Posted in Family, LDS Doctrine, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley, Temples

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 10: Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

From the manual:

One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.” Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.”

Why is it important for husbands and wives to recognise each other’s individuality.

Heavenly Father designed marriage from the beginning.

Watch: Man and Woman President Gordon B. Hinckley testifies that man and woman are God’s design. (0:57)

Watch: Renaissance of Marriage Hear what President Eyring says we all must do to have a renaissance of happy marriages and productive families. (2:36)

From the manual:

How wonderful a thing is marriage under the plan of our Eternal Father, a plan provided in His divine wisdom for the happiness and security of His children and the continuity of the race.

How can this knowledge influence the relationship between a husband and wife?

In the temple, a husband and wife can be sealed together for all eternity.

Eternal marriage is a very distinctive and valuable part of the Church. It involves a ceremony performed in a holy temple by an officiator who has the authority to seal couples together for eternity. This is a sacred and simple ceremony to unite husband and wife in the bonds of everlasting love and in the hopes of eternity.

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From the manual

[The] temples … offer blessings that are had nowhere else. All that occurs in these sacred houses has to do with the eternal nature of man. Here, husbands and wives and children are sealed together as families for all eternity. Marriage is not “until death do ye part.” It is forever, if the parties live worthy of the blessing.

What are the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life and in eternity?

Read: The Eternal Blessings of Marriage – Elder Richard G Scott

Read: Eternal Marriage – Elder Marion D Hanks

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Husbands and wives walk side by side on an eternal journey.

We believe that life is more secure and more joyous when it is experienced in the sacred relationships of the eternal family. A person who lives a righteous life in mortality and who has entered into an eternal marriage may look forward to an association in the postmortal world with a worthy spouse, and with those who were earthly children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.

From the manual:

Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.

Why does marriage need to be “a partnership of equals”?

“The marriage sanctioned by God provides men and women with the opportunity to fulfill their divine potentials. ‘Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 11:11). Husbands and wives are unique in some ways and free to develop their eternal gifts, yet as coequals in the sight of their heavenly parents they are one in the divine goals they pursue, in their devotion to eternal principles and ordinances, in their obedience to the Lord, and in their divine love for each other. When a man and woman who have been sealed together in a temple are united spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, taking full responsibility for nurturing each other, they are truly married. Together they strive to emulate the prototype of the heavenly home from which they came. The Church teaches them to complement, support, and enrich one another. . . . If a husband and wife are faithful to their temple marriage, they will continue as co-creators in God’s celestial kingdom through the eternities.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1992], 2:487.)

“I urge the husbands and fathers of this church to be the kind of a man your wife would not want to be without. I urge the sisters of this church to be patient, loving, and understanding with their husbands. Those who enter into marriage should be fully prepared to establish their marriage as the first priority in their lives.

“It is destructive to the feeling essential for a happy marriage for either party to say to the other marriage partner, ‘I don’t need you.’ This is particularly so because the counsel of the Savior was and is to become one flesh: ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh

“‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.’ (Matt. 19:5-6.) It is far more difficult to be of one heart and mind than to be physically one. This unity of heart and mind is manifest in sincere expressions of ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I am proud of you.’ Such domestic harmony results from forgiving and forgetting, essential elements of a maturing marriage relationship. Someone has said that we should keep our eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterward. (Magdeleine Scudery, as cited in The International Dictionary of Thoughts, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1969, p. 472.) True charity ought to begin in marriage, for it is a relationship that must be rebuilt every day.” (Teachings of James E. Faust, 366.)

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God will not withhold any blessings from worthy individuals who are not married.

From the manual:

Somehow we have put a badge on a very important group in the Church. It reads “Singles.” I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of “look-alikes” or “do-alikes.” Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved.

How can President Hinckley’s promises and counsel in section 4 help persons who are not married?

Happiness in marriage comes from showing a loving concern for the well-being of one’s companion.

In 1831 the Lord revealed the law of the Church to the newly gathered Saints and commanded, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). This is the only place in scripture where the Lord asks us to love anything or anyone with all our hearts besides Himself. President Hinckley has… said that a husband should regard his wife “as the greatest treasure of his life.” In Matthew 6:21 we read, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

From the manual:

Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful. … Marriage is a contract, it is a compact, it is a union between a man and a woman under the plan of the Almighty. It can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort.

What are some ways a husband and wife can “nurture and cultivate” their marriage?

Read: The Parable of the Tableware

Read: Nurturing Marriage – Elder Russell M Nelson

Posted in Doctrine and Covenants, Gospel Doctrine 2017, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, LDS Church History, LDS Doctrine, Temples

Gospel Doctrine 2017 – Lesson 18: “Establish … a House of God”

1. The Lord commanded the Saints to build the Kirtland Temple.

See Revelations in Context: A School and an Endowment

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D&C 88:119 Establish a house

‘Where could any of us locate a more suitable blueprint whereby we could wisely and properly build a house to personally occupy throughout eternity? Such a house would meet the building code outlined in Matthew-even a house built “upon a rock,” a house capable of withstanding the rains of adversity, the floods of opposition, and the winds of doubt everywhere present in our challenging world.

Some might question: “But that revelation was to provide guidance for the construction of a temple. Is it relevant today?”

I would respond: “Did not the Apostle Paul declare, ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’ ” (1 Cor. 3:16)

Perhaps if we consider these architectural guidelines on an individual basis, we can more readily appreciate this divine counsel from the Master Builder, the Creator of the world, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.’  (Thomas S Monson, “Building Your Eternal Home,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 2)

2. The Saints were blessed for their great sacrifices in building the temple.

D&C 109:5 We have done this work through great tribulation; and out of poverty

“Work had begun on the temple on June 5, 1833. For the next three years the Saints endured many trials and hardships in order to build a house for the Lord.

