Sacred Space

President Workman Devotional

Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

October 5, 2010
Ross Workman
President
Laie Hawaii Temple

Brothers and Sisters, ALOHA. I am honored to be invited to share with you my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and impart some thoughts concerning his plan of exaltation for His children ”most especially you. Today I would like to talk about sacred space.

Sacred Space Defined:

When Lucifer was cast out of heaven into the earth, the earth became profane space. It is the dwelling of Satan and he rules this telestial kingdom. Profane is derived from the Latin word: profanus. The prefix "pro' means "in front of" or "outside of". The suffix "fanus" means temple. Thus, profane means outside the temple.

The sacred sanctifies; the profane contaminates. These are two antithetical powers. These powers must be strictly separated. One cannot take the profane into the sacred and vice versa.

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they resided in Sacred Space. God visited there and spoke to Adam and Eve face to face and revealed sacred saving ordinances to them. When they yielded to Lucifer and transgressed, they introduced the profane into their lives and thus they were driven out of the Garden; i.e. out of Sacred Space.

Without access to Sacred Space, Adam and Eve could no longer be in the presence of God. For generations thereafter, man was denied the physical presence of God.

Abraham lived in a profane land where idolatry reigned. He was rescued from becoming a sacrifice victim by direct intervention of the Lord. Because of his faithfulness, he was commanded to gather the righteous portion of his family and move to a new land. The Lord blessed Abraham with a new land, Priesthood and a promise of eternal posterity. The purpose for the land was so Abraham could seek Sacred Space, separate from the profane world, where God could reveal himself to Abraham and the righteous members of his family.

When the Egyptians took the Children of Israel captive, they were immersed in profane space. Abused by their taskmasters and polluted by the profane, the Lord sought to deliver them from Egypt and to bring them into Sacred Space. Moses, as a servant of the Lord was commanded to bring Israel out of Egypt to Sinai where they were to be introduced into Sacred Space. Moses went first up the mount where the Lord said:

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. [Exo. 3:5]

Moses had entered Sacred Space where he was endowed and given power from on high. The children of Israel were urged to accompany Moses up the mountain to the Sacred Space to receive their own endowment of power, but they were fearful and faithless and they refused to go. This is what the Lord later referred to as the "provocation" in the wilderness.

To teach Israel of the blessings of sacred space, Moses was commanded to build the Tabernacle of the Congregation. It was a temple, made portable so it could be transported with the Children of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness. The Lord revealed the exact manner and materials from which the tabernacle would be constructed. The tabernacle had a wall made of the finest wood plated with gold and covered with white linen. This wall carved out of the profane world a sacred space. Within the wall was the tabernacle. The entrance was always toward the East.

The Tabernacle was divided into two compartments by a veil made of fine twined linen of blue and purple and scarlet, embroidered with figures of cherubim. [Exo 26:1]. The first compartment was called the "holy place" and it defined space, which was more sacred than its surroundings. There were three things in the "holy place": (1) in the middle before the veil stood the altar of incense. (2) On the south side of the altar of incense stood the candlestick of pure gold of beaten work, with six branches and seven lamps [Menorah]. (3) On the north side of the altar stood the table of shewbread, which consisted of 12 unleavened cakes made of fine flour.

On the other side of the veil was the Holy of Holies, which contained only one piece of furniture: the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was covered with gold and contained the tablets of stone upon which the Law of Moses was written by the finger of God. It also included a pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded. The Ark had rings and staves by which to carry it and the staves were never to be removed from the rings. The Ark served as an altar and on top, the Ark had a seat called the Judgment seat which represented the throne of God and was a manifestation of his glory. Accordingly, the Holy of Holies was the most Sacred Space in all the Tabernacle of the congregation because it held the most Holy Ark of the covenant.

Why does God give us Sacred Space?

Through all ages, God has conferred sacred ordinances to his people in Sacred Space.

