Cover image via https://www.weinsbergertal.com/.
Stand Ye in Holy Places
You may have heard the story of the Weibertreu Castle in what is now Germany. In 1140, the castle and its occupants, including the Duke of Welf, were under siege from the Duke of Swabia and his brother King Konrad III. Konrad and his men were fearless, skilled and ruthless. The siege lasted a long time, but finally Konrad conquered the defenses of the castle and was about to lay everything to waste.
The Duke of Welf offered his surrender and Konrad granted him permission to depart in safety. But the Duke’s wife, the Lady Uta, did not trust Konrad’s offer.
She knew that Konrad hated her husband and would kill all the men as soon as they took possession of the castle. So, she sent a message to Konrad entreating him to give her safe conduct for herself and all the other women in the garrison, and that they might come out with as many of their valuables as they could carry on their backs. The letter read:
We, the women of the castle, humbly realize that our fate is in your hands. We ask only that you allow us to leave at sunrise tomorrow with our children and whatever we can carry on our backs. For this we entreat you and submit our lives to your mercy.
This request was granted. The next morning at sunrise, when the castle gates opened, out stepped the women with their children following behind. The women were not carrying their gold or valuables, but their own husbands on their backs. On the backs of unmarried women were their own brothers or fathers. Each woman staggered under the weight of her burden.
Konrad is said to have been affected to tears by this extraordinary display, and remained true to his word letting the men live. Hence the castle was named Weibertreu or the castle of the loyal wives.
The courage of the loyal wives changed the castle from one of many castles in now modern Germany to one worth remembering–from an ordinary castle to a sacred place. Without their courage, the castle would likely not be remembered today.
This is how it is with holy places. It is courage, sacrifice and faith that makes holy places holy. Sister Sharon G. Larsen said:
“Holy places can be wherever you are—alone, in a crowd, with strangers, with friends. The road to Jericho was treacherous and formidable. Thieves infiltrated the bushes and trees waiting to ambush any traveler. It took a kind and courageous Samaritan to change that road … to a holy place.”
D&C 87:8 says, “…stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come….” The definition of the word stand includes rising to one’s feet, being able to endure, holding one’s ground, remaining unaltered and on a specified course, and adopting a particular attitude toward a matter. When we stand, we rise, hold our ground and remain on our course in the cause of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is the standing that makes where ever we are holy. By what we choose and what we do, can turn wherever we are into a holy place.
Everything is a choice. This life was a choice. In our pre-earth life, standing with Christ was a choice well made. Love is a choice. Fear is a choice. Humility is a choice. Courage is a choice. Our choices echo throughout our lives and on into eternity.
And in eternity, the choice that matters is whether we stand with Jesus Christ. So be less concerned with where you may be right now and more concerned with how you stand. By standing with him, we align our lives to his. Even if we’ve made poor choices in the past, we can choose to align with him today.
There is immense power in choosing well. When we choose to stand with Jesus Christ, we access power we might not otherwise have. When we decide that whatever he asks, wherever he leads, we will follow, we yoke ourselves to him and his power. As Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29). The Bible Dictionary says, “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ … receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.”[i]
Standing with Christ, requires choosing to be humble, to have faith in Christ, and to rely on him. “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Follow the Prophet
In the section heading to D&C 87, an enlightening quote from Joseph Smith’s history says “the appearances of troubles among the nations were becoming ‘more visible’ to the Prophet ‘than had previously been….’”
I find this statement particularly insightful. By 1832, it was more likely that there would be trouble in South Carolina. South Carolina had passed ordinances declaring their state a free and independent nation. The following January, the intent was to sever ties with the United States. This clarity led to a revelation which foretells the Civil War and the pouring out of war upon all nations.
I suspect some revelation today occurs in a similar way. As troubles in our world become more clear, revelation is given to help us understand the last days and, most of all, to chart our course in times of trouble.
In our day and age, troubles among the nations, society and people are becoming more visible to our prophets. As a result, we are getting valuable and pertinent revelation to help us chart our course in our current times of struggle.
For example, President Nelson has been urging us to let God prevail in our life. Why has he given this counsel? Could it be that this counsel will help us in ways specific to our day? Letting God prevail means you stand with him. President Nelson said:
“If you have sincere questions about the gospel or the Church, as you choose to let God prevail, you will be led to find and understand the absolute, eternal truths that will guide your life and help you stay firmly on the covenant path.
“When you are faced with temptation—even if the temptation comes when you are exhausted or feeling alone or misunderstood—imagine the courage you can muster as you choose to let God prevail in your life and as you plead with Him to strengthen you.