“Most of the people had few possessions and little money. But every able man worked one day each week on the temple. They worked in the quarry, cutting sandstone to form the walls of the temple. They worked as carpenters, painters, teamsters, and in many other jobs. Sometimes as many as a hundred men worked on the temple at a time. The women spun, knitted, wove, and sewed to make draperies and carpets. They also made clothing and food for the construction workers.

“Everyone was busy, but it was not just the Saints’ time and talents that the Lord required. The large three-story building cost between $40,000 and $60,000, an enormous amount of money at a time when the average worker earned only around two or three dollars a day. Many of the Saints gave almost everything they had to build the temple. (Sherrie Johnson, “A House for the Lord,” Friend, June 1993, 48)

“When the Saints received the initial instructions to build this temple, the Kirtland branch numbered only about one hundred members. Many converts, including most who joined the Church in Kirtland township, had migrated to western Missouri, the main gathering place for the Saints. Subsequently, in 1833 Latter-day Saints were not only few in number but they also owned fewer than two hundred acres and lacked money for such a project as building a temple. In 1833 only ten members of the Church were assessed a land or personal property tax (the latter tax being an assessment on horses, cattle, or merchandise). Moreover, not one member in that community had practical architectural knowledge of the kind needed for planning a major building. They did not lack faith, however; they believed the revelation that they would receive guidance from the Lord.” (Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 209.)

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3. Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple.

‘[After the dedicatory prayer [D&C 109] and the choir singing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning”] I then asked the several quorums separately, and then the congregation, if they accepted the dedication prayer, and acknowledged the house dedicated. The vote was unanimous in the affirmative, in every instance.

The Lord’s Supper was then administered; President Don Carlos Smith blessed the bread and the wine, which was distributed by several Elders to the Church; after which I bore record of my mission, and of the ministration of angels.

President Don Carlos Smith also bore testimony of the truth of the work of the Lord in which we were engaged.

President Oliver Cowdery testified of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and of the work of the Lord in these last days.

President Frederick G. Williams arose and testified that while President Rigdon was making his first prayer, an angel entered the window and took his seat between Father Smith and himself, and remained there during the prayer.

President David Whitmer also saw angels in the house.

President Hyrum Smith made some appropriate remarks congratulating those who had endured so many toils and privations to build the house.

President Rigdon then made a few appropriate closing remarks, and a short prayer, at the close of which we sealed the proceedings of the day by shouting hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, three times, sealing it each time with amen, amen, and amen.

President Brigham Young gave a short address in tongues, and David W. Patten interpreted, and gave a short exhortation in tongues himself, after which I blessed the congregation in the name of the Lord, and the assembly dispersed a little past four o’clock, having manifested the most quiet demeanor during the whole exercise.'(History of the Church, 2:427-428)

Read: 6 things to remember about the Kirtland Temple

D&C 109:7 By study and also by faith

‘We seek learning by studying the accumulated wisdom of various disciplines and by using the powers of reasoning placed in us by our Creator.

We should also seek learning by faith in God, the giver of revelation. I believe that many of the great discoveries and achievements in science and the arts have resulted from a God-given revelation. Seekers who have paid the price in perspiration have been magnified by inspiration.

The acquisition of knowledge by revelation is an extra bonus to seekers in the sciences and the arts, but it is the fundamental method for those who seek to know God and the doctrines of his gospel. In this area of knowledge, scholarship and reason are insufficient.

A seeker of truth about God must rely on revelation. I believe this is what the Book of Mormon prophet meant when he said, “To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”  2 Ne. 9:29 It is surely what the Savior taught when he said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matt. 16:17)’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 1989)

4. The Lord accepted the Kirtland Temple, and ancient prophets restored priesthood keys.

D&C 95:8 Power from on high

‘Worthiness to hold a temple recommend gives us the strength to keep our temple covenants. How do we personally gain that strength? We strive to obtain a testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the reality of the Atonement, and the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. We sustain our leaders, treat our families with kindness, stand as a witness of the Lord’s true Church, attend our Church meetings, honor our covenants, fulfill parental obligations, and live a virtuous life. You may say that sounds like just being a faithful Latter-day Saint! You are right. The standard for temple recommend holders is not too high for us to achieve. It is simply to faithfully live the gospel and follow the prophets.

Then, as endowed temple recommend holders, we establish patterns of Christlike living. These include obedience, making sacrifices to keep the commandments, loving one another, being chaste in thought and action, and giving of ourselves to build the kingdom of God. Through the Savior’s Atonement and by following these basic patterns of faithfulness, we receive “power from on high”  Doctrine and Covenants 95:8 to face the challenges of life. We need this divine power today more than ever. It is power we receive only through temple ordinances. I testify that the sacrifices we make to receive temple ordinances are worth every effort we can make.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 2012)

D&C 110:1–3. Why Did the Prophet Use Figurative Language to Describe the Glorified Christ?

‘A complete description of the glorified Savior in human language is probably not possible. But by comparing the indescribable things of a spiritual realm to things within our comprehension, the Prophet could give us some sense of the glory and appearance of the Lord.The language of the Prophet’s description is similar to that of the descriptions written by Daniel (see Daniel10:4–8) and by John the Revelator (see Revelation 1:13–17).’ (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual)

D&C 110:4 Our advocate with the Father

Read: Our advocate with the Father

D&C 110:7. What Was the Relationship between the Sacrifice of the Saints in Building the Kirtland Temple and the Appearance of the Savior?

