We are faced with great challenges today. Advancement of technology is the driving force. Instantly, we have access to news and the speed in which information is processed is phenomenal. Along with the rise of technological advancements, our society is becoming more and more callous toward any thought of religious belief, devotion and form of worship. In the United States, there are groups that are pushing forth agenda’s and public policies to dismantle any religious expression. One of these groups has become proactive in their idealism of freeing people from religious thinking and expression:
The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.
The driving force behind this organization is summed up in their FAQ’s:
The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
An even more appropriate summation is also found on the website:
The nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation works to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. The Foundation is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics) with over 18,000 members.
Since 1978, the Foundation has acted on countless violations of the separation of state and church, and has taken and won many significant complaints and important lawsuits to end state/church entanglements.
Won’t you join us in our critical work to defend the separation between government and religion?
Thus, we see the formulation, proactive measures, and the sometimes militant aggression towards any form of religious expression, practice, and even the ability to speak freely of one’s own belief system. Because of this, the 2013 mutual theme for the youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fitting: Stand Ye in Holy Places and be not moved. It is based off Doctrine and Covenants 87:8 where we are warned of the conditions that we will face in the last dispensation. The mutual theme also correlates with the study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History for this year’s Sunday school (ages 14 to adult) curriculum. By standing in Holy Places, we are able to strengthen our testimony in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, able to lift others up from where they are at, able to preach the gospel with effectiveness and by the power of the Holy Spirit, fulfill our priesthood duties, strengthen our families within the Gospel, and able to withstand all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Defining what, where, and how regarding Holy Places
Young Women General President, Elaine S. Dalton provides this:
This year’s [Mutual] theme invites important questions: What is a holy place? Where is a holy place? How can we stand in holy places? How do we make places we regularly inhabit more holy? As you seek answers to these questions, your answers will guide your associations, your choice of activities, and your dress, words, and actions.
Holy Places are where we gather together as a family, as members of our community, at our local Ward and Stake activities; essentially wherever we are able to gather collectively or individually to study, share, and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been restored in these last days:
Anywhere you are where the Spirit is present can be a holy place. President Harold B. Lee (1899 – 1973) taught that holy places have more to do with how one lives than where one lives. If you live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, then you stand in a holy place.
Hence, wherever we are, when we read the scriptures, pray, strive to walk in obedience to the commandments and precepts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are able to stand in holy places and not be moved by the conditions and deterioration of our society and world. This also includes consistent personal and family scripture study and prayer, active participation of Family Home Evenings, as well as serving in our communities, places of employment, and/or school. Latter-day Saints and fellow evangelical Christians have the blessing of the Spirit as our counselor, teacher, and comforter. It behooves us to learn to recognize the promptings of the Spirit, only if we are active in our faith in serving and following the Savior.
Our Divine Obligation and Calling
Since a holy place is defined as how we live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we also have an inherent and divine obligation and calling. We are called to go forth and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been restored in these last days.
Speaking to the young men of the Church that hold the Aaronic Priesthood, Young Men’s General President David L. Beck shares this:
Each day as you fulfill your duty to God, you stand in holy places and are in a position to lift others. You stand in holy places as you prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament each Sunday. You stand in holy places as you share the gospel and when you act as a standing minister – one who is always able, willing, and worthy to serve and strengthen others.
President Beck continues:
As an Aaronic Priesthood holder, you have been given the charge to warn, expound, exhort, teach, and invite all to come unto Christ (see D&C 20:59). President Harold B. Lee (1899 – 1973) said: “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. … You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul.” Young men, this means you should continually work to strengthen your testimony and always be willing to share it
President Beck’s advice is not just for the young men of the Church, it is also for those who hold the Melchezidek Priesthood authority and serve within the Church and are the priesthood holders within the home. We have the responsibility to ensure that we engage in family scripture study, sit in counsel with our families, provide the temporal and spiritual support necessary to sustain our home and families, protect our children and our spouses from any harm that may come (whether physical, mental, or even spiritual). As the presiding priesthood authority in our home, we also have the opportunity to receive direct and divine revelation in how we can strengthen our family, encourage and bless our children, and guide them in the ways of righteousness.
Fulfilling our priesthood duties and obligations is a sacred responsibility that all men (young and old) ought to take seriously. To this charge, President Beck surmises:
You have a sacred responsibility to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. As you pray, and study the scriptures, strive to keep the commandments, and listen to the promptings of the Spirit, you will find yourself on higher ground. As a consequence, wherever you are can become a holy place. Then, when situations arise, you will have the strength, courage, and the ability to help lift others. You will have the power and protection the Lord promises those who stand in holy places.
