Stand Ye In Holy Places
Bruce M. Snow
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
May 20, 2003
The mall on the Potomac was dark and shadowy and the Viet Nam wall loomed in the distance. With fingers freezing by the second, I figured out the system, made a note of panel and row, and then headed for the dark granite wall.
Finding myself standing alone, I thumbed through the columns of names on the wall looking for Kenneth Wilson Young, St. Anthony, Idaho. Personal items such as books, pictures, frozen flowers, clothing, lockets, letters, mementoes, and other items were tenderly placed in front of every panel. Ken had been a dear boyhood friend who like you attended BYU–Idaho. He was obedient to the Lord in his youth, followed the commandments, went on a mission, had plans for education and a family, but Ken died prematurely on the jungle floor of Viet Nam. As I ran my finger down the cold black marble wall I began to better understand about sacrifice, obedience, and the Holy Ghost, and how they are required of us if we are to AStand in Holy Places.@
In the Doctrine and Covenants 101:22 we read: ABehold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and Stand in Holy Places.@
President Harold B. Lee taught that to AStand in Holy Places@ (Doctrine and Covenants101:22) is to stand in Zion, which the Lord defines as Athe pure in heart@ (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21).
In these days of our generation, many of you are asking: AWhere is safety?@
The word of the Lord is not silent. He has admonished us: ABut my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved...@ (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32).
The Lord has told us where these >holy places= are: AAnd it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety@ (Doctrine and Covenants 45:68).
AWhere is Zion?@
President Lee continues, ADuring the various periods of time or dispensations, and for specific reasons, the Lord=s prophets, his >mouthpieces,= as it were, have designated gathering places where the Saints were to gather. After designating certain such places in our dispensation, the Lord then declared: >Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion (Doctrine and Covenants 101:21)@ (in Conference Report, Oct. 1968, 61-62).
There also appears to be a GEOGRAPHICAL dimension to Standing in Holy Places.
As a young boy growing up in Firth, Idaho, population 292 and dropping, I approached my eighth birthday wondering about the boy prophet and the hardships he faced at such a tender age. I knelt on the banks of the Blackfoot canal and prayed about the first vision and to my surprise no startling revelation occurred. Our church was a very old red brick building with no air conditioning but large cottonwood trees in back for shade. The kitchen was our Sunday School classroom and because of limited space the boys sat on the kitchen counter with the girls in front on a row of chairs. On a spring Sunday I sat squirming behind Janette Lyons and probably after pulling her pigtail I was struck by a clear and powerful feeling. I recognized this feeling as an answer to my former prayer. In essence, I knew from that time forth that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and he had knelt in a sacred and holy place.
Years later, as I approached the Sacred Grove for my first visit, the words of our sacred hymn flashed through my mind.
Oh, how lovely was the morning! Radiant beamed the sun above.
Bees were humming, sweet birds singing, Music ringing thru the grove,
When within the shady woodland Joseph sought the God of love,..
Humbly kneeling, sweet appealingC>Twas the boy=s first uttered prayerC When the powers of sin assailing Filled his soul with deep despair;
But undaunted, still he trusted In his Heavenly Father=s care,..
Suddenly a light descended, Brighter far than noon day sun,
And a shining glorious pillar O=er him fell, around him shone,
While appeared two heavenly beings, God the Father and the Son..,
AJoseph, this is my Beloved; Hear him!@ Oh, how sweet the word!
Joseph=s humble prayer was answered, And he listened to the Lord.
Oh, what rapture filled his bosom, For he saw the living God...(Hymns, no 26)
The Sacred Grove is one of the most sacred and holy places on the earth today. We are also reverent as we visit and think of the Hill Cumorah, the Whitmer farm and the Three Witnesses, and Father Johnson=s Farm in Ohio. We are humble as we approach the banks of the Susquehanna near Harmony and stand near the Prophet and Emma=s home site where much of the Book of Mormon was translated.
Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: AThese were days never to be forgottenCto sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven...day after day...uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated...@ (Joseph Smith History, p. 58).
Other obvious holy places are the temples. As soon as we enter the house of the Lord the atmosphere changes from the worldly to the spiritual. There is a calm and tranquil feeling that permeates our being.
We go to the temple to perform ordinances, be sealed together for time and all eternity, and do the work for the dead who have not had the same opportunities that you and I have had.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord specifically designated Independence as AYthe center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse@ (Doctrine and Covenants 57:3).