‘The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things” (Teachings, p. 322). Elder Franklin D. Richards related the sacrifices of the Saints in building the temple to the blessings that followed:“The Saints did all the work they could on the building,and then went out and obtained work here and there,and with the money they earned they purchased those things that were necessary for its completion. It was done by sacrificing all that they had; and when we had done all that we could do, Oh! how joyous it was to know the Lord accepted the work, when He stood upon the breastwork of the Temple, conversed with the Prophet Joseph and Oliver, and revealed to them their duties, and informed them that the Gospel should go from there and be preached throughout the nations of the earth.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 17.)’ (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual)

 

 

Posted in Jesus Christ, Symbolism, Temples

Eve as a symbol for the Church

I have just finished reading Alonzo Gaskill’s The Truth About Eden which I can highly recommend.

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It provides lots of insights to help in understanding the symbols and figurative representations in the various accounts of the Fall. The elements in the accounts operate at a number of levels and I was struck by Professor Gaskill’s observation that Eve can be seen as a symbol for the Church, or Bride of Christ.

  1. Eve came from Adam and was different from him on her physical origin. (Genesis 2:21-24). The Church comes from Christ and its members are different in their physical makeup when compared to their Saviour.
  2. Adam and Eve were married by God for time and all eternity while in Eden – the first temple. The Church becomes Christ’s eternal bride by entering into a covenant relationship with him in the holy temple.
  3. In the scriptural accounts of the Fall, Eve is not present when the Father gives the commandment to avoid eating of the ‘forbidden’ fruit. Adam receives God’s word and then conveys it to Eve. She then is expected to exercise faith in the divinity of the command and be obedient to it. (Genesis 2:16-17). Similarly, God gives to Christ and his prophets commandments, which they in turn convey to us. We do not receive these directly from the Father, but rather through mediators He has chosen. We are then expected to exercise faith in these revealed dictates and be obedient to them (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  4. Eve is Adam’s helpmeet or partner in Eden (Genesis 2:18). The members of the Church are Christ’s helpers, serving as saviours on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).
  5. Adam and Eve are commanded by God to be one (Genesis 2:24). Christ and his Church are to be one (D&C 35:2). Ambrose (4th Century Bishop of Milan) wrote: ‘As Eve was bone of the bones of her husband and flesh of his flesh, we also are members of Christ’s body, bones of his bones and flesh of his flesh’.
  6. Eve fell, and thus Adam had to enter mortality to rescue her from her choice (2 Nephi 2:25). The Church is made up of fallen souls who need Christ to enter into mortality to rescue them from their choices. Adam’s act clearly mirrors Christ’s choice to redeem us (his bride or Church) from sin and spiritual death.
  7. Eve partook of sin, and then gave to Adam (Genesis 3:6). The members of the Church commit sins, and then Christ takes upon him all sins through Atonement (Alma 7:13)
  8. Adam rules over Eve (Genesis 3:16). Christ rules and reigns over the Church (Revelation 11:15)
  9. Adam is Eve’s companion in this life of trials and tests – serving as her helper, provider and protector (Genesis 3:23). Christ is our companion through the tests and trials of mortality – helping, providing for and protecting us. (John 14:18)
Posted in Israel, Jesus Christ, Old Testament, Symbolism, Temples

Boaz as a type of Christ

The book of Ruth tells the story of Ruth, an ancestor of Jesus. Following the death of her husband she decides to leave her own country, people and religion to follow her mother-in-law to Israel. Here she finds a husband in her ‘kinsman’ Boaz. Boaz is a foreshadowing or type of Christ.

 

  • Like Jesus, Boaz was of the tribe of Judah.
  • He was an ancestor of David and of Jesus.
  • He was born and lived in Bethlehem.
  • He owned a field into which he sent His laborers. (He was a ‘Lord of the Harvest’)
  • The Hebrew word translated as kinsman, go’el literally means “redeemer.”
  • Boaz became the kinsman Redeemer of both Jew and Gentile, by buying the lost inheritance of Naomi and Ruth thus gaining the right to make Ruth his bride. In this way Boaz is a type of Christ’s love and redemptive power.
  • Before approaching Boaz in his own place, Ruth washes and anoints herself and puts on raiment.
  • When Ruth comes and lays at Boaz’s feet Boaz does not immediately receive her. He tells her that there is a relative closer than Himself who has a right to redeemer. Boaz is acting in accord with the Law of God.
  • The Saviour receives and welcomes Jew and Gentile. He pays our debt, and therefore, gains the right to make us His bride.
  • Boaz paid the price of the redemption of Naomi and Ruth outside the gate of the city. Hundreds of years later Jesus Christ would pay the price for us also outside the gate of the city.
  • He was honouring the demands of the Law and obeying the Lord in his dealings with Ruth. He does not, and cannot redeem Ruth and Naomi until he has obeyed the demands of the law, and then pay the price to redeem her. The Saviour, similarly first fulfills the righteous requirements of the Law, then He pays the price.

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Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Jesus Christ, LDS Doctrine, Temples

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 9 – My Soul Delighteth in the Words of Isaiah

1. Nephi testifies of Isaiah’s writings and gives keys for understanding them.

1 Nephi 19:23 I did liken all scriptures unto us

“In reading any of the standard works of the Church it is well to ascertain the literal meaning of the passage read first, and the lesson it was intended to convey to those to whom it was first communicated. And then it might be well to ask, What lesson does it convey to my time and age? To my nation? My community? My family? Or to myself?” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon,vol. 1, p. 206)

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2 Nephi 11:2-8 for my soul delighteth in his words

‘Nephi quoted Isaiah because he delighted in “proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). This provides an important insight into the particular passages Nephi chose to quote. Scholars call such passages “messianic” because they center on the Messiah. Watching for such messianic meanings helps an individual better understand Isaiah.

