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I was so excited to go to Hawaii with my husband and my parents last summer. There were many fun and amazing experiences, but the greatest blessing was going to the temple.
The temple ordinances aren’t any different in Hawaii than they are at home, so you might wonder why it would be such a big deal to attend the temple in Hawaii when there are so many other things to do in Hawaii.
Well, I’ll tell you what the big deal is:
The temple ordinances are the same in Hawaii as the are at home.
That’s the beauty of the gospel. No matter where you are, it is the same. The temple and its ordinances are a physical reminder that the gospel is the same, because God is the same, and His love for us is unchanging.
Also, I’d never seen an LDS church that is pink and green. This church building is in Hilo.
We are told all the time to “not judge” others. President Uchtdorf gave a memorable address on the subject in general conference. He said:
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
He said a lot more than that, but I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where sin is becoming increasingly accepted and even popular. Morality seems to be increasingly unpopular. People who hold to morals that the world considers “old-fashioned” are often told to stop judging others for things like sexual immorality and immodest dress. Just living by God’s laws and encouraging others to do so is enough to get labeled “judgmental.”
Matthew 7:1 gets thrown around a lot: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
That would seem to be pretty clear. We’re not supposed to judge other people. This is usually interpreted to mean that we should blithely let everyone else do their own thing. “You do you” is a common saying. But really, it gets more complicated than that.
Because, we are also commanded to be our brother’s keepers.
2 Chronicles 19:10 says: “…ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.” It says right there that telling someone else to not break the commandments is not a trespass, i.e., sin.
D&C 81:88 says: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”
From Old Testament times to the latter days, God’s people have been charged with the responsibility of warning our neighbors against sin. We have the fullness of the gospel. It is our responsibility to share that fullness with others. That includes telling others the right way to live. But how do we do that without telling them that what they are doing is wrong? We can’t. But isn’t that a type of judging? The commandments to not judge and to warn our neighbors seem to contradict one another. This is a question I have also struggled with.
But if you keep reading Matthew 7, past verse 1, you’ll find: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
So, however we judge others is the way we will be judged. It sounds a lot like the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
John 7:24 is also enlightening: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
By reading more of the scriptures, we can see that we aren’t really being told not to judge. After all, we have to make judgments every day. We choose what to wear, what to say, what to do, where to go, and plenty more. A lot of those choices involve other people, such as how to respond when we know someone is doing something wrong or even wants us to do something we know is wrong. The key is to respond with righteous judgment. The next question, of course, is to figure out what exactly constitutes “righteous judgment.”
President Uchtdorf didn’t tell us to stop standing up for what is right. That’s part of living the gospel. He said to stop “hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm.” Those things are clearly not in keeping with the gospel or the love of Christ. Christ and his prophets have taught us to respond to others with love.
Love is the key. President Uchtdorf explained:
“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.
When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving [each other], even as God for Christ’s sake [forgave us].”
I love how President Uchtdorf talks about allowing ourselves to feel the love of God. If we don’t feel loved, it’s near impossible to show love. I know this from personal experience. When I feel depressed and down on myself, it’s hard to be kind to others. I’m much more likely to snap at others and say unkind things when I feel unhappy and sorry for myself. When I feel God’s love for me, and know I am a child of God, it’s much easier to extend that love to others. In fact, I want to share that love with other people so they can feel it, too.
If we are truly disciples of Christ, we will be kind to one another. If we really need to correct someone else, it needs to be from a place of love and kindness. We need to help and uplift instead of condemn. It’s easy to condemn. It can be much harder to extend love and help.
I was on Facebook the other day, and I came across this post in my newsfeed. It really touched me, and I immediately knew it was perfect for my talk today:
“A couple of women were walking around Temple Square this week and said something like, “I thought these gardens were supposed to be breathtaking.” I realized that they were in a part of the grounds that — while USUALLY overflowing with flowers and beautiful plants — is currently all torn up. They are visiting between seasons, when some planters are bare. (That stage doesn’t last long here, cuz the grounds crew is really on the ball. But it exists.)
These overheard comments and ensuing realization made me ask myself: Do I ever judge people based on a single snapshot of their lives — maybe at a time when they are “torn up” somehow — and wonder why they’re not more breathtaking? Or am I patient and willing to focus on the parts of their landscape that are thriving?
Do we forgive OURSELVES for needing time to replant? Or are we embarrassed by the times when our metaphoric planters are bare as we transition to new growth?
