Stand in holy places, and be not moved.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 87 outlines the wars that are about to be poured out upon the world, starting with the American Civil War, but as always, the Lord provides us with a way to pass through and overcome those calamities.
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
With those powerful words the Lord explained to his prophet the destruction to come upon the world until it makes a "full end of all nations". The saints of the Lord, in the subsequent verse are then given instructions on what we must do during the coming calamities:
8 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.
We are told to "stand in holy places and be not moved" for as long as it takes for the Lord to fulfill his work, which we are told is coming soon. But where are these "holy places", and what does it mean to "stand" in them?
In ancient Israel, there was, in the Tabernacle and in the later temples, a place that was most holy, the Bet Kodesh ha-Kodashim, or "The Most Holy House", which we commonly refer to as the Holy of Holies. This part of the temple was separated from the others, where the more ritualistic work of the temple took place, by a veil, or heavy woven cloth and later in King Solomon's Temple, behind this veil were large wooden doors, overlaid with gold. The Holy of Holies represents the throne of the Lord of Hosts, and was a place on earth where the Lord could dwell among his people. The Holy of Holies was entered once during the year, and then only by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, or the day of Atonement. On this day, all Israel would fast, and the high priest, in the robes of his office would offer the normal daily sacrifices. Following the daily sacrifices, he would wash himself with water and change into white linen clothing. (Leviticus 16: 4)
4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.
He would then offer sacrifices for himself and his family, and then for all Israel. (Leviticus 16: 5-10)
5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
The Holy of Holies is also the place where the Lord would appear to his people, where he would give them instructions or teach them His ways, and most importantly, where he would forgive their sins. In the 6th Chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah saw the Lord, sitting on his throne in the Holy of Holies and was cleansed of his sins:
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
In much the same way, Zacharias, in the holy of holies, saw the angel Gabriel who declared that he (Zacharias) would have a son, and that he must name him John (Luke 1:5-23).
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 110, contains the vision where the priesthood keys necessary for the restoration are given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by those that held them in past dispensations. In the preface to the section, it is noteworthy that they were behind the veil when the vision was given.
“In the afternoon, I assisted the other Presidents in distributing the Lord’s Supper to the Church, receiving it from the Twelve, whose privilege it was to officiate at the sacred desk this day. After having performed this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us.”
Once again, the Lord visited His temple, specifically behind the veil, and accepted it, and told those within the veil that they were clean, and that His name would be there, and more importantly, that he would manifest himself to his people "in mercy in this house." (Verse 7)
5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
In each of these examples, we can see a pattern emerge that shows us what we must do to "stand in holy places."
We must be prepared
Isaiah, Zacharias, and Joseph and Oliver all went through a process of preparation before they stood in their holy places. Isaiah confessed his sins before the Lord, Zacharias, as the high priest, washed himself and offered sacrifice for forgiveness of his own sins before he offered sacrifice for the people, and Joseph and Oliver had to press forward in faith in the building of the Kirtland temple, which the Lord himself stated the people had built "with their might."
We might recognize these steps if we put them into a slightly different order:
4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Each of these steps bring us closer to our own holy place, the place within each of us where we keep our most sacred experiences.
When we exercise faith, we feel it grow withing us, and we "say within [ourselves]—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." (Alma 32: 28) As we embrace the Atonement of Christ, and apply it in our lives, we can feel as Enos did:
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
As we follow along the path and enter into the waters of baptism, or once again renew both our covenants and discipleship by partaking of the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins, and are able to worship the Lord, who we promise to always remember. Once again, we are told to remember His sacrifice, his body and blood, which he offered for us, allowing us to enter into the Holy of Holies and partake of salvation with Him.
8 And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
3 Nephi 20:8
When we stand in the holy place, we are filled with the Holy Ghost, just as the Holy of Holies was filled with the cloud of the Lord. We are promised in Doctrine and Covenants 121: 46 that by obeying the principles of righteousness:
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3 that we are the temple of God:
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
By following the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Christ, we become our own holy place. We are also prepared to enter into his Most Holy House, the temple, and continue our journey back to His presence.
But once we reach this point, we are not finished. Alma asked:
26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
Each of us, "...must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." (2 Nephi 31:20) This does not mean that we will never have doubts, or questions about the gospel. Even the disciples that walked with the Lord had doubts, as they walked to Emmaus:
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
In these scriptures, Luke gives us an example of what to do when we have doubts.
- They talked together, they communed together, and they reasoned. Don't keep your doubts bottled up inside, share them with those you have come to trust.
- Sometimes our concerns are because we have preconceived notions of parts of the gospel. These men were expecting Christ to "redeem Israel" from the Roman occupation, not from sin and death.
- Sometimes things in the gospel can sound strange, or contrary to our cultural beliefs. During Christ's time, women were not expected to experience such things as visitations of angels, in fact, they were expected to stay at home.
- Open up the scriptures, and let the Lord, through his spirit, expound them to us. " And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (verse 27)
- Attend church meetings and participate in the Sacrament. "And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread." (Verse 35)
Questions and doubts are part of life. They are never insurmountable, and if we take our doubts and questions to the Lord, and to our fellow saints (who all might have doubts as well!), we can find the peace that comes from spiritual growth, and we can stand in holy places, and be not moved.