Recently, while walking through the SLC school, I considered my experiences in home building.
A few summers after Gina and I were married, we traveled to Alaska with three young children. I was an English teacher at the time, and we decided to spend a summer working in Fairbanks, building homes with Gina’s father and mother.
Gina’s father is a general contractor. He and Mom moved to Alaska in the 1970s to build homes for pipeline workers and families at Eielson Air Force Base, southeast of Fairbanks.
While observing how to build homes, I noted a pattern of repeated phases: planning, foundation laying, framing, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, insulation, drywall, painting, interior and exterior finishes.
The phases of home construction remind me of phases of human development. Every one of us and our children pass through phases.
Ten life lessons I learned through considering construction include the following ideas:
1) Planning. Planning determined the result of each project. The owner’s desires and goals led to various results. In life, we are blessed according to our vision and desires (Alma 29:1). Our lives do not drift far from our desires. If we desire to do good, we tend to find a way to do it. If we desire to be useful in the hands of the Lord in bringing others to Him for healing, he will call, direct, and guide us (see Doctrine and Covenants 4).
2) Foundation Laying. Laying footings below the Alaska permafrost line avoids the powerful shifting of summer thaw and winter freeze—a ceaseless cycle that destroys buildings and roads built on shifting grounds. When our personal foundations are built on Jesus Christ and his prophets, we are on firm ground. We withstand the shifting doctrines of men because we are firmly planted on the doctrine of Christ, which is unchanging truth, rock-solid ground beneath all else, much of which is transitory and shifting.
3) Framing. Within a short time, walls, windows, doorways, rafters, and a roof appear! The shape of a house becomes obvious, and although this is exciting, much remains before the home is finished: plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall, roofing, and finish work. Similarly, children grow quickly into young men and women. They look like adults, but in order to become mature adults who live well, youth still need much more preparation regarding divine purpose, skills, service-learning experiences, heartfelt covenants, and continual pathways for personal revelation.
4) Plumbing. Plumbing facilitates sanitation. Kitchen sinks wash away messes of food preparation. Restroom plumbing removes waste. Showers help us keep clean. Can you imagine a home without plumbing? Similarly, when children learn the joy of repentance—to recognize, acknowledge, confess, apologize, forsake, and serve—they learn the joy of sanitary living, keeping themselves clean and free from the figurative “stains” and “smells” of sin.
5) Electrical. Electricity supplies power to lights, appliances, tools, and devices in the home. The internet provides connection to endless information. Similarly, as children learn consistently by study and faith, they connect themselves to Jesus Christ’s light and imbue their lives with His inexhaustible promise of priesthood power, personal revelation, and spiritual light. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
6) HVAC. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (or HVAC) are intended to make home life comfortable internally under any external weather circumstances. Similarly, children who learn Christlike manners, attributes, skills, and behaviors are prepared to comfort and encourage all who associate with them.
7) Insulation. Insulation moderates temperature and sound volume in a home. Mature individuals control their temper, tone, and volume, often communicating in measured, positive tones and kind voices.
8) Internal finish work. Drywall, mudding, taping, sanding, painting, molding, cabinetry, flooring, doors, and hardware all are internal refinements that make the home a delight to live in. Analogously, there are many personal habits and spiritual refinements, such as prayer, work, organization of time and money, gratitude, thoughtful communication, service, and family traditions that beautify our lives and relationships, refining and finishing them into something beautiful.
9) Exterior finish work: Roofing and siding/stucco/brick/stone. The exterior of a home can add beauty, and also adds protection and durability. Similarly, the “basics” (i.e. family scripture study, prayer, meals, and home evening), plus family traditions and family stories, bring protection, strength, and durability to our families.
10) Landscaping. Landscaping can make a home beautiful and inviting. We can make our personalities and families lovely and inviting. We can include others in the circles of our love, just as the Savior did. We can let our lives so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our father in heaven (see Matthew 5:16).
Building houses is one metaphor for the phases of life. There are many other analogies to life development: planting, gardening, and seasons; weather; metamorphosis: egg, larva, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly; and a hero’s journey, to name a few. Developmental phases continue throughout life.
The concept of phases has implications for how we parent. When we remember that children pass through phases, we are more patient with them, and we help them mature. The Lord is preparing them for great things.
I hope we remember that God loves us in our current phases, but he is not content with us staying forever in our current phase. In His infinite love, he provides ways for us to grow. The more we seek to discover and obey his Truth, the more we grow in each phase and the sooner we progress to another phase! Our growth and progress accelerates as we consistently keep his commandments (see Doctrine and Covenants 111:11).
What phase(s) of life are you experiencing? What phases might you, your child, your family, or your community experience? How can you prepare for an upcoming season/phase of life? What truths, if understood and applied, would move you gracefully into and through the next phase or season?
Here’s one truth I am learning: patiently loving individuals through each phase of life can make a significant, positive difference in the growth of individuals and families.
–Leland Anderson, Principal