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A Church Not Made With Hands

Susan M - April 13, 2007

Have you ever been to a place that felt like that? An outdoor place that feels special somehow, like God is near?

I’ve been to the Sacred Grove, and I was expecting it to feel like that. But it didn’t. It’s a nice, pretty wooded area, and I was there on a beautiful day. But it didn’t feel special to me.

     The Sacred Grove, Palmyra, NY

Maybe part of that was because I was there with my non-member parents and uncle, I don’t know. Maybe if I’d been alone I would’ve felt something more. But what struck me the most was how ordinary it was. I came away with the realization that the earth is God’s creation, and there isn’t some special place where He might appear.

It’s all ordinary, and it’s all special.

Yet there are places where I feel closer to God. Places that make me marvel and give me a sense of eternity, and my place in it.

One of those places is Red Rock and the Valley of Fire, near Vegas, which I’ve already posted about here.

Another such place is in Sequim, WA, on the Olympic Peninsula, called the Dungeness Spit. It’s a sand bar that extends out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There’s a hiking trail that takes you down to it through a forest of amazing trees.

     My daughter hiking to the Dungeness Spit

Walking through those trees, I think about how long they’ve been there. I think about the people who may have lived in that area hundreds of years ago. I’m very aware that a few miles to the south are the majestic Olympic Mountains that shelter the area I’m walking in from rain. And a few hundred yards to the north is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which leads to the Pacific Ocean. This little strip of land between towering mountains and the sea. And I feel like if I’d had a hand in creating any part of the earth, surely this was it.

Further west there is the stunning Lake Crescent. It’s one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And so serene. It’s places like this that make you reflect and really appreciate everything you have in life.

     Crescent Lake, WA

When I moved to southern California I didn’t know what to expect. I really wasn’t expecting to find a spot that moved me like the Dungeness Spit and Lake Crescent do. But I did.

The Bolsa Chica Wetlands are right on the Pacific Coast Highway. There’s lots of traffic and lots of people (and sadly, often lots of garbage). Even so, it’s a peaceful, serene spot.

     Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, CA

What places move you?


  1. Waterton Park, Alberta, Canada.
    Banff –B.C., Canada
    The Snake River
    Upper Stewart Falls, Mt. Timpanogos
    Anywhere on Mt. Timpanogos, actually
    Na Pali coastline, Kauai, Hawaii
    South side of Maui
    Bryce Canyon, Utah
    Los Arcos (in a boat), Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    The countryside between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta

    And too many others to even name…

    Comment by Cheryl — April 13, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  2. Tofino, British Columbia and Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. During the winter nobody is out there (it is a coveted surf spot in the summer, yes surfing in Canada), but during the winter it is one of nature’s most amazing places. I was very privileged to serve a mission in British Columbia, and to visit Tofino twice.

    Comment by njensen — April 13, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  3. Interesting thoughts, Susan.

    I’ve pondered this since I heard a Bible commentator talk about how whenever the Lord commands someone He is appearing to to “remove thy shoes, for thou art on holy ground” it’s because they are in the presence of the Lord. I always thought that specific spot was holy for some reason, but the only reason it’s holy is because, the Lord is at that present time, is standing on it.

    I feel ground is holy to me when it is a place that invites the Spirit of the Lord to me. So like you said, it could be anywhere if God has something in store for us to gain in that place if we’re prepared recieve it.

    Comment by Bret — April 13, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  4. Vancouver island is a beautiful place. It’s across the Strait from Sequim and you can see it from the Dungeness Spit.

    My husband used to surf at Neah Bay and other spots along the WA coast. Have to be hardcore for that.

    Comment by Susan M — April 13, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  5. Until they started building houses around us, I like to sit on my rock pile in the middle of my orchard with the apple, peach and pear blossums all around…it used to be peaceful and lovely. And I didn’t have to go very far to meditate.

    Fortunately now we have a temple close by instead.

    Comment by Don Clifton — April 13, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

  6. The Shenandoah mountains of Virginia, The red rocks of Southern Utah, Zions National Park is an inspiring place, The Gulf Coast, The Grand Tetons, The Unintah Mountains…..

