“Set Thine House in Order”

King Hezekiah provided steady, fearless leadership to his people during the invasion of the Assyrian army, the same army which had destroyed their northern neighbors. After the Assyrians withdrew, Hezekiah faced a more personal challenge: He became ill and was about to die. The prophet Isaiah, who had fortified Hezekiah’s faith throughout the invasion, now came with a grim message:

Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

2 Kings 20:1, Isaiah 38:1

In response to Hezekiah’s fervent prayer, the Lord subsequently gave Hezekiah some additional time: fifteen years, in fact. During those extra years, Hezekiah’s wife gave birth to a son, Manasseh, who would become the next king of Judah.

The instruction to “set in order thine house” could simply have been the Lord’s way of saying, “Put your affairs in order,” but I think it’s significant that the Lord didn’t tell him to set in order his country or his personal life. His focus was on Hezekiah’s family responsibilities.

In 1833, Joseph Smith received a transcendent revelation about light, knowledge, spirit, and truth. Partway through the revelation, the Lord suddenly became very practical and specific: “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth,” He said. Then He began to reprove specific church leaders. To Frederick G. Williams, He said, “You have not taught your children light and truth…. If you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.” To Sidney Rigdon, He said, “First set in order thy house.” And he told Newell K. Whitney to “set in order his family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40-44, 50, italics added).

After King Benjamin’s people received a remission of their sins, he reminded them of the importance of their responsibilities as parents:

Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another….

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

Mosiah 4:14-15

In 1999, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to church members worldwide which said, “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.” They added, “However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (Letter dated 11 February 1999, quoted in Russell M. Nelson, “Set in Order Thy House,” General Conference, October 2001).

Today, I will focus on my responsibilities as a father. I will think about what I can do for my immediate family members and remember the importance of nourishing them both physically and spiritually, and bringing light and truth into their lives.

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