On December 27, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a commandment to Aestablish 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@ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119). In a subsequent revelation he was instructed to build the Kirtland Temple, Aafter the manner which I shall show unto three of you@ (Doctrine and Covenants 95:14), meaning the First Presidency.
Probably no other place was as sacred to the early Saints as the Kirtland Temple. The Saints were in a state of poverty and distress and, with enemies raging and threatening destruction, it appeared impossible to build the Temple. The faithful Saints sacrificed and worked despite poverty and tribulation. On April 3, 1836, Joseph and Oliver AYsaw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpitYand under His feet was a paved work of pure gold in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of His head was white like the pure snow, His countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and His voice was as the sound of the rushing of great watersY@ (Joseph Smith=s Kirtland, Deseret Book Company, pp. 110-111).
On that same day, the Prophet Elijah appeared fulfilling Malachi=s prediction. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained, AIt was, I am informed, on the third day of April, 1836, that the Jews, in their homes at the Paschal feast, opened their doors for Elijah to enter. On that very day Elijah did enterCnot in the home of the Jews to partake of the Passover with themCbut he appeared in the house of the Lord, erected to his name and received by the Lord in Kirtland, and there bestowed his keys to bring to pass the very things for which these Jews, assembled in their homes, were seeking@ (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:100-101).
The Lord required the Saints of Nauvoo the Beautiful Ato build a house untoYmeYAnd ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to built it@ (Doctrine and Covenants 124:43).
On July 28, 1847, four days after the arrival of the Pioneers, President Brigham Young, while walking over the ground with some of his associates, suddenly stopped, and striking the point of his cane into the parched soil, exclaimed, AHere we will build the Temple of our God@ (Temples of the Most High, Bookcraft, Inc. p.128-129).
Historically, when temples were not available, mountains or other designated geographical areas have been used by the Lord to communicate with his children. AAnd the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top to the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up@ (Exodus 19: 20). Here, the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel through Moses.
The Brother of Jared carried stones up into Mount Shelem and saw the finger of the Lord because of his great faith.
In our dispensation, President Brigham Young attested to endowment ceremonies on the summit of Ensign Peak near Salt Lake City, thus giving a new sanctity to the prominent peak (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 386).
As you personally bring the sacred and the temple into your individual lives, BYU-Idaho, resting on the side of the Rexburg Hill, will become a more holy and sacred place.
Additionally, there is another holy place where we should go each week and partake of the Sacrament and be taught the gospel.
The family is also a critical dimension of holy places, which should be considered. We should be Standing in a Holy Place when we stand in our own home. Our home today might be an apartment on campus or an apartment off campus. If we are prayerful in teaching our children or our roommates that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Father in Heaven lives, our homes can become be a holy place.
There will always be some challenges in our homes, but as Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, AIf we wish to make our efforts count in meeting the vexing challenges of our time, the ecology of our effectiveness suggests of the home that truly >this is the place.@
In the mid-seventies our family moved to Boise, Idaho, where my parents were living. Cindy and I were grown adults with four kids. After several months passed, Dad started calling frequently and emphatically stating he was low on firewood and wanted me to go with him to the Sawtooth Mountains to replenish his supply. I did not particularly want to cut firewood because Dad already had a year=s supply, but he was very insistent and always in a hurry. APick me up at 5:00 a.m. on the dot, we have a lot of firewood to gather and not very much time. We have a lot to do and little time. Don=t be late.@ He also mentioned more than once, ASon you can never have too much firewood.@
Ten minutes into the trip, or passing Lucky Peak Dam, which ever occurred first, he would religiously say, ASon, why are you driving so fast? You are hurrying too much. You need to slow down and relax. The world won=t end if we don=t get fire wood.@ After my protest ended he would say, APull off at Banner Summit, I made a big lunch.@ He would then start talking about every imaginable topicCshoeing horses, the demise of the Yankees, politics, religion, but mostly we talked about the family and whether I was being a good father and husband. For many years it never occurred to me that, as an adult, I was being taught and instructed gently on how to improve our family relations.
