I was 5,500 miles away from home when the first serious Covid-19 restrictions were put into place. Not only were countless businesses suddenly shut down and travel banns issued, but Latter-day Saint temples closed, and church members would not be gathering for regular services–all this in an attempt to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Though I certainly had concerns about the virus, the deeper worry for me was being so far from all of my “holy places” during a time of upheaval and uncertainty. For most of my life, when I heard the scripture “…stand ye in holy places, and be not moved…” (D&C 87:8), I have thought of the temple, the church (my chapel/ward/stake), and my home–yet there I was in North Africa, far removed from all of those. How could I stand in a holy place?
During the six months since the Covid-19 restrictions were first imposed, I have felt a mental shift, an increased conviction that although access to worshipping in the temple and with my church congregation will be restored at some point, it is not enough to wait until that time to stand in holy places. It is dangerous to postpone holiness. As the second coming of Jesus Christ draws nearer, there will continue to be upheaval and commotion all around, as prophesied in the scriptures. My holiness must be portable–I must live so that wherever I am is a holy place.
The idea of “portable holiness” is not new. I love the Old Testament story of the children of Israel carrying a portable tabernacle with them in the wilderness, so they always had a place in which to worship and connect with their God. “The tabernacle was all about God’s literal presence on earth.” (1)Jehovah told the Israelites, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee.” (Exodus 25:22) Though we do not carry a tabernacle with us in modern times, “…our mortal experiences offer us the opportunity to choose holiness. Most often it is the sacrifices we make to keep our covenants that sanctify us and make us holy.” (2)
As I have pondered the concept of portable holiness, my thoughts have turned to the prophet Moroni, the last Nephite standing after decades of war led to the complete destruction of his people. His personal story and the teachings he engraved on plates of gold are powerfully pertinent to our day. Moroni’s father, Mormon, described the environment in which their family lived:
“…behold, a continual scene of wickedness and abominations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man.” (Mormon 2:18) “And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people…and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually…” (Mormon 4:11)
After the final horrific battle, Moroni records:
“…I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people…My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.” (Mormon 8:3,5)
According to the Book of Mormon record, Moroni lived at least another 20 years. I marvel that someone whose world was dreadfully violent, bloody, and unstable could grow up so strong in the Lord–yet his personal purity is evident in the beauty and spirit of his words.
If anyone knows about the need for portable holiness it is Moroni. I have pictured him–the prophet who included the words to the sacrament prayers in his record–blessing and partaking of the sacrament by himself. Moroni knew something about having “home church.” I imagine him singing or humming spiritual songs. Though he could no longer participate in temple ordinances, surely he pondered the covenants which bound him to his God. His counsel is particularly timely in a day when we have limited access to our usual holy places. To help us increase in holiness, Moroni directs us to:
“…strip yourselves of all uncleanness…” (Mormon 9:28)
“…deny yourselves of all ungodliness…” (Moroni 10:32)
Moroni also clarifies how to recognize that which is holy:
“…that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7:13)
“…for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ…” (Moroni 7:16)
For anyone desiring to increase in holiness during these troubled times, I strongly encourage reading the beautiful writings of Moroni in the following chapters of The Book of Mormon: Mormon 8 and 9; Ether 6 and 12; Moroni 7 and 10.
In these days of turmoil, there are people all around us who do not know the Lord, or do not know how to access His holiness and light. What a blessing it would be for them to recognize holiness in us. “If you make and keep sacred covenants, if you prepare yourself daily for spiritual experiences through scripture study and prayer, if you align and bind yourselves with God, a light will emanate from you. Others will be drawn to that light, which is just a reflection of God’s light, and they will be drawn to Him.” (3)
According to President Henry B. Eyring, “…greater happiness comes from greater personal holiness…” (4) What we read, think about, look at, listen to, speak of, and the way we treat others, all have the potential to repel the Holy Spirit or to invite His holy presence into our hearts. The Lord instructs us to, “…practice virtue and holiness before me continually.” (D&C 46:33) This means we must practice holiness in our homes (even if we’re the only person there who desires to be holy), in the workplace, in the car, at the movie theater, on social media, at the mall, in the slow line at the grocery store, and whenever we’re alone. And, as the Lord promised the children of Israel who carried the portable tabernacle, “…there I will meet with thee…” (Exodus 25:22, emphasis added.)
1. D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse, The Old Testament, Vol. One, p. 224
2. Sister Carol F. McConkie, The Beauty of Holiness, April 2017 General Conference.
3. President Kevin J. Worthen, Holy Places, January 20, 2015, BYU speeches.
4. President Henry B. Eyring, Holiness and the Plan of Happiness, Oct. 2019 General Conference.