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Cover image via LDS.org.
2017 was a very challenging year for my family and me. Lots of illness, surgeries (emergency and scheduled) financial set backs, emotional crisis, one near death escape, not to mention the disappointments and depression that hangs on the coat tails of such experiences.
One thing that made it especially hard for me in dealing with all of this was my inability (due to a serious illness) to go to the temple when I needed so much heavenly help, inspiration and relief.
In the past, when faced with such burdens, I would jump in my car and drive an hour to the temple where I knew I could always find a renewal of faith, hope and spiritual guidance. But now I couldn’t do that.
Day after day as problems piled higher and higher, I found myself constantly longing to be within those sacred walls where I could place all of my worries and heartache upon the altar of God. I can definitely say I came to know just how important the temple was to me when I could no longer go.
But in addition to personal reasons for wanting to go, was the continual encouragement from Church leaders asking members to increase efforts in family genealogy and temple work for the kindred dead.
Each day as I knelt in prayer I would talk to Heavenly Father about how much I longed and needed to go to the temple, and how sorry I was that I couldn’t. But the spirit would always assure me that Heavenly Father knew my heart’s desire to be there and that it was beyond my current ability to do so. Nonetheless, my deep longing to be in such a sacred and holy place went on for months. Then one night I had a dream.
In my dream I was at Church all dressed up in my Sunday best but didn’t have any shoes on! Next thing I knew I was in a large classroom marked “Nursery” searching for them in a mountain of shoes (all identical, black, missionary style) piled high in the center of the room.
But at the same time while searching for my shoes, I was fully aware there was a meeting going on in the chapel (which was packed) and that the Stake President was conducting. Then terror struck my heart when I heard him through the nursery intercom call my name, asking me to come up and bear my testimony. Now panicked, I started trying to find any shoes that would fit, but no such luck! That’s when I realized I was going to have to go shoeless and hope no one noticed.
As I left the nursery (barefoot and fretting) headed for the chapel, this compelling but calming voice said to me “Don’t worry that you have no shoes upon your feet, for the ground on which you walk is holy ground.” Suddenly I was at the chapel door, pulled it open, stepped into the packed room and then woke up! The clock by the bed showed 3:17 a.m.
This is God’s House
While I laid there pondering everything I had just experienced, the words of a song I sang as a child in Primary ran through my mind.
“This is God’s House, and He is here today, He hears each song of praise and listens when we pray” (lyrics: Louise M. Oglevee, music: William G. Oglevee).
These simple yet profound words sank deep into my heart, as did the unmistakable message that the ward building was holy ground!
As I’ve continued to think about this dream, what it all means and the intended message, I’ve received a few thoughts and insights that I think are worth sharing.
One evening (shortly before my dream) while reading one of President Monson’s talks on the importance of the temple (“Blessings of the Temple,” President Thomas S. Monson, April, 2015), a memory came bursting into my mind of when I heard him reminisce about his days as a young Bishop. He told how he would often go to his ward meetinghouse late at night, go into the chapel, kneel down and pour out his heart to Heavenly Father.
Very tenderly, he told how in that humble chapel, he could feel the sweet presence and spirit of the Lord; how it would comfort, strengthen and inspire him. How during those special moments he became acutely aware that Heavenly Father dwells in His earthly meetinghouses as well as in His holy temples.
Holiness to the Lord
It was amazing how clearly I remembered President Monson sharing this powerful and very personal experience, after some 30 years, and how deeply it touched my heart. But having it all come flooding back, especially at a time of such spiritual need, awakened in me the marvelous and profound truth our dear Prophet bore witness to so long ago; God dwells in His Church’s meetinghouses and walks the rooms and halls, just as He does in His holy temples!
I think it’s fairly common knowledge that church meetinghouses are specifically dedicated to the Lord so that He can dwell there, that His Holy Spirit can be present, to guide and bless all who gather there in His name. But after recalling President Monson’s talk and then having my dream, I had an intense desire to know more. So, I decided to read up on LDS building dedications in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and the following is what I found:
“Dedication is the act of devoting or consecrating something to the Lord, or setting apart something for a specific purpose in building the kingdom of God. It is a priesthood function performed through an official and formal act of prayer.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedications serve at least two clear functions. First, they call down the powers of heaven to establish a sacred space or time in the furthering of the desired purpose. Second, they consecrate the participants, focusing their souls upon the meaning of the dedicated object or act. In this way the secular is brought into sacred relationships, and the blessings of God are invoked so that the powers of heaven and earth are joined to bring about works of righteousness.
