Does it matter where we worship?
As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, they carried a portable sanctuary, called the Tabernacle. Their worship was undoubtedly affected in many ways by their transient state. But as they approached the promised land, God explained to them that some things would need to change:
Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you.
But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you;Deuteronomy 12:8-11
After they settled into their new homes, He said, certain forms of worship would only be permitted in specific locations:
Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:
But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.Deuteronomy 12:13-14
These instructions remind me of a revelation Joseph Smith received in Nauvoo, Illinois, regarding baptism for the dead. There was no temple in Nauvoo, and church members were enthusiastically performing baptisms for the dead in various locations. Through Joseph Smith, the Lord explained that this practice was temporary. Under normal circumstances, these baptisms are only to be performed within temples:
A baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—
For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.
But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead [outside of the temple] shall not be acceptable unto me.Doctrine and Covenants 124:29-32
As Lehi and his family traveled to the promised land, Nephi looked for suitable places to commune with God, including mountain tops. (See 1 Nephi 11:1, 1 Nephi 17:7, 1 Nephi 18:3.) But when he and his people established a city, they built a temple “after the manner of the temple of Solomon” (2 Nephi 5:16).
Alma taught his people that they should worship God all the time and that they should also dedicate the Sabbath Day to Him. (See Mosiah 18:24-25.) In a similar way, we can worship God wherever we may be (Alma 34:38), and we can respect God by performing specific kinds of worship only in the places He has designated.
During the pandemic, many of us received the sacrament in our homes, with the authorization of our church leaders. However, now that we are able to gather again, most of us receive the sacrament in a church building each Sunday.
Sister Reyna Aburto explained the importance of sacred places:
From the beginning, God has sought to gather and organize His children “to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life.” With that purpose in mind, He has instructed us to build places of worship where we receive knowledge and the ordinances of salvation and exaltation; make and keep covenants that bind us to Jesus Christ; are endowed with “the power of godliness”; and gather together often to remember Jesus and strengthen each other in Him. The Church organization and its buildings exist for our spiritual benefit. “The Church … is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families.”“We Are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” General Conference, April 2022
Today, I will be grateful for sacred places, including meetinghouses and temples, dedicated to God. I will honor His instructions about when and where to participate in specific worship activities, and I will also strive to remember Him always and everywhere.