Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Temple, Part 3: Bountiful Endowment


And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

—3 Nephi 11:6-7


I once heard a Sunday school teacher propose the following idea:
The Book of Mormon doesn’t contain the “fulness of the gospel” because it doesn’t contain the temple rites. 


The class then did mental gymnastics to try to explain how the introduction to the book could claim it contains the “fulness of the everlasting gospel” when it clearly doesn’t. People advanced various theories but reached no consensus. All seemed to agree, however, that though the Nephites had temples, they were only “Law of Moses” type temples used for animal sacrifice and such. Those Nephites never had all the great gospel knowledge we do, the poor ignorant souls.

Obviously there’s MUCH wrong with these assertions, primarily surrounding the wrong definition of “fulness of the gospel” as well as the false assertion that we know more than did Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Benjamin, Alma, Mormon, Moroni, and others who actually knew God personally. But my purpose is not to take up that part of the argument. Rather, I’d like to discuss the temple at Bountiful and what took place there to help shed some light on our considerable ignorance.

What Happened at Bountiful?

We’ll pick up the story with this verse:
And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place. (3 Nephi 11:1)
In the narrative, nearly a year had passed since the sign was given concerning the Lord’s death, when a group gathered at the temple. They marveled and wondered at the great changes that had taken place during the destruction at the Lord’s crucifixion, and they spent time pointing them out to one another. From this single verse, we can glean the following:

  1. These people were not from Bountiful. Clearly this was the first time they had seen Bountiful since the destruction, which means they had not been at or near Bountiful in nearly a year. Hence, they marveled at what had changed since their last visit.
  2. They arrived at Bountiful at the closing of the year, most likely in preparation to observe the new year with religious rites at the temple. The fact that they made the effort to travel to the Temple and keep their religious obligations, despite the widespread destruction and loss of life, speaks to their dedication and obedience. This was not some random crowd of Nephites; rather they were devoted religious pilgrims who took their obligations seriously, even when they had a good excuse not to. When the Lord came, he found them sacrificing and obeying.

And so this group found themselves in the right place, and right time, to meet the risen Lord. As you know, the Father spoke and introduced the Son, Christ descended, identified himself, and invited all present to participate in a ceremony providing undeniable proof of His identity.

He then taught re-baptism, empowered baptizers, and taught His doctrine. He followed with His sermon, which is called the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. In actuality, this is the same sermon He likely taught to all the groups He visited after His resurrection. It reveals what sort of being He is, as well as the path to become like Him.

He went on to declare that the Law of Moses stood fulfilled and had come to an end. (3 Nephi 15:4-8) Therefore, if the purpose of the Nephite temple was only for Mosiac ordinances like sacrifice, presumably the need for temples had also come to an end. I’ve heard this same idea—that temples were only necessary under the “old covenant”—advanced recently to counter current preparations for the temple to be built at New Jerusalem.

But Christ continued and taught more information to the audience, concerning, of all things, Zion and the last days, until He reached a point at which he could go no further. Said He:
I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. (3 Nephi 17:2-3)
In response, the crowd wept and all but begged Him to stay a little longer. This display of faith, weak though it may have been, moved Christ with compassion. So just as He did at Emmaeus, the Lord stayed because He had been asked. His compassion led him to heal all the sick and infirm in the crowd, and having thus demonstrated His power to heal their bodies, the Master Healer set to work healing their weakness in understanding.

He Did it by Using their Children

Christ formed a prayer circle with the children surrounding Him, while he knelt and prayed in the middle. (3 Nephi 17:12-13) With the adults looking on but not participating, Christ explained to His Father the reason He was proceeding as He did:
And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel. (3 Nephi 17:14)
Christ was unable to teach the adults what He had been commanded to teach them, due to their wickedness, which made them weak in understanding. So He made an end-run around the adults by performing an ordinance with the little children, who were incapable of wickedness (Moroni 8:22), and therefore able to participate in what followed, while the adults could only watch and learn. He proceeded to speak and show things so holy they cannot be written:
And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him. And after this manner do they bear record:  
The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father. (3 Nephi 17:15-17)


What Christ couldn’t perform with the adults, He could with the innocent children. This demonstration resulted in the adults gaining enough faith to become “blessed”—which is a new identity, or new name, signifying a change in status. While Christ had been “troubled” before by their wickedness, His joy was now so full that He wept, and he held and blessed each of the children who had been His instruments to save their parents. (3 Nephi 17:20-21)

When He had completed the preparation of all the children by His personal blessing, He opened the fiery conduit into heaven, through which angels descended and ministered to the children, who were all within the conduit and encircled by fire. (3 Nephi 17:24) Though the multitude did “see and hear and bear record” of what took place when the angels ministered, we do not have that record, and the one we do have closes with the heavens open and no other information given. (3 Nephi 17:25)

Now, I told you all of that to tell you this: 

The experience with the children was a prelude to what Christ yet meant to accomplish the next morning with the adults. He completed the first day’s ordinances by instituting the sacrament and giving rules for how this holy ordinance should be conducted.

