Gospel Doctrine Lesson 21.

During a Relief Society lesson, a ward member expressed how much she was looking forward to the Second Coming because things were so evil and bad in the world—that we were safe in the Church because we would be protected, that it was so much better here at church than in the world. While I understand her sentiment and appreciate that church is a sanctuary for her, I do recall thinking there’s a lot of greatness and goodness in the world—lots of good, kind people in and out of the Church doing good and kind things. Admittedly, the “us vs. the world” rhetoric frequently used by church members as a way to distinguish us from others makes me uncomfortable, especially when I see it used as a way to disengage or retreat from our communities out of ignorance or fear. Personally, when I make decisions based on fear, I feel powerless and small. And so, I’m trying to eradicate fear-based decisions and thinking from my life. It’s not an easy task.

Yet, one way I overcome fear and feel grounded is to “stand in holy places,” as we are instructed in D&C 101:22 and D&C 87:8. Holy places are usually equated to our congregations, chapels, temples, and homes. And while, yes, these are and can be holy places, I believe that there are other places—beyond physical buildings—that are and can be holy, too. To me, standing at the base of Zion Canyon or at the top of a mountain peak or when I’m encircled by a grove of aspen trees—when I am in these outdoor spaces, I feel immovable and grounded. These spots are holy to me; they are nature’s temples. Unfortunately, I can’t spend all of my time in these sacred outdoor spaces, but I do have the ability to build and transform places and spaces within my “real life,” too. For me, participating in the Women’s March in Salt Lake City was an example of me standing in a holy place. Surrounded by my sisters from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, and ages, I walked and stood with them shoulder-to-shoulder in the Utah State Capitol Building, and I felt anything but powerless and small. As is the case with any holy place, either fleeting or permanent, there are always others who want to destroy and tear down that holiness, and sometimes, even the actual physical structure or space. I experienced this after the Women’s March. I witness it in regards to our natural resources and parks. I see it as religious freedom is threatened and thwarted around the world.

But thankfully, rather than retreat in fear, we have the power and means to create, build, and transform spaces and places for the better throughout the world, and especially in our local communities. This creating, building, and transforming might be working towards more equitable educational experiences for all or cultivating community gardens or transforming workplace policies that better support families or helping to set up new homes for refugee families or getting to know our neighbors to form a more close-knit community or reconnecting with friends over a meal. The opportunities to create holy spaces within our spheres of influence are immense, particularly as we utilize our unique talents and skills.

Recently, I asked Mormon women to share their latest accomplishments and good news related to their educational and professional pursuits in an online discussion thread. Woman after woman shared the amazing things she has recently accomplished—women who were the first to graduate from college in their families, women who returned to school to finish degrees, women bravely asking for raises, women getting accepted to certification and university programs, women writing and publishing books, women earning promotions or dream jobs, women making their business plans into money-making ventures, women leaving toxic work places, women tackling complex societal problems with creative thinking and determination, and so many more. That online thread was transformed into a holy place by not only the sharing and rejoicing in this good news, but by knowing we were standing together in support and celebration. The work of these women also follows a great legacy of LDS foremothers who did not fear despite persecution, and who instead built homes and hospitals and schools and museums and temples (and so much more) across a barren land.

When I think on this legacy and of the current work of women, I have no need to fear, and I rejoice in standing with my sisters in the holy places we create together.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

A Worldwide Sisterhood, Judy Dushku

“As a result, my growing up years were all about going someplace new, meeting new people, and finding a place to serve in the Church—whether on a welfare farm or building a chapel. My parents encouraged me to innovate within the Church. I am told that one day in a rented space where our small branch was meeting and many children were crying, I just stood up and offered to take care of the kids during Sunday School class and started a “primary.” It was always considered an adventure; it was never a chore or a burden or frightening. My parents perpetuated the attitude that we’d go where God wanted us—like the line in the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints” that says “We’ll find a place which God for us prepared; where none shall come to hurt or make afraid” and then “all will be well.” I think that’s where I developed the attitude that there’s no place in the world that I’m afraid to go. That had a huge impact on me; I’m really fearless.”

People Like Us Do Things Like That, Raquel Cook

“If we’re a global church, we’ve got to get out there and we’ve got to recognize the beauty in other people and we’ve got to recognize what they have to offer us. Not just what we have to offer them. It doesn’t have to be about conversion. It can be about learning and recognizing that other people have things that we don’t have and other people have things they can teach us.”

Other Related Women’s Voices

We Are Creators, Mary Ellen Smoot

“Creation is one of the characteristics that defines God… Brothers and sisters, we are children of God. Shouldn’t we be about our Father’s business? Shouldn’t we be creators as well?”