Not long after their exodus from Egypt, the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, 'speak unto the children of Israel, that they make me an offering…and let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them' (Exodus 25:2,8; emphasis added). The children of Israel carried this sanctuary, called the tabernacle, with them during their wanderings in the wilderness. In this way, the Lord led Israel, going 'before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night' (Numbers 14:14).
After the completion of the temple in Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to King Solomon and said: 'I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.... If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now, have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever' (2 Chronicles 7:12-16; emphasis added).
Today, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints look to Jesus Christ as their source of direction, strength, and healing. In the temple, we are invited to learn “of his ways, and … walk in his paths' (Isaiah 2:3). The covenants we make in temples are with Christ. As we keep our covenants and teach our children to do the same, we bring our temple experiences into our homes. With a determination to follow Jesus Christ, we can create a home comparable to the temple in sacredness (see Bible Dictionary, 'Temple').
This will not be easy, given the opposition we face today. The prophet Isaiah prophesied of our day, 'the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defense' (Isaiah 4:5). The Lord knew that our homes and our way of life would be under attack, but God has promised that upon every 'dwelling place…shall be a defense.' This promise is to all of us, regardless of our families’ circumstances.
A Defense upon Every Dwelling Place
My mother lived in foster care from a very young age. By the time she was 18, she had lived in 10 different homes. Not long after they were married, my mother and father began meeting with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One Sunday, while at Church, they sang the hymn 'Love at Home.' As they sang the words of the song, my mother recalls thinking, 'This is not true! They do not know what they are saying.'
Despite these feelings, my parents joined the restored Church of Jesus Christ a few months before I was born. Soon after they were baptized, they began to face serious opposition. It didn't take long before my mother began to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. One day she said to my father, 'I can't keep going to Church! It's too hard. This Church is everything I am not. I will never be good enough. This is not a Sunday Church. It's an everything Church. It's how you think. It's what you eat. It's an everyday Church, and I can't do it. I have too much to overcome. Look at my past. I will never belong here.'
My mother recalls my father saying, 'Remember the prophet, Abraham? He also came out of difficult circumstances (see Abraham 1:5-7). Abraham loved his family and wanted to provide them a good life. So, he took his family and made a life for himself and followed God. Let's not look back. Let's not worry about what people are saying. It is just you and me. Let's take one day at a time and see where this path leads us.' And that is what they did.
In September 1980, they took me to the Cardston Alberta Temple, where we were sealed as a family. Over the years, my parents did their best to provide for my three siblings and me, but it wasn't easy. Growing up in a small branch in Nova Scotia, we were not polished Church members. For much of the time growing up, life was chaotic and challenging. Despite these challenges, my mother and father remained faithful to the covenants they made at baptism and in the temple and taught their children to do the same.
A few weeks after I graduated high school, my parents packed up what they could in their small vehicle. Without a job and virtually no money in the bank, we drove west, seeking a better life. Seven months after that move, I went on my mission. In April of 2003, I was married in the temple. My siblings and I have all remained active in the Church. My younger brother has since served a mission back in Nova Scotia. He served seven months in the town where we grew up.
Looking back on the life of my parents and siblings, it is clear God has helped us. Many times we were strengthened and given peace as we stumbled along our way. We still face many challenges and are striving to keep the covenants that we have now all made in the temple. As my mother recently concluded: 'We are not the same people we were. We are not perfect, but we have broken traditions and have developed into better people. Overall, we are happy.'
Nourished by Christ
Recently, as we discussed one of the Come, Follow Me lessons as a family, my son pointed out that the things that we sometimes think are small aren't always so small. We discussed the importance of our choices and the influence the smallest choices have on the outcome of our lives. We discussed my parents' decision to be baptized and the sacrifices they made to come to the temple. We discussed the influence those early decisions have had on our family. I was inspired by the insight we received as we discussed the power that temple covenants have had on our family.
It is always easier to look back on an experience and recognize the goodness of God than it is to see that goodness in the moment of trial. In the beginning, my mother asked the missionaries, 'What did I do wrong that I ended up in so many foster homes? Why didn't He love me?' She felt hurt and wondered why a loving Heavenly Father would abandon her. Like the servant in the allegory of the Olive Tree, we too might ask the Lord of the vineyard: 'How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard' (Jacob 5:21). In other words, why have you put me here? But if we are willing and obedient, in time, we might hear the same gentle response, 'Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit' (Jacob 5:22).
The work we do in the temple looks to our past, present, and future. Much of the work we do in our temples is for ourselves and our ancestors. The work we do in our homes is for our posterity. Like the children of Israel, we carry our temple covenants with us in our journey. By being faithful to these covenants, Jesus Christ will guide us through every circumstance we face. Let us not be discouraged, but let us be faithful to our covenants. The decisions we make in our homes today will affect generations to come.