Nephi taught that the law of Moses and many other things were given by God to typify Christ. The word type has a peculiar scriptural meaning. It means that an object or event carries symbolic significance as well as a literal meaning. Thus, Alma says that the Liahona was a type (shadow or symbol) of how one comes to the true promised land (see Alma 37:38–47). To find out how profoundly symbolic the law of Moses was, see Mosiah 3:14–15, 13:29–31, Alma 25:15–16, 34:14, and Galatians 3:21–24.

Nephi quoted Isaiah for at least three major reasons: Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (see 2 Nephi 11:2), the words of Isaiah prove the truthfulness of the coming of Christ (see vv. 4, 6), and Nephi felt that readers “may lift up their hearts and rejoice” (v. 8) because of Isaiah’s words.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

2 Nephi 25:1 Isaiah spoke many things which were hard for many of my people to understand

“The prophets sometimes speak of future events as present, because they are present to them in their visions. For instance, ‘Unto us a Child is born.’ (Isa. 9:6)

“Similarly, they sometimes speak of the future as already past. For instance: ‘He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ (Is. 53:4)

“Another peculiarity is that the prophets sometimes group together future events very much as one combines stars into constellations in the wide expanse, according to their apparent position to an observer on earth, rather than their actual distance from each other.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl,Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 370)

2 Nephi 25:4 my soul delighteth in plainness

‘The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Savior’s gospel and is the only book the Lord Himself has testified to be true (see  D&C 17:6 see also Russell M. Nelson, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,”Liahona, Jan. 2000, 84; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 70). Indeed, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

The convincing and converting powers of the Book of Mormon come from both a central focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired plainness and clarity of its teachings. Nephi declared, “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn”  2 Nephi 25:4 The root word plain in this verse does not refer to things that are ordinary or simple; rather, it denotes instruction that is clear and easily understood.

The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth because it centers upon the Truth (see  John 14:6  1 Nephi 13:40) even Jesus Christ, and restores the plain and precious things that have been taken away from the true gospel (see  1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29, 32, 34–35, 40) The unique combination of these two factors—a focus on the Savior and the plainness of the teachings—powerfully invites the confirming witness of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Book of Mormon speaks to the spirit and to the heart of the reader like no other volume of scripture.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that abiding by the precepts found in the Book of Mormon would help us “get nearer to God” than any other book (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 64). Regular reading of and talking about the Book of Mormon invite the power to resist temptation and to produce feelings of love within our families. And discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2010)

2. Isaiah sees the latter-day temple and the gathering of Israel.

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2 Nephi 12:2-3 The Mountain of the Lord’s House

‘Isaiah locates his prophecy in time as occurring “in the last days.” Of course, the “last days” are undated; but grouped with similar prophecies in Isaiah, they indicate the distant future prior to the final days of the earth.

Anthropology: In the prophetic future, Isaiah says, the “mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.” What does it mean to establish a “mountain” in the “tops of the mountains?” For the ancients, the temple was a sacred location that acted as a bridge between this world and the next. Sometimes a building was erected at that location and acquired sanctity from its location, but the structure was secondary to the location. Mircea Eliade, the premiere analyst of comparative religions, comments:

Every sacred space implies a hierophany, an irruption of the sacred that results in detaching a territory from the surrounding cosmic milieu and making it qualitatively different. When Jacob in his dream at Haran saw a ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, and heard the Lord speaking from above it saying: “I am the Lord God of Abraham,” he awoke and was afraid and cried out: “How dreadful is this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And he took the stone that had been his pillow, and set it up as a monument, and poured oil on the top of it. He called the place Beth-el, that is, house of God (Gen. 28:12–19). The symbolism implicit in the expression “gate of heaven” is rich and complex; the theophany that occurs in a place consecrates it by the very fact that it makes it open above—that is, in communication with heaven, the paradoxical point of passage from one mode of being to another.

It is no coincidence that Jacob sees the location of his experience not only as a “gate of heaven,” but even more importantly, as “beth-el—house of God.” For Jacob, the experience of his visionary dream made the location into the house (abode) of God even before he erected a monument to commemorate the location.

For the ancient world in which Israel and Judah participated, the correlation between sacred space and temple was paramount. Jacob’s vision on a stony plain was somewhat anomalous, since typically a mountain was seen as a suitable site for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. Yahweh put himself in Moses’s way through the medium of the burning bush: but when Moses deliberately met with Yahweh, he went to a mountaintop.

John M. Lundquist, a professor of religion and anthropology at Brigham Young University, has constructed a nineteen-point profile of the ancient Near East’s concept of a temple, using data from the Near Eastern religions in Egypt, Babylon, Israel, and Sumer from 3000 B.C. to at least 600 B.C.:

The temple is the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain.

The cosmic mountain represents the primordial hillock, the place which first emerged from the waters that covered the earth during the creative process. In Egypt, for example, all temples are seen as representing the primordial hillock.

The temple is often associated with the waters of life which flow from a spring within the building itself—or rather the temple is viewed as incorporating within itself such a spring or as having been built upon the spring. The reason that such springs exist in temples is that they were perceived as the primeval waters of creation. . . The temple is thus founded upon and stands in contact with the waters of creation. These waters carry the dual symbolism of the chaotic waters that were organized during the creation and of the life-giving, saving nature of the waters of life.

The temple is associated with the tree of life.

The temple is built on separate, sacral, set-apart space.

The temple is oriented toward the four world regions or cardinal directions, and to various celestial bodies such as the polar star. As such, it is, or can be, an astronomical observatory, the main purpose of which is to assist the temple priests in regulating the ritual calendar. The earthly temple is also seen as a copy or counterpart of a heavenly model.