    Comment by cj douglass — April 13, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  7. The tops of the mountains. One of my favorite things to do is jeep up as far as possible, climb/hike the rest of the way and sit and ponder.

    Comment by ed42 — April 14, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

  8. - adam-ondi-ahman, corny as that may sound. i was a very newly-wed and we hadn’t seen another car for miles and miles. the morning was crisp and cool and there was a phenomenal wind that waxed and waned and felt like god. it was a nice high point so early in our marriage.
    - kalauapapa, moloka’i
    - ford island, o’ahu, where i had the distinct privilege of living. i felt a serene calmness each time i drove the admiral clarey bridge to go back home.
    - los angeles temple. we were recently advised by our former rsp to take an alternate route so as to avoid the city and invite the spirit, but i’ve always felt so wonderfully set apart from the world when i stand in front of the temple and see the chaos down below.

    Comment by makakona — April 15, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

  9. Susan – Thanks for this thought provoking post and thanks for the great pictures. I am often amazed at how much I am overwhelmed by the beauty of nature and yet I’m definitely not an outdoorsman. My wife’s brothers are all Eagle Scouts and so I am required to spend at least two nights a year sleeping on the ground somewhere in the outdoors in order to remain in good standing. But despite my disdain for camping I am in awe of Mother Nature.

    While I could point to many locations that have given me reverence for nature, since many have spoken about the Northwest U.S. and Southwestern Canada I should mention a recent experience. Although I grew up in southern Idaho and attended school in Northern Idaho (in the 70′s) it was not until this past January that I made my first trip to Seattle. I’m involved in the construction of the new Port of Entry at Blaine/Peace Arch. We flew into Seattle on January 12 and it snowed that night. We got up early for the drive to Blaine, anticipating bad roads. But the roads were fine and we traveled north at a steady pace. As the sun rose up over the mountains to the east and revealed the natural surroundings I was blown away by how beautiful it was. When we arrived at the existing Border Station in Blaine the sun was up and the surrounding area was covered in fresh snow. The pine covered islands off the coast where the Border Station exists was stunningly beautiful. I asked the Border Agents how they could possibly concentrate on their jobs while surrounded by such beauty. The environment around us is centainly evidence of God’s skilled hands.

    I wish I had taken pictures to document what I saw.

    Comment by Lamonte — April 16, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  10. When we lived in Seattle we used to drive to Vancouver a lot, through Blaine. It seemed like crazy things were always happening there. Once my husband and his friend saw a calf being born while waiting to get through.

    Comment by Susan M — April 16, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  11. Muir Woods in Marin County, CA

    The Northern California coastline on a cold and windy day

    Likewise for Land’s End in Cornwall, England

    Rainforest in Ecuador. I took a canoe into one of the smaller rivers that leads into the Amazon. Just me, the canoe and the river. It was an overpowering feeling – very primal. Very close to the Lord and his creations.

    Big Sur and the Santa Cruz Mountains – especially at night when you can see the stars

    Comment by meems — April 16, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  12. ooh, meems reminded me with her comment about the stars…

    our third anniversary was spent on kaua’i and we stayed at the far western shore, as far as the road goes. our cottage overlooked the ocean and ni’ihau, a neighboring island. the night of our anniversary, we put the kids to bed and sat on the lanai. it was absolutely pitch black without any lights from neighboring buildings and there was no moon that night. i think we could see every single star in existence and we saw about two dozen “falling stars.” it was phenomenal and we surely felt our huge-yet-insignificant place in the world. it’s been years since i’ve spent much time outdoors anywhere other than hawai’i, so i guess i associate lots with that place. yellowstone and the john muir trails were pretty impactful, though.

    Comment by makakona — April 17, 2007 @ 8:19 am

  13. This reminds me of the post on BCC some time ago in which someone argued that Joseph Smith probably chopped down the Sacred Grove soon after the first vision in order to clear land for planting. If he in fact did so it is interesting to compare the significance we give the place with his interactions with it.

    Comment by a random John — April 24, 2007 @ 10:21 am

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