During these wood-gathering trips over many years we had Family Home Evening, Family Council, Fathers Interviews and Father=s Blessings and Dad did it in a way that I didn=t even know it was happening. It was never about firewood, it was always about family. Dad died in May of 1988 and at the time Mom had twenty cords of firewood. (William Max Snow and Rhea Marriott Snow)
For several years we tried to develop a three or four word phrase that we felt best described our family mission statement. After numerous attempts, failures and revisions we concluded with ACircle at the Summit.@ This statement has given us great direction and meaning. ACircle At The Summit,@ is an attempt to keep our family compass pointed in the right direction.
The word circle contemplates endless and eternal circles, family and temple prayer circles, temple marriage, circling the wagons for safety and a plethora of other meanings. The word summit has the connotation of pointing the way to God, temples, and visions, and to ascend, which requires team work, planning, preparation, mapping for those to come, and much more. The ramifications are seemingly endless.
No matter the outcome, the effort put forth to preserve the family will be rewarded.
President Lee said, ARemember that the most important of the Lord=s work that you ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home@ (Harold B. Lee, Ensign, July 1973, p.98).
In addition to a geographical dimension of Standing in Holy Places, there is also a personal dimension. It seems clear that Standing in Holy Places has less to do with where we live and more to do with how we live. We, as our Savior=s disciples, cannot Stand in Holy Places if we are not holy ourselves.
I would like to enumerate three elements of the personal dimension of Standing in Holy Places: sacrifice, obedience and the Holy Ghost.
A core trait of those who Stand in Holy Places seems to be sacrifice.
Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander teaches, AThe words sacred and sacrifice come from the same root. One may not have the sacred without first sacrificing something for it. There can be no sacredness without personal sacrifice. Sacrifice sanctifies the sacred@ (AHoly Place, Sacred Space,@ Ensign, Nov. 2003, 71).
The daybreak of July 21, 1879, became a fateful day in the lives of Elder Joseph Standing and his missionary companion, Elder Rudger Clawson. As a missionary serving in Northern Georgia, Elder Standing had been harassed, threatened, abused and chased by hooded mobs in the vicinity of Varnell Landing near the Tennessee border. As the missionaries were walking through the thick pine and cedar forest surrounding them, they came face to face with the mob which was in pursuit of them. There were twelve mobbers, three on horseback, and the rest on foot; a ragged lot, all armed with pistols or rifles.
The Elders asked by what authority they were being held and the leader replied, AThere=s no law in Georgia for Mormons.@ The mob told them they were going to be whipped and then they would understand the laying on of hands. The threat of whipping most frightened Joseph. Victims were stripped, tied face down on a fallen log, and lashed with willow branches until their backs were bloody. The fear of this beating and impending death caused the missionaries to become pale and shake.
They were led deeper and deeper into the secluded forest to a spring. Elder Standing made a bold move to seize a revolver. Instantly, one of the assassins raised his gun to the Elder=s head and fired. At that critical point the leading mobber pointed at Elder Clawson and said, AShoot that man.@ Every weapon was leveled at his head. He realized there was no avenue of escape. His time had come to follow his companion Elder Standing to the grave. He folded his arms, looked at his assailants, and said AShoot.@ For whatever unknown reason one of the mobbers said, ADon=t shoot@ and one by one the guns were lowered.
Not yet knowing if he to was to be murdered, he told the mob he was going for help and turning his back he walked slowly into the woods.
That night by flickering candle light, he carefully wiped and washed the blood from Elder Standing=s body in preparation for the long train ride back to Salt Lake City (David S. Hopes and Roy Hoopes, The Making of a Mormon Apostle: The Story of Rudger Clawson, New York: Madison Books, 1990, pp. 21-31).
Elder Standing made the ultimate sacrifice that day and later his companion Elder Clawson served forty-five years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
As you walk through the Northern Georgia woods to the spring, which still flows today, you realize AThere can be no sacredness without personal sacrifice. Sacrifice sanctifies the sacred@ (AHoly Place, Sacred Space,@ Ensign, Nov. 2003, 71).
The notion of sacrifice permeates our senses as we stand at Haun=s Mill and recall the nine-year-old Sardius Smith, son of Warren Smith, who earlier in the day played on the banks of Shoal Creek.
Or the sacrifice made on the high plains of Wyoming by the Willie and Martin handcart companies at Rocky Ridge, Rock Creek Hollow, Veil Crossing and Martin=s Cove.
Painfully, and with a broken heart, we remember the >extermination order= of Governor Boggs: death and the threat of death, plundering, burning and premeditated theft of sacred homes and property, and thousands of banished and innocent men, women, and children walking, some barefoot, through snow and the brutal cold of a Missouri winter, only to face crossing the Mississippi River at the Illinois border.
