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|To stand (alone) in holy places|
Mar. 19th, 2007 at 11:57 pm
When I was perhaps twelve, I found my way into a stake center as the sun was setting late on a Saturday.
There was no one with me, and though the door was open nobody was in the building. My footsteps echoed the way they do in empty halls. The daylight was enough in the foyer and caught the dust in the still air of the classrooms I passed, but when I pushed open the door to the chapel, I felt like a toddler opening the door of my parents’ bedroom late at night.
It was dark, not completely, but dim and silent and somehow awesome, and I strained to see through the shadows around the pulpit. The quiet had the gentle weight of a heavy snowfall, and I was suddenly afraid to take a step and shatter the peace I had found. So I stood in the back, still, and listened for God.
Our holy places in Mormondom are essentially communal ground. When we offer formal worship, we do it hand in hand; when we encounter God in liturgy, we pass each other the tray. When we tread on sacred ground we do it in the ordered ranks of companionship, as we crossed the plains. There is something mystical and powerful and deeply Christian about the fellowship; it is where we become part of the body of Christ constituted. Unlike the Catholic mass, spiritually valid even if a priest performs it in an empty room, our Sacrament requires both someone to bless and to partake.
But yet, the mysticism of solitude lies deep in the sinews of the sacred narratives of Mormonism – Joseph leaving his farm life behind at the borders of the Sacred Grove, Moroni dropping to his knees alone upon the hill, Alma and Ammon, Elijah in the cave and Christ in the garden. Though we might be saved only together, our deepest communion with the divine comes ultimately in the most private places of our own hearts.
I believe this, I think, because since, it’s been in my nature to long for solitary worship – to combine the awe of God’s house with the intimacy of private prayer; to stand alone before God and feel the silent solemnity of sacred place enfold me; to recapture the wonder I felt as I stood silently in the darkened chapel that Saturday afternoon.