Sometimes it’s easy to understand the need for patience when we are working with soil and seeds. I hope we can have at least as much, and hopefully much more, patience as we work with fellow human beings. (Including ourselves!) We are each on a journey through many different seasons.”
This adds another dimension to the question of judging or warning our neighbors. We don’t know everything that’s going on in someone else’s mind or in their life. Someone could be going through a difficult experience or just be having a bad day, and we all have experiences like that.
For example, a few years ago, my grandma on my dad’s side passed away. I took it really hard. For the next three days at work, until my days off for bereavement, I was basically a zombie. I struggled through the lessons I absolutely had to teach, and for pretty good sized chunks of each day for those three days I showed my students videos on Netflix while I huddled behind my computer, incapable of doing much else.
If anyone had been watching me for those three days and only those three days, and didn’t know the reason behind what I was doing, they probably would have come to the conclusion that I’m a terrible teacher who should be fired. They wouldn’t have seen all the activities I normally do with my kids and how I’m on my feet almost all day, constantly active in their learning. So, we shouldn’t judge how good someone else is at keeping the commandments when we only know a small part of their story.
On the flip side, it can also be pretty easy to appear the model Latter Day Saint for short periods of time. Someone who only sees me for three hours a week might think I have it all together and totally have this living the gospel thing totally down. It’s easy to measure ourselves against what we perceive of others and find ourselves wanting. (By the way, if anyone thinks this about me, thank you; it’s very flattering, and, you’re wrong.)
We also might think other people are judging us, when, really, they’re not. If people don’t say hi and smile at us, for example, it’s easy to feel like we’re being excluded. I’ll admit that a lot of times, if you’re older than 12, I forget to smile and say hi to people. It’s not because I don’t like you, or am judging you; it’s just that I’m wrapped up in trying to remember all the things I need to get done that day and wondering if I’m good enough at any of them. So, smile and say hi to me, and I’ll smile and say hi back.
We’re all in this together.
Luke 22:32 says, “…and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
If someone we know is struggling with keeping the commandments, let’s find ways to help them. It’s not for us to judge their worthiness. Our job is to help each other stay on the straight and narrow, through service and love.
The prophet Joseph Smith showed us many examples of service and love. I would like to share a story from his life. Mary Frost Adams wrote this account for the LDS magazine of the late 1880s, the Young Women’s Journal. At the time, the saints were living in Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith was the mayor.
“While he was acting as mayor of the city, a colored man named Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on Sunday, contrary to law. He pleaded that the reason he had done so was that he might raise the money to purchase the liberty of a dear child held as a slave in a Southern State. He had been able to purchase the liberty of himself and his wife and now wished to bring his little child to their new home. Joseph said, ‘I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed and we will have to impose a fine.’ The next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child.”
As mayor, Joseph had the responsibility to uphold the law. Anthony broke the law, and the penalty was a fine. So, Joseph upheld the law, by imposing the fine on Anthony. This was justice. But, Joseph didn’t just care about the law. He cared about the people. He knew that Anthony was struggling with an important issue of getting his child free from slavery. He looked at the whole situation, and not just one incident. Joseph showed compassion to Anthony by giving him the horse, to enable Anthony to both pay the fine and free his child. This was mercy.
Joseph was following the example of the Savior, who suffered for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to.
We are unlikely to face a situation as extraordinary as Joseph and Anthony’s, but there are many other times when we have a choice between condemning someone and helping them.
For example, if we see parents struggling with their children who have a hard time being still and quiet in Sacrament, we can offer to sit with their kids and help them color. If someone doesn’t want to come to church, we can offer them a ride. If we are part of a conversation that starts leaning towards gossiping about someone, we can say something positive about that person instead. Through actions like these, we encourage others to keep trying to do what is right.
I’d like to go back to President Uchtdorf’s talk, which was so beautiful and eloquent. I quote:
“Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.
The merciful will obtain mercy.”
In closing, I would like to remind us of John 13:34, a scripture verse that has also become a beautiful song: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
I write a lot about modesty, mostly because it is a topic I’m experienced with and have a lot to say about. There are a lot of myths about modesty floating about society and social media, so here I’d like to address the more prominent ones that I’ve noticed:
Dress Codes are Sexist
This one arises primarily because dress codes are much more detailed for women than they are for men.
