I love to sing in the choir, especially our stake choir. Our ward choir is pretty good, but it’s small. As with most ward choirs, there are never enough men. With only three tenors and four basses I never quite feel the majesty of a full choir. That’s why I enjoy the Stake choir. There is just something special that happens when you get that many faithful Saints singing to the Lord.
We’ve got maybe fifteen or twenty brethren and twice that many sisters. I’ve got six or seven other tenors with whom I can blend my voice. I sing better when we have that many voices. For those of you who sing in a stake choir, I think you know what I mean. We enjoy our practices but when it comes time to perform, oh the sacred and holy sound that comes out of those choir seats.
This next Stake Conference will be a little sad for us as we say goodbye to our Stake President before he leaves to preside over the Taiwan Taichung mission. I already know it’s going to be an emotional day. As the Stake Financial clerk, I meet with the Stake President every month. I have enjoyed working with him and appreciate his dedication and ability as a church administrator.
Administering and Ministering
I don’t like to focus on the mundane aspects of managing the church. Someone has to do it. I’m grateful to be able to contribute. I’m glad I can take some of the administrative burden from the Stake President. But administering as compared to ministering in the church is simply not one of my favorite things to do. I would much rather sing or teach a class or preach to the congregation.
We don’t use that phrase much in the church anymore. We are not professional preachers. We are all equal in our opportunity to stand before our brothers and sisters to share what we know. It’s nice when someone actually takes the time to prepare and deliver a talk designed to uplift as well as enlighten. I come away from such a meeting much more enthused about life’s challenges.
I believe that the Lord is pleased when we sing or preach in such a way that we bring a sense of holiness into our lives and the lives of those who hear us. It’s that feeling of holiness I’d like to focus on in this little essay. I don’t think we have enough holiness in our lives. I know I don’t. Even with daily prayer and gospel study it’s so easy for the world to take away that holiness.
Service in the Temple
On each temple we read the words, “Holiness to the Lord – The House of the Lord.” I went to the temple last Friday and will go again next Friday. We always have Stake temple night just before our Stake Conferences. Being instructed by a member of the Temple Presidency in our chapel sessions is a highlight of our time there. I feel a little bit more of that holiness that I so desire.
I’ve been going to the temple for all my life. I mean that literally. I was six years old the first time I entered into the Los Angeles temple to be sealed to my family. I enjoyed baptisms in that same temple every six months as a youth. I was endowed there before my mission and married there after my mission. I have been back almost every month for the last thirty-seven years.
There has never been a time I have gone to the temple and not come away feeling a little closer to heaven, a little more connected to the Lord. I look forward to getting older because I know I’m going to be one of those little old men you see in the temple every time you go. There’s just something special about serving in the house of the Lord that can help us to feel more holy.
Commanded to Be Holy
Holiness is a frame of mind as well as a feeling that we cultivate. It’s not a false piety but a genuine feeling of closeness to the Lord in spite of being far away. It is a way of thinking and acting that causes us to remember the Lord many times during the day. It is noticing His hand in our lives, in the daily interactions with others and His help in dealing with troublesome things.
Holiness is sensing the sacred and the divine in nature around us but also in the flow of our lives. Holiness comes when we accept that the Lord is trying to mold us into something that may be different from what we had in mind. We become holy when we accept the Lord’s chastening hand in our lives without becoming bitter or questioning why such trying things happen to us.
It is the desire for holiness that prompts us to overlook faults in others and ourselves. It is that need, that intense passion to be all that the Lord wants us to be that burns holiness into our hearts. “Be thou Holy,” the Lord said. He didn’t say to be holy only when you are in church or only when you read the scriptures or pray. We are commanded to be holy, to do things with holiness.
Worship Brings Holiness
When I cultivate a feeling of holiness, I am able to overcome the world, even if it’s just for a moment. If we let them, the fears that permeate our society will suck out the feeling of peace that we need to be holy. Holiness is next to reverence and a part of worship. It’s a time to reflect, to ponder and to meditate. Surrounding ourselves with light and beauty will engender holiness.
Holiness is something that we give to the Lord. That’s the significance of that phrase, Holiness to the Lord. We ascribe Him to be a Man of Holiness. We can be filled with that holiness when we praise Him, when we worship Him, when we sing unto Him and when we pray unto the father in His name. He hears us. He knows our efforts to please Him and to will return holiness unto us.
That’s the beauty of true worship. When we praise Him or sing unto Him, we become one with Him. We begin to feel about things as He does. He is filled with holiness and peace. Majesty and glory are His because He earned them, but He is willing to share them with us, here and now, in this world, when we reach out to Him in our hearts in the spirit of worship. He makes us holy.
Holiness is a gift from God
If we sing in a choir with the intent to be united and to praise God, we are magnified. I have felt this many times. My soul expands and I begin to feel the expanse of eternity. It seems that God cannot resist touching our hearts and our minds when we worship Him. I have felt the same thing when I teach under the influence of the spirit. That connection with God engenders my holiness.
Holiness is a gift from God, yet it is something that we can claim. Indeed, we have a right to claim it according to our worthiness and our efforts to repent. God loves to bless his children with feelings that help us understand His true nature. Man of Holiness is His name. Think about that. Perhaps there is no better phrase to describe the God whom we worship – a Holy Man.
I also want to be a man of holiness, but so often feel like Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am. My heart sorroweth because of my flesh. My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about because of the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins. Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
Become Holy to receive Him
Holiness is a step on the rung of the ladder to come unto Christ and to be received into His presence. He who embodies all that is holy is ever so willing to teach us how to become holy. Jacob exclaimed, “Oh how great is the holiness of our God!” He offers it to us as a tool for us to come back into His presence. He has abundance and enough to spare for all who desire it.
If our eyes become single to His glory then holiness descends upon our spirits. Holiness brings us to a unity of the faith. There are times when singing in the stake choir that the unity of voice is converted to unity of faith. It is a wonderful feeling, this bestowal of holiness through worship. Receiving the spirit of holiness through worship and praise, we can endure His consuming fire.
We must cultivate this sense of holiness and let nothing detract us from achieving it. No devil, no evil being, mortal or not, can dissuade us in our quest if we are committed to obeying this great commandment to become holy. We must become holy so that He can share with us all that He has. We can achieve that state in this life and receive some of those blessings now if we desire.
We can be Holy
To the western man or natural man way of thinking, we want something to “do” to become holy. It has been my experience that I can be doing all that the Lord asks of me and yet still not feel holy. If you are confident you are already doing all that you can to be holy and still don’t feel so, then it’s time to change your thinking. We must literally decide to obey the command to be holy.
Achieving a state of holiness is a gift you accept. We are commanded to receive it, just as we have been commanded to receive the Holy Ghost. Being holy takes faith. It requires that we cast out fear. We are commanded to do so. It also requires us to resist the urge to self-criticize. There is no way to accept this gift of holiness and find fault with ourselves for thinking we are holy.
The best way I have found to sustain this sense of holiness is to focus on the phrase, Holiness to the Lord. As I worship him, I raise myself to a higher plane, a different state of consciousness. I praise Him, ascribe holiness to Him and in turn he beings me into that state of holiness through His grace and mercy. It’s a reciprocal feeling. He loves me and loves to bless me. We are holy.