STAND YE IN HOLY PLACES
Brothers and sisters, I delight in this opportunity to be with you.
None of us will ever forget what we saw and what we felt on the morning of September 11, 2001. As I watched the events of that day unfold, I remembered the responsibility I had to speak to the students at our first devotional of the fall semester at 2 o'clock. As I sat in my office pondering and praying and considering that just a few hours before this devotional was to begin these young people had witnessed one of the most tragic and traumatic events they might ever see, a scripture immediately came into my mind: Doctrine and Covenants, section 45, verse 32. I will not quote or read the entire verse, but the phrase that kept coming to my mind was, "But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved . . . ." I personally received great comfort from this passage of scripture; and at the devotional, I shared that theme with the students and attempted to articulate some of its implications.
I have been studying and pondering and thinking about that verse for the last six months. My desire this afternoon is to share with you just a few of the things I have learned about that verse and the implications it has for us to stand in holy places and to not be moved. I plead for the assistance of the Holy Ghost.
The first thing I did as I began my study of this verse was to look up in the dictionary three words: stand, holy, and places. Here is what we learn about the word stand: "To rise to an upright position; to remain stable, upright, or intact; and to remain valid, effective, and unaltered" (The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston New York, 1997, p. 1324). Please think of those definitional elements together--upright, stable, valid, effective, intact, and unaltered. The word holy suggests "to be associated with divine power" or "sacred" (Ibid., p. 649), and the word place refers to "a bounded area or a portion of space" (Ibid., p. 1043). Thus we are to rise to an upright position, to remain stable, intact, valid, effective, and unaltered in a sacred, bounded area, i.e., stand ye in holy places and be not moved. These are the key elements that I first identified and tried to understand as I researched those three words in the dictionary.
Please consider those basic definitional elements as we read together from the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Verse 32 contains the theme for this weekend--Stand in Holy Places. The power of that specific verse, however, is evident only in the context of the preceding verses. Please read with me beginning in verse 26:
Clearly, in the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn about the conditions that will precede the second coming of the Savior, and in the midst of those terrible conditions, "my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved." Now remember the definitional elements: upright, stable, unaltered, intact, and valid in a sacred, bounded area.
In the 87th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, again, we find a similar verse about the importance of standing in a holy place and not being moved. But again, separated from its broader context, the verse does not have nearly the impact. Please read with me beginning in section 87, verse 6:
These verses in Doctrine and Covenant sections 45 and 87 show very similar patterns of events preceding the second coming of the Savior. Now note this verse from Doctrine and Covenants, section 101, verse 22: "Behold, 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" (emphasis added).
Brothers and sisters, from these passages we learn that the instruction to stand in holy places is most frequently preceded by a description of the conditions, both delightful and devastating, that will attend the Savior's second coming.
As I considered the admonition to stand in holy places and be not moved, I thought of the movie The Ten Commandments. And I thought of the Passover and the children of Israel, and their placing of lamb's blood on the doorpost in response to the instruction from the Lord's servants. Do you remember the scene where Moses and his family are gathered together in a room, the door is opened to allow Joshua to enter, and Moses says, "Eleazar, do not look. Close the door, and let death pass." Then the door is shut. Was Moses and were the members of his family standing in a holy place? What would have happened had they moved out of that sacred place on that particular night? Had they not remained within the confines of that special, holy place, they would have been subject to the destroying angel just like anyone else. But they were in a holy place, and they were not moved out of that place!
As I have thought about that Old Testament story and the latter-day verses we just read, I want to suggest, brothers and sisters, that there will be a latter-day Passover. And you and I must be found standing in holy places and not be moved from those holy places as we anticipate a latter-day Passover--different in its application, similar in its importance. Would you consider the notion of "be not moved" and the need to "stand in a holy place" as I share a most powerful illustration presented by President Spencer W. Kimball in general conference.
Please keep in mind the imagery of "be not moved." Again, this is President Kimball:
Can you see those two small children running into that small group of trees, grabbing the trunks, and clinging tight, hanging on with all the strength those little arms could muster, and not being moved by the power of that tidal wave? Consider that image, and then consider from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 124, verse 45: "And if my people will harken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place" (emphasis added).