A large part of this is because there are so many more options for women than there are for men. When looking at dress wear and formal wear, women have choices about the color, fabric, sleeves, neckline, waistline, cut, hemline, and more. Men can choose color and, to some extent, cut, but mostly men’s dress and formal wear look more or less the same. Women’s dresses, on the other hand, have enormous variety. Many of these varieties involve showing off a woman’s boobs, back, or butt. When suits come with thigh-high slits or tops that threaten to fall off, then I’m sure men’s dress codes will become more detailed as to what is appropriate.
The other reason women’s dress codes are so detailed is that so many young women appear to not know how to dress themselves. Take a look on social media and you’ll find numerous stories of a young woman sent home from school or a dance because of immodest clothing. She or her mom or sister posts a melodramatic rant about what a sexist organization such-and-such school or church is. Social media, without question and without fail, fawns all over the victimized teen and joins in in vilifying the evil sexist patriarchy. The school’s only recourse (besides allowing anyone to wear anything) to events like this is to have a painfully detailed dress code so no one can claim they didn’t know what they were wearing wasn’t allowed.
In short, dress codes are not sexist. They are very detailed about women’s dress because modern fashion has a lot of variety and encourages immodesty, and there is always someone who will try to exploit any and all loopholes in the dress code.
Modesty is Optional
“Bare shoulders won’t keep you out of Heaven.” “Cleavage won’t keep you out of Heaven.” These are types of comments I’ve heard and seen. They are sometimes paired with a good message, that God looks at who we are and not how we look. These comments, however, overlook the fact that modesty is a commandment. For Latter Day Saints, in particular, it shows a lack of understanding of modesty, because immodest dress will keep you out of the temple.
Different Christian denominations have different views on what exactly constitutes modesty, of course, and I take no issue with that. What strikes me as a dangerous sentiment is that God’s commandments are subject to our opinions. We are not commanded to obey only those commandments that we want to obey or are convenient for us to obey. We are commanded to obey all of God’s commandments.
Deuteronomy 30:8 says: “And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.”
Modesty may seem like an unimportant thing compared to other commandments, but willfully breaking any commandment makes us unclean, and “No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 11:37)
Young Women Should Dress Modestly To Keep Young Men from Thinking Impure Thoughts
I don’t know where this one came from, but it needs to die. I don’t have any personal experience with a teacher or leader teaching this, but others have, so I guess it’s a thing.
The reasoning goes, that young men looking at young women dressed immodestly will encourage the young men to think impure thoughts. I think Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer said it well: “I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me think about sex.” There’s not much young women can do in the face of that.
Additionally, we all have agency. It is our own responsibility to choose the right, regardless of what people around us are saying and doing.
Potiphar’s wife bluntly told Joseph to sleep with her. He refused her; nevertheless, she persisted for several days. One day, she managed to get him alone and even grabbed his robe (or some such article of clothing). He literally left the robe in her hands in his hurry to get away from her. (Genesis 39) Joseph had ample opportunity to commit sexual sin, but that did not excuse him. He was responsible for his own actions even when Potiphar’s wife was actually throwing herself at him. Young men today are similarly responsible for controlling themselves regardless of what the young women around them are wearing.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Modest is Hottest
At first, I thought this was a fun and harmless motto. It’s catchy, and reinforces the idea that you don’t have to wear a burlap sack in order to be modest. We can dress stylishly and still be modest.
But as I thought about this more, I saw how it draws us towards the world’s standards and away from God. What does it mean to be “hot,” after all? It means to be sexually desirable. If you are trying to look sexually desirable to the world, then you have missed the whole point of modesty, regardless of how much skin is covered.
We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. As long as we buy into the idea that a woman should make herself appear sexually attractive whenever she goes out into the world, we are of the world. When we are modest we can focus on more important things than our appearance: we can focus on eternal things.
Modesty is Just About Skin
Modesty doesn’t just include the number of square inches our clothing covers.
Modesty includes the cost of our clothing. Do we spend more money than we can afford, or money better put to other things? Do we buy certain items so we can feel better than others? Do we do we value our clothes and appearance more than we value others? This attitude certainly draws us away from God.
Modesty includes our language and behavior. Are we rude or disrespectful? Are we arrogant or showing off? If we are modest, we show kindness to others. We are thankful and gracious when others help and serve us. We are patient. We are willing to listen and to learn from others. We are willing to admit when we are wrong. Modesty means humility, particularly before God.
There are a lot of conflicting messages in the world about modesty. It can be hard to sort through them all to find the truth. That makes it all the more important to rely on God instead of our own wisdom, and God has commanded us to be modest.
