Carrie Niu eloquently shared some “whys” and “hows” to fortify our homes with strength and holiness against the attacks of the adversary.
The following are Carrie’s thoughts:
Fortifying Our Homes Against the Adversary
Elder Ronald A. Rasband delivered a talk April 2019 General Conference about making our homes into fortresses of spirituality and protection. He specifically focused on spiritually protecting ourselves from the wickedness in the world, and I’ll do my best to add something worthwhile to that theme.
I can identify three vital reasons in these latter days we need to fortify our homes into spiritual strongholds: 1. To combat the wickedness of the world; the evil that exists amongst the living. 2. There is also tangible and real evil that exists amongst the non-living that we need to safeguard against. 3. We need to nurture a home environment that allows for spiritually guided instruction about the Lord and His teachings, because there may well come a day when we will not be able to do so anywhere else.
The first reason—the wickedness of the living world around us—is difficult to cover without also talking about reason #2, a tangible and real evil that exists amongst the non-living as well. President James E. Faust once said,
“It is not good practice to become intrigued by Satan and his mysteries….However, Brigham Young said that it is important to ‘study evil, and its consequences.'”
The prince of darkness. The great imitator. The adversary. Nephi described his ways thus,
“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Nephi 28:21–22).
He did not begin as such. He was a powerful angel of God. “And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God,” is how he is described in D&C 76:25, before falling from favor and defying God.
The Adversary and His Hosts
There are thousands of ancient texts that have been discovered. Our church has some, and other churches and organizations around the world have some, and they are fairly accessible and are truly bevies of information for us to read. Church archives in Jerusalem house a fascinating account in an old Coptic text from a sermon called, “Discourse of the Abbaton.” In it, many scenes from the Book of Moses are perfectly captured with precision, but the confrontation with Adam and the devil holds great detail. And even more so, the ordinance with which God removed Lucifer from office and took his power from him is described step by step. The extreme sorrow of the host of angels that performed the ordinance in grief is powerfully descriptive.
Just unbelievable drama, unfolded for us in astonishing detail. This is difficult for some of us to imagine. This once great being, first favored, then cast from God’s presence, now here outwitting and deceiving the world over, at all times. And Satan is not alone in his evil works. Look around you. One-third of your family is missing. They know you. They’ve known you for eons of time. And they want to destroy you because you chose right, and they were fooled into choosing folly. Now they are probably jealous and vengeful.
When the Adversary is not tending to us himself, one-third of the original host is. Revelation 12: 9 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Being Aware of What We Invite Into Our Homes
There are many ways to invite evil into our homes. Now with the internet, there’s a virtual portal of hate and horrors we can potentially let in through our cell phones, our computers, our TV, and our tablets. Satan has multiple points of entry that he never had in times past, through multiple people. And he uses them well.
When I was young, I did not attempt to get my patriarchal blessing when I came of age. I waited. And I waited. I waited for years. I remember just being indifferent to spiritual things. Church was more of a chore than anything else.
But when I was eighteen, I got in trouble because my friend decided to shoplift when she was staying at my house one weekend. And everything changed for me and it all turned around. It made me look at myself, and who I hung around with, and prompted me to change and seek out the Lord more in my life.
So I began reading my scriptures and praying every day. And right before I was supposed to start my freshman year at BYU where I was going to play volleyball, I got my patriarchal blessing. It was a truly marvelous event.
But despite the spirit being in my parents’ home and with me for what seemed like all the time, something dark was brought in by one of my family members. It was dark and it did not want me to follow the Lord. We didn’t know it at the time, but drugs were being abused in the basement.
This produced one of the most terrifying environments I’ve ever been in, and I hope to never be in anything like it again. And it happened during one of the most spiritual times in my life. That is not a coincidence.
But I was lucky to have a father with the priesthood to see us through it. Watch what you invite into your home. Whether it be through the internet, items you physically bring in, or people you bring in. If they are not of God or have no function for good, they do not belong in your home. I testify to you of this.
Waiting to Destroy
The one-third part of heaven that followed Satan has been here since long before we arrived. Eras have passed, and they made this their kingdom. Then Adam came and interrupted their dominion. But it is still theirs, though we are here in our bubbles of light. That’s how I describe having the spirit and the light of the gospel to my son Merrick. When we’re walking to school or in our home, “you’re in a protected bubble of light” (as long as you don’t do anything stupid).
But Satan’s followers have waited here for their own families to arrive to destroy them. They are real. They are dark and dreadful. They have names. And they are aiding and abetting Lucifer, the master of lies. But remember, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him.”
All around us we see themes in the media, in schools, at social functions: compulsion and desire disguised as harmless fun, victimhood disguised as empowerment, bondage disguised as loyalty, vengeance disguised as justice, group-think disguised as agency, and probably the worst is the dehumanization of our most innocent, so they might be killed en masse with greater ease, all day long, every day. The father of lies is the father of these themes. You can reject them if you can identify them.
