We were asked to talk today about maintaining the Spirit in the home. When Greg told me the topic I couldn’t help but laugh because most of the time our home is kind of crazy! We have four small children which makes for a lot of noise, a lot of mess, a lot of whining and a lot of tantrums. Don’t get me wrong, there’s also a lot of giggles, a lot of cleaning, a lot of comforting and a lot of time outs, for kids and for myself. But when I think of the spirit being in our home at all times, I can’t help but feel a little lost as to how to make that happen. I’ve heard many times that we can make our homes like the temple, and as I think of the peace and tranquility I find at the temple, I have difficulty imagining my home running in such a manner.In preparing for this talk, I came across a phrase over and over, that of a Christ-centered home. And after some reflection, I think that’s what is truly meant in the thought that our homes can be like the temple. Not that our homes should always be quiet and perfectly clean, but that they should be a vessel for learning and progress in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For my family, that is much more attainable goal.
In the Church’s Strengthening the Home pamphlet it says, “Nothing we do while on the earth is of greater importance than what we do in our homes with our families. What we do with our families is important not only because it prepares us for eternity, but also because it helps us meet the challenges of everyday life. No relationships are as important as family relationships. President Harold B. Lee, emphasized that “the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home.”
So how do we create a Christ-centered home? First, I’d like to discuss creating a physical environment where the spirit can reside. It is important to create a space that allows your family to feel comfortable, loved and accepted no matter what. It has been reiterated that women set the tone for their home. As the nurturers and homemakers and Daughters of God it falls upon us to provide an atmosphere in our homes which will invite the Spirit of the Lord.
The scriptures actually give us clues on how to accomplish this. 1 Nephi 15:34 says, "The kingdom of God is not filthy." And D&C 88:119 says, "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."
You've heard the old adage, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." When our homes are clean and orderly, it invites the Spirit of the Lord. I know I do not feel at peace, and I can't relax if my home is cluttered and dirty. In such a state, I am anxious and on edge and not exactly Christ-like in my interactions with my family. However, like I said, I do have four small children and a husband who is not quite as tidy as myself, and so I can’t expect perfection in this case. If you drop by our home at any given time, there most likely will be toys scattered about and cereal or crackers that need to be swept up in the kitchen. If I expected to have a perfectly clean home I would go insane and drive my family crazy along with me. Everyone has different levels of acceptable cleanliness, and keeping a home too clean can cause negative feelings or can be a distraction as well. If the cleaning is causing a problem or the messiness is causing a problem, try to find the balance that works for your family.Another way to invite the spirit is to surround ourselves with reflections of Christ and his gospel. Display picture of Christ, the temple, the prophets, your family, and uplifting quotes around your home. We have several pieces of gospel art on display. Some are especially beautiful and ornate. My personal favorite is a picture of Christ that is in a simple frame and was inexpensive. This particular picture was given to me a few years after my mother passed away, by a ward friend. She had been the Relief Society President of our ward and had planned an activity where the sisters could come and put together a framed picture of Christ. The needs of the sisters at the activity took her complete attention and she had been unable to make a picture for herself. At the conclusion of the night, my mother approached her and gave her the picture she had made. Years later, the sister passed the picture onto me with an expression of gratitude for my mother and her kindness. It hangs in our home not only as a reminder of our Savior Jesus Christ but also of the legacy of my generous and thoughtful mother.
If we are to create a refuge from the world, we need to monitor just how much of the world we let into our home. Limit television and video games. I know that when my children watch too much television or play too many video games they are more irritable and emotional. Choose music and other forms of entertainment carefully. This doesn’t mean you should always have classical music playing. Simply choose music that can help everyone feel happy and upbeat. The background noise in your home can really set or break the mood.