Ordinances are divided into two categories: In the first, we recognize that all Gods commandments and judgments that issue from Him are called his ordinances. The covenant of the saints, when they "promise to keep all the commandments and statutes of the Lord" is: "We will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord". [D&C 136:2-4].

Among his laws and commands, the Lord has provided certain rites and ceremonies which are also called ordinances. These ordinance-rites might be pictured as a small circle within the larger circle of ordinance-commandments. Most of these rites and ceremonies are essential to salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God. These ordinance-rites include washings and anointings, endowments, celestial marriage and more. It is this inner circle of ordinance-rites which must be administered in Sacred Space.

The ordinances administered in Sacred Space have the capacity to give great power to those worthy to receive them. Some years ago, we were privileged to serve in West Africa. At that time about 850 young missionaries were serving there. Nearly all of them were native to West Africa and at the time we arrived, none were endowed. The nearest temples were in London or South Africa; both thousands of miles away. Prohibitions of cost and time prevented the missionaries from attending the temple prior to their mission service.

While we were there, the temple in Ghana was constructed and dedicated. Then, all the missionaries in West Africa were brought to Ghana and endowed. An amazing thing happened when they returned to their missionary labors. Remember these missionaries returned to their same areas. They had the same mission presidents. They used the same "Preach My Gospel" teaching plan. Their environment had not changed.

Yet, something wonderful happened. The missionaries were more obedient. They had more capacity to open their mouths and declare the gospel. They taught with greater power in the Spirit. Their ability to gain understanding of Gospel principles and to teach to the understanding of their investigators improved. The work in all missions improved and increased and the joy of missionary service likewise increased with the missionaries.

What was the source of this great success? The missionaries had prepared themselves, entered Sacred Space and partaken of ordinances which invested them with spiritual power they did not have before. It was revealed in their success thereafter.

Much of the same thing could be said for Priesthood leaders who were privileged to be endowed in that wonderful temple.

Of course, much preparation is necessary if one is to successfully partake of the ordinances of exaltation. One cannot take the profane into the Sacred nor the Sacred into the profane.

In ancient times, those who wished to leave the profane space and enter sacred space were required to participate in a purifying ritual.

-Removal of profane items of clothing [e.g. shoes]

-Cleansing of hands and feet

-Dress in vestments of the Priesthood

-Rite of anointing [washing, anointing + sacrifice]

This was a ceremonial act that symbolically cleansed the person. It was necessary because entry into Sacred Space is potentially dangerous. Failure to properly prepare and qualify can result in death and cursing.

Recall what happened when David the King was transporting the Ark of the Covenant. When the oxen shook the cart, a well-meaning person, Uzzah, put forth his hand to steady the ark. He was struck dead on the spot. Why was that so? He intended no evil. He was only trying to prevent damage to the Ark. However, he was struck dead because the Ark was very sacred space and Uzzah was not authorized to enter or even touch that sacred space. He would have inadvertently introduced the profane into sacred space and spoiled the sacred Ark for all Israel. [2 Sam 6:6].

In the days of Eli, the prophet, the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant. As soon as they placed the Ark in their heathen temple, the entire city was struck with a loathsome disease and many died. [1 Sam 5:1-12]. They promptly decided to give the Ark back to Israel.

They were so afraid of the Ark that they dropped it off in the Israelite border city of Beth-shemesh and the Israelites there took possession of the Ark. However, their curiosity overtook their good judgment and they opened the Ark to look inside. For this invasion of Sacred Space, the Lord smote the men of Beth-shemesh in the number of more than 50,000!

Rites of purification for Today's Temple:

Today, as in ancient times, preparation is absolutely essential to enter the Sacred Space of the Temple.

First, for spiritual preparation, each of us must have been baptized, confirmed and, for brethren, ordained to the Priesthood. Also, the commandments must be lived in our daily lives. The evidence of this preparation is found in the Temple Recommend.

