Last fall, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to my hometown to speak to the young adults in the area. In his talk, he compared ancient Israel to current Israel – AKA us. He pointed out that ancient Israel always fled from sin – they kept themselves clean and holy by literally separating themselves from the world. We, however, can’t do that. Instead, we’re expected “to live in the world, not of the world.”
As he talked about this, I wrote in my journal, “We must do this without running.”
Recently, I looked back over my notes and found that phrase again. And it seems even more relevant now than it was last fall. It’s never been easy to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ, and that hasn’t changed. We’re asked and choose to live in a way that is different from everyone around us. That alone is a challenge, but when ridicule, mockery, and anger come against us for our beliefs, it can be scary and confusing.
The fact that it grows more challenging each day to stay as disciples of Christ proves that it’s more necessary than ever for us to establish ourselves in holy places – to gain a testimony of our Father and Savior and their plan for us.
And we must do this without running.
These are my ideas on how we can do this:
Go to Holy Places
How do we stay in holy places if we aren’t in holy places?
The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith,
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.Doctrine and Covenants 87:8
Holy places are secure places for us to gain and grow our faith. They are places to retreat to, to rely on, to seek help. Holy places make us better people.
But we can’t stay in holy places without first going to them. It requires a choice on our part – will we choose to separate ourselves from the world and stand in holy places, or will we follow the world into uncertain paths?
We make this choice every single day. Every choice really comes down to one of two things – following God or following Satan. Some choices may not seem connected, but each little choice takes us another step toward one or the other. When we choose to stand in holy places, we choose to face God and follow Him, even if we slip up sometimes.
Holy places can include church houses, temples, homes, family and other loved ones, and even places in nature where we can speak with God – like Joseph Smith did. We should try to be in these places as much as possible, but holy places aren’t just physical locations. Our hearts and minds can also be holy places if we choose to make them so. And when we ourselves are holy places, we’ll be able to stand in them always.
Counsel with God
You’ve heard this hundreds of times – pray. Always pray. Turn to God and speak with Him. As much as this is repeated, it’s clear that it’s one of the most important pieces of advice to exist. I know that I don’t take this as seriously as I ought to and that prayer could be a much bigger part of my life every day, so I understand the challenges that come with prayer.
But remember that Enos called prayer a “wrestle which I had before God.” Prayer is a simple act of communication, but who ever said that communication was easy? It takes effort. It takes time. It takes remembering to reach out. And it requires listening.
When you face a problem, who do you turn to? A parent? A leader? A friend? All good options. We should counsel with them too. But God is all those things when we turn to Him. And we shouldn’t leave Him out. He has perfect wisdom, love, and understanding that can be ours as well when we listen to Him and learn from Him. He will show us the best way to stand in holy places wherever we are.
Learn God’s Words
Here’s another familiar commandment – learn God’s words. Study the scriptures, the words of the prophets. The scriptures tell us where to find holy places and how we can become holy places, and we are limiting our ability to stand in holy places when we don’t prioritize God’s word.
Something I’ve found helpful is simply promising myself that I won’t miss a day of reading in the scriptures. Let me be clear – that doesn’t mean that I’m reading several chapters a day or anything. Some days, it means reading only one verse. Life is sometimes crazy like that. But making sure that the scriptures are a part of my day every day has helped me find a lot of comfort and assurance in God and His gospel.
Find what works for you – listen to the scriptures, read them out loud, discuss them with friends – whatever you need to do to make the scriptures a part of your life. Your testimony will grow. Answers will come. And the efforts you make will give you a strong understanding of God and a powerful defense against Satan.
Use the Gift of Discernment
Discernment is the ability to determine what is good and true from what is evil and false. It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit so we can trust ourselves to make informed choices. God hasn’t left us alone to make all of our choices. He’s given us discernment as a way for us to have better understanding of what is in front of us.
That does not mean that God forces choices upon us. He simply ensures that we have the information we need. The choice is still ours.
So let’s use discernment more. Let’s counsel with God and ask for His Guidance, and then when that guidance comes from the Holy Spirit, let’s use it and follow it. God will lead us back to Him if we let Him. We don’t have to get hung up on the things the world insists we pay attention to. Instead, we can choose to do as God directs so we can further His work of salvation for His children.
Trust in the Promises of God
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we’ve made promises to God and He’s made promises back. We literally have been promised help, healing, and salvation from the Master of the Universe. But we need to trust that those promises will be fulfilled.
Life can be scary. There are so many reasons to just hide away and never do what we promised God we would do. That we would stand with Him in holy places. That we’d stay.
But we’ll never be worse off for keeping and following through on our promises to God. Keeping those promises changes us for the better. And what better way to draw closer to our God than by offering our loyalty and obedience.
If God can create worlds without number, if He can create a plan that saves us all without sacrificing mercy or justice, if He’s willing to let His Begotten Son suffer to save us all, then He’s more than capable of keeping His promises. And we can see, when we look back on our lives and search in the scriptures, that He’s already kept every promise He’s made to us and our brothers and sisters. He won’t stop now – if we continue to follow Him.
Just Keep Fighting
Maybe the hardest part about choosing to stand in holy places is knowing that the next day, we have to wake up and do it all over again. And again. And again. It gets exhausting at times, and it never stops.
Keep fighting. Even when you’re exhausted. Even when you’re in pain. Keep fighting because if you stop, it’s even harder to get back up to fight again. Keep fighting because you’re still alive and because you have a cause to fight for. Keep fighting for your God because He never has and never will stop fighting for you.
We can’t run away from this fight. It can scare us and make us wish we weren’t fighting it at all, but that doesn’t make the fight go away. We chose to come to this life and this fight for our God, and I don’t think we were naive about what we’d have to face. After all, this war started in heaven before any of us were ever born. This isn’t our first battle.
So keep fighting and stand your ground in holy places. As Elder Holland said in his talk last fall, “Victory is already ours.”God is leading us forward, and with Him, we can’t fail.