Ann N. Madsen
Ancient Scripture Faculty Member at BYU
Ann N. Madsen, an Isaiah scholar and poet, teaches ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. She received her MA degree from BYU in ancient studies with a minor in Hebrew. At present, she serves on the Sunday School general board of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her husband, Truman, have three children and a Navajo foster son, sixteen grandchildren and, at the moment, twenty-five great-grandchildren.
Jesus said, "My disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved."1 BYU-Idaho's Student Honor Statement explains the way this can happen: "Student honor is following the path of discipleship and learning to be more like Christ. Learning to think, to feel, and to act more as He does." Truman G. Madsen wrote, "If we are not becoming more Christ-like and therefore more God-like, we are not yet his disciples."2 I came to speak to you about becoming a true disciple, standing in your own holy place. There are places where I feel this holiness. My short list includes these four:
The temple, which, before we enter, announces itself to us in these sacred words engraved in stone: "Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord." This is how I feel about the temple:
In the Temple
The quiet closes round me
God's house reverberates
filled with echoes
from the faithful
who have followed the light
to here, like a star.
White, we come clothed in white
to this place,
of radiant light.
of this Heavenly House,
if I come,
clothed in the pure white
of a new lamb,
with my heart as new,
may I, too,
It is a holy place and we are invited to come inside so that we may "stand and not be moved." Our making covenants assist us in that process.
The Provo MTC. When I have had occasion to enter that place, the Spirit is unmistakable. It is like a wave that carries you from the moment you come through the door. Many of you know that from first-hand experience. Many of you will know it. Count it as a unique blessing when you enter that particular holy place.
My own home has long been my favorite holy place. Each time I visit the temple I feel I bring home some of the light that is there. I remember one morning, suddenly realizing, as I prayed, that I felt like I was in the temple. I always kneel in the same place, near a window with a lovely view of the rising sun and the mountains.
Once I had a Jewish friend visit, with whom I had prayed. She said to me, "I want to see the place where you pray," I said, "Come with me." I showed her where I knelt each day and she stepped into it, like it was a circle of light and said, "I can feel that this is the place." It is not the only place in our home that feels holy. The place where my husband gave patriarchal blessings and the place where we knelt together for family prayer are still holy to me.
BYU-Idaho, truly BYU-Idaho. There's something wonderful going on here at BYU-Idaho. I feel it each time I visit. It started even before your temple was built but has increased since. It's tangible. Do you feel it? Are you part of it? Have ye received His image in your countenance[s]?3 Is His law written in your heart?4 Does purity shine from your eyes?
The holiness here includes you. It includes me. We are not outside looking in, we are inside, looking out. We came "trailing clouds of glory." (Wordsworth) We were born for glory. Glory is our destiny. We have the tools we need to achieve it:
- A precious body, which is our personal temple. We maintain it, clean and pure, by keeping covenants.
- A plan, outlined in scriptures we can study, which teaches us joy and can result in happiness beyond our fondest dreams.
- Priesthood power to bless and lead us, a portion of Heavenly Father's own power given to men to become conduits for His word at many levels.
- A Heavenly father who loves us, whose pervasive love encircles us and which we can replicate, encircling each other with love. A Heavenly Father who is available, who we can talk to any time night or day and be assured he is listening, cares, and will answer.
- The priceless gift of the Holy Ghost to lead us to truth and away from all the non-truths called sin. Sometimes we trade what we want most for what we want now, but the Holy Ghost brings all things that we must know to our remembrance so we can think eternally.
All of this with the agency to choose, not just stand and watch but to act, not merely be acted upon. This is our time on earth. This is our moment. So what shall we do?
My prayer for today has been that I may help you see some of the ways you can construct your own holy place, sanctify your own space and then stand in it and not be moved. In the new Church Handbook I was inspired to read these words:
"Followers of Christ are invited to 'gather,' 'stand in holy places,' and 'be not moved.' These holy places include temples, homes, and chapels. The presence of the Spirit and the behavior of those within these physical structures are what make them 'holy places.' Wherever Church members live, they should establish a home where the Spirit is present. All members of the Church can make efforts to ensure that their place of residence provides a place of sanctuary from the world."5
"Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him. And every[one] that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."6 Link that to "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."7
Why do we become purified? So that we may someday see God. George Bernard Shaw had it right: "Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world."
