“This is a Sacred Place…”
Since my youngest days I have always looked for temples on hills and hills that are temples. I have always found peace and solace, a sacred and blessed feeling on mountain tops and in forests. I have raised my voice in songs of praise in mountain cathedrals, overlooking pristine lakes, glorious canyons and valleys, on the Sermon Mount above Gallilee, in dedicated chapels for Sunday service and funerals, and even once in the Temple of our God for dedicatory services. Standing in holy places, declaring His glory in word or song, brings sacred feelings and emboldened testimony.
The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.
We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!
“The Spirit of God like a fire is burning! The latter-day glory begins to come forth….”(The Spirit of God by William W. Phelps — 1792-1872)
In 1994 I visited Carthage, Illinois for the first time. I was traveling with a friend and business partner, Patrick. It was the weekend, having just visited clients in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Moline, Illinois, and we had some time on our hands before we needed to return to Kansas City and travel home. I told Patrick, who was not at the time a member of my faith, about a place significant in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a city called Nauvoo. While I had never visited, I could see on the map that it was only about two hours away and not too far off the path of our journey home. Patrick is the adventurous sort and was eager to see something new. We came into the quiet town shortly after dark Friday night, not knowing all we would see and experience in the coming days.
On Saturday we spent all day exploring what was once a booming city of the 1840s where Latter-day Saints gathered for peace and for safety. Old brick homes and businesses had been restored to their once ordered beauty in this now quiet little hamlet on the bend of the Mississippi River. Older missionary couples dressed in period clothing guided inspired tours of the many homes and structures where once lived and served prophets and pioneers, forbearers of our faith. On a rise above the city was a lovely kept park where once stood a Temple to God, but in 1994 remained only foundation markers, a well for the baptismal font, and a small replica of the Temple as it stood once in glory.
Nauvoo, the entire place, was a monument to faith of a people who had been driven from their homes to find Zion in the mountain tops of the West.
On Sunday, after enjoying the Sabbath morning in Nauvoo, hearing testimony and seeing more of the legacy left by the early saints, we decided to move down the road a few miles, to the city of Carthage, the place where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred. I had mixed feelings entering Carthage that afternoon. I had always looked at what happened there as a terrible injustice, as a terrible wrong. Nevertheless, I knew that the jail where these two good brothers sealed their testimonies still stood and I wanted to see it. The town was quiet. It seemed almost deserted, yet even though dated, the maintained streets and structures made it clear that a significant population was still present. I thought in the moment, “Perhaps they are still hiding their shame for what was allowed to happen here so long ago.”
The jail was the single most significant structure in town. It was extremely well-kempt, preserved in the way it appeared in 1844. Adjacent to the original structure was a beautiful visitor’s center directed by senior missionaries of the Church. When they met us at the door with warm greetings I immediately felt the feelings of negativity that I had held for that place for so many years drift away from me as if never present. We listened to inspiring words, viewed beautiful art, watched a video presentation, and then enjoyed a private guided tour of the jail building and all of the rooms therein. As I sat in the room where they were killed, behind the same door, upon the same floor, seated in the windowsill, hearing the story of what happened there, my heart was healed of any negative feelings that I held for Carthage or for any of the people involved so long ago. What happened in this special place, a place where a prophet and his brother sealed their testimonies of Christ, the Redeemer of the World, with their blood, washed clean for me any dark feelings I had ever felt for the mob. This was not a place of death, this was a place of testimony and healing.
The most poignant moment of this life changing event, our visit to Carthage, came when Patrick and I stood alone by the old well below the window where the prophet fell after being shot several times, crying, “Oh Lord, my God!” It was a quiet moment. A light breeze was blowing and we could hear the birds in the trees. Hardly a word could be spoken in this moment, but Patrick spoke volumes in five words. In a voice of awe and discovery Patrick reverently uttered, “This is a sacred place.”
The Lord has said, “My disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32).
“My disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.”The Lord Jesus Christ
Since that day I have a made a more concerted effort to seek out and stand in holy places. In addition to beloved natural wonders, I have visited holy sites of varying cultures all over America and around the world. From Christian cathedrals to Buddhist monasteries, from the Sacred Grove, Cumorah and Carthage to Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Garden Tomb, and I have felt the sacred nature of holy places.
I have also found that holy places are nearer than we often recognize. The House of the Lord is a holy place wherein we can stand and be not moved. Where the people of God gather are holy places where we can stand and be not moved. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
The Lord Jesus Christ
In many cases, if not all, holy places, sacred places, are what we make of them. The open heart and willing spirit which we bring into a place that is holy and sacred, is the same which shall be moved upon by that place, by the Spirit, where divine visitations were received or martyrs sacrificed the full measure of who they were in lifting their voices to and for God. How we walk upon sacred ground affects how we perceive and receive it in lasting measure. What ground is more sacred than our homes? How we walk, talk, act, love, share, touch, respect, teach, and worship in our own home is what will make it holy and sacred for our family. “Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8).
I testify with every measure of who I am, with all the gifts blessed of the Lord in me, that we as disciples of Jesus Christ should seek out and stand in holy places, and be not moved. As a man is not an island unto himself, standing alone is not what the Lord would have for us. We need to gather in places that are sacred and holy, inviting all others to join us, and be not moved, with us. We need to make sure that our homes are the most holy and inviting places of all, for our spouses, children, grandchildren, for ourselves, for the foundation upon which we stand to be immovable, where ever we may journey. Yes, these are sacred places upon which we stand. Let us be not moved, and carry them with us always. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.