The following day began with the twelve disciples being baptized, or washed, in obedience to Christ’s command (3 Nephi 19:12). Following their washing, they were anointed with the Holy Ghost and with fire (3 Nephi 19:13), which opened the fiery corridor and brought angels to minister to these twelve whom Christ had chosen. Christ Himself then came and ministered to them, standing in the center of their circle as He did so. (3 Nephi 19:15)

He commanded them to pray, which they did by repeating words that were given to them. Then He went a little way off, bowed Himself to the earth, and also prayed:
Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world. Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words…And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one. (3 Nephi 19:20-21, 23)
He prayed that they could move into a greater relationship with Him, not only having the Holy Ghost, but that they could have Christ in them. There’s deep meaning here to which I simply can’t do justice in a blog post, so we’ll move on. Note that he prayed not only for these twelve, but also for YOU, assuming, of course, you believe the words of the twelve whom Jesus chose.

Christ returned to the prayer circle and blessed the twelve, with his “countanance” smiling upon them, and its light shining upon them. As He did so, their countenances became as white as Christ’s own countenance and garments. By His blessing, Christ literally clothed them in holy, white vestments and purified their bodies to the next level of holiness; they moved from a telestial into a purified, terrestrial state. (3 Nephi 19:25)

Then Christ went and prayed again as follows:
Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me. Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them. (3 Nephi 19:28-29)
It’s important to note that again, Christ prayed for YOU to receive what the twelve just received. He also requested that they be allowed to move to yet a higher level of glory, from purification to glorification. He called them His own, because the Father had given them to Him; in other words, they were consecrated unto Christ. He then returned to the twelve, blessed them again, and they glowed white again.

Christ went and prayed a third time:
And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed. And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed. Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man. (3 Nephi 19:32-34)
And again as before, at this point the record closes with a mention of the unspeakable, but no mention of what followed. As with the children, the sacrament is the next mentionable item in the record.

What Have we Learned?

Now that we've had an extremely brief and very limited overview of the ordinances Christ conducted, let’s analyze, for a moment, what we’ve witnessed. Here are some items we should notice that took place with the adults. (We should also notice many of these took place with the children, except the items they didn’t require because they were already holy and without sin):


  • Obedience
  • Sacrifice
  • The gospel
  • Consecration
  • Teaching
  • Washing
  • Anointing
  • Clothing in holy garments
  • A new name, or identity
  • A prayer circle with the words of the prayer given to the participants
  • The heavens opening 
  • A fiery conduit connecting heaven and earth
  • The Father directing and the Son fulfilling
  • The ministry of angels
  • The personal ministry of Jesus Christ
  • The ascent through three levels of holiness, or three degrees of Glory
  • Christ providing certain gifts (or tokens) along the way, together with signs they were received
  • Christ knocking three times at the veil in prayer
  • Christ conversing with the Father through the veil
  • All of which led to seeing, hearing, and learning unspeakable things directly from God
  • Then, having conversed with God through the veil, entering His presence

Witnessing these things prepared the multitude to receive the rest of Christ’s message, which He had been unable to deliver the day before, due to the multitude’s lack of understanding. They now had MUCH more understanding about God’s purposes and their potential. They had been allowed to observe a great gift of knowledge and understanding, being given by heaven. Such a gift is known as an “endowment.”

Now, before you get up in arms about my using that word as if to imitate the LDS temple rites, let me suggest we have the whole thing precisely backwards. The LDS temple rites are a symbolic representation, or imitation, of the real thing. Christ gave these people an actual endowment, and it had the desired effects, giving the participants unspeakable knowledge of both holiness and the Man of Holiness. The LDS rites are just practice exercises to point to the real thing through ritualized imitation.

Remember, Christ did this all AT THE TEMPLE, and He did it AFTER announcing the end of the old law. So let’s let go of the false concept that there’s no mention of the temple rites in the Book of Mormon, or that there’s no evidence for temples having any role after the law of Moses, or that temples are unnecessary under the “new covenant,” or other such nonsense. All such ideas are clearly false, as shown by Christ’s repeated actions on two consecutive days with two different groups, leading to the same results for both.

This stuff wasn’t painstakingly included in the record merely for our entertainment. Christ prayed that YOU and I could each experience what the twelve did. And for that, we’ll need a temple to which the Lord can come and provide what is needed. The Book of Mormon illustrates this conspicuously.

The Rest of the Message

Let’s finish by taking a brief look at what the Lord taught after the endowment of the twelve. Remember, this was the stuff the Master Teacher couldn’t even teach before, because the crowd was too weak in understanding. But now he could, as witnessing the endowment had increased their faith and cleansed them of their false beliefs.

Oddly enough the balance of the message dealt with OUR DAY, not theirs. Why do you suppose that is so? Is there something there for us, or was it all for them?

Christ discussed the gathering of Israel, the building of New Jerusalem and the establishment of Zion, the triumph of His Father’s work and the fulfillment of the covenants God made to the fathers. He quoted Isaiah 54 and Malachi 3-4, all of which have nothing to do with the Nephite dispensation, and everything to do with what you and I are now watching unfold.