There are many things we can do together as a family that will bring us closer and invite the spirit into our homes. Make and keep traditions. Growing up, my family was big on traditions. Some we loved, others we didn’t enjoy as much. I remember my mother having us dye dozens upon dozens of Easter eggs, to the point that it was no longer fun and exciting each Spring so that we could deliver them to numerous widows in the neighborhood. At the time I would lose excitement for the project, but now I look back fondly and remember how our family had a tradition of service. At my extended family’s Christmas party my older sister has started preparing and serving a birthday cake in honor of Christ’s birth. It’s a small thing we can do to help remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.Pray together as a family regularly. By the time Greg and I usually sit down at the table for dinner to have a prayer, our children are almost done eating. But we do so anyway. We tell everyone to pause and we bow our heads and close our eyes and take turns thanking our Heavenly Father for our blessings and asking for his hand in our lives. Our boys love to say prayers! They fight over who gets to pray and often we end up having more than one pray at dinnertime. I am thankful for their eagerness. It reminds of just what a gift prayer is. Through my children’s eyes I see what a privilege and blessing it is to be able to reach out to our Heavenly Father, to talk with him, to reflect upon all the good in our lives, to tell Him of our concerns and request His help. My children’s prayers are very honest, innocent and real. They talk to their Heavenly Father as if they are talking to a friend, and isn’t that just wonderful?! Just about every prayer that our boys offer brings a smile to my husband’s and my face. They have prayed for birthdays to come soon. They have expressed thankfulness for fun times with friends and cousins, they have iterated that they are thankful that I made food that they like, or that they were thankful for their toys, or they have even expressed love for their siblings by saying, “We’re thankful that the babies are so cute.” Ninety percent of the expressions in their prayers begin with “We’re thankful.” And when they do ask for blessings they are always in behalf of someone else. We have a six year old friend who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Palmer and Brody without fail pray for Lilly in every pray they offer. And when Greg or I forget to ask for her wellbeing, they are quick to remind us. They are good examples to us of the gratitude and empathy we should be showing in our own prayers. They are children, and being so their prayers have at times been interrupted for a bite of food, or a sip or water, or have even involved giggles and silly voices. We are sure to talk to them afterwards about showing reverence and respect during prayers, but I think they have thought me much more about praying than we teach them.
Make it a tradition to hold regular weekly Family Home Evenings. Our children love Family Home Evening. They have told me many times it is their favorite time of the week. We keep it pretty simple. We sing a few Primary songs, have a five minute lesson with a scripture or short video, play a related game and then eat a treat. We’ve learned that our children might not remember the Family Home Evening lesson later in the week, or sometimes even a few minutes later, but they do remember that we held it. They may not remember what was said in prayers, or what we read in the scriptures, but they will remember that we said our prayers and that we read our scriptures. So try not to get discouraged when your family home evenings mostly consist of asking children to sit and your dinner prayers often involve chewing food and sipping drinks. We are creating habits, habits that are good and redeeming. There is great power and protection for us and our youth in establishing celestial traditions in the home.Be kind to one another. Unfortunately we as men say the most hurtful things to the people we love most. Make an effort to compliment and praise the members in your family for their good work. Thank your husband for mowing the lawn. Thank your children for doing their chores. Give your children opportunities to have good experiences with serving others, both within and outside the home. Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.” As we show compassion for others, we can help our children to develop the love that will motivate them to serve.
Richard G. Scott said, “As you center your home on the Savior, it will naturally become a refuge not only to your own family but also to friends who live in more difficult circumstances. They will be drawn to the serenity they feel there. Welcome such friends into your home. They will blossom in that Christ-centered environment. Become friends with your children’s friends. Be a worthy example to them.” My home growing up was exactly this type of environment. We always had friends and neighbors drawn to and welcome in our home. Every Sunday, my parents hosted Sunday dinner for upwards of thirty to forty people. I strive to have that same welcoming atmosphere in the home in which we are bringing up our children. A Christ-centered home benefits more people than just your immediate family. Yes, it is a service provided to yourself, your spouse, and your children, but also your extended family, friends, and neighbors. Richard G. Scott goes on to say, “One of the greatest blessings we can offer to the world is the power of a Christ-centered home where the gospel is taught, covenants are kept, and love abounds.’‘We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time.”
Winston Churchill expressed it well when he said, "We shape our houses, then our houses shape us." By creating a Christ-centered home, we maintain the spirit not only in our place of dwelling but within ourselves.