.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Nature. How can we encourage enjoyment of nature?

Many of us do not take enough time to appreciate the beauties of nature. But we can often feel the Spirit of the Lord when we enjoy a sunset, a beautiful flower, sunshine through the trees, a seashell, or a colorful stone. We can talk about the wonders of nature and give thanks for God’s handiwork.

  • Read the words to the song “My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” found below.

    Whenever I hear the song of a bird
    Or look at the blue, blue sky,
    Whenever I feel the rain on my face
    Or the wind as it rushes by,
    Whenever I touch a velvet rose
    Or walk by our lilac tree,
    I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
    Heav’nly Father created for me.
    He gave me my eyes that I might see
    The color of butterfly wings.
    He gave me my ears that I might hear
    The magical sound of things.
    He gave me my life, my mind, my heart:
    I thank him rev’rently
    For all his creations, of which I’m a part.
    Yes, I know Heav’nly Father loves me.

    (Children’s Songbook,  228)

We can bring the beauties of nature into our homes by growing flowers and plants either outdoors or indoors. Almost everyone enjoys planting seeds, watering them, and watching them break through the soil. We can enjoy collecting rocks and studying leaves. Raising and caring for animals teaches us about birth, life, and death. We also learn to give affection and service. We should encourage interest in nature shown by family members.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Books. How can we encourage the enjoyment of good books in our home?

Reading the scriptures and other good books nourishes our minds, just as good food nourishes our bodies. Books are like companions. They can lift us up or tear us down. We should read only books that will help us become better people. Good books help us appreciate what is good, beautiful, and true.

We can influence our family’s reading habits by selecting good books for our home. We can encourage family members to read aloud to each other. We can tell stories of our lives and of our ancestors.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 and 90:15. What books can you bring home to help your family?

  • Write on the chalkboard: Entertainment. What entertainment should we provide for our families?

Movies and television programs can influence us like books. Some teach true principles, some simply amuse us, and some give us false ideas. Our families must decide which programs are worth our time. Many adults and children could use their TV time better by improving their bodies and minds in some of the ways discussed earlier in this lesson.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Order and Cleanliness

We can have a bit of beauty in our homes even if we do not have much money. We should not settle for the dirty or untidy, either in ourselves or our homes. Sometimes, in keeping our homes neat and clean, we want to get rid of activities, hobbies, or projects. We may think they are clutter that makes our homes less attractive. But each member of the family needs freedom to create. We should all respect the belongings and activities of other family members. Each child should have a special drawer or box for his or her own “treasures.”

Conclusion

The thirteenth article of faith states, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” We can use this statement to guide us as we develop an uplifting atmosphere in our homes.

President David O. McKay said: “I know of no place other than home where true happiness can be found in this life. It is possible to make home a bit of heaven; indeed, I picture heaven to be a continuation of the ideal home” (Secrets of a Happy Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1960],18). Each of us has the privilege and the challenge of creating that kind of home.

  • Sing the hymn “Love at Home” (Hymns, no. 294, or Gospel Principles, 352–53).

Challenge

Do something specific this week to improve the feeling in your home. As a beginning, try smiling more often or improving your attitude. Notice what happens to other family members. Plan a nature walk, regular reading program, or other enjoyable activity with a child.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Study Gospel Principles chapter 34, “Developing Our Talents,” and chapter 36, “The Family Can Be Eternal.”

  2. 2.

    Plan to conclude the lesson with the hymn “Love at Home” (Hymns, no. 294, or Gospel Principles, 352–53).

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.