More than brick and mortar

In the Church today, more than 10,000 LDS meetinghouses span the globe.

President Stephen L Richards, who was first counselor to President David O. McKay in the First Presidency in the 1950s, referred to ward and branch meetinghouses as "markers on the great highway of progress" of the Church. (Church News, Oct. 31, 1953, p. 3.)Indeed, our meetinghouses are a physical evidence of the vast and widespread growth of the Church today. From Finland to New Zealand, from Alaska to Africa, from the isles of the sea to the altiplano of South America, LDS church houses dot the land, most with steeples jutting upward in symbolic reach toward heaven.

But do we ever give much thought about the buildings in which we meet? Surely, they are more than merely brick and mortar, roofs and floors, hallways and classrooms.

First and foremost, an LDS meetinghouse is a place of worship. It is a place where we may go on the Lord's holy day and pay our "devotion unto the Most High." (See D&C 59:10.) It is a place where we may receive the sacrament in remembrance of the great atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and renew our covenants with Him. It is a place where our spirits can communicate with the Lord.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place of prayer. From the chapel to the classrooms, our petitions to the Lord go heavenward in thankfulness for blessings received and in humility for blessings sought. Prayers expressing feelings of the heart are uttered from the lips of tiny tots to the aged, and we all benefit as the Lord's Spirit is poured out upon us.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place of ordinances. In some, converts and 8-year-olds may be baptized by the authority of the holy priesthood; and in all, they may be confirmed and babies may be blessed.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place of learning. We begin at an early age in Primary, and continue through the years in Sunday School, in Young Women, in Relief Society and in priesthood quorums. We learn from the scriptures. We learn from our teachers, from our leaders, from speakers in sacrament meetings. As our knowledge of the gospel grows strong, so usually does our faith, testimony and commitment.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place where brotherhood and sisterhood are fostered. As we meet together weekly, we feel of others' strength, thereby strengthening our own lives. We feel a great bond of love for our brothers and sisters in the gospel and our lives are enriched because of it.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place where charity and compassion can be fostered. It is a place where priesthood holders can discuss putting a new roof on a widow's home, or the Relief Society sisters plan taking meals to the sick. It is a place where Young Women can prepare for doing the "12 days of Christmas" for a new family in the area, or young men make assignments for a service project for the elderly.

An LDS meetinghouse is a place of reverence. We worship God in sacred settings in a quiet, respectful manner, recognizing that true reverence involves love of the Lord and gratitude to Him.

"To Latter-day Saints," President Spencer W. Kimball said, "the chapel is not a recess or a cell in a cathedral, not a place with altars of gold and precious stones. It is a place without ostentation or show, without statues and mostly without pictures, decorated simply and plainly, clean and light and worshipful. It is a place where the people are seated comfortably, in true brotherhood, where lessons are taught, choirs sing, members pray and preach, and where all gain knowledge and inspiration - and where old and young receive the sacrament. Here habits of thought and action are conceived and introduced into lives, and here faith is born, rekindled and sanctified." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 222.)

Thank heaven for the ward or branch meetinghouse. It is a place of refuge, where we can come in from life's storms. It is a place of peace we can turn to for comfort.

But a reminder. The church house must never replace the home. Our homes should be places of righteousness, the primary place where the gospel is taught, where scriptures are studied, where the pleadings of the heart are uttered in prayer, where faith and testimonies are developed and become strong.

The First Presidency, in a 1960 letter to the General Priesthood Committee of the Church, wrote, "The home is the basis of a righteous life and no other instrumentality can take its place, nor fulfill its essential function."

What takes place in the ward or branch meetinghouse through sermons that are preached and lessons that are taught should reinforce - not replace - what takes place in a righteous home.

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