LDS church buildings are always dedicated to the Lord, usually after all indebtedness is removed. In the Bible the first recorded dedicatory prayer is that of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kgs. 8:22-53), at which time the glory of the Lord filled the temple, in divine approval. The first temple dedication in this dispensation was on March 27, 1836, when the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple as “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 109:8). Since then many LDS temples and thousands of meetinghouses around the world have been similarly dedicated to the Lord” ( Author: Callister, Tad, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism).
A House of Love … A House of Joy … A House of God
For days I read and reread Elder Callister’s beautiful explanation of the purpose and meaning behind the priesthood ordinance of dedication. His words inspired my thinking, and caused me to reflect on the peaceful and spiritual experiences I’ve had in so many ward buildings throughout my years in the Church.
When I think of the LDS meetinghouses spread all over the world, I think of them filled with good people busily engaged in worship and service to the Lord. I think of beautiful music, heart felt prayers and powerful words of witness shared in fervent testimonies and lessons. But in addition to the sacred happenings that take place, there is also a great energy and joy as members meet together to serve, play, learn and socialize with each other.
I think of little children running through hallways and cultural halls laughing and playing; young men and young women gathering weekly for lessons and activities. Relief Society sisters lovingly preparing dinners for various occasions in ward kitchens. I feel certain that this pleases our Father to know that His House is filled with such life, love and joy. I know that’s how I feel when my children are home and family activities are taking place throughout the house. And something tells me He doesn’t even mind the “after church” clutter of forgotten handouts, left over programs, even cheerios scattered here and there. He’s just happy we’re there together as ward families, with Him.
As I reflect on President Monson’s tender comments about his experience and continue to ponder the meaning and message of my dream, I’ve concluded that perhaps my dream holds some important symbolism.
First, we are all God’s children, thus the nursery setting of my dream. Second, members gather weekly, worldwide, in one of the Lord’s holy meetinghouses (the packed chapel), under priesthood authority (the Stake President conducting) to learn and serve the Lord. All of this symbolized by the large mound of missionary type shoes forming a mountain, The Mountain of the Lord, upon which we are all engaged together in an important mission; to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all the world!
Furthermore, as members of the Lord’s Church our shoes coalesce (couldn’t find my own ) as we choose to walk in holiness before the Lord (no shoes on my feet) and strive to build His kingdom here on earth. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth” ( Isaiah 52:7, italics used for emphasis)!
The fact that we are anxiously engaged, standing on holy ground in our ward and stake buildings, striving together to bring about righteous works and accomplish Heavenly Father’s divine purpose (see Moses 1:39) is what’s most important.
Important too is knowing that in our wards and chapels, as well as in sacred and holy temples, we can escape the chaos and evils of the world, receive peace, inspiration, spiritual renewal and partake of holy ordinances which protect, strengthen and comfort us.
As to the last part of the dream where I am called to come forward and bear my testimony to those in the chapel; I have concluded that the message here is that being willing to step forward and bear witness of the truthfulness of the Lord’s Church and gospel, under any circumstance no matter how awkward we may feel, is of great importance in strengthening and building God’s kingdom here on earth. In the words of the Prophet Alma, we must be willing to “Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).
Bearing our testimony may not seem as important to the work of the gospel as more task, service or leadership callings such as temple work, missionary service or ward and stake callings. But the power of our personal testimony, to strengthen, convert and bring others to Christ and His gospel, should never be underestimated. For it too is important and needful. As the Prophet Isaiah so eloquently put it “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him … that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth” ( Isaiah 52:7, italics used for emphasis).
After having had this experience I am so much more aware of the sacred nature and spiritual resources available to me in my ward building, just a few miles up the road. However, this does not mean that I am less motivated in any way to return to the temple. For only within God’s Holy Temple can we secure for ourselves, and others, all the blessings that pertain to exaltation and eternal life.
One of the greatest blessings to come from this entire experience is the tremendous sense of reverence and gratitude I feel when I enter my ward building. For the times I go there for meetings, ward dinners, funerals, baptisms, work days, institute classes, choir practice, concerts, genealogy workshops or just to sit in quiet prayerful meditation, I give thanks.
But most of all for the blessing and privilege of being able to walk into God’s Holy House every Sunday, and receive the ordinance of the Lord’s sacrament in “the most sacred and important meeting in the Church” (see Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, General Conference, October 2008).