Monday, December 6, 2010

Standing in Holy Places

I was reading in the new Church Handbook of Instructions recently, where I came across a discussion of the role of the Church as a refuge for the Saints. In this passage was referenced a verse from section 101 of the Doctrine & Covenants--verse 22, in which we are commanded to "stand in holy places." In thinking about this idea and reading other references to it, I have come up with some thoughts that I find powerful.

But first, I would like to run through some of the verses in this section. The context of the section is important here, as the persecutions of the Missouri period were intensifying, and the sufferings of the members of the Church were taking their toll on the Saints. So the opening verses, with their discussion of affliction and chastening, are firmly rooted in the specific moment when the revelation was given.

This is followed by the promise given in verses 13-15--the scattered are gathered in, the sorrowful are comforted, the dead are raised up and exalted. These three promises are both poignant and profound, and point to all the ways in which the Atonement saves us, from our sins and wandering from God, from our sufferings, and from death itself.

The key then to receiving these blessings is to do two things: first, to "be still and know...God," and second, to "gather together, and stand in holy places." The first commandment focuses on an internal attitude whereby we create moments of peace and reflection to listen to the voice of the Spirit and acknowledge God's place in our lives.

As we do this, we then act on those blessings, and standing in holy places is a powerful way to think about this. We don't sit in holy places; we stand. We act. We claim our place among the Saints. And in so doing, we not only go to holy places like our meetinghouses and the temple, but we also create holy places in our homes and lives.

It is this trio of holy places--home, church, temple--that seems to be at the core of the new handbook. Emphasizing the central role of families, we as a Church have a responsibility to help individuals create patterns of righteousness in each home.

Church then becomes not the purpose of the gospel, but an auxiliary to the home. Classes, lessons, meetings, and activities all serve to strengthen the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children.

Worshiping together and teaching by the Spirit leads us to the temple, where our families are sealed and the blessings of eternity become real.

In some respects, I would go farther, saying that the purpose of attending ward meetings is to be worthy to attend the temple, and worshiping in the temple allows us to develop the kinds of family bonds needed to make our homes holy places.

I like that this is the direction we are going as a people, away from the structures of being a church and closer to the ultimate goal of being families that are sealed through the covenants and that strive to keep those covenants.