What is sacred? Respecting the spiritual beliefs and commitments of others

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 12:00 p.m. MST

"Some Christian groups put a lot of emphasis on ritual, with sacred places, clothing and symbols," Anderson said. "In our church, we put less emphasis on material Christianity and more emphasis on where you are in relationship to God. We see something sacred in everything we do, everywhere we are."

"We also have sacred experiences," added David Nelson, pastor at K-2: The Church on 2100 South in Salt Lake City. "For many of us there is that sacred sense that we've encountered God in an extraordinary way, in our individual times alone with God. So in that sense, the sacred is more experiential than it is physical. It is our relationship with God and with each other — that is what is sacred.

"That is why we can worship in a warehouse," Nelson continued, referring to the refurbished facilities that house the K-2 congregations. "There is nothing intrinsic in this space that is holy. It becomes holy when it is inhabited by the people of God. … A tin warehouse doesn't feel really sacred. But what happens in here is holy. Every Sunday I pray to God and ask him to make it a holy place so that he can meet with us and interact with us."

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "hold beliefs regarding the Savior's Atonement to be sacred," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter. "For church members, the holy scriptures, which teach of Christ; gospel ordinances, which help members follow Christ; and sacraments, which help members remember Christ, are all considered sacred."

Trotter also indicated that LDS temples are considered sacred. "Inside temples, members learn of their relationship to Christ in God's eternal plan of salvation and make covenants to live Christ-like lives," he said. "Naturally, temple garments, which serve as a reminder of these covenants, are also considered sacred."

LDS temple garments, which are specially designed undergarments worn by Latter-day Saints who have qualified to enter and worship in LDS temples, are often used as a derisive example of unusual LDS beliefs and practices. The term "magic underwear" is applied by those with an anti-Mormon agenda as well as by poorly informed journalists, in reference to folklore about members who were protected from harm when they were wearing temple garments.

"The term 'magic underwear' is offensive and misrepresents the significance of temple garments to church members," Trotter said. "Religious clothing is common to many faiths, both as a symbol of private devotion and as indicators of priestly office. Members of our faith wear religious garments beneath their street clothes as a private reminder of promises made to God to lead good, honorable, Christ-like lives."

Which, according to Rabbi Zippel, is what makes LDS temple garments and the "tzitzit" he wears under his shirt sacred.

"It is a private thing, representative of personal beliefs and commitments," he said. "To speak of it lightly, to make jokes about something so deeply intimate and personal, is inappropriate. Even if it isn't sacred to you, it is sacred to someone and demands your respect."

The tzitzit worn by Rabbi Zippel and other Jews has four corners, with eight fringes from each corner. "We wear it as a reminder to act upon our mandate to be sacred — to sanctify the material by the way we choose to live our lives," he said. "For me, it is empowering to put it on each day. It reminds me of the very reasons that I was created."

There are other sacred things to orthodox Jews like Rabbi Zippel, including the scriptures and the "holy ark" that houses the scriptures. But the most sacred thing of all, he said, is the human soul itself.

"The Jewish definition of life is that it is the fusion and interaction of two different entities: the body and the soul," the rabbi said. "The body is our physical self, and the soul is the godly spark that dwells in us. The soul is an ongoing source of inspiration. It is what brings sacredness to the body."

Similarly, Roman Catholics find sacredness in humanity.

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