This week I have had two different friends touring through southern France and posting pictures of the town of Carcasonne. I have enjoyed seeing their pictures that they have posted of this incredible medieval city. It reminded me of a message I had written back in 2004 for our church (ward) newsletter in Springville, Utah. It also reminded me of a more recent talk by Elder Neil L. Andersen in the April 2018 General Conference titled, “The Prophet of God.”
Carcassonne is one of my favorite cities in France. You are transported back to another time as you enter the walled city situated on top of a hill. I never served there while on my mission, but I’ve been able to visit several times since my mission. I love wandering the streets, walking the walls of the city, visiting shops, and peering out of the watchtowers. It is a place I highly recommend visiting if you are travelling in the southern part of France. It’s an unforgettable place. Here is what I wrote back in March, 2004. The message seems even more applicable today.
“In the southern part of France, not far from the Pyrenees, lies the medieval town of Carcassonne. Carcassonne dates back to at least 200 B.C. and has a long history of invasions and sieges. In the Middle Ages, Carcassonne was a major center for commerce and trade with the Middle East. It was a tempting, prosperous, target for any invader. Because of this, a massive wall was built around the city. At night the gates were closed and watchmen would look out for invaders. When the Crusaders from the North of France poured over the South with the intention of exterminating their southern neighbors, the Citadel of Carcassonne held out against the assault. After more attacks and several sieges it was decided to build an outer wall around the inner wall of the Citadel and to construct huge watchtowers so the watchmen could see aggressors coming from a distance. Now enemies were required to break down two walls of defense before they could attack the city. The city became impregnable. When the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, swept through Southern France in the Hundred Years War, he burned all the surrounding towns and cities, but did not even attempt to attack the fortified walls of Carcassonne.
Today we do not build walls around our city to fend off the Provo-ites from attacking Springville. We do not have a watchtower looking out for aggressive Spanish Forkers trying to sneak within our city limits. But we do need to build lines of defense against an extremely cunning and dangerous enemy. Satan is attacking the family. The family is the oldest institution on the earth, dating back to Adam and Eve. We cannot build walls of rock and cement to fend off this adversary. We must build an indestructible spiritual fortification around our family. Like Carcassonne, we should build a second wall, and maybe even a few watchtowers.
The first wall of defense is scripture study. We should be reading the scriptures both personally and as a family, primarily from the Book of Mormon. This requires dedication and planning. The walls of Carcassonne were not built in a day without thought and preparation. The perfection of scripture study likewise will take some time and plenty of patience if you have little children. However, every day you read the scriptures both personally and as a family is another rock that is building up your wall of defense. Pondering the scriptures, likening them to ourselves and applying them in our life will act as the cement holding the rocks in place. President James E. Faust said “Personal and family scripture study is a lifetime process…Gospel study habits may take years to establish firmly in families – they do not just happen.”
The second wall of defense around our family is prayer. Yet again, both personal and family prayer is needed for a strong defense. Many of us can remember hearing a mother or father, or possibly even a grandparent praying. Likewise, as we pray in front of our children, we teach them how to pray. We teach them how to pray for loved ones, for those who are sick, teach them to give thanks to the Lord for our blessings, and show our concern for our children and grand children as we pray for them by name. I remember kneeling by the bed when I was very young, listening to my grandmother cry as she pleaded to the Lord to soften the heart of a son or daughter who had gone astray. By these humble prayers, she taught me how she felt about the Lord and that she believed in a very real Heavenly Father who answered prayers. I know my grandmother had faith and put her trust in God. President Faust in the same previously quoted address said, “The Spirit of the Lord is invited into the home through prayer and harmony in the home…Praying together is a bonding experience.”
Now that we have our two walls of defense, we must construct watchtowers. Family home evening can be the watchtower for our family (as we watch over our flock and look out for danger.) It (family home evening) is for everyone, no matter what our age. It is a time when we can gather around, no matter the size of our family, and strengthen testimonies, build everlasting relationships, and bond the family together.
Jen and I had been married little over a year, and had no children at the time, when our home teacher startled me by asking if we were having family home evening. I said that we were not. He then challenged us to start holding it weekly. At first I thought that it was a bit silly, but we decided to start holding a regular Bringhurst night when all other activities were postponed. In the beginning we would read scriptures together or play a game of RISK or UNO. It was setting a pattern for the future. A thousand other things pull at me each week to try and take me away from this. Yet, now I know that Monday is our family’s night to spend together and I try not to plan anything else for that night. (For you PDA users, put it in your calendar. Monday night, hit “details”, “repeat”, “every 1 week on Monday” “no end”. There, now you have it blocked out every week, without an end.) President Faust has family home evening with Sister Faust. He said, “Most of the time now we study the scriptures together. A few weeks ago in our family home evening, we read our patriarchal blessings, trying to understand what work we might yet have to accomplish. We found we still have additional work to do.”
The First Presidency in “The Family, A Proclamation To The World” said, “The Family is ordained of God” and “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is my prayer that we can build strong spiritual fortifications around our families like unto Carcassonne, so that when Satan and his legions of angels come to attack, he might turn away because our walls are unconquerable.” – Originally published in the “Friendly First Ward” newsletter, Hobble Creek First Ward, March, 2004.
In this video, Elder Andersen compares the watchman in the tower of Carcassonne, to the Prophet of the Lord.