In his opening remarks at the October General Conference our beloved Prophet, Russell M. Nelson, declared: 'As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of 'church' as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward and stake buildings.'
He later taught that: 'parents have the primary responsibility to teach doctrine to their children'.
Indeed, in the footnote to this statement he taught that this commandment was given from the beginning. In Moses 6:58 and the surrounding verses the Lord commands that the gospel in its fullness, including the fall, repentance, Jesus Christ and His Atonement, the Plan of Salvation and Baptism, be taught by our first parents to their children. Said the Lord to Adam: 'Therefore I give unto you a commandment to teach these things freely unto your children…'
Adam and Eve were true to this commandment. In Moses 5:12 we read: 'And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God and they made all things known unto their sons and daughters'.
This commandment was renewed in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith, who revealed in D&C 93:40 the mind and will of the Lord: 'But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.'
In our day we have seen the introduction of the 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World', which proclaims this same truth: 'Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mothers and fathers – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.'
This commandment is best discharged daily in our homes, where gospel teaching is 'home centered', while being church supported.
Elder Quinton L. Cook addressed the same topic of being 'home centered' in his remarks. He taught that the purposes and blessings associated with this focus on being 'home centered' include deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthening faith in Them, and strengthening individuals and families to allow joyful gospel living. He noted that world conditions increasingly require deepening individual conversion to and strengthening faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement and that becoming 'home centered' is specifically to provide guidance for the challenges of our day: 'Our purpose is to balance the Church and the home experiences in a way that will greatly increase faith and spirituality and deepen conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.'
As Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy has pointed out, we have scriptural precedent for what ultimately occurs when we are not home centered, and try to rely only on Sunday attendance at Church one day a week to nourish us spiritually. The outcome is personal and societal apostasy. Rather than deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and His Plan, and Jesus Christ, and His Atonement, testimonies shrivel and die.
In the Book of Mormon (Alma 31) Alma and 2 of his sons, with some of the sons of Mosiah, along with Amulek and Zeezrom went to preach among the Zoramites. When they arrived they found them in an apostate state. Why? They were meeting weekly to worship in their synagogues. They were praying at Church. But they had become apostate. They had lost a true understanding of the nature of God and His Plan. They said they prayed to Him, but recognized Him only as a Spirit. They did not believe there would be any Christ. They had become lifted up in their pride and vanity. This was all despite the fact that the gospel had been preached to them and taught to them 'bountifully before your dissension from among us' (Alma 34:2).
What was it that caused this apostasy?
The answer, at least in part, can be found in Alma 31:23: 'Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this matter, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again [once a week in church] to the holy stand, to offer up thanks again after their manner'.
From this example of the Zoramites we see that although they attended Church every week, they never spoke of their God again when they returned home. Attending a church meeting once a week was not enough. While they may have been church centered, or at least church supported, they were not 'home centered'.
There is a great lesson for us in this, which is perhaps even more important in our day. It brings to mind the words of President Nelson in the April 2018 General Conference in a slightly different context: 'We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. … If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation [in our homes]… in the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting and constant influence of the Holy Ghost” [taught, experienced and strengthened in our homes] (bolded words in square brackets are added).
'Home centered.' 'Church supported'.
These are important principles we simply must keep in focus. If we are focused only on the new 2 hour block, and what gets dropped at church from the deleted hour, or how the new schedule works at church, we have missed the point. The point is becoming 'home centered'. These changes are about more than just an hour less of Church each week. It is about what better thing we replace it with in our homes. It is about more than simply what we will do with that extra hour at home on Sunday. It is about how we will make our homes become the center of gospel worship and teaching in our own lives and the lives of our children.
Our objective should be to meet the description of the home found interestingly enough in the Bible Dictionary definition of the Temple: 'It [The Temple] is the most holy place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.'
I give thanks for a home that was centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ and gospel learning and worship. In our single parent family we 3 boys were raised by a mother who loved God and wanted us to learn of Him and love Him too. I remember being up early in the mornings to read the Book of Mormon. With my family. In my home. I remember wrapping myself in the curtains and sitting over a heat vent early most mornings as we learned to love Nephi and Alma and Mormon and Moroni. And Jesus Christ and His father. We prayed. In our home. We had family home evenings. In our home.
I remember my wonderful wife teaching our children these same things and modeling them for our children. In our home.
I remember hearing from my mother years later of going by our oldest daughter's home (they live near each other) early one morning and seeing her, her husband and their children, gathered together to study their scriptures. In their home.
I observed this eternal pattern again in the home of our second daughter, the very morning of writing this article. She is at the hospital after giving birth to her fourth son. I sat at a breakfast table with her good husband and their other sons, the oldest of whom is 7, and followed their pattern of morning scripture study. In their home.
Every good thing that has happened in my life and the life of my family originated in our home.
May it be so for each of you who reads this article.
It is significant that as the Savior, the master teacher, the greatest of all, completed His teaching to the Nephites, he did not simply dismiss the multitude, content that His teaching alone at a Church meeting would be sufficient. As He concluded he gave the multitude this charge: '… go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again'. (3 Nephi 17:3)
May we do likewise after our Church supported meetings on Sunday. May we return to our homes and ponder the things we are taught by and of Him. May we pray to understand them. May we prepare for our next meeting with Him and in His name that we may continue to learn. May we be 'home centered' as we strengthen our testimonies of Him and His Father.