We solemnly and reverently reflect on the illegal sacrifices at Carthage Jail where the boy prophet sealed his mission and works with his own blood as did his beloved brother and others. AIn life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated@ (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).
It has been said, AOnly if you sacrifice for a cause will you love itYAs noted in our sacred hymn, sacrifice does bring forth the blessings of heavenYLet us take this principle a step further. Could this law of life perhaps explain, in some small way, why the Savior loves us so much? Is his infinite and unconditional love somehow tied to His infinite and unconditional sacrifice? His sacrifice was so great as to be incomprehensible to us. And in atoning for our sins in the shedding of His blood, He demonstrated a love for us that knows no bounds. Let us follow the Savior=s example in sacrificing and loving. Let us sacrifice for each other for the gospel and for great causes. Then will our love grow commensurately@ (Church News, October 21, 1989).
AThere can be no sacredness without personal sacrifice. Sacrifice sanctifies sacredness.@
Another aspect of Standing in Holy Places is obedience. If sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven as noted in our sacred hymn, then each of us must be obedient if we are to follow the Lord=s admonition to be His disciples and to Stand in Holy Places and not be moved.
In regard to obedience, I think we are off to a good start today. I have observed that your President has asked each of you to bring your scriptures to devotionals and you have done so; so did I. (Hold up the scriptures) Therefore, we are off to a good start.
President Hinckley has said, AIYbelieve that God will always make a way where there is no way. I believe that if we will walk in obedience to the commandments of God, if we will follow the counsel of the priesthood, he will open a way even where there appears to be no way@ (AIf Ye Be Willing and Obedient,@ Ensign, July 1995, 2).
In a recent stake conference, Elder Lance Wickman, speaking on this subject, told an experience he had as a young soldier in Hawaii. His battalion had just been given a new commander who had seen many soldiers die because of poor attention to details. After a week of stiff training, the commander came to Elder Wickman=s company, ordering them to set up a defensive position while other companies were dismissed. Not only did the soldiers resent this, but digging foxholes in volcanic rock was almost impossible and seemingly unnecessary. When the commander came to inspect, he looked at the small rock outlines where foxholes should have been. AWhat=s that?@ he asked. ASir, that=s a simulated foxhole.@ AA simulated foxhole. What good will a simulated foxhole do you? You will not be dismissed until you have dug foxholes according to the book.@ For several hours they chipped away at the volcanic rock, speaking disparagingly of the commander but finally finished and were dismissed, well trained. Landing on a Viet Nam beach late in the evening with another company, they decided to dig their foxholes while the other company decided to wait until morning. That night enemy fire was taken, and while others suffered heavy damage, Elder Wickman=s company did not. The next morning nobody had any disparaging remarks to say about the commander. Elder Wickman taught that in our own lives we must be careful not to rely on simulated foxholes. We need to prepare and to be diligently obedient. (Utah Edgemont Stake Conference, March 2003)
President Hinckley continues, AThe prophet Elijah warned King Ahab of drought and famine to come upon the land. But Ahab scoffedYThe Lord told Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith, drink of the brook and he would be fed by ravens.@ The Book of Kings records a wonderful statement, ASo he (Elijah) went and did according unto the word of the Lord.@ There was no arguing. There was no equivocation. Elijah simply Awent and did according unto the word of the Lord.@ And he was saved from the terrible calamities that befell those who scoffed and argued and questioned@ (AIf Ye Be Willing and Obedient,@ Ensign, July 1995, 2).
It is not always easy to be obedient to the voice of the Lord. AAnd Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent...but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man=s mouth?YNow therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say@ (Exodus 4:10-12).
As a young boy, Samuel, heard the voice of the Lord and replied, ASpeak; for thy servant heareth@ (1 Samuel 3:10). And later, Samuel rebuked Saul saying, ATo obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams@ (1 Samuel 15:22).
President Hinckley taught, AThe assignments given us or the lots we receive in life may be difficultYNaaman the leper came with his horses and with his chariot, with his gifts and his gold, to the prophet Elisha to be cured.@ And Elisha, without seeing him, sent a messenger saying, AGo and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean@ (2 Kings 5:1-10). But Naaman, the proud captain of the Syrian host, was insulted at so distasteful a thing and went away. Only when his servants pleaded with him was he humbled enough to return. AThen went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean@ (2 Kings 5:11-14).@ (AIf Ye Be Willing and Obedient,@ Ensign, July 1995, 2)
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss the Holy Ghost as an element of Standing in Holy Places.