We shall not be moved if we heed the counsel we receive from the Lord through the voice of his servants. Consider this statement from the First Presidency comprised of Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley: "To the members of the Church we say: Stand ye in holy places. Keep yourselves clean and unspotted from the sins of the world, that when his judgments pass over the earth, like Israel of old you may be preserved (James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 5, p. 254, emphasis added).
What I have started to understand a little bit is that there is a type and a shadow and a preparation in the story of the Passover. It is a preparation for us in these latter days.
Consider this teaching by President Benson:
The question that seems clear for all of us is: Where and how do we stand in holy places? President Benson gave a very clear answer. We stand in holy places in our homes, we stand in holy places in our temples, and we stand in holy places in our stakes of Zion. Remember the definitional elements we discussed earlier: intact, unaltered, rising to an upright position in a sacred, bounded area.
I suppose it would now be predictable for me to separately describe each of these holy places and try to outline ways whereby we could most appropriately and effectively "stand" in holy places in our homes, in the temples, and in the stakes of Zion. But I am not going to do that. Could I recommend an exercise that you all might want to consider? The exercise would be to identify what is common in homes and temples and stakes of Zion as holy places. What is it that cuts across all three of these locations that makes them holy, sacred places where we would not be moved? May I simply suggest that if we will undertake this exercise, the Holy Ghost will teach each of us individually and uniquely what we, in our circumstances and with our families, ought to do to stand in holy places.
Let me share with you just a few of the things that occurred to me as I went through this exercise. I do not claim that these are the "right" answers. They are simply the answers that occurred to me as I tried to think through common elements across those three very sacred places.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that I might be able to articulate this next thought most clearly. Perhaps our covenants, our sacred covenants that we always remember and consistently and earnestly strive to honor, become the blood on our doorposts in anticipation of the latter-day Passover. In ancient Israel, protection against physical death was afforded to the obedient. In our latter-day Israel, protection is available through our covenants against the spiritual perils that are so prevalent amidst the onslaught of sin and evil in an increasingly wicked world. Consider the last verse in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which we all know refers to the Word of Wisdom: "And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen."
This revelation is not talking about the children of Israel. It is talking about us in this latter day as we are obedient to the instruction we have received. In the time of the children of Israel, they offered sacrifice in anticipation of the infinite sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son and participated in the feast of the Passover as a reminder of how the children of Israel were protected from the destroyer on that fateful night. In this latter day we are commanded to offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and we feast at the sacrament table each week.
Again, consider the setting, the context, the preparation, and the requirement to stand in holy places and consider the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
There is a latter-day Passover. There is blood for the doorposts. And there is spiritual protection available to those who honor and keep their covenants.
Let me conclude with this experience with President Hinckley. I began by describing what took place on September 11, the responsibility I had to speak to the students, and the verse that came into my mind. At 10 o'clock on September 12, I was with the First Presidency, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general Church leaders in a meeting of the Board of Trustees that oversees the affairs of the entire Church Educational System. As I prepared to participate in that board meeting, I said to my wife, "What would any member of the Church give to be in this setting with these brethren and these sisters today, given what took place yesterday?" Well, it is customary that we all arrive quite early. I entered the room and shook hands with all of the men and women who were there. President Hinckley was not yet in the room; he is always the last to enter. There was not one word mentioned about the events of the previous day--no speculating, no hand wringing, no commiserating, no nothing, not one word. President Hinckley came into the room, greeted everyone and shook our hands, took his place at the head of the table, and sat down. We sat down. He looked up and simply said, "Brothers and sisters, we live in troubled times. Now let's get to work." That is all that was said.
The day before what had come to my mind was the scriptural admonition to stand in holy places and be not moved. Less than 24 hours later I was in the presence of the Prophet of God who stood in a holy place and was not moved--unaltered, valid, effective, rising to an upright position in a sacred, bounded area. "Let's get to work."
In the midst of the predictions of what will come, there is peace. There is reassurance. There is no need to fear if we simply heed the admonition and the instruction to place the blood of the lamb on our doorposts. In ancient Israel it may have been literally blood on a physical doorpost. In our day it is the doctrine of the Savior's atonement in our hearts. If the Atonement and our covenants are written in our minds and in our hearts, there will be peace. There may be devastation all around, but you and I will not be devastated if we stand in holy places and are not moved.
I testify that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He directs the affairs of this Church in this latter day through living apostles and prophets. And I know that His promises are sure as we stand in holy places and are not moved, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.