“When your greatest desire is to let God prevail, to be part of Israel, so many decisions become easier. So many issues become nonissues! You know how best to groom yourself. You know what to watch and read, where to spend your time, and with whom to associate. You know what you want to accomplish. You know the kind of person you really want to become.”[ii]
Likewise, standing in holy places can make issues become nonissues. Even if there is turmoil in the world around you, even if there are hosts of opinions that cause confusion, and even if you don’t have all the answers…when you stand with Christ, you will not be moved.
President Nelson said, “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous.”[iii]
BYU President Kevin Worthen taught that to stand in holy places: “We must first align ourselves with Him, and then we need to bind ourselves to Him. It is that simple. If we align ourselves with God and then bind ourselves to Him, we will be endowed with power to transform prisons into temples, humble dwellings into celestial abodes, and places of despair into havens of hope.”
He continues, “The daily practice of serious study of the scriptures and sincere prayer keeps the Savior enough in our minds and the Spirit enough in our lives that we will either make the necessary corrections to stay in overall alignment with the Savior or we will stop studying and reading the scriptures and praying because it is too uncomfortable.
“This does not mean you won’t have challenges or questions. You will. But daily scripture study and daily prayer will keep you on the path—will keep you aligned with the Savior and our Father in Heaven—to such a degree that you will find, over time, you are a better person, one more able to not only stand in holy places but also make holy the places in which you stand.”[iv]
“From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Don’t we all need to be wise unto salvation?
The Wheat and the Tares
Section 86 was a revelation received as the prophet was reviewing and editing the manuscript of the translation of the Bible. His journal entry on December 6, 1832 states that he had been translating on that day and received a revelation about the parable of the wheat and the tares.
In the parable, the wheat and tares are allowed to grow together so as not to harm the wheat as might happen if the sowers pull up the tares while the wheat is young. In the early stages of growth of wheat, tares look similar to the wheat. These tares are bitter weeds. But later, tares grow at a different rate and becomes easier to separate from the wheat, allowing the sower to first gather the wheat leaving the tares in the field to be burned.
It seems that if we are compared to the wheat, we are left to live among the tares. Who do the tares represent? I believe they are those who speak out against our faith, way of living, and testimony. Perhaps, at times, they are our friends or people close to us. While they look familiar, they take on a bitter flavor in life. Some of them undermining, others disagreeing and some critical of the prophets.
But verse 10 gives some sound counsel on the matter. “Therefore, your life and your priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you…until the restoration of all things spoken of by the mouths of all the holy prophets…”
The word remain in this verse is a curious choice. Remain means to stay in the place that one has been occupying and to continue to exist after others have ceased to exist. Do we remain in holy places, do we remain with the priesthood even though we are among those who try our faith? Can we stand firm despite the critical posts and tweets and comments?
In 1843, the Oregon trail was the newest road in North America. It extended from Missouri to Oregon. It was a dusty wagon trail that would be used by thousands who were seeking greater wealth and freedom. If you were headed to Utah, California or Oregon, you used this trail.
Among those traveling on the trail, were Ole and Maren Peterson. In 1857 they left Denmark, their life, their family and came to America. Ole, Maren, two older boys and a new baby Anna Christina.
The Petersons could not afford a team of horses or oxen. So instead they teamed up with 80 other families who would travel the dusty, muddy trail, pushing a wooden hand cart containing food and bedding. Pushing this wooden cart, they averaged 10-12 miles a day. Ole would typically push the cart from the front, while Maren would push the cart from behind.
The conditions were pitiful. The carts carried limited supplies so the pioneers were exposed to the elements, carried only the minimum amount of food, and relied on the hope of finding animals along the way to eat and supply stations to buy food. If anything went wrong or delayed their journey, the consequences were harsh and certain. One out of every twenty people on the trail died.
Ole wrote in his journal, “June 24, traveled about 18 miles, very faint from the lack of food. Only allowed about ¾ pound of flour each day. Made a child’s coffin today, age 2/1/2 years.”
Ole used to say as they struggled through the dust, “Look up, when you look up, you see the horizon, when you look down, you just see the dust settle.”
Weeks into their journey, their oldest son Soren died.
When they reached the Wyoming border in early September, little Anna Christina became sick with dysentery. She was so tiny and lost so much weight that she turned white as a ghost, and she finally died. Her mother was beyond heartbroken.
Maren blamed herself and could not find peace. To make matters worse, they were in Indian territory and could not stop to dig a grave in the frozen ground to bury the baby.
Maren couldn’t leave her child. She knew the prairie wolves would devour her little body. Others were telling her she had to leave the baby behind without a burial, but she couldn’t. Finally, they wrested the baby from Maren’s grip, wrapped it in a blanket and left it beneath a prairie bush. They pushed on.
