Coming Home

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(This is an excerpt from the book Refuge and Reality: The Blessings of the Temple by Elder John H. Groberg.)

A middle-aged couple visited my office in the temple. With radiant faces they asked if they could talk with me for a moment. I invited them in, and the husband said, “Jane and I have been to three sessions today. After the last one we spent some time in the celestial room and had the feeling that if you were still here, we would like to tell you what wonderful workers you have. They have all been very kind and helpful to us.” They looked at each other, and then with a bit of a catch in his voice and a little mist in her eyes, he proceeded, “We also want to tell you that after years of searching we finally feel that we have come home.” After a brief hesitation he concluded, “That’s all. Thanks for your time.”

There was a special warmth and goodness about them, and I asked if they would give me a little more detail. They nodded and between them told me their story.

She had been reared in a less-active home not too far from Idaho Falls. He had grown up in a nonmember home in the Midwest. Religion had not been a very big part of either of their lives. At eighteen she left home for a job in California, where she met him while he was serving in the military. They eventually married and had two sons. At one point they had wondered if a church might be helpful in raising their boys and discussed it a little, but since their chosen military career brought frequent transfers and a busy life, they hadn’t done anything about it.

When their sons became teenagers, serious challenges presented themselves, and once again they discussed religion as a possible help. She mentioned that she had been reared a Mormon and knew the Church had good youth activities. He wasn’t sure what church he might have been a member of, so they decided to try the Mormon Church.

They found some information about the Church on their base and began attending. But before long they were transferred again. When they arrived at their new base, they were surprised and happy to find that someone had sent word ahead, and a missionary couple met them.

After receiving teaching and fellowshipping, the four of them were baptized. Their oldest son soon left for college but unfortunately did not stay active in the Church. The parents and their younger son became quite active and were very happy. They were transferred a few more times and fortunately found good Church support wherever they landed.

They were very concerned for their oldest son, as he was beginning to live in dangerous ways and rebuffed their efforts to help him change course. Their youngest son, on the other hand, stayed true, and when he turned nineteen received a call to serve a mission. He was excited and invited his older brother to come to the sacrament meeting where he would be speaking before leaving. His brother half-heartedly responded that he would try to come.

Two weeks before the sacrament meeting, they received a call that their oldest son had been killed in an auto accident. They were devastated. Their world turned upside down. But their youngest son held to his desire to serve a mission. After the funeral, he assured his parents that things would be all right. He had been studying the missionary discussions and shared many important principles with his parents, including details of the plan of salvation. Despite their having been members of the Church for a few years, they had not yet been to the temple. Their missionary son asked them to come to the temple when he received his endowment, but they did not feel ready. He challenged them to be ready by the time he returned so they could go to the temple and be sealed as a family. They promised they would try.

Their son served a wonderful mission, and with the encouragement he included in his letters, the help of dedicated local leaders, and their desire to fulfill his request, his parents were ready for the temple when he returned. The whole family, including the deceased son, was sealed for eternity. Their missionary son remained active, attended college, married in the temple, and eventually took a job in southeastern Idaho.

When the couple received their next transfer, they decided to retire from the military at the end of that tour of duty and began thinking about where to live and what to do for the rest of their lives. Since the wife’s roots were close to where their son now lived, they decided to move there and be close to him and his family.

For the first time in their married life, they now felt a sense of permanency. Their new ward and stake quickly got them involved, and month by month they increased in their understanding of the gospel. Even though they had not been back to the temple since their sealing some years earlier, their bishop asked them to help teach a temple preparation course. At first they declined, saying they didn’t know enough, but eventually they accepted the assignment to team-teach with another, more experienced couple. The course lasted several weeks with four other couples attending.

As they prepared the lessons and helped teach each week, their testimonies and desire to be in the temple grew steadily stronger. Before long they had their recommends and were attending the temple regularly. The more they attended, the better they felt. Now, after spending most of the day in the temple, they were in my office telling me how much they appreciated the ordinance workers and how, after much wandering, they finally felt they were “home.”

I explained that this feeling was from God, and because the temple actually is His home on earth, it whispers to their spirits that they have been in these familiar surroundings before. Holding each other’s hand, they whispered, “Yes, we know.” I sensed an even deeper radiance about them than before.

When they left, I pondered on their joy at “being home.” I recalled a widower who had spoken to me not long before, saying that someone had told him he was too old to come to the temple as often as he did and suggested he stay home. “But, President,” he said, “this is home. I am home in the temple. Everything is familiar—the softness, the whiteness, the kindness, the love, the forgiveness, the helpfulness, the mercy, the promises, the opportunities, the ordinances, the duties, the desire to be better—this is where I want to be.” I assured him he was welcome to come “home” anytime he could.

He passed away a few weeks after this conversation. I attended his funeral, and at one point I seemed to see him smiling and saying, “You see, it really is home.”

I better understood the universal longing we all have to “go home” or to invite lost loved ones to “come home.” Being in the temple transcends time and space, for planted deep within each of us is a desire to “be home” in a place where we feel safe, loved, and needed and are surrounded by family. Those feelings are actually echoes of what we felt in our heavenly home. That is why the world’s great art, music, and literature are saturated with the theme of wanting to be “home.” Regardless of language, culture, or era, the feelings generated by the theme of longing for and going home resonate in every heart. We are touched by masterfully crafted poems, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem”:

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Many have been moved by such flowing musical passages as Antonin Dvorak’s hauntingly beautiful theme commonly called “Going Home.” Many have felt inspired, even brought to tears, by songs involving home, such as a current favorite from the Broadway musical Les Miserables entitled “Bring Him Home.” Most of us have also been captivated by paintings of pastoral scenes with a simple title, such as The Hills of Home.

These feelings for home become even stronger when we read the scriptures, pray, listen to our leaders, and attend the temple. At these and other similar times, something stirs within us and recalls faintly remembered feelings and dimly perceived settings that we know are real.

In addition to placing within each of us this longing to “come home,” the Lord has placed temples (His homes) on earth where we can go and fulfill that longing. When we go to the temple, we respond literally to his invitation to “come unto him” (Matthew 11:28).

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