To secure a temple recommend, the receiver must have demonstrated his eligibility, and that eligibility is based on personal worthiness. It is based on consistent personal behavior, on the goodness of one's life. The temple recommend opens the door to Sacred Space. Those who earn a temple recommend need to have demonstrated over a period of time their capacity to discipline their lives in such a way as to be worthy to enter the House of the Lord, into Sacred Space, for the obligations there assumed are eternal.

Every man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has an obligation to see that the House of the Lord is kept sacred and free of any defilement. This obligation rests primarily and inescapably upon the shoulders of bishops and stake presidents. However, each of us has an obligation ”first, as to his own personal worthiness, and secondly as to the worthiness of those whom he may encourage or assist in going to the House of the Lord. Each temple recommend must be signed by the member and his Priesthood leaders. The issuance and signing of a temple recommend must never become a commonplace thing.

The glorious things obtained in Sacred Space are part of God's plan to bring his children into exaltation. In Sacred Space are solemnized covenants which are sacred and everlasting. Entering the temple is a privilege to be earned and not a right that automatically goes with Church membership.

Those who would enter Sacred Space unworthily, risk the consequences of Uzzah, either temporally or spiritually and all the saints within the temple district can be adversely affected if the temple is profaned.

Consequences of Profaning the Sacred

The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the temple built by Solomon and the dedication rite of the Temple of Solomon was the same as the dedication rites of the Tabernacle of the Congregation at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The purpose was to create Sacred Space from the profane and the dedication rites followed the precise pattern established by the Lord for creating Sacred Space.

The construction of the Magnificent Temple of Solomon provided Sacred Space for the faithful of his day. However, wickedness crept into Israel and the profane contaminated the Sacred Space of the Temple. The Lord then permitted the heathen nations to carry Israel into bondage and the Sacred ordinances of Solomon's Temple disappeared.

After Cyrus returned Israel to its homeland, Zerubabbel built another temple. While it was not as grand as Solomon's Temple it did create Sacred Space where the Children of Israel could obtain sacred ordinances. That temple too, became desecrated when the Syrian army occupied it and placed an image of the idol Zeus in the holy of holies. The short-lived rebellion of the Maccabees rescued the temple which rescue is now celebrated by the Jews as Hanukkah. Sadly, the temple was again made profane by the wickedness of Israel.

The Temple of Herod stood in the place of the Temple of Solomon at the time of Christ. It was unfinished and, though called by the Lord his "father's house", the Lord had none of his sacred experiences there: His temptation occurred "in the wilderness"; His baptism in the river Jordan; and His endowment on the Mount of Transfiguration. Christ found Sacred Space in places other than the temple constructed by the evil Herod. That temple was destroyed by the Romans [67AD?].

Each person who enters the Temple and the Sacred Space therein should know that unless there is true worthiness, there will be no blessing gained, and the condemnation will fall upon the head of him or her who unworthily crosses the threshold of the House of God.

Sacred Space in our day

Seventeen centuries after the final destruction of the temple in which Christ ministered among the Jews, the Lord again raised up a prophet and once more called upon his people to build for him a house to define Sacred Space in which the sacred ordinances of the gospel could be administered.

By subsequent revelation, the site, inner dimensions, and the nature of the sanctuary were made known, and the first of all the temples to be built in this final dispensation was erected at Kirtland Ohio. The Lord said to Joseph Smith:

Here is wisdom, and the mind of the Lord ”let the house be built; not after the manner of the world;let it be built after the manner which I shall show unto three of you, whom ye shall appoint and ordain unto this power. D&C 95:13-14.

Pursuant to this revelation, a committee of three ”Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter” was appointed, to whom the plans for the house of the Lord were shown. You will note that as in the days of Moses, God was the architect of his house.

