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Excitement was in the air and rumors were circulating prior to this General Conference that we needed to fasten our seatbelts, because it was going to be quite a ride. Someone made up a Bingo game card with their idea of outlandish guesses of changes that could come. These ranged from the announcement of a temple on Mars to new modesty guidelines that included a ban on decorative socks for men. Right in the middle of that card, at the strategic point, was the square that read “2-Hour Block.”
Even before General Conference, we had seen a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Honk for a Two-Hour Block.” An electric sign for a radio station on Utah’s I-15 called one of its programs the “two hour block.”
People speculated about why such a move might be made. They said three hours was a hardship for parents with young children. They mentioned some countries where the workweek is demanding and parents, therefore, have little time with their children. They nudged at the idea that it was economical so we could fit more wards into a building. As for me, I secretly hoped to keep the block as it is because it is my favorite three hours of the week.
All of this speculation was short-sighted, a perfect example of man’s reasoning compared to the Lord’s, for when the announcement was made, it came with a force and power and sense of expansion to my mind and heart that was totally surprising. Though logistics may have had some impact on the change, the real reason we are moving to a two-hour block was something only the Lord could have designed. He wants so much more from us—not less.
It is as if we are being invited to move quickly, surely and potently to a new level of spiritual maturity. Convenience, comfort, or ease had nothing to do with it. The Lord is issuing an invitation to a higher, holier way of living and to stride with greater purpose on His covenant path.
It is as if He is saying, “You are sufficiently mature and I trust you.” We are to understand that we cannot rely on the Church alone for our spirituality and that spirituality cannot just be spoon-fed to us.
The Lord’s Ideas and Our Ideas
Another demonstration of the difference between the Lord’s ways and ours was when President Nelson spoke in the Sunday morning session of conference about the reason that we are to drop Mormon as a term to refer to ourselves and the Church. He made it very clear that this “is not a name change. It is not rebranding. It is not cosmetic. It is not a whim. And it is not inconsequential. Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord.”
That couldn’t be clearer. A committee that was formed to come up with how to refer to the church would have certainly asked questions about cosmetics and branding. Yet, this wasn’t the work of a committee. It was the Lord’s command, just as is the two-hour block.
People think dropping the term “Mormon” is nearly impossible. For instance, how can you possibly change the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that has been using that name for 100 years? Just watch because it is happening. People will have to get used to The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square—or as someone joked #NoMoMoTab.
Search engines will have to be redirected from Mormon to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are to understand that this is very consequential because it matters to the Lord—and Internet branding or the inconvenience of replacing a short name with a longer one is not important to the Lord. We, who claim to take upon ourselves His name, must also honor His ways.
He, who is “more intelligent than they all”, is not so concerned with branding, or marketing or the hard loss of a habit whose taste we’ve long acquired—calling ourselves Mormons. His revelation is to be understood and obeyed with faith.
“For much of the world, the Lord’s Church is presently disguised as the ‘Mormon Church.’ But we as members of the Lord’s Church know who stands at its head: Jesus Christ Himself,” President Nelson said. “I realize with profound regret that we have unwittingly acquiesced in the Lord’s restored Church being called by other names, each of which expunges the sacred name of Jesus Christ!”
Two-Hour Block not about Comfort or Convenience
We are a people preparing to meet the Lord. We were reminded of that again with eloquence and power in conference. This is not just an idea we toss around, but a reality. People can only be prepared to meet Him, because they have grown to have his image in their countenance and His goodness in their hearts. They must have an eye completely singled to His glory.
That means it will never be enough just to be active in the Church, Instead, God has to be active in your soul. It won’t be enough that the gospel doctrine teacher read the lesson and pondered the attached scriptures, we have to read the lesson and ponder the scriptures. It is not enough that the sister bearing her testimony knows how to get answers to prayers, we have to receive answers to our own prayers.
We used to think it was enough to give our very best efforts to teaching the gospel doctrine class at church. Now we have to give even better, more dedicated efforts to teaching the gospel at home.
The Church will assist us. The Church will support us, but now we are being gifted with the opportunity to take a much greater responsibility for our own spirituality and that of our children. The Lord is saying, “I want you to grow up in me.” No more passing the buck, expecting the Church to drag us along while we have one foot in Babylon. Nobody can place in my heart, what I have not been willing to work on to place in my heart—that deepening tie to God. Our families cannot live on someone else’s borrowed light.