If we live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost we will be guided, directed, and taught to Stand in Holy Places whether we are alone, with friends, strangers or associates, or in a crowd. Indeed, if we stand with the Holy Ghost we will be in a holy place and that is the place the Saints should not be removed from until the day the Lord comes.
Regardless of what is going on around us, we can create an environment filled with the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Heavy rains had been falling for several days prior to September 11, 1990. On this day the Han River began to overflow its banks flooding most areas in the Korea Seoul West Mission. The situation was extremely dangerous. Dikes had broken leaving thousands homeless.
With the mission secured we got to bed about midnight. At 2:00 a.m. the telephone rang and a voice in clear English said, APresident Snow, two of your missionaries are dead on the north side (Seoul Mission side) of the Pampo Bridge.@ The telephone then clicked off. Earlier the 8th Army news (AFKN) reported several deaths near bridges and the Pampo Bridge was deathly hazardous to cross. Who could the voice be? It seemed to resemble someone who might be acquainted with the Church vocabulary. In any event, I rose quickly, dressed and told Cindy I had a distinct feeling I would not return alive. After a difficult goodbye, I ran for the car but on touching the car door handle, I had a strong feeling almost physical in nature and not describable by words. A clear voice in my mind told me to stop and call President Shin of the Seoul Mission. I listened, made the call and he told me not to attempt to cross the bridge and after prayer, I agreed. The most comforting calm came across my mind. Morning revealed no deaths to missionaries and the telephone voice is unknown to this day.
If we are worthy to have the Holy Ghost be our constant companion we will not only bless ourselves but we will bless others also.
On Saturday, June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam breached forming a tidal wave that raged over the Upper Snake River Valley Plain. The small communities of Wilford and Sugar City were totally devastated. Rexburg and several other communities downstream received extensive destruction. Homes and buildings were torn from their foundations, trees toppled, rich dark farmland was superimposed with boulders, silt, and debris, and business houses were annihilated. The inundated counties were declared a national disaster area. Of noticeable effect on the communities was the massive relief program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ricks College, a small church-owned school, provided thousands of victims shelter, clothing, and medical assistance. 30,000 meals a day were served at the peak of the disaster (Sonderegger v., US Department of the Interior, 424 F. Supp. 847).
Several months later in a judge=s chamber after all the evidentiary hearings were completed Judge Marion Callister was sitting under his favorite painting of George Washington kneeling in prayer by his horse. Judge Callister was a prayerful man. After lengthy meditation and long silence, Judge Callister spoke in a very soft voice saying he knew how the case should come out. After a couple more sentences it became crystal clear in my mind how the opinion should read.
The Federal District Court held that some personal information from claims filed by the victims of the failure of the Teton Dam was exempt from disclosure. This decision prevented potential divisiveness, gossip, innuendo, accusation, defense of integrity for every individual, every family, every neighborhood, every village, every city, and every county affected by the failure of the Teton Dam. Many of those affected are in attendance at this devotional today and have never heard of this court decision, which personally affected each of them. Judge Marion Callister was a great God-fearing man who lived by listening to the Spirit.
The greatest example of all we have talked about today is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we stand together with our Savior we are in holy places. Few of us can comprehend the total impact of Gethsemane or Golgotha. Those who have the spirit and are striving to Stand in Holy Places are quieted with the words from our hymn:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow=r thru out the universe displayed;
When thru the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,
And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take a way my sin,
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, AMy God, how great thou art!@
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
(Hymns, no. 86)
A passerby noted the following graffiti scribbled on the wall of a German schoolyard. GOD IS DEAD---NIETZCHE. Several days later the same passerby had occasion to be in the same neighborhood. As he passed the schoolyard wall he noticed some child had penned under
GOD IS DEAD---NIETZCHE
NIETZCHE IS DEAD---GOD
I testify, as did that young student, that God the Father lives.
I testify that President Hinckley is a Prophet of God and Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God who restored the gospel in these latter days. I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I testify that God lives and if we will sacrifice, be obedient and listen to the Holy Ghost we too will Stand in Holy Places in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.