Temples, in their architectonic orientation [architectural symbolism] express the idea of a successive ascension toward heaven. The Mesopotamian ziggurat or staged temple tower is the best example of this architectural principle. It was constructed of three, five, or seven levels or stages. Monumental staircases led to the upper levels, where smaller temples stood. The basic ritual pattern represented in these structures is that the worshippers ascended the staircase to the top, the deity descended from heaven, and the two met in the small temple which stood at the top of the structure.

The plan and measurements of the temple are revealed by God to the king or prophet, and the plan must be carefully carried out. The Babylonian king Nabopolassar stated that he took the measurements of Etemenanki, the temple tower in the main temple precinct at Babylon, under the guidance of the Babylonian gods Shamash, Adad, and Marduk, and that “he kept the measurements in his memory as a treasure.”

The temple is the central, organizing, unifying institution in ancient Near Eastern society.

The temple is associated with abundance and prosperity.…

The destruction or loss of the temple is seen as calamitous.…

Inside the temple, images of deities as well as living kings, temple priests, and worshippers are washed, anointed, clothed, fed, enthroned, and symbolically initiated into the presence of deity, and thus into eternal life. Further, New Year rites held in the temple include the reading and dramatic portrayal of texts which recite a pre-earthly war in heaven; a victory in that war by the forces of good, led by a chief deity; and the creation and establishment of the cosmos, cities, temples, and the social order. The sacred marriage is carried out at this time.

The temple is associated with the realm of the dead, the underworld, the afterlife, the grave. The unifying features here are the rites and worship of ancestors. Tombs can be, and in Egypt and elsewhere are, essentially temples.…

Sacral, communal meals are carried out in connection with temple ritual, often at the conclusion of or during a covenant ceremony.

The tablets of destiny (or tables of the decrees) are consulted in the cosmic sense by the gods, and yearly in a special temple chamber, the ubshukinna in the temple of Eninnu in the time of the Sumerian King Gudea of Lagash. It was by this means that the will of deity was communicated to the people through the king or prophet for a given year.

God’s word is revealed in the temple usually in the holy of holies, to priests or prophets attached to the temple or to the religious system that it represents.

There is a close interrelationship between the temple and law in the ancient Near East. The building or restoration of a temple is perceived as the moving force behind a restating or “codifying” of basic legal principles, and the “righting” and organizing of proper social order. The building or refurbishing of temples is central to the covenant process.

The temple is a place of sacrifice.

The temple and its ritual are enshrouded in secrecy. This secrecy relates to the sacredness of the temple precinct and the strict division in ancient times between sacred and profane space.

The temple and its cult are central to the economic structure of ancient Near Eastern society.

The temple plays a legitimizing political role in the ancient Near East.

Scripture: Isaiah covers three items in this verse, a time, a place, and an action. The time is the last days. The place is a temple built in the mountaintop, but not just an ordinary temple. It is a temple of temples, a mountain on mountains. It will be the preeminent location for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. And the action is that “all nations will flow unto it.” The divine communication will be so powerful that it will attract notice from all nations. Isaiah is being both literal (representatives of faraway nations will come to the temple) and figurative (they will receive, even afar, the word that Yahweh communicated in the sacred location).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 12:3 He will teach us of his ways

“Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.

“…As we become more removed from the lifestyle of the world, the Church becomes more the welcome refuge for hundreds of thousands who come each year and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isa. 2:3).” (Howard W Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8-9)

2 Nephi 12:4 Shall rebuke many people

“There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 268.)

2 Nephi 12:5 walk in the light of the Lord

‘As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord”  (Isaiah 2:5  2 Nephi 12:5) Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see  Alma 5:7  32:28) and direct and protect you and your family.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2011)

3. Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel.

2 Nephi 15:26 lift up an ensign to the nations

“Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfillment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read [Isaiah 11:11–12]. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people [see Daniel 2:44]. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:254–55).

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2 Nephi 21:12 He shall set up an ensign for the nations

‘Rising above the Salt Lake Valley is a dome-shaped peak. Brigham Young saw it in a vision before the Saints left Nauvoo. He saw an ensign descend upon the hill and heard the voice of Joseph Smith say, ‘Build under that point … and you will prosper and have peace.’

“When Brigham Young first arrived in the valley, he immediately recognized the peak. On the morning of July 26, 1847, the men who would eventually comprise the new First Presidency, along with several members of the Twelve, climbed its slopes.

“This small group of priesthood leaders gazed out upon the valley below. ‘This is where we will plant the soles of our feet,’ President Young said, ‘and where the Lord will place his name amongst his people.’

“As I now stand at Ensign Peak and see the valley below, I marvel at the foresight of that little group. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles, spoke of a millennial vision. It was both bold and audacious. It was almost unbelievable.

“Here they were, almost a thousand miles from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles from the Pacific coast. They were in an untried climate. They had never raised a crop here. They had not built a structure of any kind.

“They were exiles, driven from their fair city on the Mississippi into this desert region of the West. But they were possessed of a vision drawn from the scriptures and words of revelation: ‘And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ (Isa. 11:12).” (Gordon B Hinckkley, “Faith in Every Footstep: The Epic Pioneer Journey,” Ensign, May 1997, 64 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 184-185)

4. Isaiah and Nephi testify of Jesus Christ’s redeeming power.

2 Nephi 16:1 I saw also the  Lord sitting upon a throne

‘Earlier, Nephi had remarked that he, Jacob and Isaiah had all seen their redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2–3). Here we see that Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing the throne of God. This is a helpful scripture if one is faced with the common Christian doctrine that man cannot see the face of God. This is based on erroneous interpretations of the passage in John, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declaredhim’ (Jn 1:18). The Joseph Smith translation makes a condition on this all exclusive statement, adding, ‘except he hath borne record of the Son.’ Later in John’s record we get another, less exclusive statement, ‘Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father’ (Jn 6:46).