Sunday services in the Latter Day Saint church always involves music. We have a canon consisting of a hymn book and a children’s songbook, but that’s not the only music you’ll hear in our meetings. Most Sundays include a special musical number, from the choir or someone asked especially for that Sunday to provide music. Special music doesn’t have to be from the canon, and can be from Latter Day Saint or other Christian composers. Here are my favorites of the non-canon music: the music I consider the most beautiful (in no particular order)
I Heard Him Come – I learned this song as a youth and have loved it ever since. This song helps me understand the love Jesus has for each individual, however lowly, including me. Written by Jeff Goodrich.
No Ordinary Man – This song describes how not everyone was converted by Jesus’ miracles, inviting us to understand Christ’s divinity. Written by the one and only and much beloved Janice Kapp Perry.
O Lord My Redeemer – This song is about the crucifixion and saving mission of Jesus. My husband sang this song on his mission, and it has been special to him ever since. Written by Jeff Goodrich.
No Other Name – I just recently learned this song with my stake choir, and instantly loved it. The text comes from the scripture Mosiah 3:17. The link only gives a brief sample, but believe me, this song is beautiful and moving. My favorite part is when the altos come in with “He can save me.” Written by Lynn S. Lund.
I Know that My Redeemer Liveth – You might think the sopranos overshadow the other parts in this piece, with their soaring melody, but this song really is a complete package. I love how it builds to a thundering finish. Written by Joseph M. Martin.
He is Not Here – This is a relatively difficult choir piece to learn, but worth it. I’ve sung both alto and tenor, and loved both. This song gives me chills every time! It’s about the discovery that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, but had risen. Written by Russel Nagy.
The Garden – Okay, so I’m kind of cheating by including this on the list, since it isn’t a song you’ll hear in church, but, rather, is an oratorio, like Handel’s Messiah. The Garden is an Easter oratorio and is an allegory about the Atonement. Written by Michael McClean.
My Servant Joseph – All right, I’m cheating again. This is an entire album of songs about the life and work of the prophet Joseph Smith. It’s so beautiful that I couldn’t choose just one song as my favorite. Written by Kenneth Cope.
Invocation – I can’t say enough about how beautiful this song is. (It just needs to be sung by someone who’s not me, since it’s hard for me to not go flat on a cappella pieces.) Its text is from Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered, in my name, there shall I be in the midst of them, in the midst of them that love me.” Written by Claudia Bigler.
I Would Exhort You – This is my favorite piece from Oakland Temple Pageant: And It Came to Pass, though the rest of the songs are good, too. Moroni shows Joseph where to find the plates, and then exhorts him to study them prayerfully as he translates them with this song. Text is from Moroni 10:3-4. The link is for the whole show; “I Would Exhort You” begins at 37:20. Written by Whitney Groo, Jr.
Go Ye Now in Peace – This song is special to all performers in the Oakland Temple Pageant. After each performance, we’d get in a circle and sing this song. At the end, we would segue into “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” from the hymnbook. Even many years later, it’s still a very special song to me. I don’t think the composer is LDS, but the importance of her song to many members merits its mention on this list. Written by Joyce Eilers.
Those are my favorites. What are yours? I’d love to hear from other Christians as well about your favorite music for worship!
I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile, ever since someone I know tried to convince me that bishops are like politicians, trying to gain more power and prestige. I figure that other people probably don’t understand how things like that work in the Latter Day Saint church, so I thought this might be interesting to others who are curious.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as in any organization, different members have different responsibilities. In the LDS church, these responsibilities are called “callings.” Callings vary in level of responsibility and, I suppose, in prestige, from greeter (who greets people in the lobby), through bishop (pastor/minister/whatever you like to call them), and many more.
These callings work a bit differently than they do in other organizations.
We have a lay clergy, meaning people are not paid for their work in the church. I’ve taught classes, organized activities, and performed music, among other things, and have not been paid for any of it. The idea of being paid to teach Sunday School is very strange to me. We see church callings as a type of service, both to the other members of the congregation and to Heavenly Father.
We don’t volunteer for these positions. As I like to say it, we are “voluntold.” Someone in a leadership role will ask us to take on a calling. We can say no if we like, and sometimes people do, though it’s true that we are encouraged to always accept a calling. Those in charge of choosing who to call for a particular position are expected to pray to receive inspiration for who to call. Similarly, when extended a calling, we are to pray for confirmation that it is right.