How do we become purified? Through the righteous use of our bodies; our behavior. We learn much about this in the temple.
By what we see and choose to watch or not watch. "Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you." I am quoting from "For the Strength of Youth." Why does that little booklet have the word "strength" in its title? "My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure." (Tennyson)
A couple of examples that you may choose to look at are the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Issue, or the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. Pornography is seldom labeled "porn." We must recognize it for ourselves. The 13th Article of Faith helps: "If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things!" Who knew we would have to sift through garbage to find the virtuous?
By what we hear and choose to listen to or not to listen to. If you have time to go to Facebook, you have time to go to FamilySearch. If you own an iPod, you can get on the Mormon Channel, where they announce frequently: "Our goal is to bring people unto Christ, to proclaim His Gospel and to testify that He lives!" Is there anything else you listen to that makes that claim?
What else can you find? Words of living prophets, will be spoken next week in General Conference. Will you hang on every word? Take note of special imperatives spoken just for you? Do you ever sleep through or just not hear the very answers from God you have been pleading for? You can replay it on your iPod or computer. Or hear that devotional you loved again and again. Or BYU speeches. Podcasts are a goldmine of inspiring words and music. Don't let Halo 3 or Facebook steal your time from this treasure.
By what we say and choose not to say. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good."8 "How you speak says much about who you are. Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misusing their names is a sin. Foul language harms your spirit and degrades you. Use language that uplifts, encourages and complements others."9
No matter what it is, it does not need to be said right now. Think, ponder, pray, edit. Take time to be holy and measure your words. Some things should never be spoken at all. "Mary kept all these things in her heart." In the world today, sometimes it feels like nothing is sacred. Can you keep a bright sense of what is sacred? Such sacred things stored in your heart will become your own hidden treasures, shared only with God. The temple teaches us how that works. "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit."10 What a sweet safeguard the Spirit can be to our tongues.
By what we wear and choose not to wear. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says it well, "Do not look like what you do not think."11 "Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is."12 Miss Idaho, a BYU student, chose to wear a one-piece swimsuit in a Miss America Pageant in 2011, where all the others wore scant bikinis - cookie cutter alike. Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve sacred clothing to cover their nakedness. Satan has been trying to uncover and expose our bodies ever since.
By what we eat, taste and choose not to taste. As Lloyd D. Newell says so well, "The Word of Wisdom is a bulwark against enslavement to harmful and addictive substances, a safeguard against evil designs and a reminder that the body is a Temple - a sacred, priceless possession that must be protected."13 We are taught to eat wholesome food. If we do, we will avoid obesity and disease. We should not overeat or undereat. In Gospel Principles we read: "We should avoid anything we know is harmful to our bodies, and we should not use any substance that is habit forming. The Word of Wisdom does not tell us everything to avoid or consume, but it does give us guidelines."14
By what we touch and choose not to touch. The following words are not my own. They are words that should be familiar to all of us:
"Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person's body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body."15
The devil would fool you into thinking you can tiptoe around such behavior, but you must eliminate NCMOs - "Non-Committal Make Outs." He envies you and your body. Don't let him tutor you in the unrighteous use of your precious body. No wonder we are taught in the temple God's purposes for our bodies.
My daughter in law teaches her children, "Kissing is not a recreational activity." I would add that kissing is a sublime expression of eternal love. The last expression of that love offered to me from my dying husband was a kiss. The most sublime kiss you can look forward to is the one across an altar just after you have been sealed to your eternal companion. That tender kiss signals the beginning of your eternity together. You must live pure for such moments.
In an ever-darkening world, we can become points of light. We know with great clarity how this is done. "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men." And we live what we believe. Every day. I wrote these lines. Listen carefully:
Let the World change its shape to fit me.