In the Old Testament, there is ample evidence that the righteous saw God. Seventy of the elders of Israel were privileged to see God, ‘And they saw the God of Israel: and there wasunder his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness’ (Ex 24:10). Moses spoke with the Lord, ‘face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend’ (Ex 33:11). In this instance, it is apparent that Isaiah also was given the same privilege, ‘for mine eyes have seen the King’ (v. 5). Modern scripture helps us understand that this is only possible if one has become sufficiently purified and has exhibited sufficient faith. See DC 88:68, DC 93:1, and DC 97:16.’ (gospeldoctrine.com)

2 Nephi 16:2 Seraphim

“Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. ‘Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.’ (Ps. 148:2.) It is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ (D. & C. 38:1.) Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear. While petitioning on behalf of the saints, the Prophet prayed that ‘we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!’ (D. & C. 109:79.)

“In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim or, as incorrectly recorded in the King James Version of the Bible, seraphims. Isaiah saw seraphim in vision and heard them cry one to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Inspired Version, Isa. 6:1-8.) The fact that these holy beings were shown to him as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received. (D. & C. 77:4.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 702-3)

2 Nephi 16:4 the house was filled with smoke

‘“The posts of the door moved … , and the house was filled with smoke” (2 Nephi 16:4). The shaking and the smoke are symbols of the presence of the Lord (see Revelation 15:8).’ (Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual)

2 Nephi 16:5 I am a man of unclean lips

“I’ve been stuck by the fact that when Isaiah received his charge from the Lord, he bemoaned that he was ‘a man of unclean lips’ (Isa. 6:5). This sin too had to be purged from Isaiah if he was to bear the word of the Lord….

“We need to eliminate from our conversations the immodest and the lewd, the violent and the threatening, the demeaning and the false.” (Robert S Wood, Ensign, Nov. 1999)

2 Nephi 16:6 a live coal

‘According to Hoyt Brewster, the “live coal” (2 Nephi 16:6) was a symbol of God’s cleansing power. Through its touch, Isaiah’s sins were “purged” and he was sanctified to perform God’s work… . The Hebrew word for “live coal” is ritzpah, translated as a “glowing (incandescent) stone.” (See Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, 131) [ Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Isaiah Plain & Simple, p. 46]’ (Alan C Miner, Step by step through the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 16:8 Whom shall I send?

‘At the moment of purification, Isaiah hears and responds to Yahweh’s call for a messenger. This scene is eerily similar to the Savior’s response to the premortal call for a redeemer: “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first” (Abr. 3:27).

Yahweh’s call is not a lack of knowledge about who his special messengers will be. Rather it is an affirmation of the principle of agency. Yahweh so fully respects agency that such calls are not commands but invitations. The prophet’s acceptance is his free-will offering of service.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 25:23 after all we can do

“At first glance at this scripture (2 Ne 25:23), we might think that grace is offered to us only chronologically after we have completed doing all we can do, but this is demonstrably false, for we have already received many manifestations of God’s grace before we even come to this point. By his grace, we live and breathe. By grace, we are spiritually begotten children of heavenly parents and enjoy divine prospects…The grace of God has been involved in our spiritual progress from the beginning and will be involved in our progress until the end.

“It therefore belittles God’s grace to think of it as only a cherry on top added at the last moment as a mere finishing touch to what we have already accomplished on our own without any help from God. Instead the reverse would be a truer proposition: our efforts are the cherry on top added to all that God has already done for us.

“Actually, I understand the preposition ‘after’ in 2 Nephi 25:23 to be a preposition of separation rather than a preposition of time. It denotes logical separateness rather than temporal sequence. We are saved by grace ‘apart from all we can do,’ or ‘all we can do notwithstanding,’ or even ‘regardless of all we can do.’ Another acceptable paraphrase of the sense of the verse might read, ‘We are still saved by grace, after all is said and done.’

“In addition, even the phrase ‘all we can do’ is susceptible to a sinister interpretation as meaning every single good deed we could conceivably have ever done. This is nonsense. If grace could operate only in such cases, no one could ever be saved, not even the best among us. It is precisely because we don’talways do everything we could have done that we need a savior in the first place…

“Thus, the correct sense of 2 Nephi 25:23 would be that we are ultimately saved by grace apart from whatever we manage to do. Grace is not merely a decorative touch or a finishing bit of trim to top off our own efforts-it is God’s participation in the process of our salvation from its beginning to its end.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, p. 91-2)

 

Posted in Temples

Holiness to the Lord

Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. During his mortal life Jesus said that he had no place to lay His head.  Joseph Smith and Brigham Young stated, respectively, at the cornerstone ceremonies of the Nauvoo and Salt Lake temples that these buildings were designed to remedy that situation.

Emblazoned on each LDS temple are the words:

‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD

THE HOUSE OF THE LORD’

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Brigham Young used the phrase ‘Holiness to the Lord’ in dedicating the Salt Lake Temple and said that the temple was a monument to the Saints’ “liberality, dedication and faith.”  He explained what the phrase ‘Holiness to the Lord’ meant to him:

‘Thirty years’ experience has taught me that every moment of my life must be holiness to the Lord, resulting from equity, justice, mercy, and uprightness in all my actions, which is the only course by which I can preserve the Spirit of the Almighty to myself.’ (Quoted in Exterior Symbolism of the Salt Lake Temple, Richard G Oman, BYU Studies Vol 36 No 4 page 42, 1996-1997)

According to President Gordon B Hinckley:

‘The first phrase of this statement is a declared recognition of the Almighty and a pledge of holiness and reverence before Him. The second is a statement of ownership. This is His house, built through the consecrations of the people and presented to him as their offering of love and sacrifice.’ (Exterior Symbolism of the Salt Lake Temple, p 52)

At the dedication of the Jordan River Temple President Ezra Taft Benson said:

‘When the Saviour walked the earth, He stated that there was no place to lay His head. He may have been referring to the fact that in His day there was no temple in the Holy land which had not been desecrated. Today there are many dedicated temples, hallowed places where the son of Man may come.’ (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, page 250)

Posted in Temples

Why is Moroni on top of the temple?