The most qualified person isn’t always the one called. People who don’t have teenagers are called to be with the youth. People who have never been teachers get called to teach. People who have never been administrators get called to lead auxiliary organizations. You’ll hear a common refrain: “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies,” said by President Monson. Moses was slow of speech. Noah didn’t know how to build an ark. Peter was a fisherman, not a priest. Similarly, God teaches us what we need to know in order for us to do what He asks us to do.
We don’t get promoted for doing a good job. Callings don’t work like your place of employment. People don’t move up to more prestigious positions by gaining seniority. We don’t strive for more “prestigious” positions. In fact, a joke you’ll sometimes hear when someone has been called to be a bishop or Relief Society (women’s organization) president is along the lines of, “Should I give you congratulations or condolences?”
Generally, people are called to positions of less responsibility in order to gain experience before being given a “big” calling, but not necessarily. It’s also frequent to go from being a bishop or president to being a teacher or having some other, smaller responsibility. It all comes down to the purpose of these callings, which is to serve. It’s not the bishop’s job to tell people what to do. The bishop’s job is to guide and serve.
That’s what it all boils down to: we fulfill responsibilities at church in order to serve.
I often worry about whether or not I’m good enough. I know I mess up a lot. I’m not as patient as I should be, I act rudely to my husband, I don’t always keep the Sabbath holy, I forget it’s fast Sunday, and on and on. It’s really easy to put myself down as I think about all the ways I fall short.
That’s why my husband suggested I listen to this particular talk from the Saturday morning session of the October 2016 General Conference. It’s titled, “Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?” from Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy.
This talk was exactly the message I needed. In this talk Elder Cornish showed that he cares about and understands the feelings of the members as we try to do the right things but just can’t. If you have ever felt that discouragement, you should go read the whole talk. Here I’m going to give some of the highlights and my thoughts as well:
“Sometimes when we attend church, we become discouraged even by sincere invitations to improve ourselves. We think silently, ‘I can’t do all these things’ or ‘I will never be as good as all these people’…Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others.”
We sometimes compare ourselves to other members of our ward, believing that they are successfully doing all the things we feel we can’t. I think it’s also important to note that we don’t necessarily know what other members are struggling with. They may look like they are doing all the right things and that we can’t compare with them, but they make think the same about us.
Salvation isn’t a competition.
I also really struggle with the idea that I have inherent worth. I think of my worth as being dependent on my productivity. If I’m really smart or a great teacher or really good at keeping a family history, then I must be worthwhile. That’s what goes on in my head. Instead, I need to remember that my worth comes from being a daughter of God.
“If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future. The only opinion of us that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what He thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us; that is Satan’s trick.”
This one is so hard for me to remember. Discouraging thoughts about how I’ll never be good enough don’t come from Heavenly Father. Those come from Satan. Heavenly Father encourages us, rather than discouraging us.
Elder Cornish focuses on what direction we are facing, rather than on where we are. If we keep trying to be like Christ, then that is enough.
“Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it!”
I really love that. Heavenly Father didn’t send us here with the intent that we would fail. Like every good teacher, He doesn’t set us up for failure.
“If we will sincerely repent, God really will forgive us, even when we have committed the same sin over and over again. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: ‘However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made …, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.'”
“None of us will ever be ‘good enough,’ save through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ, but because God respects our agency, we also cannot be saved without our trying. That is how the balance between grace and works works.“
I forget this sometimes. I don’t have to do it alone. It was never intended that I do it alone.
I’ve bookmarked this talk, because I think I’ll be going back to it again. I don’t always feel like conference talks are especially relevant to me, but this one feels like it was given directly to me, about the things I need to hear. I know that the church leaders are inspired by the Lord, and knowing that helps me keep going.
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” –2 Timothy 1:7
The Provo City Center Temple is on South University Ave. in downtown Provo, Utah. Construction began in May, 2012, and was dedicated in May, 2016, after an open house to which all comers were invited. It’s the 150th temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
There is a central tower capped with a statue of Moroni, with four towers, one in each corner.
This temple was originally a tabernacle, not a temple. A tabernacle is meant as a meetinghouse for the church. The tabernacle was heavily damaged in a fire in 2010. In 2011, President Monson announced that it would be rebuilt as a temple. The interior was completely redone, but the facade of the tabernacle was preserved. The tabernacle’s pulpit was also saved.
The landscaping around the building is lush and beautiful.
I love this reminder of the purpose of temples: to unite families for eternity.
A reflection of the temple in the glass wall of its neighbor.