The Last Holy Place

They probably thought it was the end of the world in 1918 when the Spanish Flu made the casualty counts from the Great War look like a rounding error. Our little pandemic seems puny by comparison. Let’s hope it stays that way.

COVID-19 has been pretty effective at shaking things up in our lives, even for those of us who live outside of the hot spots. My clinic volumes are down significantly for the last couple of weeks because I am only seeing urgent cases. I normally think of myself as providing an essential community service, one that is unique and valued. It is a bit humbling for me to realize how optional or deferrable much of my work is.

Life goes on in some normal ways at home. Kids fight over toys, get distracted from homework (it’s all homework now), jump on the trampoline, leave half-eaten apples everywhere, and all of that usual stuff. On Friday during the first week of the lock down one of our kids fell and broke his arm. I took him to the urgent care, where they put a brace on his arm, and on the way home we stopped for food at the Wendy’s because he had missed his dinner. The next Friday a different kid broke his foot while running down the stairs. “It’s a Friday thing, apparently,” I said to the urgent care doctor when he walked in the room. Our other kids were jealous of the Wendy’s food that night when we got home, and one of them asked, “Can I be the next to break a bone?”

“Wait ’till next Friday,” I said.

Life is simpler with our schedule being so free. We don’t have kids and parents going off in all directions for so many activities and meetings. Every evening all of us are home, together. That might be the best thing about this pandemic.

This week at our Family Home Evening we had an opening song and prayer, and everyone recited an Article of Faith like we normally do. Then I stood up as if to begin speaking, lifted one finger up, and said, “Wait here.” I ran out of the room, and a few moments later everyone heard a loud banging sound as I dragged a heavy object up the stairs, bumping at every step. By the time I reached the top and started dragging it across the tile floor there was much anticipation in the room.

It was our old heavy-duty plastic play set, minus the slide. “Why did you bring that upstairs?” they asked me when I reached the doorway.

I started climbing up onto the platform. “Well, this week we started reading about King Benjamin … ” Suddenly all of the puzzled expressions turned to surprise, and the kids burst into spontaneous applause and laughter. (It’s nice to feel like a celebrity in your own home.) When everyone was quiet again I told the story of King Benjamin, who gave his final sermon to the people from on top of a tower. I read some of the more notable teachings from his speech and described how his people had been touched by the Spirit as they listened to his testimony of Christ.

When I had finished I invited everyone else to climb the tower and share a scripture. I was very pleased with the verses they chose: John 3:16, John 14:15, Doctrine and Covenants 128:22, 2 Nephi 22, John 16:33, Jacob 3:2, 3 Nephi 12:15-16, 2 Nephi 26:24. Follow the links and you will find wonderful words of comfort, peace, and encouragement.

And we need that encouragement right now, because most of us have never experienced anything like this. It is scary to think that a new and deadly virus is sweeping through the global population, exceeding hospital capacity in first world countries, and the only thing we can do in response is … literally nothing? Just hunker down at home, watching the case counts spike and the economic indicators crash. Is this the end of the world?

I don’t know, but prophecies about the second coming of Christ foretell wars, rumors of wars, and desolating scourges in the days before he comes. COVID-19 might not be the sign that his coming is imminent, but it should remind us of our duty to always be ready for that day. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith about the signs of his second coming, the Lord describes “an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:31-32)

What holy places can we stand in today? The temples are closed. The churches are closed. But we still have our homes. “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.” Homes are sacred because families are sacred. Your house becomes the house of God when you study his word together, pray together, and love and serve one another in your family.

Gathering at home with our families provides our best protection from physical and spiritual danger. So stand in your holy place, and don’t move. We will make it through this, one day, one family, one home at a time.

Alan B. Sanderson, MD is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a practicing neurologist.

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