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Cover image: The Palace at Versailles.

I just had the amazing opportunity to tour the Paris France Temple with two of my children, prior to its dedication. You probably saw the beautiful photo essay by Scot and Maurine Proctor in Monday’s issue. And it is every bit as glorious as the pictures show. It’s filled with magnificent craftsmanship, dazzling stained glass windows depicting French flowers, and elegant furnishings. But even more, it’s filled with the Spirit.

Have you ever walked into a home or a chapel where you could tangibly feel light infused in the air? Have you felt the Spirit in a temple, or in a setting where you felt almost transported beyond the veil? Sometimes a home radiates this feeling, and everyone who enters feels welcomed and loved. The entire city of Nauvoo, Illinois emits this feeling, and many who have visited it report that they never experienced such an awareness of the Spirit in such a large location.

Sometimes we feel the Spirit in sudden moments—at a baptism, during the passing of the Sacrament, when an inspired speaker touches our hearts, at times when we’re sharing the gospel in a missionary moment. But how wonderful it is to find an entire structure that literally glows with the Spirit 24/7. When we say that our temples are houses of the Lord, we mean it.

Conversely, have you ever walked into a place where you felt a distinct absence of the Spirit? You can honestly feel the gloom and darkness, a virtual vacuum of the Spirit. I felt this abruptly when I walked into a certain store at the mall with my daughter. We looked around at the merchandise, all of it depicting unholy ideas and worldly pursuits. My steps felt heavy, my brain felt clouded. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and my daughter mentioned feeling the same way.

We find this when we attend the wrong parties, pursue the wrong entertainment, or when we allow our behavior to slip below the standards we know are right. We can literally feel that sharp contrast when the Spirit leaves us. We feel suddenly alone, unsure of ourselves, and unhappy. Sadly, if we continue to step into the darkness, our sensitivity becomes numb, and we no longer recognize what’s missing. The Holy Ghost withdraws without our notice.

It’s easy to convince ourselves that we can straddle that line, that we can still indulge in the world’s offerings, then pop back over where the Holy Ghost can abide with us again. But it doesn’t work like an on-off switch. Our minds and hearts must be centered upon Christ, and that takes ongoing dedication, not fleeting moments of ceasing to sin.

Occasionally we find ourselves having to wade through a Spiritless environment, not of our own choosing. At these times we can pray to bring the Spirit with us, to be sincere in our desire to draw close to the Lord, and determined to resist the influences of evil. With God’s help, we can create a sort of bubble around ourselves, a shield of the Spirit that can protect us wherever we find ourselves. It isn’t easy, but like so many things, it’s worth it. As we strive to “stand in holy places” we can make everywhere we stand a holy place.

The irony of a House of the Lord being built in such close proximity to the Palace of Versailles is not lost on many who visit the Paris France Temple. The grandeur and spectacle of Versailles with its opulent rooms and magnificent gardens strikes many as the ultimate glory, the absolute peak of splendor. But it doesn’t radiate the Spirit. It exemplifies extravagant spending and lavish, indulgent living, yet souls are not saved within these walls, eternal ordinances are not completed, covenants are not made. Yes, it’s interesting to tour there and to see how French royalty lived hundreds of years ago. But it can’t hold a candle to the feeling of the Spirit you get inside a temple of the Lord. That is something which simply cannot be bought.

Hilton’s new LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as a Relief Society President.