A few years ago while we were in New York City, my wife and I planned to attend an endowment session in the Manhattan Temple. We walked up a congested, busy New York street, with all the noise–cars honking, jack hammers pounding, sirens blaring–a much different environment than a walk to our temple here in Laie, Hawaii, where I serve in the Temple Presidency.
As we walked closer to the Manhattan Temple, we saw the sacred white building with Moroni on top, then finally we read the words over the entrance, “House of the Lord. Holiness to the Lord.”
As we walked through the front doors, we left all the noise and congested traffic of New York behind. There was absolute peace and quiet inside-a beautiful refuge from the noisy outside world. We learned later that it’s actually designed as a building within a building in order to adequately insulate the environment of the temple’s interior from all of the outside city noise. After the session ended, when we walked out of the serene environment of the temple, the loud noise outside literally hit us in the face as we stepped back onto the busy street. We immediately noticed the stark contrast to the peace and quiet of the temple.
Elder John H. Groberg, who served as president of the Idaho Falls Temple, wrote about a similar experience in his book, Refuge and Reality: The Blessings of the Temple. As I looked at the title, I understood the “Refuge” part but was intrigued by his use of the word “Reality” in describing the blessings of the temple. Elder Groberg explained it this way: When I first began serving as temple president, I often heard people say, “I wish I didn’t have to leave the temple, with its peace and quiet, and go back into the real world, with its noise and frustration.” Elder Groberg explained that at first he tended to agree with them, but for some reason felt uneasy with that thought and prayed to know why.
Elder Groberg then explained that one day something special happened. He said, “I can’t say exactly where or how the words or feelings came, but the concept was clear: “That which lasts forever is real; that which does not last forever is not real. The temple is the real world, not the temporal one.”
From then on, whenever he heard someone say they were sorry to have to leave the temple and go back into the real world, Elder Groberg would take them aside and say something like this:
“I understand your feelings, but actually, it is the other way around. You are not leaving the temple and going back into the real world, you are leaving the real world (the temple) and going back into the unreal (temporary) world. Only that which lasts forever is real. That which is done in the temple lasts forever; therefore, the temple is the real world. Most of what we experience out there, such as sickness, wealth, poverty, fame, etc., lasts for only a short period of time, so it is not the real world. Because you have been in the temple, however, you can take the truths of the real world with you as you live in the temporary world. As you do, you will see more clearly that which is important (real or eternal) and that which is less important (unreal, temporal, or temporary).”
After my experience in visiting the Manhattan NY temple and after reading Elder Groberg’s book, I have contemplated what it means to take these truths to the temporary world with us as we live our daily lives.
I looked under the definition of “Temple” in the Bible Dictionary and read the following: “It is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth,” followed by this insightful statement: “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.” This suggests a sacred relationship between the temple and the home. Not only can we symbolically turn the doors of our homes to the temple, or the house of the Lord; we can also make our homes a “house of the Lord.”
Thus, there is an important unity between the temple and the home. Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you to the temple. President Howard W. Hunter stated, “In the ordinances of the temple, the foundations of the eternal family are sealed in place.”
Couples in the temple are often counseled that their homes are to become mini-temples. “Even if you have to live in a tent in a vacant lot,” President Spencer W. Kimball said, “look upon your home as a sanctuary.”
The Lord’s description of the temple at Kirtland may be applied point for point to our homes: “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), and also a house of worship (D&C 109:14).
So what are some ways we can try to make our homes (apartments, rooms) another holy place, like the temple-like the “real world” of the temple?
Elder Gary Stevenson (currently the Presiding Bishop of the Church) in his 2009 General Conference talk “Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples, invited us to take a virtual tour of our homes using our spiritual eyes and to assess if our homes are like the temple. He said:
“Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. 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? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention? That concludes our tour.
Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some home improvement- but hopefully not an extreme home makeover.'”
There are many ways we can make our homes more holy. Here are a few suggestions:
1. We can help make our homes more holy by dedicating them. Last December our stake president invited each home teaching companionship to dedicate the homes in which we taught. We were really dedicating our families’ homes to the purposes of the Lord.
2. We can help make our homes holy by creating order and fixed points to count on. In the temple we learn a planned sequence. Do we have such fixed points in our home schedule? When do we sit together and share, talk, eat, and pray as a family? Everyone in the family can count on family home evening as a fixed point in their week for planning family events and simply to celebrate being together.
3. We can help make our homes more holy by living what we’ve learned in the temple. We go to the temple to make covenants, but we go home to keep the covenants that we have made. The home is the testing ground.
4. We quietly learn to live like Christ, creating a little bit of heaven on earth. Patience and prayer are part of the process. One ordinance worker was asked what he learned by serving in the temple. He responded that he learned to use a temple voice and he was trying to create a bit of heaven on earth in his home by using his “temple voice” more often with his family. This could be a goal for all of us.
5. Our homes can become holy places and still be lived in. They can be clean, orderly, and reverent-within the parameters of keeping happy, growing children-and I’d add grandchildren-in them. What better way to prepare our next generation of future missionaries?
People who enter such a home recognize that it is a place where the Lord’s Spirit is present. And all who come, family as well as strangers, are uplifted.
President Hugh B. Brown summed it up best when he said: “Celestial marriage enables worthy parents to perform a transcendently beautiful and vital service as priest and priestess in the temple of the home. This training will help to prepare them for the exalted position of king and queen in the world to come, where they may reign over their posterity in an ever-expanding kingdom.”
Our homes can truly be a refuge from the noisy world around us when we bring the realities of the temple into our homes. Like the temple in New York, we can, by design, spiritually insulate our homes from the noise of the outside world to help make our homes our own mini-temples.
President Bill Neal,
Laie Hawaii Temple Presidency
(This article is based on a devotional address given by President Neal to the Laie Temple ordinance workers.)