The angel Moroni statues that sit atop LDS temples have come to be well-known symbols of the Church. Moroni is identified by Latter-day Saints as the angel foreseen by John in the book of Revelation.

‘And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.’ (Revelation 14:6).

The Nauvoo Temple was the first LDS temple to be graced with a “gilded angel.” When Thomas L. Kane visited the Nauvoo Temple site in 1846, he said of the Saints who stayed behind to finish the temple,

‘They had completed even the gilding of the angel and trumpet on the summit of its lofty spire.’ (Thomas L. Kane, The Mormons. A Discourse Delivered Before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 26 Mar. 1850 (1850), 20.)

The Nauvoo Temple angel, however, was a horizontal flying angel and was not formally identified as Moroni.

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In one of his hands is an open Book of Mormon. In the other he holds a trumpet to his lips. He is wearing a priestly robe that reaches to his feet and a round cap. This is the clothing worn by the priests of ancient Israel during their ministrations in the temple.

The idea to use the prophet from the Book of Mormon to top LDS temples came from sculptor Cyrus Dallin, who, though born in Utah, was not a member of the Church. President Wilford Woodruff had asked Cyrus to create something for the central spire of the Salt Lake Temple. At first Cyrus refused saying that he didn’t believe in angels. President Woodruff knew that Cyrus’ parents had once been active Latter-day Saints and encouraged him to consult with his mother.

Dallin searched through LDS scripture for inspiration and decided to sculpt Moroni because he felt that because of his role in delivering the golden plates to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Moroni was an appropriate symbol of the restoration of the gospel in these latter days.  After finishing the statue, Cyrus said, “My angel Moroni brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels from heaven. We can only create in life what we are and what we think.”

With a trumpet pressed to his lips, the statue of Moroni symbolises the restoration and the preaching of it to the world. The trumpet (or horn) is traditionally associated with proclamations, warnings and gathering.

‘And more blessed are you because you are called of me to preach my gospel—

To lift up your voice as with the sound of a trump, both long and loud, and cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming.’ (D&C 34:5-6)

Joseph Smith finally received the golden plates on the Israelite Day of Remembrance (or Rosh Hashanah).

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‘The festival of Rosh Hashanah—the name means ‘Head of the Year’—is … the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve….

The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, which also represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance, for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man’s first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which culminate in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Another significance of the shofar is to recall the binding of Isaac which also occurred on Rosh Hashanah.’

(from www.chabad.org – website of Judaism, Torah and Jewish information.)

The angel Moroni thus represents:

  • the restoration of the gospel;
  • a call for the elect to gather;
  • a warning to all to repent; and
  • a type of the angels who will announce the coming in glory of the Lord at his Second Coming.

 

Posted in Temples

The Mountain of the Lord

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‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ (Isaiah 2:3)

The ‘mountain of the Lord’ is a phrase commonly used to refer to the temple. The ancients believed that mountains were holy places where it was easier to commune with God. Some of the most sacred events in the history of the world have occurred on mountains – Moses ‘ experiences with the Lord; the testing of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah; Peter, James and John’s witnessing of the transfigured Saviour and the crucifixion of the Saviour on Calvary.

In many ancient cultures the temple represented the ‘cosmic mountain’ – the first place on earth to arise from the waters of Chaos and a place where man and gods could meet. Many ancient temples (think of the Aztec temples and the Mesopotamian ziggurats) included steps up which men could ascend and gods descend.

Josephus wrote of Herod’s Temple:

‘The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white.’ (Josephus, War 5.222-223)

Part of the holiness of a mountain is that it is secluded and reaching its summit requires effort and commitment. Similarly, we might reflect that it takes effort and commitment to qualify to enter the Lord’s house.  Latter-day prophet Spencer W. Kimball wrote:

In our journey toward eternal life, purity must be our constant aim. To walk and talk with God, to serve with God, to follow his example and become as a god, we must attain perfection. In his presence there can be no guile, no wickedness, no transgression. In numerous scriptures he has made it clear that all worldliness, evil and weakness must be dropped before we can ascend unto “the hill of the Lord.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 2)

 

Posted in Temples

Back to Eden

Most LDS temples are surrounded by beautiful landscaped grounds. These provide a peaceful atmosphere and a place for reflection. However, they also serve an important symbolic purpose: they remind us that the Garden of Eden was the first place on earth where mankind stood in the presence of God. The Garden of Eden can be regarded as the earth’s first temple.

In Genesis 3:8 we read:

‘And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…’

Perhaps it was a common experience for Adam and Eve before they were cast out of the Garden to commune with God as he walked in the Garden. The same Hebrew word translated as ‘walking ’is used in a number of places in the Old Testament to describe the Lord’s presence in the tabernacle and temple:

‘I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.’ (Leviticus 26:11-12; see also Deuteronomy 23:14 and 2 Samuel 7:6-7)

It seems likely that Solomon’s temple reflected the concept of the Garden of Eden as a temple. The Jewish Encyclopaedia (1906) says that the abode of God was a ‘garden of Eden.’ And in the Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish religious work, we read:

‘ …the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord… (Jubilees 8:19)

The prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament links the Garden of Eden with the temple, ‘the holy mountain of God’:

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13-14)

The Lord gave very explicit and detailed instructions on the construction and ornamentation of Solomon’s temple which included extensive garden imagery.

