Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In Holy Places

I have been thinking about the different "voices" I hear from day to day from different sources and in different places.  When I say "voices," I mean thoughts, feelings, talks that I hear, stories in the news, things people say, temptations, etc.  Many of us are familiar with a couple scriptures from the book of 1 Kings in the Old Testament:

"11 ...And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

I understood this concept, and I sang several songs about it in Primary, but I don't think I've applied it as much as I do now in the 21st century.  It is not surprising that "the world" has grown further and further away from God and religion in general.  Likewise, there are stark contrasts in the voices that I hear.  Some are still and small, and some are rather loud and obnoxious.

The still small voices are the ones I hear when I am in holy places.  My favorite holy place is the temple.  Aside from doing ordinance work for the dead, it is a great place for me to be close to God and to receive personal revelation.  While I'm there, I hear voices that remind me of my eternal identity as a son of God.  They tell me that I am loved and valued and that I am at home.  They remind me that everyone is a child of God and that I need to treat them as such.  I receive further strength and resolve to keep the commandments and follow the prophet.  On that note, I don't have all the answers, and if I did, there wouldn't be much reason to return to the temple.  Spiritual learning needs to be accompanied by patience and faith, "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12).

Many people may come upon a time where they are not able to attend the temple because of worthiness or distance.  The Lord still desires to bless us, and we can find or make holy places elsewhere.  The first one that comes to my mind is the home.  I try to make my home a place where the Spirit can reside.  This is done through daily scripture study and prayer, self control and being in charge of what comes into my home.  Prophets and apostles have continuously discussed the power of a Christ-centered home.

There are other places where we can feel and hear voices that bring us closer to Christ.  I have found that church, institute, General Conference, my parents' and relatives' homes, nature, and even the company of good, uplifting friends can all be holy places.  The voices that I hear in these places can be very powerful, but I still consider them to be "still and small".

I remember talking to one of my friends at the North Star conference held earlier this year.  We were reminiscing about the powerful spiritual experiences we had had, and we were half-way dreading the thought of having to go out and face the world again.  This brings me to the other voices that I hear almost on a daily basis.  They are loud, easy to access and easy to believe ("If you don't believe me, go and watch the news..."*).  They are the voices that tell me that I am not worthy of God's love.  They tell me to be perfectionistic about my weight, about my body image, about a clean home, about my job, about my singing, and about what I "should" be doing.  They tell me that I need to leave my faith behind, or even parts of it, to bow down to something I know is wrong.  They tell me that I am judgmental, old fashioned and even homophobic.  They tell me I need to isolate myself or refrain from talking about things of God.  I could go on.

I am grateful for the ability to remember.  When I approach these "worldly" voices, the Holy Ghost encourages me to remember what I felt in the temple.  He encourages me to remember the simple truths discussed at institute or at church.  In other words, "stand ye in holy places," and remember those holy places (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8).  I am certainly not immune to the consequences of my own mistakes and those of others.  I am not immune to the pain, agony, disappointment and sadness that I feel when I see what goes on around me.  However, knowing that God is in charge makes all the difference.

*Children's Songbook, pg. 110

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