I'll not change
To walk through
I came to conquer
Not to slink and slide
Unnoticed in the crowd.
I came to win
A mastery over me,
To teach my skin
My soul's dimensions for eternity
We need to teach our bodies our soul's dimensions for eternity. We were born for glory and are making choices each day that can bring us closer to that goal. The righteous use of our bodies is important in this effort. In April 2007, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk entitled, "I Am Clean." In it he tells a story:
"It concerns President Joseph F. Smith, who served as President of the Church from 1901 to 1918, altogether 17 years. Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith, the nephew of Joseph the Prophet . . . At the age of 15 he was called on a mission to Hawaii. . . He learned to speak their language and to love them. While serving there he experienced a remarkable dream."
Then President Hinckley quotes from Joseph F. Smith's own words:
"'I was very much oppressed [when I was] on a mission. . . (I felt that I was) just a boy, that I hardly dared look a . . . man in the face. While in that condition I dreamed [one night] that I was on a journey, and I was impressed that I ought to hurry-hurry with all my might, for fear I might be too late. I rushed on my way as fast as I possibly could, and I was conscious of having . . . a handkerchief with a small bundle wrapped in it. . . finally I came to a wonderful mansion. . . . I thought I knew that was my destination.'
"'As I passed towards it, as fast as I could, I saw a notice [which read ... 'Bath.'] I turned aside quickly and went into the bath and washed myself clean. I opened up this little bundle that I had, and there was [some] white, clean [clothing . . . and I put [it] on. Then I rushed to what appeared to be a great door. I knocked and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said [were]: 'Joseph, you are late.' Yet I took confidence and [replied]: 'Yes, but I am clean-I am clean!' He clasped my hand and drew me in." (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 542-43).
President Hinckley goes on to say:
"The result of that dream was that a boy was changed into a man. His declaration 'I am clean' gave him self-assurance and courage in facing anyone or any situation . . ."
President Hinckley continues:
"Said Isaiah the prophet: 'Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;' 'Learn to do well; . . .' 'Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:16-18). In modern revelation the Lord has said: 'Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord (Doctrine and Covenants 33:5)."16
That's what we're talking about, being clean. It's all about being clean, isn't it? Purified, cleansed, sanctified are all closely related words. John 13:8-10 speaks of "Clean every whit."
My husband often called the temple a sanctuary and it occurred to me, that it's because it is a place where we learn to be sanctified. If the temple is a sanctuary or place that we can become sanctified then the sacrament is the time each week, a space we can wall off, in which we can be cleansed and renewed and increase our worthiness for temple worship. "No unclean thing can enter His presence." All that you take into your soul should sanctify you.
Each week we come to the sacrament to measure ourselves standing next to Jesus Christ, our eternal standard. What do we bring? We bring Him our sins, our broken heart and contrite spirit remembering again His blessed sacrifice for us.
The Sacrament Prayers
The words are repeated
this sacred, Sabbath time.
Words I can trace
through the week
but this time
and the nourishment
by a boy's hand
Picture a conduit of light with you in it, sitting silently during the sacrament, with head bowed, asking, "How holy am I? Why do I promise to remember Christ? What is the exchange that is taking place? I sacrifice [all] my sins and ask with all my heart each week, 'What lack I yet? What are my sins?" When the answer comes, I write it down. In 1995 I wrote down these impressions and I keep a copy in my scriptures to refer to during the sacrament:
- Know when to speak and when to keep silent.
- Keep sacred things in my heart
- Give myself to Truman every day
- Process pain through love. Metabolize hurt by charity
During the sacrament, I take into myself the symbols of a perfect life, a life which becomes my everlasting example of goodness and decency. And I do it with others, sitting side by side, that through this ordinance we may be "partakers of the divine nature."17 "By partaking, accompanied by the Spirit of God, we are preparing ourselves to be sufficiently pure to enter His presence . . . the Spirit is invited in and comes to stay."18
We partake of a tiny piece of bread, which has been blessed and sanctified to our souls' good, a tiny piece of bread, symbolizing the resplendent, resurrected body of Him who redeems us. We drink a single swallow of water in the smallest of cups, symbolizing His blood, which cleanses our inner vessel and washes clean our souls.
