In the Book of Mormon, Lehi taught his son Jacob, “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things,” (2 Nephi 2:11). I know that he was referring to the battle between good and evil, but I’ve found that buying a house is no exception to that principle. The idea of a new place to call home is exciting, but with a family of six, finding a forever home within our budget that fit our needs wasn’t easy. As a buyer in the seller’s market of 2021, being one of the 20–50 offers on a home within 24 hours made the process even more daunting. Not being able to compete with all cash plus $50,000 over the asking price only increased our difficulties. During our search we found a fixer-upper that was so low-priced, we were able to offer $80,000 over asking, but we still didn’t get it because, according to the seller’s listing agent, we were outbid by a “ridiculous” amount.
It took a month of looking before we were able to narrow our search to an area outside of the Salt Lake Valley where we felt our offers would better withstand the winds of competition. We found a house that matched our immediate needs and had space to accommodate future plans. I fell in love with it and thought it would be perfect for our family. As I prayed for guidance regarding our potential offer, I felt prompted to fast that this one would go through.
This impression took me by surprise because after four pregnancies, I had gotten out of the habit of fasting.
I heeded the prompting. In starting my fast, I told Heavenly Father about the reasons why I felt the house and surrounding area would work for our family. One major plus was that a temple was being built nearby and regular attendance would be easy. Before I could list my other reasons, a thought took me by surprise—Why aren’t you going to the temple now? My busy schedule of working nights and spending days with my children had been my reasons for lack of temple attendance. As I thought about that, another thought came to my head: You need to come back to the temple.
During my mission in Brazil, the nearest temple was three days away by boat. I returned home humbled by the access of temples here in Utah. Truly, I had no excuse for not participating in those sacred ordinances, and I knew it. So what started as a fast for guidance about a house turned into a determination to return to the Lord’s house. I talked to my husband about my experience and that night, we both made temple appointments. I was confident that if I went to the temple like I promised, we would get this house.
A few days later, I got a text from our agent. The sellers had chosen another offer.
I was sad; the house was so beautiful, and I wanted it so badly. I was also confused. While this wasn’t the first time that I hadn’t received something that I prayed for, this was the first time that I had been prompted to do something specific while I was praying for something else. I was so sure that the two had to be directly related—a perfect cause and effect. I’ve had too many experiences with the Spirit and prayer to doubt the Lord, so what was I missing?
After a few days of pondering, I realized that I was missing the same thing that I get upset at my children for doing: not paying attention. More times than I can count, they have come to me with a question and walked away while I was in the middle of answering it. I’ve often told them that listening is important and “a skill that has to be learned.” Apparently, listening during prayer is a skill that I needed to work on, too.
In a meaningful conversation, one person doesn’t do all of the talking or have carte blanche on the subjects to be discussed. Conversation doesn’t go in succession like a meeting agenda, either. We bounce around from topic to topic. Conversing with our Father in Heaven is no different, and I had forgotten that. My spiritual communication wasn’t actually a conversation. I had been leaving voice messages with some sort of pseudo-heavenly answering service and then turning my proverbial phone off. Due to my atypical schedule of working nights, I had not taken the time to decide when I could regularly converse with the Lord while undisturbed and mentally attentive. I’ve said prayers in my heart regularly and even tried to pray vocally in the car while on my way to or from work, but that’s no substitute for the fully-focused, pour-out-your-soul-in-your-closets type of prayer that Amulek taught about (see Alma 34:26). If I wasn’t taking the time to converse with the Lord, how could I have expected Him to converse with me?
This prayer to start my fast was the first time in a while that I had truly tried to seek the Lord in silence, undisturbed by everything around me. The prompting to return to His house came while I was starting my fast because I was conversing with Him, not at Him. In that prayer, I had brought up the temple, and it was like the Spirit was telling me, Since you brought it up, I’ve been wanting to tell you that you need to go back, but you weren’t really paying attention the other times.
A few months later, we moved into our forever home. It’s a house that fits both our immediate and future needs better than the other house ever could have. On top of that, it’s even closer to the soon-to-be-completed temple. But we’re not waiting to prioritize the temple for our family until it’s dedicated: My husband and I have continued to make appointments to do temple work. As a family, we go on drives to see how the construction on the new temple is going and talk about what’s likely going to be added next. When we drive home after visiting family and friends and my children ask the age-old question, “Are we there, yet?” I have started to say, “When you can see the temple, we’re home.”