These promises of strength, courage, and blessings in a disintegrating society provide the comfort we can come to rely on. President Beck, then, quotes from President Thomas S. Monson’s message:
…we will feel His Spirit in our lives, providing us the desire and the courage to stand strong and firm in righteousness – to ‘stand … in holy places, and be not moved’ (D&C 87:8).
As the winds of change swirl around us and the moral fiber of society continues to disintegrate before our very eyes, may we remember the Lord’s precious promise to those who trust in Him: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee’ (Isaiah 41:10)
By standing in holy places, we are able to fulfill our priesthood duties, are able to take courage and rely upon the Lord for our strength, hope, and comfort. We are able to stand on higher ground in order to better serve those around us, blessing them with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Standing in Holy Places requires the Armor of God
The First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles have consistently been providing messages of warning, hope, comfort, encouragement, strength, and guidance to us in these latter-days. Much of this has to do with the fact that we are living in times where our society is at war with cultural differences. Reflecting upon this, one specific passage comes to mind that describes the condition of our society perfectly:
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish ….
As we begin the New Year and begin to apply the principles of standing in holy places, we must understand that we have to put on the whole armor of God. This is because we are not casual observers in mortality. We are active participants and we are at war – especially in these times where the hearts and minds of men have turned away from God and the simplistic message of the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul gives this advice, before providing the symbolism of the armor of God that we are to put on – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Recognizing that our strength comes from the Lord, that through Christ, we have the power and authority to act in His name, we are able to take up the armor and prepare ourselves for whatever we are called upon to face. The Apostle even reiterates his earlier statement of how we are to put on the whole armor of God by stating – Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. In addition to this significant passage, we must become aware of the reality that mortality is a battle. Yet, we are not to despair for we have modern prophets and apostles to provide the words of wisdom that ought to encourage and strengthen our testimonies. To this, we have Harold B. Lee provide this observation:
If you want to know what the Lord has for this people at the present time, I would admonish you to get and read the discourses that are delivered at general conference; for what the Brethren speak by the power of the Holy Ghost is the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. I am sure all who will listen, if they are in tune, feel the sincerity and the deep conviction from those who speak so appropriately and so effectively.
Through this counsel, President Lee admonishes that we must make use of the speeches delivered from General Conference, to actively engage in studying them, praying to find those principles of truth that we can apply in our own lives today. It is not the world that we look to for comfort, but to the teachings and simplicity of the Gospel that has been restored in these latter days. As for us putting on the whole armor, President Lee also expounds on what the battle of life entails and the premise for such an analogy:
Perhaps you have listened, as I have, to speakers who in their sermons have spoken repeatedly of our existence here in mortality as the “battle of life”. Have you ever tried to think through that suggested analogy of life likened to a “battle”? To have a battle as we understand it, there must first have been an issue or principle over which opposing forces contend, each force under the generalship of a master strategist called the commanding officer. To be successful, each such army must train its soldier in the science of war, in rigid discipline, and have each fighting man properly outfitted with the equipment and the weapons of war. As a prelude to the actual clash of arms, spies and fifth columnists have been at work behind the lines of the enemy forces to do two things: first, to discover the strength and the weaknesses of the enemy, and second, to spread propaganda among the enemy in an attempt to demoralize and spread confusion. The measure of success in each engagement is the number of casualties inflicted upon the enemy – in prisoners taken, in killed, and in wounded.
President Lee further comments on how preachers of previous dispensations saw and spoke of life as a continuing conflict between opposing forces. How darkness is the embattlement of Satan, the fall of the adversary and 1/3 of the heavenly host that had not kept their first estate. He further provides inspired teaching about how Satan commands his forces to seek out the weaknesses and vulnerability of each one of our Heavenly Father’s children and that we are constantly engaged in an eternal struggle since the time of human mortality, and even in the pre-existence where the first act of apostasy took place. Our fear is not the wars of mankind that trouble us, but the eternal struggle is with enemies which strike out of darkness and may not be perceived by human senses. It is upon this reflection that we come to the heart of President Lee’s understanding of the Apostle Paul’s analogy of putting on the whole armor of God in preparation to withstand in that evil day:
The Apostle Paul demonstrates his great ability as an inspired teacher as he pictures each of us as a warrior being clothed with the essential armor to protect the four parts of the human body which apparently Satan and his hosts, by their vigilant spy system, have found to be the most vulnerable parts through which the enemies of righteousness might make their “landing,” as it were, and invade the human soul.
