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Mormon Scholar Explores Latter-day Saint Sacred Spaces

On November 11, 2015, Professor David F. Holland of Harvard’s Divinity School spoke to members of Concordia University’s Centre for Sensory Studies about ways in which Mormon temple worship paradoxically reinforces and transgresses the sacred–secular dualism of modernity. He also spoke about what that means for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how the temple garment confronts the secular by acting as a physical extension of the sacred in the everyday lives of the Latter-day Saints who wear it. Holland suggested that by wearing the temple garment, Latter-day Saints quietly bring a bit of the sacred into the secular space.

Later that day, Holland participated in a panel discussion, open to the public, entitled “Sacred Spaces in a Secular World.” The discussion, which took place at McGill University’s Birks Heritage Chapel, included three other panellists from different faith traditions. The other panellists included Dr. Victor Goldbloom, a Canadian pediatrician, lecturer, and politician; Samaa Elibyari of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; and Rev. Jean-Daniel Williams, the Anglican-United Chaplain at McGill University. They agreed that sacred spaces are many and varied, ranging from the intimacy of family homes to the grandeur of sacred sites, such as temples, where communities may participate in sacred worship together.

Rev. Williams commented, “A sacred place is not where God is more present, but may be a place where we are more likely to notice God. A sacred place is not sacred innately, but is made sacred through being a place where holy people have done or continue to do holy things.”

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