Hymn text by John Hugh McNaughton, 1829-1891. View the full text of this hymn.

This, along with “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” might be the most-played hymn in the entire book. We often hear beginning piano students plunking out the familiar “bum ba bum ba bum bum bum, bum ba bum bum bum.” The melody and chords are simple, and it’s fitting, because the message is just as simple. The word “love” appears nineteen times in the hymn (an even twenty if you count the title), just in case the theme eludes you, but there’s a very specific sort of love we’re talking about. Listen:

There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound
When there’s love at home.

We’re talking about creating loving, strong families. We’re talking about creating refuges from the forces of anger and hate. We’re talking about a place that we can feel safe, whether that’s four walls protecting us from a howling wind or an embrace protecting us from hurtful words. We are taught to make our homes holy places where the Spirit can dwell, and when we do so, we can certainly expect beauty and joy to abound in our homes.

But take another look at those words. Which places do you suppose the author referred to when he wrote that there was beauty “all around?” Which sounds fall under the category of “ev’ry?” Certainly we can expect there to be joy in our homes when there is love there, but I don’t think we’re to take such a narrow definition of “all” and “ev’ry.” I think we’re meant to understand that when we create loving homes, we can expect everywhere to abound with love. We can expect kindness and joy anywhere we go.

That’s not to say that everyone in the world has to first secure love at home for us to see this sort of effect. I think it means that we have to make sure that we teach love, and nothing but love. Showing your family that you love them isn’t too tricky, I think. We all have struggles with our families from time to time (some of us more than others), but the bonds of family are tight. For many of us, loving family isn’t difficult. The trick is teaching our families love for everyone else, too. It sends a mixed message when we tell a child with one breath how much we love them and with the next how we can’t believe the coach of the football team we’re watching would be so moronic as to call a draw play on 3rd and 17. We internalize these messages, and we learn, unfortunately, that we should love some people, but it’s okay not to love others. We end up teaching the message that there is joy in many sounds, but not all. Hate and envy occasionally annoy, and life becomes a bliss too incomplete.

The Lord counseled us to first cleanse the inner vessel in order to cleanse the outside. That can refer to purifying our hearts, certainly, but I think it can just as easily refer to purifying our families as well. When we take care to speak with love and gentleness in the home, we can’t help but do the same out of the home. We won’t be so quick to take offense from others (even when it’s intended!), but rather, we’ll be inclined to let it pass. We can see our fellow men not as adversaries, or even as strangers, but as friends, just as our Savior sees them.

That’s not to say that we won’t encounter frustrations, or that if we simply try to love our families a little more that we’ll somehow be able to go through life without any problems. We’re human, and we’re weak. We all have moments where we struggle, and we have them often. The Lord knows this, and He views those moments with mercy. As we make sincere efforts to treat others with love, and especially as we build homes of love to create strong families, He helps us to come to view the world as we sing in the final verse:

Kindly heaven smiles above
When there’s love at home;
All the world is filled with love
When there’s love at home.
Sweeter sings the brooklet by;
Brighter beams the azure sky.
Oh, there’s One who smiles on high
When there’s love at home.

One comment on “Hymn #294: Love at Home”

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