President Lee quotes the passages of Ephesians 6:14 – 17 before committing his thoughts for us to understand as to how he perceives the purpose of Paul’s message to the Church in Ephesus:
These instructions take on full significance when it is remembered the loins are those portions of the body between the lower ribs and the hips in which are located the vital generative organs, and also that the scriptures and other inspired writings the loins symbolize virtue or moral purity and vital strength. The heart suggests our daily conduct in life, for as the Master taught:
“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man … bringeth forth good things: and an evil man … bringeth forth evil things (Matthew 12:34-35).
The feet typify the course you chart in the journey of life. The head, of course, represents your intellect.
The most interesting observation and principle of truth that we garner from President Lee’s understanding of the passage of Ephesians 6:10-18 is as follows:
But now pay careful heed to the fabric from which the various parts of your armor are to be fashioned
Truth is to be the substance of which the girdle about your loins is to be formed if your virtue and vital strength are to be safeguarded. How can truth protect you from one of the deadliest of all evils, unchastity? First, for a definition of truth: Truth is knowledge, so the Lord tells us, “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” (D&C 93:24). Now consider for a few moments the essential knowledge which will put to flight immortality, the ever present enemy of youth …
With boldness and forthright firmness, President Lee establishes the heart of truth that has become an offense and stumbling block to many in our society today, especially our youth, by affirming that marriage is an eternal principle, that sexual relations are to be had within the bounds of marital relationships of a husband and a wife. Sexual immorality of any sort is not of our Father in heaven, but the teachings and counsel of the adversary. Today, we see the effects of the teachings of the Adversary.
Continuing on with the Breastplate of Righteousness, President Lee counsels us that we are to safeguard our heart, to include how we conduct ourselves in this life. This breastplate is made up by our righteous actions and choices:
The righteous man … is humble and does not parade his righteousness to be seen of men but conceals his virtues as he would modestly conceal his nudity. The righteous man strives for self-improvement knowing that he has daily need of repentance for his misdeeds or his neglect. He is not so much concerned about what he can get but more about how much he can give to others, knowing that along that course only can he find true happiness. He endeavors to make each day his masterpiece so that at night’s close he can witness in his soul and to his God that whatever has come to his hand that day, he has done to the best of his ability. His body is not dissipated and weakened by the burdens imposed by the demands of riotous living; his judgment is not rendered faulty by the follies of youth; he is clear of vision, keen of intellect, and strong of body. The breastplate of righteousness has given him “the strength of ten – because his heart is clean”
From the moment we awaken, to the moment we retire to our bed; our thoughts, our actions, and our behavior should be emulating that of the Savior. We should be pondering on how we can stand in holy places and not be moved. As we reflect upon how we spent our day, we can then turn and report back to our Heavenly Father, through prayer, how we have conducted ourselves. We can approach our Heavenly Father with a clean heart and pure hands. The breastplate of righteousness protects our heart as we move through our everyday life with humility and our eye fixated on living out the Gospel of Christ in our own lives.
Once we have girded up our loins, put on the breastplate of righteousness, we are then to shod our feet with the preparations of the gospel of peace. President Lee answers the question – shod [our feet] with what? He answers this question, first, by providing the nature of our feet as it relates to our goals or objectives in life. Second, President Lee shares with us that by shodding our feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, we are preparing ourselves toward victory in the battle of life. The opposite of this is that fear is the penalty of unpreparedness and aimless dawdling with opportunity. It is through this understanding that we reach what President Lee concludes:
Embodied in the gospel of Jesus Christ are the straightforward negative injunctions divinely given to the great lawgiver of Israel, Moses – “Thou shalt not …!” – to be followed later by the positive declarations in the Sermon on the Mount, which outline a veritable blueprint for your course through life. The gospel plan enjoins us to the observance of prayer, to walk uprightly, to honor our parentage, to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and to refrain from idleness. Happy is that one whose feet are shod with the preparation of these teachings from his youth to withstand the evil day. He has found the way to peace by “over-coming the world.” He has built his house upon a rock, and when the storms came, the winds blow, and the rains do beat upon the house, it will not fall because it is founded upon a rock (See Matthew 7:24-25). Such a one is not afraid; he will not be overcome by a surprise attack, for he is ready for any emergency: he is prepared
Hence, the divine obligation and responsibility of parents to raise children up within the confines and boundaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – teaching all that they must do to live with our Heavenly Father once again. For the youth, it is a moral choice to heed the counsel of Church leaders, those who are called to serve in the Young Men and Young Women’s presidency, to listen to and counsel with our parents – honoring them. Through our decisive actions of preparation, we are able to stand in holy places and not be moved.
