In January 2021, a special meeting was held in the Taber Alberta Stake to announce the retirement of one of the buildings where Latter-day Saints have been meeting for many years. Members are now dealing with many different emotions in response to this change. For me, I began thinking about what Church meetings and buildings mean to us.
Memories of a Distinctive Meetinghouse
I have had the opportunity of attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in various places. The amazing thing is how the same spirit and truths have been in different buildings no matter where they were located. I was born and raised in Magrath, Alberta. We had a cool balcony in the Church I attended while growing up. Our recently retired building in Taber has a cool balcony too. When my family from Magrath came to worship with us, they all sat in the balcony and loved it.
It has almost been 10 years since we started attending the Taber 54th Street chapel. When boundary changes happened, people exhibited a wide range of emotions. Some were so excited to be returning to this building that they loved. They had cherished memories and were thrilled to be back. Others were sad to leave a Church building they cared about.
I was called to serve with the Young Women in this newly reorganized ward. I found it a bit unsettling when we started our opening exercises, and all I could hear was the Primary children singing next door. The stake center where we had previously attended did not have this situation. I was teaching the oldest girls and thought we deserved a quiet classroom away from the noise. So, I brought up the idea of making a room change. One of the girls told me that they wanted to stay in the “noisy room” because, “It is the best room. We are the oldest and it is tradition we get the best room.” I was not sure about it being “the best room,” but I respected tradition. I could tell it was really important to her and the other girls that we have that room. I eventually got used to the singing next door.
I was later called as the Cub Scout leader. My favorite memory is when one of the “buddy burners” (a simple stove made from cans) was far too successful, and flames were shooting up the outside of the brick siding of the Church. Fortunately, it was a snowy winter day, and we were able to extinguish the flames quickly and safely.
One of the most special memories I have is when a security bomb-threat occurred at the high school, which was located across the street from the 54th Street meetinghouse. I was teaching in the high school that Friday and had evacuated my class across the road to the Church along with everyone else from the high school. As all the students and staff gathered in our ward gymnasium, I had a wonderful feeling come over me—I felt a special love for this building and for the feeling of safety and refuge it provided that day.
The Purposes for Restoring Christ’s Church
We know our Church buildings themselves can be really special to us, but we also know that wasn't the true purpose for restoring Christ’s Church to the earth. I served in a Spanish speaking mission in California in 1985/86. One day when we were out proselyting, I was pondering the question: Why did it take so long to have the Church of Jesus Christ restored back to the earth? As we continued going from home-to-home, I had a spiritual feeling come over me that the Lord was well aware and in control of the timing of the Restoration.
I didn’t teach Spanish speakers in California about cool architecture or interesting balconies. I didn’t mention how brick exteriors can be helpful to Cub leaders. Instead, I taught about the following blessings that are made possible through our Savior’s love:
Renewing baptismal covenants by repenting and partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s sacrament (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-79).
Learning more about Jesus Christ through reading the scriptures written by prophets on two different sides of the world: both the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Doctrine and Covenants 20:11).
Taking the opportunities to make covenants in holy temples that bind families together even after death (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:48).
Following a living prophet—President Russell M. Nelson—and the Apostles who receive revelation from Jesus Christ to guide and help us know how to handle the challenges we face today (see Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-8; Amos 3:7).
As the introduction to the March 1-7, 2021 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families lesson explains: “In the revelations connected with that first Church meeting in 1830 [see Doctrine and Covenants 20-22] … blessings are described that would not be possible if the Church of Jesus Christ had not been ‘regularly organized and established’ in the latter days (Doctrine and Covenants 20:1).”
Christ’s Gospel Blesses Us in Churches, Homes, and Personal Lives
I am so amazed and grateful that we live in a time when the Church that Jesus organized when He was on the earth has been restored. No matter what Church building I attend, the doctrine of Christ is taught to bring peace, hope, forgiveness, and joy to any willing to receive it. The buildings we meet in may be special to us, but not nearly as special as what takes place inside them.
This past year dealing with ramifications from COVID-19 has helped me realize that a lot of special covenants and blessings that have taken place in our meetinghouses can also happen in our homes. I am now more keenly aware what a blessing it is to have a living prophet on the earth to lead and guide us. The most wonderful thing about the gospel is what happens inside of each of us as we strive to learn how to live the restored gospel of Jesus Christ every day.