He is a deceitful master of flattery and a great orator. “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:4).
My friend Lexi’s great uncle, former Guatemala City Temple President, Ernest Hatch once said, “The devil is not smart because he is the devil; he is smart because he is old.” And indeed, beyond ancient. But if he were to take physical form, I promise you, he would not appear like a hellish horned creature. To quote King Lear, “The father of lies is a gentleman.” He would be physically handsome and perfect to behold. Because he’s that golden Son of the Morning, the great imitator right? The ultimate salesman.
But his presence brings nothing but dread, despair, and terror. In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, he provided us with an interesting and eerily true sense of how the devil works. In a fictional letter, the master devil, Screwtape, teaches his apprentice, Wormwood, who is in training to become a more experienced devil:
You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. … It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. … Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
See what cunning we are dealing with? Fortifying our homes against the evil outside them is essential. Consistent prayer is a must—speak with the Lord, ask Him to dwell in your homes. I just recently hung a lot of pictures around the house that I’ve been meaning to hang, and one of them is a print of Christ exiting the tomb on the third day from the vantage point behind Him with the light streaming in all around Him from where the stone rolled away. It may sound silly, but I put it in a spot in our hallway to stand guard over our rooms.
“Come, Follow Me”—just do the lessons. I have a testimony of “Come, Follow Me.” My husband’s last deployment disrupted our rhythm but this has been a great reminder to get back in rhythm with it. Family Time—be together and make memories. Good media—what you watch, read, and listen to, absolutely influences what enters your home. Harmony in our family relationships—kindness comes from God. Be kind. Be generous. Forgive. These are things I need to work on too.
Prepare Homes for the Future Day
Reason #3 to build up our homes as spiritual fortresses by preparing for a future day when we may not be able to congregate for church services. Please consider this statistic if you doubt the possibility of this potential eventuality: The average nation-state’s constitution lasts 17 years before it is disposed and rewritten for another. The Constitution of the United States is 229 years old in 2019. We have far-exceeded the global historical average life span of any constitution ever written. I think that’s probably a testament to how divine the document is.
While amazing to ponder, there is a dark side to that statistic. How long do we have before the divinely inspired basis of our great nation’s government is discarded? We don’t know. Our 1st Amendment right is the key to our liberty, and our ability to worship as we do now.
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life (Doctrine and Covenants 134:2).
What I do know, is what I heard in person from my last Stake President back in 2016 that made me eyes widen like saucers. He told us, “We’ve been counseled by the First Presidency, and I feel impressed today to tell you all that there will come a time when you will not be able to gather here to worship, and you will have to hold church services in your own homes.” Now maybe that was a regional message. Or maybe it was for a future generation. Maybe not. I can’t be sure without more information. But I heard it, and my parents heard it, and my aunt heard it exactly how I’ve described.
I just read a news article yesterday about a Russian Jehovah’s Witness on trial for the crime of worshipping according to his faith. All he did was hold a regular worship service. There are 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses facing criminal charges because the Russian government declared it an extremist organization. Reminds me of King Nebadchudnazzer’s law to worship his golden idol in Daniel 3:11-12,: “And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
The British Guardian published an article a few years back about the dramatic increase worldwide in Christian persecution, releasing a list of all of the countries hostile to Christians. There were 25 countries on that list where it’s commonly illegal to convert from the state religion to Christianity, illegal to own a Bible in nearly all of the countries on this list, and in many cases an official death sentence if found to be a Christian. But always, no matter what, persecution and beatings are the norms. Anti-Christian themes are everywhere and growing. Watch for them.
Preparing Our Homes to be Temples
We need to prepare our houses to be temples at home. Not too long ago, I was looking at the University of Chicago’s online project on Ancient Mesopotamia. They have lessons and lectures online that you can easily access from their website. And when I clicked on the links directing to Ancient Sumer, I found something very interesting about the oldest civilization known to man—no matter how affluent or poor a family was, their houses included these features: an outer wall to protect small livestock and belongings, a room for worship with an altar, and three stories.
A room for worship with an altar. And three levels. The Ancient Sumerians literally made their homes into temples. So that got me interested in other ancient civilizations. Across Mesopotamia and the Middle East, that trend was common. I’m not suggesting we need altars in our homes, but I found this really fascinating. And in a way, it was a stark reminder of how secular our world is, how God has been pushed into the Sunday corner of the week only in the modern world.
In the ancient world, their lives literally revolved around how to please their god or gods. Maybe they did not have the gospel like we do (or maybe some of them did), but they had a cultural and religious tradition we are wholly devoid of in our time—making the home a temple and consecrating our lives to God. It confirmed to me the divinity in this counsel from the church, and how important the “Come, Follow Me” program is.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “A temple is literally a house of the Lord. A place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.” I can honestly say I personally need to do much better at what President Uchtdorf is saying.