Homemakers can empathize with Emma's cleaning plight

One winter day nearly 161 years ago, Emma Smith complained about the uncleanliness of a room located just above her kitchen, and about the extra work she had to do to clean that room.

When the story behind the revelation on the Word of Wisdom (Section 89) is related, homemakers everywhere can empathize with Emma. The revelation was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith on Feb. 27, 1833, at Kirtland, Ohio. One version of the story about the revelation was related by Brigham Young in a discourse in Provo, Utah, on Feb. 8, 1868:"I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at the time to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph's kitchen, in a house which belonged to Bishop Whitney, and which was attached to his store, which store probably might be about fifteen feet square. In the rear of this building was a kitchen, probably ten by fourteen feet, containing rooms and pantries. Over this kitchen was situated the room in which the Prophet received revelations and in which he instructed his brethren. The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry."

While it may be assumed most Latter-day Saint homemakers today don't have tobacco-stained rooms to clean, many still have the primary responsibility of contending with the clutter, dirt and grime left in the wake of day-to-day living in their homes. However, unlike women in Emma's day, many today have raised to a fine art the skill of getting family members to assume more responsibility for maintaining clean homes.

Kristine Johnson of the Farmington 9th Ward, Farmington Utah South Stake, was interviewed by the Church News about her views of the importance of maintaining a clean home. While stating that the home she shares with her husband, Dee, and their six children is not "picture perfect," she spoke of the benefits brought by cleanliness and order.

"You need to feel comfortable in your home regardless of what kind of furnishings you have or what kind of house you live in," she said. "I think it's important that when your children walk in from school that they feel good about coming home.

"It's easier to concentrate on things that are important when you have a clean environment, whether you need to meditate on things personally, or, as a family, read the scriptures or have family home evening. Getting your life together or handling a busy schedule seems easier if you have order in your home. If your house is uncluttered, your mind seems uncluttered and better able to handle day-to-day living.

"We need to keep things in perspective: We're in the process of raising children. Things are just things. We want everyone to feel happy with our home, but having a clean house is not our purpose for being here. We need to feel good about our home, but we need to be able to use our home for its purpose. A home should be lived in, and not just looked at. I know people who won't let their children come inside and play, let alone bring their friends in, because they might track in mud or get something dirty."

Sister Johnson feels that children can be taught how to use their homes and furnishings without abusing them, and that one of the most effective ways of teaching that is to give them responsibilities. "When children help keep the home in order, they gain a feeling of ownership," she said. "They feel that the sofa doesn't belong just to Mom, but it's theirs, too."

Following are some of Sister Johnson's suggestions:

Find a place for everything. "My mother taught me one of keystones of keeping an orderly home is that there needs to be a place for everything and everything needs to be in its place."

Teach children at a young age to do their share. "It's easier to do some things yourself, so you need to have patience. Everybody has daily tasks, but we get everybody together for a big cleaning session on Saturday mornings. I used to get frustrated, but then I started looking at things differently. Instead of thinking, I'm cleaning house,' I now remind myself,I'm teaching my children how to clean house.' "

Instill a sense of pride for a job well done. "Sometimes after we've finished cleaning, before the children go off to play with their friends or go about their other activities, I have them just stand in a room and look around. I say, `Doesn't this look nice? How do you feel about what you've done?' "

Establish a habit of cleaning. "I don't think any of us would say we love to clean house, but we've established the habit of picking up things. Even the younger ones don't like to see things out of their place and will put things away. It doesn't happen easily, and it takes a while to form a good habit."

Set standards, but don't expect perfection. "When you give your children responsibility to help maintain a clean home, your house won't always be as clean as if you had done everything yourself. If you want perfection, you nag. But that doesn't work because you end up with bad feelings in a super clean house. You want to have good feelings in your home."

Be there. "You need to work with them. Our cleaning experience isn't the wonderful, charming sort of thing where everyone smiles all the time. It's not our favorite activity, but it's something that helps us feel more united."

Be flexible in assigning tasks. "We've had to adjust cleaning chores for our children as they've grown older. Teens tend to be very busy with school and, if they live in an area where they have early-morning seminary, they might be especially pressed for time to do daily tasks at home. But they still need to feel some responsibility. We adjusted by giving them something bigger to do on the weekend, like cleaning the refrigerator or some other `big-ticket' cleaning job."

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