The words Holiness to the Lord are placed on every temple built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are put in an obvious place where everyone who enters the temple can see them. I have read those words many times as I attend temple sessions, but I have not really considered what they meant to me personally until the past few days. What does holiness to the Lord mean? Is it necessary for us as individuals to be holy in order to enter the temple? Is it even possible for us to become holy? What does it mean to me to be holy?
While in Salt Lake City recently I purchased a small book by Wendy Watson Nelson entitled What Would A Holy Woman Do? Sister Nelson shares her experience of traveling with her husband, Elder Russell M. Nelson, to Tonga in November 2007. He was assigned to rededicate the Tonga Temple. They “walked through the temple so [Elder Russell] could assess if the remodeling had been completed as requested. Upon close inspection, everything looked perfect. However, as [they] walked out of the temple, [they] noticed something was missing – something which would prevent the rededication of the temple.
“Specific words are placed upon every temple, written in the local language. The words are `House of the Lord, Holiness to the Lord.’ However, on the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple that day, those words were missing….” The temple could not be rededicated without those specific words.
Sister Nelson returned to Salt Lake City but continued to think about holiness – the meaning of the word and the placement of the words Holiness to the Lord on our temples. She wondered what she would need to change in order to have the words Holiness to the Lord placed upon her life. She understood that holiness is not a word that is frequently used. What did it mean anyway? She decided to ask several of her friends for help and sent out an e-mail message. As part of her message, she asked her friends to consider a three-day exercise to determine how a holy woman would act. She asked them to consider the following questions: “How would a holy woman start her day? What would be on her `to do’ list? How would a holy woman approach a difficult assignment or a new overwhelming project? How would she read to a child, or exercise? How would she talk with a friend, or shop, or play, or pray, or do laundry?
“How would a holy woman handle a conflict or avoid a conflict? What would she read, or say, or listen to, or watch, or wear? What would she do in really difficult situations? If someone said something to her that was confusing, or hurtful, or demoralizing, how would a holy woman respond? What would she do? If she were betrayed, or misunderstood, or falsely accused, what would a holy woman do?
“How would a holy woman respond to her own success or failure? How would she respond to the successes and failures of others? How would a holy woman use her time and energy and money? How would she prepare to partake of the sacrament each Sunday?
“How would a holy married woman welcome her husband home? Or how would she help him to welcome her home so they both felt loved, adored, wanted, and needed? How would a holy single young woman date, or use her time when not dating?”
Sister Nelson asked her friends to choose “one thing a day for three days – a different thing each day or the same thing – you can’t do this wrong.” The sisters accepted the challenge and discovered new things about themselves as they became more aware of acting as holy women.
I too accepted the challenge but am only part way through the three-day period. Yesterday was my first day to try acting as a holy woman as I attended the temple. Even though I had been home for just over twenty-four hours, I paid particular attention to the endowment session and accepted the cancelation of the sealing session with grace and even gratitude for ending my temple service early. I called my son’s wife to see if I could take my granddaughter for a few hours and learned that both of them were having a difficult time. My daughter-in-law was tired and trying to pack for a trip; my granddaughter was having a meltdown. My desire to spend time with my granddaughter was a blessing to both mother and child. We spent a delightful afternoon just doing things together instead of my rushing trying to catch up on things at home.
For my second day I went fishing with my husband. I do not particularly enjoy fishing. I would not choose to go fishing and am not very good at it. My husband however loves to fish, and he loves for me to go with him. Today was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and no mosquitoes, a perfect day to enjoy Alaska. We flew into a lake and caught our limit of Red Salmon within an hour, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. What made the difference? I wanted to act as a holy woman would act and began my day with prayer and scriptures; I kept a good attitude about fishing even though I do not enjoy fishing. It was a pleasant experience: the weather and surroundings were beautiful, the fish were cooperative, and my husband was pleased.
Tomorrow will be my third day; it is also fast Sunday. How would a holy woman handle the bodily stresses of going without food for twenty-four hours?
I know that Heavenly Father wants all of us to become holy. In fact, He commands us to “practice virtue and holiness before me continually” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:33). Sister Nelson explains in her book that in the verses leading up to the one quoted, the Lord commands us to seek gifts of the Spirit, gifts that will help us become holy. In Doctrine and Covenants 60:7 the Lord says, “I am able to make you holy….” As we seek spiritual gifts, we become holy.
We sometimes sing a hymn about holiness in our meetings, a hymn that teaches how to become holy. We can learn about holiness by paying attention to the words of the hymn More Holiness Give Me (words and music by Philip Paul Bliss, 1838-1876).
More holiness give me, More strivings within, More patience in suffering, More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior, More sense of his care, More joy in his service, More purpose in prayer.
More gratitude give me, More trust in the Lord, More pride in his glory, More hope in his word,
More tears for his sorrows, More pain at his grief, More meekness in trial, More praise for relief.
More purity give me, More strength to o’ercome, More freedom from earth stains, More longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom, More used would I be, More blessed and holy, More, Savior, like thee.
I encourage you to ponder the words Holiness to the Lord. Think about what they mean to you and why they are on every temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Consider taking the three-day challenge of Sister Nelson by choosing a regular activity and asking, “What would a holy woman [or man] do?” I promise you that considering this question and accepting this challenge will change your perspective for the ordinary things you do every day! I also know that acting as a holy woman will help me to bring more holiness into my life.