At dusk later that day, they stopped to make camp. Maren fed her son and laid down to sleep under the cover of the small cart. There was no sleep. Soon Maren got up and in the cover of darkness she crept back the 6 miles to find the body of her precious baby.
Before the morning sun rose, Ole and others noticed Maren was gone. As they prepared to search for her, Maren walked into camp holding her baby. And more importantly the baby was alive. When Maren found her, she was breathing. Anna Christina and the rest of the Petersons would survive the journey.
By the way Ole and Maren Peterson are my great great great grandparents.
Maren, whose name given to my granddaughter, acted independent of the voices around her. It didn’t matter what was said or what criticism might have come her way for walking back to her baby who was left for dead, she acted. Her faith remained despite her circumstances or disappointment. The desire to act with faith in God prevailed in her life.
Do not let the onslaught or growth or crowding tares and criticism hinder your ability to remain as faithful. Christ is the sower of the seed. He is the bread of life. In your trying in life to let God prevail, sometimes the life of the “tares” may seem easier or even more desirable. But remember, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, and are ready and waiting to come forth to reap. If you remain you shall prevail in the day of reaping.
Those Who Try to Steady the Ark
In Section 85:8, we read that there was a man “who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God.” And if that man were to continue, he was warned that he would eventually fall by the shaft of death.
What does it mean to steady the ark? The ark is the ark of the covenant. Moses made the ark and the mercy seat which is its covering is the earthly dwelling place of Jehovah.
The ark was not to be touched. It was a strict commandment from God. It could only be approached by the High Priest once each year. Otherwise, it was unapproachable and untouchable.
However, in the days of King David, a man name Uzzah reached out to steady the ark when it tipped as it was being moved. He may have been well intentioned, but he thought that his way was better than God’s way. Doesn’t God have power to preserve the ark?
While few people are named Uzzah today and we don’t have an ark, we have many who try to steady the ark. This happens in the form of those who think they know better than the prophets, who believe their way is better than God’s way. Often, they become critical of the prophets or of the Lord, or even of the way the Lord administers the gospel in our day.
And, as a result, they seek to “steady” or move or bend the ark in the direction they think it should go. But the Lord is in control. The ark is his. The prophets are his. And when we seek to go or speak contrary to his commandments or to make things “steady” in our way of thinking, or behave un-authoritatively, we are at risk.
This happens even in small ways. We don’t like the new church schedule, we don’t like the stance on the definition of marriage, the Lords moral code, or we want the church to lean in the direction of the social trends of the world today.
What I learn from D&C 85 is this: don’t worry about the ark, the church, the direction of things. Even if they lean a bit different than you would prefer. Stand faithful. Be not moved from your place of faith. Your testimony can remain even if the ark leans a bit in our mind.
Recently, a good friend was questioning her testimony. Things had transpired in her life and in her family that caused her to question whether she should remain faithful to her testimony. As I pondered on her situation I also reflected on the challenges of faith for many in the church today. Some people have questions about the events restoration. Others struggle with difficulties in how to navigate the social issues of our day and deal with changes in the world around us. For several days as I read the pondered on our friend’s situation, I wondered about what advice to give her that may help her.
One morning, a simple phrase came to my mind: “what you have is enough.” What I have is enough. We have the blessings of ordinances of the gospel. We have the blessings of the temple. We have a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice. We have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We have a testimony of modern-day prophets. That is enough.
What I have is enough. I don’t know why all people, male and female, don’t have equal roles under the priesthood. I am not sure why questions exist about certain events in church history. I don’t have all the answers to certain questions. But what I have is more than enough. The gifts I have been given can lead to salvation. What greater gift can anyone receive?
It is enough for me to place my faith in Christ. It is enough to let God prevail in my life despite questions. It is enough to seek to repent and live worthy of my covenants. It is enough to know I am not perfect, but I can keep trying. Why can I have faith and keep trying? Because it is enough. I don’t need to steady the ark. I can leave those things to God who knows all things including how to keep the ark right in these latter days.
That Lord is at the helm, not men. God leads his church and that is enough. My job is to acknowledge my weakness, be humble and becometh as a child. Just as a child submits to all things his father seeth fit for him. And if we do this, we can prevail in this life. This is the path of discipleship.
So, next time you are tempted, like I am often tempted, to steady the ark…next time you are tempted to be critical of the prophets or decisions or people trying to do their best; remember what you have is enough. You have the blessings of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You have access to the Holy Ghost. You have the gift of the atonement and the grace of Jesus Christ. Think on these things. They are surely enough.
[i] Bible Dictionary, Grace.
[ii] Russell M. Nelson, Let God Prevail, General Conference, October 2020.
[iii] Russell M. Nelson, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, General Conference, April 2017.
[iv] Kevin J. Worthen, Holy Places, BYU Devotional, January 20, 2015.