Though it was not the magnificent structure that marked the Temple of Solomon and certain of the temples subsequently erected in this last dispensation, it was the best that an impoverished people could offer as a house for their God. While the men of the Church were devoting their time and skills, which was all that many of them had to offer, self-sacrificing women were grinding their precious china into fine pieces to be mixed into the external wall-coating to give luster and beauty to the house of the Lord. This space, carved out of the profane became Sacred Space upon its dedication and glorious were the blessings poured out upon those who partook of that Sacred Space.

The Lord in person appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in that Sacred Space. He declared:

Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name. For behold , I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house ..Yea, the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out ..and the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessings which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. D&C 110:1-7, 9-10.

What were the blessings to be poured out in this sanctuary which would cause the hearts of the righteous to rejoice? They were endowments of knowledge pertaining to the ceremonies, rites, and ordinances of the temple. They were endowments of priesthood power and authority to officiate in all the ordinances, ceremonies and endowments of priesthood keys to direct and proceed with the work to be carried out in these holy temples for and in behalf of the living and the dead. Keys held by Moses, Elias and Elijah were conferred, completing the authority necessary for the exaltation of those on both sides of the veil who would enter Sacred Space in subsequent temples and partake of ordinances therein.

Having fulfilled its divine purpose, the Kirtland Temple was superseded by the Nauvoo Temple. Hardly had the Nauvoo temple been completed and endowments received in it by the living, when the Saints were driven from Illinois, and the temple was left to the enemies of the Church, to be defiled and eventually destroyed. Again, the profane contaminated the Sacred.

During the long, hard journey from Illinois to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, the Saints were dreaming of and discussing the building of another temple to their God ”a temple envisioned by Isaiah and Micah long before the birth of Christ”a house which was to be established in the top of the mountains, to which people of all nations should flow. In the due time of the Lord, Sacred Space was created in St. George, Manti, Logan and Salt Lake as magnificent temples were constructed there.

In 1915, President Joseph F. Smith paid a visit to the Laie Plantation and under direction of the Lord, dedicated land for the creation of a temple in Hawaii ”Sacred Space for the blessings of all who would come to these Islands.

The Laie, Hawaii Temple was anticipated in prophecy. William W. Cluff visited the branch in Laie. Early one morning as he was walking down by the seashore, Brigham Young appeared to him in a vision and told him: "This is the place, and upon this land we will build a temple unto our God". This experience was mentioned by President Heber J. Grant in his dedicatory prayer for the Hawaii Temple. He Prayed:

"We thank thee, O Father, that the promise made in a dream to thy servant, William W. Cluff, by the prophet, Brigham Young, that the day would come when a temple should be erected in this land is fulfilled before our eyes."

Now, before our eyes again, the Temple in Laie will be newly adorned and beautifully presented. What does this mean to us?

Did you feel the absence of Sacred Space in this Island? Did the time ever come when you looked at that white building, projecting a vacant expression as it was darkened during its reconstruction? Did you feel the difference?

In a few short weeks, this beautiful gem of the Pacific will again become Sacred Space. It will invite all who are worthy and prepared to come into its Sacred precincts and gain the blessings of the Holy Spirit. It will again command reverence and respect. The lives of the living and the dead will be sanctified again in this Sacred Space. Will your life be one of those sanctified?

How do we obtain the blessings of Sacred Space?

I fear that the blessings of this beautiful temple may not be appreciated because of the ease of attending there. It is walking distance for most of us.

During the closure of the temple, many saints journeyed to Kona to participate in the ordinances there. To do so, much preparation had to be made. Flights had to be obtained; transportation to and from the airport; and sometimes overnight accommodations. Special arrangements had to be made for ordinance workers to be present. Some were specially called from this temple district with permission of the Temple department. Why do we not give the same attention to the temple in Laie? Perhaps because it is just too easy for us to go there.