When we took our young children on family vacations, they rode in the back seat of the car, blissfully watching the passing scenes and asking how many hours until we got there. They weren’t invested in the map of the area. They didn’t know exactly where we were. They just rode along, because someone else was in charge. Perhaps, as hard as we have tried, we have been just a little like those children in the car, where we have taken less responsibility for our spiritual lives, and expected that our attendance and activity at Church was enough.
President Nelson said, “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 home-centered church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward and stake buildings.”
What a profound invitation President Nelson made to each family and individual. He asked us to “conscientiously and carefully… transform [your] home into a sanctuary of faith” and to “remodel your home into a center of gospel learning.”
The Lord has asked us to make our homes sacred where gospel learning flourishes. As the Adversary rages and ranges throughout the world, assaulting everything that is good, our children and grandchildren will be his special targets. This is how the Lord seeks to protect us and them in these days when Satan is trying to spread his darkness, and too often succeeds with our rising generation.
Gospel learning in the home is their protection. When they see how the gospel light permeates their parents’ minds and hearts, their minds and hearts become open to that light, too.
What would it look like to make our homes into a sanctuary of gospel learning? How would it change our conversations? What if our children and grandchildren had their scriptures out and marked them as we talked and learned to find related scriptures to bring into the conversation? What if our dinnertime talk often turned to something we were learning?
I think of Joseph Smith and his family sitting around a wooden table in their home, while, according to Lucy Mack Smith, “I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life.”
What if our family was also in a circle, enraptured by a spiritual topic? What if the young, wiggly ones were taught to look forward to the time, they could read and talk too?
How to remodel our home into a more spiritual sanctuary is something we will pray about and work on, but a quick parallel comes to mind.
We have many children, and it had never occurred to me that I wanted to homeschool any of them because they were so different in age and interest. Yet, when our youngest was in third grade, she had a teacher that was squashing her spirit. After two months of teary nights, when she cried herself miserably to sleep over school, we finally decided we had to do something about it.
After much prayer, we decided to take her out of the public school and homeschool her. President Nelson is suggesting that we turn our homes into a sanctuary for gospel learning. I had to turn our home very suddenly into a school for learning everything else. The steps I followed seem pertinent to this new gospel opportunity we have been given.
First, I understood that this was a very important task I had taken on. Nothing mattered to me more than the growth of her tender and absorbent mind, but I was also busy with a demanding job. I had to fully realize that schooling her would be my top priority, and I couldn’t begin to get casual about it, as if it didn’t matter or as if it would take care of itself. I couldn’t put her schooling somewhere down the list in my priorities. It mattered too much to her well being, and she mattered too much to me to just let it go. As her parent, I was also going to be her teacher, and I took that responsibility very seriously and prayerfully.
Second, I prepared myself well to teach her lessons. I looked at the material and learned it for myself each day, long before we sat down together. Teaching the gospel in our homes will mean we learn in advance of our family and we study and ponder the scriptures with hunger and eagerness. We cannot give our children what we don’t have. This is a serious invitation to step up our own game.
Third, I searched for the best materials and books to use in teaching her. If one math program was better than another, she got the best. If one spelling program was more delightful than another, she got the best. We are blessed with a new curriculum from the Church to teach our families, plus libraries full of supporting materials at lds.org. We are being offered the best.
Fourth, we did hands on projects. We marked her books and made notes in the margin. We became explorers together of new ideas. I tried to make it fun and interesting for both of us, so that she would fall in love with the learning and not dread our homeschool time together each day.
Fifth, our conversations were enhanced by everything we had studied together. We would be riding in the car and be talking about birds of the wetlands or what particles are sub-atomic—and she was only in third grade. But we were interested in everything together that we had studied. I would say to her, “Does this remind you of…”—and then fill in the blank with something we were studying together that day.” Our conversations were lively and fun and intriguing to both of us.
At the end of the year, she tested into the gifted program, so went back to another magnet school, far away from the teacher who had tormented her, but those days together I will never forget.
Recently, when she had graduated from BYU, I asked her what her favorite academic moment had been in her life. She answered, “It was when I was home schooled.”
If I could make my home into a school all those years ago, can my husband and I make it into a sanctuary now to lead us closer to the Savior and protect us and our loved ones from the Adversary? I want to take that invitation and live it.
When people have sought through the centuries to make places a sanctuary or a sacred place, they have added stained-glass windows or soaring spires. What will I do for my home to make it a more sacred place of gospel living that is home-centered and church-supported? We won’t have stained-glass windows or spires, but I am certain the Lord will answer my questions about how to be a more devoted disciple, starting right at home.