Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sanctum Sanctorum



by Ben Johnson:


I'm sure that this post will make me out to be one of those "get those kids off my lawn" guys, but I'm OK with that. A recent post by Seattle Jon got me to thinking about the sacred spaces (or lack thereof) in our lives. When I returned home from my mission my stake president gave me some very sage advice. He said, "In this noisy world we live in make sure to take time out to meditate and allow the spirit to speak to you." This was in 1998, before everyone had a smartphone attached to their hand and headphones grafted to their ears.

It seems that no matter where we go we cannot escape the world. We cannot shut out the noise. This worries me. I've always said that if I were ever bishop (perish the thought) my first order of business would be to restore some tranquility to the three hour block. Every ward I've ever attended resembles Pamplona in July when sacrament meeting lets out. It's mayhem.

Back when I had the best calling in the world I used to make the ward programs. We had the first block and I loved going down to the church early to run my copies and then sit in the chapel before the meeting started. Unfortunately my peace never lasted. As the families arrived for church they inevitably began to chat. As more families entered the chapel the conversations had to get louder. Eventually I felt like I was in the lobby of a theater during intermission.

Even the temple can be overrun by noise and distraction. How often have you gone to the temple and heard fellow patrons loudly discussing the most recent sports contest, or last week's hunting trip, or national politics? Can't we have at least one place in our lives free from worldly nonsense?

Now you may be saying to yourself, "This guy is such a square! Who cares about sacred places?" Maybe you are right. Maybe it doesn't matter. I just know in my own life I have found great peace and inspiration by being able to shut the world out and commune with the spirit.

A little over a year ago a family member was at death's door. She had been given blessings, she had been prayed for, and she had received the best medical care available. Eventually the doctors said they had done all they could do and her life was out of their hands. We could only wait.

During this time I had an opportunity to clean the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. The workers there have a tradition of letting patrons clean for a few hours and then allowing them to wander around the temple for 20 minutes before sending them home. When we were done cleaning most headed for the Celestial room, but I was drawn to the Terrestrial room. I found myself alone and so I sat down and prayed for this family member. I was able to unburden my soul. I found peace and I found comfort. It truly was one of the great experiences of my life.

I honestly believe we need places set apart from the din of the world, whether that be chapels or temples or homes. I think we lose something when we don't have anywhere we can escape. Am I up in the night or has anyone else felt like we are running out of sacred space?

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Ben Johnson grew up in the heart of Mormon country, just outside of Salt Lake City. Given the unsophisticated nature of his palette ("what's a filet?") he was sent to Denver on his mission, where he grew to love even more types of cereal. Post-mission Ben broke his mother’s heart by attending and, *gasp*, graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. Whether he does anything with that degree is another matter. Determined to prove that the system works, Ben met his future wife Katti in a single’s ward. It was nothing like the movie. Ben currently lives just outside Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife and three wonderful kids.
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