What Makes a House a Home?

Merriam-Webster assigns this definition to the word ‘word’: “A speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.” As a communicator and a lover of linguistics, that fascinates me. It is intriguing how a “speech sound” can be powerful enough to evoke in us emotion, move us to action, and prompt us to reminisce or even ponder future possibilities. It is equally intriguing how words are defined one way in a particular area, culture, or generation and can completely change in another. Some words even have essentially the same meaning, according to the dictionary, but a completely different essence in society.

For example, according to the dictionary that I referenced, ‘house’ is defined as “a building that serves as living quarters.” ‘Home’ is defined as “one’s place of residence.” They are both simply defined terms that refer to a building or a location with very little sentiment attached. In regular conversation, however, ‘home’ and ‘house’ are used in very different senses. 

I recently began to ponder the difference between these two words in reference to my own residence. I love my house. It’s an absolutely adorable little condo that is perfectly painted with my favorite colors. It is the perfect size for this stage in my life and is in a great location. We have nice parking and a HOA that takes care of the lawn. My parents, my husband, and I recently re-did the flooring throughout the condo, so I also feel a deep sense of pride from that DIY project. It is great for entertaining and is easy to keep clean. Most importantly, after about eight months of living there, my husband and I finally got around to hanging up many of our favorites photos. Now the walls are filled with some of our most precious memories. Overall, the condo is comfortable and cozy.

As I observed the beautiful collage of photos that my husband hung up, I thought to myself how much of a difference it made in how our house looked. We joked that everyone would assume that I was the one who decorated the house when in reality it was mostly him. We also commented to each other how the condo felt more “homey” than it had with blank walls. There was a significant difference in the look of the house and it did feel different, better even. But I thought to myself how even the most impeccably decorated house can lack what makes a home.

As President Dennis B. Nueunschwander said, homes are meant to be holy places. Though not always tranquil, they can be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. The Lord has said that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there shall He be (Matthew 18:20), and we know that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Galatians 5:20-21).

When we strive for these things, the Spirit is able to reside in our house. When we as families have a relationship with Jesus Christ and treat each other with love and longsuffering, we can transform our houses into homes. Here, the difference between the essence of the word “house” and “home” becomes clear. A house is a shelter from physical conditions while a home, under the influence of the Spirit, becomes a shelter from all other manner of ailments. It should be a refuge, a sanctuary, and a place of learning. In an environment that is conducive to communication with the Spirit, we prepare each other to be a part of the world.

In fact, Gordon B. Hinckley is quoted as saying, “The way to strengthen the nation is to strengthen the homes of the people,” and Mother Teresa has said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”

Ultimately, our homes on Earth prepare us for our return to our heavenly homes. We are taught that the same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us in the eternities (D&C 130:2). Eternally, we will be back in our heavenly home with our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our eternal families.

Rearranging the furniture, repainting, and hanging up pictures are all aspects of transforming a house into a home. But the most important aspect is the Spirit. May we all strive to invite the Spirit into our homes and allow it to strengthen us and prepare us for our divine destinies.

Koby Lopez is 22 years old and happily married. She and her husband are both studying at Texas A&M University and are enjoying their newlywed/student life, but are also excited to graduate and start a family. Koby loves surprises and tries to focus on the little things in life. Her personal motto is "preparation brings blessings."

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