A common theme in the book of Psalms is the joy of being in the temple, which is often equated with being in God’s presence. Here are some examples:
- “Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth” (Psalm 26:8).
- “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
- “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Psalm 65:4).
- “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:1-2, 10).
Isaiah prophesied that in our day “the mountain of the Lord’s house” would be “established in the top of the mountains.” People would joyfully travel to this place and invite others to join them, saying:
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his pathsIsaiah 2:2-3, 2 Nephi 12:2-3
Some of the most joyful experiences in the Book of Mormon happened at sacred places. King Benjamin’s people were filled with joy as they made covenants with God at the temple. (See Mosiah 4:1-3, Mosiah 5:2-5.) When the Savior appeared to the people at the temple in Bountiful, they testified, “No one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father” (3 Nephi 17:17). Some of them worked all night, inviting other people to join them at the temple the following day, where the Savior had promised to return. (See 3 Nephi 19:2-3.)
William Bullock served for decades as a missionary for the Church of England in Newfoundland, Canada. In 1854, he published a collection of original hymns called Songs of the Church. He wrote in the preface that these hymns were “written amidst the various scenes of missionary life…and arranged for private and domestic use, to aid our fellow-Christians who have settled in our new countries, and are deprived of the stated services of the sanctuary.”
One of the hymns in that book opens with a paraphrase of Psalm 26:8: “We love the place, O God, wherein thine honour dwells; the joy of thine abode all earthly joy excels” (“We Love the Place, O God,” on hymnary.org).
The joy and longing he felt for sacred spaces is palpable, just as it is in the scriptural passages above. A version of this hymn appears in the hymnbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (#247). Here is a performance of the first two verses by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Today, I will reflect on the joy I have felt in sacred places, including the temple. I will strive to express my enthusiasm for those places, so that I can encourage other people to experience that joy as well.