Travelling to the Temple in West Africa was often a serious challenge. The Saints in Sierra Leone made an excursion to Ghana to attend the temple. Because of an insurrection it was impossible to cross the border through the Ivory Coast so they travelled three days circumnavigating the Ivory Coast through Burkina Faso. As they travelled, they were stopped by robbers and at gunpoint all their money and personal effects of value were stolen. Blessed to still be alive, they decided to proceed anyway to Ghana where they spent the week seeking the blessings of the temple. Nothing was more important to them than the eternal blessings that could be obtained in no other place than the Temple. Why would they risk so much to go there? They wanted and needed those sacred experiences which have eternal worth.

A few years ago, a young sister from Japan served in the Hawaii, Honolulu Mission. She served faithfully and with distinction. She was born into a faithful family in Japan. She related the story of her grandmother. Shortly after World War 2 had come to a close, her grandmother was lying in a hospital extremely ill and not expected to survive. She had neither the ability to speak nor to move from her bed. A Mormon Missionary living in the area made it a practice to share the Gospel with those Japanese who would listen to him. One of his activities was to visit the sick in the hospital. Moved with compassion on this sick woman, he first visited her and then on regular visits read to her from the Book of Mormon. Though at first she did not respond to his reading, after some time, he noticed she could acknowledge his presence with her eyes and she welcomed his visits. Many weeks passed and the regular visits continued. In time, she regained the ability to speak and they conversed in Japanese. He taught her the Gospel of Christ and she requested baptism. This young missionary asked the hospital to release her for enough time for her to be baptized. They refused saying "she will die if she leaves her bed". He asked what would happen to her if she did not leave her bed. They said, "She will die". "So what is the risk, He asked?" Finding no useful answer to that question, she was given leave from the hospital and taken to a font where the baptism could take place. As she was bed ridden, she could not walk into the font. So it was decided to put her on a chair and with the assistance of 4 missionaries, each on one corner of the chair, she was lowered into the baptismal font where the ordinance was performed. After the service, she was returned to the hospital only to find her room completely emptied and remade. The hospital simply assumed she would die and not return.

She survived, married and had a family. Her granddaughter served in the Hawaii, Honolulu Mission. After her missionary service, the young sister was permitted to attend the Laie, Hawaii Temple prior to her return to Japan. Her visit to the Temple gave opportunity to meet a temple worker who showed interest in her. She related the story of her grandmother's conversion and baptism. The man with whom she spoke, tearfully acknowledged that he knew the story was true because he was one of the missionaries who assisted in lowering the chair with the grandmother in place into the baptismal font.

There can be no coincidence in this matter. The Lord intended this young missionary sister to have a confirming witness by revelation that her grandmother's conversion was real and her story true. And while the Lord could have made this great blessing known in other ways, it was conferred in only in the Sacred Space of the Laie, Hawaii Temple. Why do you think the Lord revealed this to this young sister? The faithful who prepare themselves are blessed with a confirmation that the Lord knows them and is cognizant of their faithful lives. So it can be with you.

Opposition to the Temple

In the ordinances received in the Sacred Space of the temple, power over Satan is given. He knows that. Thus, every temple constructed and dedicated or rededicated receives the special attention of the author of darkness. Sometimes it comes in the form of opposition to the construction of the building. More often, it comes in the form of temptation to those who would attend the temple.

Unhappily, those who desire most to feel the sweet joy from participating in the sacred ordinances of the temple, feel the influence of the adversary seeking to dilute faith and diminish the Spirit. It is in the living of our everyday lives that we have the greatest risk of adversity and the greatest opportunity to overcome it.

The near approach of the date for the rededication of the Laie Temple moves us to express our feelings that we may all be found acceptable. We will be invited to approach Sacred Space created under direction of the Lord so that He may reveal Himself to all who seek Him earnestly. If we are not prepared, we, like Uzzah and the Ark risk much. If we are prepared, we like the prophets of old and the blessed saints of this dispensation will obtain all the blessings appointed to the faithful.

I testify the Lord will be present in His Holy House in Laie. He will bless the lives of all who worthily approach Sacred Space.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Photo by Nathan Lehano.