Area Presidency Message: Respecting Our Places of Worship

“Preserve the building’s sacred nature as a place where the Spirit can be present.”

Elder Jorg Klebingat

When entering into the house of the Lord, we usually take note of at least three things: the temple’s beauty, cleanliness, and the calming presence of the Holy Ghost. The psalmist’s declaration therefore resonates with us: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Psalm 50:2, italics added). The inscription on the temple walls, “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord,” is yet another reminder that holiness is closely associated with beauty, cleanliness, and light. For these reasons we enjoy going to the temple to receive more light. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

What would happen to our temple experience if, upon entering, we noticed trash on the floor or in the corners? What if the changing rooms and washrooms were cluttered and in disarray? What if the carpet in the sealing room was dirty, the altar soiled or the sofas in the celestial room were stained?

The thought makes us shudder, doesn’t it? None of us would think to leave trash in the temple or to do anything that would detract from the clean and sacred atmosphere in the Lord’s house. But are temples the only houses we should treat with the utmost respect? Consider the words of the Lord to the Church’s building committee in 1833 regarding the construction of an administrative structure:

“And it shall be dedicated unto the Lord from the foundation thereof, according to the order of the priesthood, according to the pattern which shall be given unto you hereafter.

“And it shall be wholly dedicated unto the Lord for the work of the presidency.

“And ye shall not suffer any unclean thing to come in unto it; and my glory shall be there, and my presence shall be there.

“But if there shall come into it any unclean thing, my glory shall not be there; and my presence shall not come into it” (Doctrine & Covenants 94:6–9).

We note that the Lord is claiming this building as His as it is dedicated to Him. He promises that His glory and presence shall be there as long as nothing unclean shall come into it. Using the temple as our standard, we acknowledge that “unclean” refers both to the spiritual preparation of those entering and to the condition in which the building is kept.

Regarding the printing house the Lord continues:

“And again, verily I say unto you, the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures, and all things whatsoever I shall command you. . . .

“And this house shall be wholly dedicated unto the Lord from the foundation thereof, for the work of the printing, in all things whatsoever I shall command you, to be holy, undefiled, according to the pattern in all things as it shall be given unto you” (Doctrine & Covenants 94:10, 12).

Again, the Lord requires that this building be dedicated unto Him and commands it to remain holy and undefiled. Given the Lord’s high expectations of how we should treat the temple and other administrative Church buildings, is it not reasonable to assume that the same expectations apply to our places of worship?

Dear brothers and sisters, our meetinghouses have also been dedicated to the Lord to extend to us saving ordinances, gospel instruction, and opportunities to fellowship. The most sacred public ordinance of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, the sacrament, is administered in our chapels each Sunday. Just like temples, our meetinghouses, and particularly our chapels, can be places of revelation as taught by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015):

“Foyers are built into our chapels to allow for the greeting and chatter that are typical of people who love one another. However, when we step into the chapel, we must!—each of us must—watch ourselves lest we be guilty of intruding when someone is struggling to feel delicate spiritual communications”1.

Just as our inappropriate conduct may interfere with others’ feeling the Holy Ghost in our church meetings, a dirty, unkempt, and neglected meetinghouse may likewise limit the presence of the Lord’s Spirit. A popular saying teaches that cleanliness is next to godliness. Just like “the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Helaman 4:24), we may reasonably suppose that His presence may also be curtailed in dirty, cluttered chapels and classrooms.

Personal spiritual preparation and cleanliness invites the presence of the Holy Ghost into our lives. Anciently, the Lord commanded those of the house of Israel to engage in ritual purification thereby qualifying to be called His holy nation. Doing all we can to keep our meetinghouses clean also invites the Lord’s glory and presence because “out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Psalm 50:2).

“Under the direction of the bishop, adult and youth leaders encourage members to help with building care and maintenance”2. “Local leaders and members, including youth, have a responsibility to help keep each building clean and in good condition. This helps:

“Preserve the building’s sacred nature as a place where the Spirit can be present.”3

Working together as a ward family in this way also encourages reverence and presents an image of dignity and respect while also extending the building’s useful life. Let’s discuss these principles in our councils, presidency, and leadership meetings as well as in our homes.

May we invite you to take personal responsibility to protect the sacred nature of our meetinghouses by keeping them clean? Let us remove trash and reset the chairs in an orderly fashion after meetings or classes have ended. Let us keep materials neatly organized in closets, boxes, or on shelves. Let us come together as wards and branches and treat our meetinghouses such that the Savior would be pleased if He came to visit.

As we take care of our places of worship, we not only deepen our reverence and feelings of appreciation for a meetinghouse, but even more so for the Lord whose building it is. He has told us to “keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:30). Elder D. Todd Christofferson added, “The importance of having a sense of the sacred is simply this—if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. . . .

“On the other hand, with a sense of the sacred, one grows in understanding and truth.”4

The Area Presidency has felt impressed to include respecting and properly caring for our places of worship by all members in the 2023 Area Plan. Brothers and sisters, our meetinghouses are sacred in the eyes of the Lord. May they also be sacred to us.