Sacred Spaces, Holy Ground

We, the children of our Heavenly Father, naturally make places where we can draw closer to Him. Almost all of us do it- in some way- all over the world. The thoughts and efforts we put into these holy places reflect our theology, values, hopes and desires.

For me, there is no match for being in our LDS temples. That feeling of being somewhere between earth and heaven, of momentarily having crossed into a place more holy than any other, is sublime. Time slows, the worth of our souls briefly shines through our frail bodies, and the universe seems to be in perfect order. I have a great love for the Temple.

I have enjoyed feelings of peace in some other sacred spaces and truly enjoy taking every opportunity to visit big cathedrals, small chapels, mosques of all sorts, temples (LDS and otherwise), stave churches, Spanish missions, special mountains, and so on.  I offer three of my favorites here: the Manti, Utah LDS temple, Kocatepe (Ko-jah-TEH-peh) mosque in Ankara, Turkey, and the Dome of the Rock and Western Wall in Jerusalem.©Manti in the Morning

©Kocatepe mosque


9 comments for “Sacred Spaces, Holy Ground

  1. Kocatepe is a huge mosque in the more upscale part of Ankara, built atop a typical shopping center. It was finished in 1987. The government built it (Turkish Department of Religious Affairs) and had a lot of control over it that way. I’ve been inside quite a number of mosques but this is one of my favorites. It’s very spacious and more reverent than many I’d experienced before. It’s also not much of a tourist destination, which adds to the reverence there.

    Upon entering, my husband removed his shoes and headed to the main open area where a few men (young and old) were seated on the floor beside large Qur’ans. My two year old daughter and I removed our shoes, I covered my head and we headed up the stairs to the women’s balcony. There were a few other women there with their small children. These children were neither exceptionally reverent nor rowdy, but seemed used to the idea that this was a special place. I desperately wanted to take pictures like I had inside some of the big mosques in Istanbul, but this one felt different so I didn’t make an attempt. Maybe it was the way the sunlight hit the huge crystal chandelier, I don’t know, but it felt reminiscent of a temple. Instead, I knelt and spent some time in prayer.

    You can see a tour of it here.

  2. I loved poking around all the old cathedrals in Italy. I found the Duomos in Florence and Milan and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all be awe inspiring.

  3. I served my mission in Japan and returned for three years with the Air Force. On the one hand, Japanese Shinto assigns spiritual significance to natural features, like Mount Fuji, that inspire awe in people generally.

    On the other hand, I can’t say I ever got much of a spiritual boost from visiting many of the Shinto or Buddhist shrines and temples dotted around the countryside, including famous ones like: (a) Zenkooji Temple in Nagano (home of the 1998 Winter Olympics, where I worked for four months to start a branch); (b) the Tokugawa Shogunate’s shrine complex at Nikko, northeast of Tokyo;(c) Ise Jingu south of Nagoya, which is supposed to house the imperial treasures of mirror, sword and jewel (that puts me in mind of those buried with the Book of Mormon); or (d) the great Buddha of Nara, the old imperial capital that predates Kyoto. The shrines are beautiful and often blend in with their natural settings, but frankly, I didn’t perceive that the priests who manned these venues nor the worshippers who visited them (admid many more tourists) were having any special spiritual experiences, or that their lives were changed or transformed in some way.

    Japanese people love their folkways and traditions, and encompass both Buddhism and Shinto in them, but I met few people in Japan for whom their dedication to Buddhism was as passionate as, say, their devotion to a hobby like judo, or mountain climbing, or gardening, or politics. The resources that were put into creating these various shrines and temples bespeaks an earlier time when these religions stirred passions and even combat, perverted for decades into a cult of emperor worship that was in many ways a technique for instilling national over parochial loyalties, and for raising emergent Japan to be on a par with the other imperial nations of the West. But the religious enthusiasms of the past seem largely lost.

  4. RTS: I’ve not yet traveled in Asia, so I find your insights to be very interesting. I imagined such shrines to be more spiritual than that- to the priests, at the very least.

  5. Maybe it’s a little new agey of me, but I think these places literally take on the energy of the devotional spirit of the people who have worshiped there. There is just an otherworldly atmosphere that can’t be explained by architecture, interior aesthetics, and level of reverence.

    One of my favorite such experiences was in a Russian orthodox church. It was in rural Russia, far from tourist centers. The light, the sweet smell of candles, the icons, and sense of antiquity contributed to the experience, but there was just a serene feeling that made me want to linger.

  6. Yes, yes, yes about these places becoming more because of the people who worship there. There are many reasons why I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but the main one is because of the people who have worshipped there for so many years.

    I also love the Qaitbay Mausoleum in Cairo.

  7. The impression I get when reading about the state of the Church of England, which currewntly has something like 7% Sunday church attendance, is that it has many priests for whom the traditional churches and cathedrals are “spiritual” mainly because of their history and design, rather than religious significance per se. That is certainly the impression I got about most of the priests of Buddhism and Shinto associated with the great historic shrines in Japan.

  8. Wonderful post. I think the sacred and how it impacts our lives is one of the more pressing issues facing our society. I shout hallelujah, not only for my access to our temples, but for the various pilgrimage sites we string all over the world map, and our dedication in sending our youth out as pilgrims to visit them. I also very much appreciate your capturing the sacredness of locations outside the LDS faith.

    And you’re an amazing photographer. Photographs, like art, are able to capture something of the sacred. Thank you for sharing.

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