Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pilgrimage, Part the Last: BYU Jerusalem

My time in the Holy Land was wonderful, every minute of it. But...for the first few days that I spent walking the streets that Jesus walked and visiting the sites associated with events in his life, I was less than touched. The sights were magnificent and inspiring, but the experience did not inspire me or move me in the way that I might have expected it to. It was, to be frank, a little depressing.

Then, on a Saturday morning, I hired a taxi to take me to the BYU Jerusalem Center for church services. This is what I saw:

And here's an aerial shot that captures the grandeur and magnificence of the building far better than I could do from the ground:

I entered almost an hour before sacrament meeting was scheduled to begin and took a seat, looking forward to a little time alone with my scriptures, but as soon as I sat down an elderly sister missionary approached me and asked me if I would be willing to sing with the ward choir that would be performing that morning. I said yes...and soon found out that I was the only man who would be participating. And that they wanted me to sing a solo. Yikes! Because I knew that my mother-in-law, whom I love, would want me to, I said yes. The organ that accompanied me, and part of the congregation (there were only a few local families; it was predominantly BYU students on study abroad who were in attendance):

The number that we sang was prelude, and it was followed by the administration of the sacrament. And then I understood something that I previously knew to be true but which I had forgotten during my time in Jerusalem: it is the ordinances that commemorate the events of the Savior's life--and not the places where they happened--which are sacred. As I remembered this truth and partook of the sacrament, I wept with joy because I understood that the experience I had hoped to enjoy in Jerusalem was available to me every week in any church building in the world. Only then, as I sat and observed the scene of Jesus Christ's suffering and crucifixion

did I fully appreciate the meaning of the sites that I had visited. I was reminded of this experience tonight by a poem read by the Raleigh temple matron at our Saturday night session of stake conference (author unknown; not my favorite poem, but it expresses the sentiment I had while I ate the bread and drank the water that represented the body and blood of my Savior, while looking out on the city where he lived and died):

If I could go to Galilee and walk where Jesus walked
And sit in tender grasses on the hillside where he taught.
If I could feel a gentle breeze that lifted from the sea
Where he chose the humble fishermen, how full my heart would be.
If I could sit and ponder on a rock that knew his hand,
Or walk along the seashore where his feet had touched the sand.
My spirit yearns within me, but it doesn't seem my fate,
I'll never walk where Jesus walked, I'll never see . . . but wait.
I've worshiped in His temple, where I know he's walked before.
Have His feet been down this hallway? Have his fingers touched this door?
Has He stood here in this very room and looked at what I see?
In the beauty of His temple I feel His love for me.
I close my eyes and picture Him, my worries melt away.
I don't need to go to Galilee or travel far away.
For my tender heart is filled with what He wants me to be taught
And my testimony burns within. . .I've walked where Jesus walked!

Once I realized that the true experience of Jerusalem was available to me at home in Raleigh or anywhere else there are authorized priesthood holders, everything else that I saw became a little bit sweeter. My time at the BYU Jerusalem Center gave me an entirely new perspective on the artifacts and buildings of Jerusalem, both figuratively, and literally (that's the Dome of the Rock in the midst of the flowers):


Jo Jo said...

That was a wonderful thought. My eyes got teary thinking about that great reminder. Great Sunday read!!!!!!!!!

shirlgirl said...

I loved the poem, Zach. I think you experienced what you needed to at that time of your visit. What a wonderful experience to have been to Jerusalem.