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The Gospel in Words: The gospel in words: 'Sanctuary'


"Sanctuary" in its simplest definition is a holy place or a sacred place. A sanctuary can also be a place of refuge or protection.

Most often in the scriptures, sanctuary refers to a temple, present or future, or the tabernacle built by the children of Israel during their wandering. The Hebrew word also means a sacred place or a holy place. Sometimes the word sanctuary is used in the sense of apartness, holiness, sacredness or separateness. The word sanctuary is occasionally the translation for the Hebrew word which means reverend, worthy of veneration, or set apart for God. It has the sense of a place or services and offerings which are prepared for God with a solemn rite and are pure and clean. A sanctuary can also be a place that is pure and sinless, upright and holy.

While most references to the word sanctuary in the scriptures relate to the temple, its most important sense is as a place where God may dwell. In a sense, a sanctuary is a connecting point between earth and heaven, for God dwells in his sanctuary in heaven (Psalm 102:19) but also his "honor and majesty … strength and beauty are in his sanctuary" here on earth (Psalm 96:6).

Latter-day prophets have reminded us that there are other places which can be sanctuaries or holy places. In encouraging Latter-day Saints to develop the habit of reverence, President Gordon B. Hinckley urged that "when we enter the chapel we should understand we are in sacred precincts. … All who come into the Lord's house should have a feeling that they are walking and standing on holy ground" ("Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley," p. 557).

Elder Dennis Neuenschwander taught, "Holy places have always been essential to the proper worship of God. For Latter-day Saints, such holy places include venues of historic significance, our homes, sacrament meetings, and temples. The importance of holy places and sacred space in our worship can hardly be overestimated" (Ensign, May 2003).

President James E. Faust has also spoken more generally about standing in holy places. "We unavoidably stand in so many unholy places and are subject to so much that is vulgar, profane, and destructive of the Spirit of the Lord that I encourage our Saints all over the world, wherever possible, to strive to stand more often in holy places. In addition to the temples surely another holy place ought to be our homes. The feelings of holiness in my home prepared me for the feelings of holiness in the temple" (Ensign, May 2005). Indeed, President Faust taught that "our homes should be among the most hallowed of all earthly sanctuaries" (Ensign, November 1977).