Sunday, May 27, 2012

Building a House After the Manner of the Lord, Pt. 1

"Verily I say unto you, it is my will that you should build a house.  If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it.

"Now here is wisdom, and the mind of the Lord—let the house be built, not after the manner of the world, for I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world;

"Therefore, let it be built after the manner which I shall show..." (D&C 95:11,13-14)

Joseph Smith and the early flock were living in Kirtland, Ohio.  The Lord, anxious to pour out the blessings of heaven to the earth by way of eternal covenant, chastened the saints for having neglected his instruction to build a temple in Kirtland.  These were very special blessings; they could not be delivered to mankind in a random structure.  It had to be constructed, organized, and dedicated in God's way, "...not after the manner of the world," but "after the manner which I shall show." 

Holy scripture is replete with instances of 'peculiar' construction plans given from heaven.  Noah's ark, the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon's temple, Nephi's ships, the Jaredite fleet of dish-tight vessels, and others.  These miracles of construction could never have been conceived in the mind of man during the era of their conception, and some were built by marginally trained hands.  Some of these builders were placing their very lives on the line, trusting that the structure God designed would preserve and even deliver them. 

The Mormon pioneers erected temples twice, in Kirtland and in Nauvoo, Illinois, during periods of poverty and unimaginable persecution.  They were then made to abandon their beloved houses of the Lord and try again in a desert no-man's-land outside the existing boundaries of their country.  But try again they did, expending forty years of sweat and sacrifice to make a virtual castle to God rise up out of the dust of opposition.  In every case, these were not ordinary blueprints.  In every case, ordinary men and women became extraordinary by ignoring the constructs of their time and opening their minds to the divine 'building code' of the Father.

The world is a different place now than it has ever been in human history.  Everything is global-- communication, the food system, government, information.  An entire metropolis is bound by the same power, water, and natural gas grids.  Some widely populated areas produce no food of their own and all is brought in from great distances.  Neighborhoods and farms have fallen to subdivisions, apartments, and business complexes.  Everything needful to existence is, for far too many, dependent on the price and availability of fuel-- to move the trucks and ships that move sustenance from where it's produced to where they live.  And a good portion of us never settle down, moving place to place as we follow a career or pursue greener grass wherever it appears to have taken root.  In fine, more than ever before, the lives and livelihoods of earth's inhabitants are tightly intertwined and even entangled.

'Home' is undervalued.  An individual home is practically invisible, even irrelevant, in the noise and clatter of a global society.  Yet the divinely inspired structure we are commanded to build today, the vital task that will ensure our survival, is not an ark or a dish-like barge, but a house-- one house dedicated to God.  One home 'after the manner of the Lord.'  This is the structure that will preserve our families as personal and global calamities arise.  And each family's 'peculiar work' is its own.  Until that holy structure is in place in our own lives, we are of little use to the rest of earth's family.

"Not after the manner of the world," our Father told the Mormon pioneers.  We are neither wise enough to see what the future holds nor smart enough to build a home that can withstand that future which we cannot see.  The world's blueprint is foolishness.  A house after the manner of God cannot be constructed out of corrupt materials-- not the idealism of modern American culture (e.g. The Brady Bunch) nor the false and fabricated assumptions of pop culture (e.g. the Pritchetts from the aptly named Modern Family). 

No white picket fence, manicured lawn, meticulous interior design, or fashionable location will produce a vessel that can withstand the storms of this life and defend a family.  Not if it has no foundation in Christ, if it does not follow the blueprint laid out for us in his gospel, if we attempt to outsmart the instructions by cutting corners or adopting personal changes in the middle of the build. 

We can build no such divine home if we do not accept that his wisdom will always vastly exceed ours, that nothing we can do of ourselves will ever be as airtight and impenetrable as the perfect, peculiar, curious instructions he has provided--curious because we could never make sense of it on our own!  Nor will we ever understand its exquisite beauty until the last nail is hammered into the last board, the last stroke of paint is applied.  Until, as Joseph Smith related, we "cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed" (D&C 123:17).