Our coming out of sacrament meeting should be like Joseph F. Smith's coming out of that bath-house, fresh and clean. That is the exchange, His love for us; a pure love that never fails; an Atonement that is infinite and eternal in exchange for our growing love for Him, which enables our changing. We remember Him, we promise again and again to always remember Him so that we may become like Him, not His everlasting inferior, but like Him in every way we have learned to observe and feel in our hearts.
We must become more like Him, to think, to feel to act more like He does. I cannot ignore His sacrifice for me. In the words of President James E. Faust:
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry,
I too can testify:
This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Saviour, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the healer of our souls,
Who ransomed us with love divine.19
This is the Christ we remember. One day I had a moment in Gethsemane alone in the lovely church built there with violet stained glass windows to make it seem always night-time, the time when Jesus plead with His Father to let the awful cup pass, and set the pattern for us forever, saying, "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done."
It was a strangely quiet time for that usually crowded place of pilgrimage. No one was in sight. I was brimming with love and gratitude and felt the Spirit in my pounding heart. I sank to my knees to quietly whisper a prayer. I knew that somewhere nearby, not far from where I knelt He had knelt and prayed in agony. How could I not pour out my love and thanks? I wept. I pictured His precious body racked in inexpressible pain, some of it on my behalf. I felt drawn to Him by the magnet of His redeeming love.
As I arose from my knees, I had been able to say only a small part of what I had felt. I was prompted to write down the last of the prayer I had spoken. I wanted to remember the moment, the sacred space, the sanctifying time. Gratitude helps sanctify us. These are the words I wrote. I didn't realize it was poetry until I wrote it down:
Beneath the Violet Windows - Gethsemane
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thou who lovest
The people of the Mosque,
Who would have gathered
The people of the synagogue,
Whose arms continue open
To each saffron-robed monk
And searching nun,
Lord of the children
And the childlike,
Pulled by thy love,
Seized by thy suffering,
Drawn to thee
By everlasting cords,
How can I duplicate each sacrament time, these sacred feelings? Can I go in my mind to the place where He knelt? Can I offer my list of this week's sins to Him from my broken heart, on the altar we call a sacrament table? Can I give away all my sins to know Him and by that action become more like Him? How could I know Him better than by adopting His attributes into my life? Can I submit my will to His and cry out from my heart, "Dear Lord Jesus, I come!" I will become the pure in heart thou knowest I can be. I will create my own sacred space and resolutely stand in it. I will walk out of each sacrament meeting feeling cleansed. It may take time but I will one day say simply, "I am clean, I am clean."
May we all love the Sacrament, which has the power to cleanse us, that we may sanctify our own space, and at last meet the Lord, seeing Him as He is, and that we are like Him.
1 Doctrine and Covenants 45:32
2 Truman G. Madsen, The Sacrament, p. 148
3 Alma 5:14
4 Jeremiah 31:33
5 Handbook 2, Administering the Church, 1.4.1
6 1 John 3:2-3
7 Matthew 5:8
8 Ephesians 4:29
9 "For the Strength of Youth," 22
10 Doctrine and Covenants 63:64
11 Jeffrey R. Holland, Institute of Religion Devotional, May 1980
12 "For the Strength of Youth," 14
13 Lloyd D. Newell, Let Him Ask of God, 63
14 Gospel Principles, 169
15 "For the Strength of Youth," 26
16 Gordon B. Hinckley, "I Am Clean," Ensign, May 2007, 60-62
17 2 Peter 1:4
18 Truman G. Madsen, The Sacrament, 147
19 James E. Faust and Jan Pinborough, "This is the Christ," 1995
Stand in a Holy Place: Sanctify Your Own Space
Audio of Ann N. Madsen's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2011