During the early days of the Restoration of the gospel, the Lord instructed the Latter-day Saints to establish “a house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119) wherein the sacred ordinances necessary for salvation could be conducted and to fully prepare them for His Second Coming.
Those early Saints were determined to follow that counsel and establish a temple of the Lord: first in Kirtland, then in Nauvoo. Those temples became both spiritual and physical centres of gospel living and focus. They became places where they could look with hope and determination that the sacrifices they made were not in vain. They were places where they could feel spiritual safety from the constant storms of strife.
Learning to Love Temples
As a boy, I remember travelling with my family in 1976 to the temple. My parents, both recent converts, had learned that a new temple had been built in Washington, D.C. They anxiously prepared both financially and spiritually, for the two-day journey from Prince Edward Island to be sealed to each other and to their young, but growing, family for eternity. Driving on the Capital Beltway around Washington into Maryland, our family was suddenly delighted to see the guiding beacon: the spires of the temple shining brightly. I still remember memorizing the words to my favourite Primary hymn “I Love to See the Temple,” (Children’s Songbook, 95) and anticipating the day when I would be permitted to go inside again. The temple was the centre of our family gospel living.
During future trips to that temple, members of my family eagerly tried to be the first to spot those stately spires. That has become a pattern I have carried throughout my own life, both personally and now with my family.
Flying into Utah as a young man to attend the Missionary Training Centre (MTC), I was eagerly scanning the skyline to spot the spires of the Salt Lake City Temple. While training at the MTC, I found peace looking at Moroni atop the Provo Temple spire, just a short walk away (such a foreign concept to me). And now, with my own family, we each try to be the first to spot Moroni rising above the trees and buildings that surround the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple during our temple trips, now just a three-and-a-half-hour drive. Family road trips to Palmyra, Montreal, and Boston were not complete without a visit to the temple grounds—even if closed—just to soak in that spiritual feeling of being at the temple.
We love “our” temple in Halifax, and each family member has been inside many times. Even my nine-year-old son makes the seven-hour round trip just to wait in the lobby and experience that temple feeling while his older siblings serve in the baptistry.
Making Our Home a House of God
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant our family has not been able to attend the temple, and we have all been feeling that absence in our lives. We have accepted the invitation from King Benjamin to pitch “their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple” (Mosiah 2:6). We have turned our house spiritually towards the temple.
But can and do we feel that same spiritual boost and excitement about being in our own homes? It’s hard to argue that after a long journey, nothing feels quite as good as home. Do we have that same feeling day after day?
One of the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening in the August 9-15, 2021 Come, Follow Me outline is to consider how we could make our homes like the one described in Doctrine and Covenants 88:119: “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.”
Our children shouldn’t have to travel, sometimes at great distances, to experience the same feelings that temple attendance brings. They should experience the temple each and every day within that sacred sanctuary where they live: home.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson teaches: “A sacred relationship [exists] between the temple and the home. Not only can we turn the doors of our homes to the temple, or the house of the Lord; we can make our homes a ‘house of the Lord.’” He encourages us to take a virtual tour of our homes with spiritual eyes when we walk through our front door: “What do you see and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple?” He suggests we should see cleanliness and orderliness, uplifting images, which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Saviour. We should see places for personal prayer. We should find scriptures “in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together” (“Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples,” Ensign, May 2009, 101-102).
Establishing Sanctuaries of Faith
There are many ways we can focus our homes to become places of sanctuary and houses of the Lord. In our family, we schedule a time each morning for Come, Follow Me readings as well as the Book of Mormon. Three teenagers means that not everyone is present every day, and that’s OK. Each morning before departures for school and work, we kneel as a family and pray for each family member and others. And, before bedtime, we gather again and read Bible stories and conclude the day in prayer. We haven’t always done so well, but consistency has made it a habit—we do our best. We also make a special effort to eat meals together; we have a lively and energetic supper table where the family gathers and partakes. A tradition is to ask each family member, “What was the best part of your day?” This question often sparks more conversation and laughter. We are far from perfect, but we are trying. These small steps have big outcomes for our family.
Elder Stevenson counsels us to consider the music we listen to and the entertainment we watch or engage in (see “Sacred Home, Sacred Temples”). Such activities should not offend the Spirit. We must have the courage to make right choices. Let there be evidence of gospel living found throughout our homes.
Parents especially need to set righteous examples for our children. We should follow the example of how Jesus treats others: with gentleness, meekness, love, and kindness (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-44).
When we visit the temple, part of how we feel is because of how we are treated: we feel special there. Our family members should experience that same love and acceptance at home, multiplied many times more. Home should feel like a place where we are safe: not bullied, judged, or criticized. Our parenting must be done with love and patience, not with rebuke or force. A house of learning comes as much by studying as it does from observing. We cannot expect children to model the Saviour and yet deny them the same treatment from their parents.
President Russell M. Nelson promises, “As you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, … the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease” (“Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 113). In our house, we hold onto that promise, as parents and as a family. We strive to create a place of sanctuary for our children—and their friends and our extended family—so the presence of the Holy Ghost and the feelings of the temple will become so familiar they will look to home with the same eagerness and anticipation throughout their lives. Are we there yet? No. We are far from perfect and make many mistakes. But we are trying our best.
As you study Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families this week, contemplate how you can remodel your home into a House of God. While there may be no government subsidies for your home renovations, the eternal subsidies are worth it.