‘And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops and open flowers: all was cedar; there was no stone seen.’ (1 Kings 6:18)

‘And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.’ (1 Kings 6:29)

‘The two doors also were of olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees.’ (1 Kings 6:32)

‘And he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers: and covered them with gold fitted upon the carved work.’ (1 Kings 6:35)

Even the robes of the temple priests contained garden symbols:

‘And they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen.

And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the robe, round about between the pomegranates;

A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, round about the hem of the robe to minister in; as the Lord commanded Moses.’ (Exodus 39:24-26)

As we enter the temple grounds and enjoy the beauty of the landscaping, we are reminded that it is possible for mankind to be reconciled to God and enjoy his presence as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden before they were cast out.

LDS writer Beverley Campbell says:

‘ We in essence enter Eden when we enter the temple, for there, as in Eden, we are in a place wherein God can dwell, wherein we can make covenants, receive ordinances, and learn all that is necessary to find our way back to our heavenly home.’ (Beverley Campbell, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden).

The pools found near some temples (for example, the Preston and London Temples) bring to mind several scriptures which link water and temples. Joel 3:18 says that ‘a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord’. Ezekiel 47:1-12 presents a vivid image of healing waters flowing from the temple.

S Michael Wilcox writes:

‘The first time we enter a temple, we barely get our feet wet. We are barely introduced to the Lord’s light and love. What a tragedy it is when members of the Church judge the temple to be shallow or not deeply refreshing based on that first experience. Yet all of us know that on a hot summer day, wading even ankle deep in a cool stream brings instant refreshment and a hesitancy to leave the flowing water to return to our shoes. In light of this, it is not difficult to feel Moses’ sense of wonder when he was told to ‘put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ (Exodus 3:5.)

Elder Widtsoe cautioned that it is not fair ‘to pass opinion on temple worship after one day’s participation followed by an absence of many years. The work should be repeated several times in quick succession, so that the lessons of the temple may be fastened upon the mind.’ (“Temple Worship,” p. 64.)

Little do the casual waders know that down the river, if they will patiently persist, are life-giving, healing ‘waters to swim in.’ For the water rises each time we wade. Little do they realize the power of those waters to heal the disharmony of our lives, our families, and eventually the world.’ (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 41 – 43)

So, next time you visit an LDS temple and wander through the grounds take time not only to enjoy the beauty of nature but also consider the spiritual messages being taught in that garden setting.

Posted in Temples

Temples and symbolism

Why is it important for us to understand symbolism?

Because understanding symbolism is central to an understanding of the gospel.  Indeed Elder Orson F Whitney wrote:

 ‘The Universe is built on symbols, lifting our thoughts from man to God, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity…God teaches with symbols; it is His favourite way of teaching.’  (Orson F Whitney, Latter Day Saint Ideals and Institutions, Improvement Era, 30 August 1927)

Latter-Day Saints are used to interpreting symbolism in the scriptures. We recognise that in scripture words, objects, images and people can represent something beyond their surface meaning and that a symbol may be interpreted on several levels. In particular, we believe that all things testify of Christ.

 ‘And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me.’ (Moses 6:63)

However, despite this, many Saints are less comfortable with ceremonial symbolism. As a rule, apart from baptism and the sacrament, our Church services are not symbolically rich. Many find that the temple ordinances with their many levels of symbolism are, at first, confusing and hard to understand. However, with continued temple attendance and through the Spirit we begin to find meanings within the symbols and this enriches our temple experience:

 ‘In the temple the Spirit is the teacher. It instructs us, most frequently, through the symbols that comprise the endowment. We must be alert and pay attention to all that we see and hear, thus allowing the Spirit to teach us and to bring us understanding. If we go to the temple and just sit, without making an effort to learn, we will miss some of the greatest blessings the temple has to offer.’ (S Michael Wilcox, House of Glory.)

Through study, pondering and the inspiration of the Spirit we can discover and interpret these symbols for ourselves and that this understanding can also enrich our temple experience. The Apostle Paul taught:

 ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.’ (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

One of the purposes of symbolism is to enable the teaching of spiritual truths in a way that enters the heart of man yet protects them from the ‘natural man’.

The temples of the Old Testament were rich in symbolism. The scriptures tell us that the design and decoration of Solomon’s temple were given by direct revelation from God.  Just as the Lord revealed details about the construction of the Tabernacle to Moses and of Solomon’s temple to David, so Joseph Smith received precise instructions from the Lord about the Nauvoo temple, including the external ornamentation. While discussing some of the details of the building with William Weeks, the temple architect, he stated,

‘I wish you to carry out my designs, I have seen in vision the splendid vision of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.” (History of the Church 6:196-97.)

On 15 May 1844 while Josiah Quincey visited the Nauvoo temple site in company with the Prophet, and recorded the following:

 ‘Near the entrance of the temple we passed a workman who was labouring on a huge sun which had been chiselled from the solid rock….’General Smith’, said the man, looking up from his task, ‘is this the face you saw in vision?’ ‘Very near it’, answered the prophet. ‘(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past from the Leaves of Old Journals)

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After the laying of the cornerstone for the Salt Lake Temple, Brigham Young said:

‘I scarcely ever say much about revelations, or visions, but suffice it to say, five years ago last July I was here, and saw in Spirit the Temple not ten feet away from where we have laid the Chief Corner Stone. I have not inquired what kind of Temple we should build. Why? Because it was represented before me. I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there. I see it as plainly as if it were in reality before me.’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, page 410)

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So it seems that the overall design and even the details, including the symbols, of the early temples was given by God. For these temples, the use of symbols was not just a matter of ornamentation but also a statement about the symbolic nature of the temple experience.