Finally, when it comes to putting on the armor of God, the last piece is the helmet that we place on our head. The helmet of Salvation that we are to place on our heads is the protective gear that effectively protects our intellect. Our intellect of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or in the words of President Lee, Salvation means the attainment of the eternal right to live in the presence of God the Father and the Son as a reward for a good life in mortality. He continues:
With the goal of salvation ever in our mind’s eye as the ultimate to be achieved, our thinking and our decisions which determine action will always challenge all that would jeopardize that glorious future state. Lost indeed is that soul who is intellectually without the “helmet of salvation” which tells him that death is the end and that the grave is a victory over life, and brings to defeat the hopes, the aspirations, and the accomplishments of life. Such a one might well conclude that he may as well “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
For us, there is hope within the confines of the Gospel that has been restored in these last days. For us, knowing that we will stand before our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, with a clean conscience and a clean heart, will be granted permission to sit with Christ on His throne as He sits with the Father on His throne (See Revelation 3:21). Our determination to stand in holy places and not be moved is evident in the completion of the coat of armor where we place the helmet of salvation over our head – to protect our intellect and reasoning from the sophistry teachings of the present day that tend to lead the hearts and souls of men and women astray from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Taking up the Shield and the Sword to stand in holy places and not be moved
Once we have put on the armor of God, there are two things every soldier needs in order to defend and fight opposing forces. The armor helps protect us – our virtue, our righteousness, our salvation, and the preparations we have taken to stand in holy places and not be moved – but it does nothing if we are not able to utilize any weapons to deflect, defend, and assault the enemy with. Referencing the Roman Armor of Paul’s time, the Apostle instructs the Church in Ephesus to take up the sword of the spirit which is the word of God and the shield of faith. The shield of faith is our own testimony of living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is action. We put our belief in Jesus Christ by emulating him. We have received the necessary preparations of the Gospel; it is now time to put those preparations into action. This is because we learn line upon line, precept upon precept and grow from grace to grace. Faith is the essence and substance of things we hope for. Faith carries us through those times of despair and provides us with hope and comfort that our Heavenly Father will meet our needs, strengthen us in that hour where we need strength, and grace to fulfill His divine commandments.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is the revelations that have come down from past dispensations and now through our own dispensation. Since we accept and believe that God has called men to speak on his behalf, we learn from these men the things necessary to help us live out the Gospel. This becomes our sword to engage the enemy and to strike a blow to the things that oppose the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sword is also the power and authority of our testimony that provides truth. When we stand in holy places and not be moved, it is because we stand with the words of ancient and modern prophets that have been called to serve God, to instruct, counsel, rebuke, reprove, and to call all men and women to come unto Christ, to repent of their sins, and to taste of the blessedness the Gospel brings to each one of our hearts.
Having completely put upon ourselves the whole armor of God, we are ready to engage in the battle of life. We are fully prepared to stand in holy places and not be moved. We are able to lift up those who need lifting up, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are sincere and humble to hear the message, and to stand firm in the evil days that are upon us. Thus, as we look at the deterioration of our society, it becomes more apparent that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ought to prayerfully seek out ways to fulfill the command of Christ to stand in holy places – for when we do, we will receive strength to not be moved.
 The Freedom from Religion Foundation was established in 1978 in Wisconsin in order to provide nontheistic news and information – http://ffrf.org/
 Ibid, See Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324 and 325, 2nd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2001), 196
 Beck, D. L. (2013, January). Standing on higher ground. Liahona, 37(1), 51. Retrieved from http://www.lds.org/liahona/2013/01?lang=eng . President Beck also quotes from – Harold B. Lee, “Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Ensign, July 1973, 123
 Ibid, Thomas S. Monson, “Stand in Holy Places,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2011, 86
 Doctrine and Covenants 1:16
 See Ephesians 6:10-18
 Ephesians 6:13, NASB – Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible
 Lee, H. B. (1974). Stand ye in holy places. (p. 180). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company.
 Lee, H. B. (1974). Your coat of armor. (p. 328 – 39). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company
 Hymn #301 – I Am a Child of God
 Lee, H. B. (1974). Your coat of armor. (p. 328-39). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company