Why was Christ’s message, that required such extreme measures to even be taught, completely about US, and not about the audience at Bountiful? Why did He tell them so much about OUR day, and nothing about their own? These questions ought to trouble us immensely, and we ought to implore the Lord night and day to explain to us why these things are so. The answers matter a great deal, and yet, how many of us even think to ask?

Us: On Trial

Then, if that’s not all mind blowing enough, Mormon informs us that all these things he included in the record were only the LESSER things taught by Christ during the next three days. Mormon wanted to include more, but wasn’t allowed to:
And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.  
And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:8-11)
Did you get that? The record of Christ at the temple, and all that He did and taught there, puts US on trial to see if we’re willing to believe and receive higher things. Like the crowd at Bountiful, we lack the faith to receive the fulness of the message. Christ cured their deficiencies with an endowment at a temple. Might our cure involve something similar?

Or will we, the ones on trial, continue to fight against God by pretending we understand and know so much more than we do, while rejecting what He taught and performed in the portion of the record we have? Even the little Nephite children make us look like the fools we are:
And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter. (3 Nephi 26:14)
When I ponder these things, and recognize the pattern Christ carefully showed us in the Bountiful ordinances, I yearn all the more for a house to which He can come and restore what has been lost to us. O God in heaven, let there be a temple reared in this generation!


And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
—D&C 124:40-41

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Temple, Part 2: Strange Work


For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
—Isaiah 28:21


The unexpected nature and structure of the efforts to gather funds for the temple may look strange at first. But I believe there are good reasons behind the decisions that have been made. And, as Isaiah noted, one of the hallmarks of the Lord’s work is its strange appearance to us before we fully understand it.

So let’s start by trying to understand the Isaiah verse I quoted in the header, above. The reference to the valley of Gibeon refers to the Lord fighting Israel’s battles and destroying their enemies as Israel gathered to their promised land (Joshua 10:10-14). Our Lord is mighty to accomplish His work and He keeps His promises.


Interestingly, the reference also speaks of mount Perazim, which harks back to the Lord’s offer to provide the fulness of the priesthood to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, their rejection of His offer, and their loss of the opportunity to receive the fulness. (Exodus 19:17-25 and D&C 84:23-25) In this case, during their travels in the wilderness, had the Israelites accepted the Lord’s offer, Mount Sinai would have been an acceptable temporary substitute for a temple.

The Lord made the same offer to restore the fulness of the priesthood to the LDS church at Nauvoo, with the stipulation that a temple was required for the Lord to visit and personally restore the fulness. (D&C 124:28) The church failed to complete the temple in time, and the fulness remains lost to this day. 

So I find it interesting that the Lord’s act is called strange, in relation to His efforts to gather His people, remove their obstacles, keep His promises, and come to His temple to restore the fulness.

Therefore, if we find the current efforts strange, we ought to take comfort that this precisely follows the pattern of scripture.

I’ve met and spoken with the three women who have organized the effort to collect funds for the temple. I believe they are the genuine article—which is to say, I believe they are honest, sincere, and committed to doing the Lord’s will. I believe the effort to gather funds is as safe in their hands as it could possibly be in the hands of mortals. They’ve been given a far more difficult task than we likely realize.

A Pile of Rocks

I’ll talk more about this situation, but first, I’d like to set the table by taking a look at a familiar scripture story through new eyes. Let’s talk about the brother of Jared’s situation with the barge lighting problem. 

Jared’s brother, Mahonri, had built barges before, and knew how to do it, but in the past they had been primarily used to cross smaller bodies of water. The command to use the same barge design for long-distance seafaring highlighted how unsuited the barges were to cross the ocean. The two biggest problems were air and light.

The Lord explained the solution to the air issue (and it may not be what you were taught in Sunday School) but He didn’t provide the solution to the light issue. Instead, the Lord told Mahonri the solutions that would NOT be acceptable: Fire and windows.

Now, consider this—in the pre-electric age, what other light sources were there besides fire and sunlight? It seems the Lord specifically forbad the only two possible solutions, knowing in His wisdom, that both would result in disaster.

This left Mahonri to wrestle with the problem and do the best he could to find an “impossible” solution—ultimately taking it to the Lord for approval. And what was his solution?

Rocks.


Would that be the first idea you had? Have you ever considered how absurd that must have looked? How strange? How long do you suppose Mahonri wrestled with the problem? How many other ideas did he investigate and ultimately reject? How the heck do you get light without fire or the sun? And perhaps the biggest question of all: Why didn’t the Lord simply tell Mahonri how to solve the problem, like He had with the air?

Have you ever noticed how beaten Mahonri was when he finally took his rocks to the Lord? (Ether 3:1-5) Have you considered his humility? His brokenness? His desperate acknowledgement of his unworthiness? How he begged the Lord not to be angry with him for his weakness? How he pleaded for pity—because he was, after all, pitiful. How inadequate his pile of rocks must have seemed before the God of heaven!

All this man had to offer was rocks and groveling. But he was now a different man than the one who initially built the barges. It was the wrestle with the problem that changed him, and prepared him to be redeemed.

And thus, having been prepared by the LACK of commandment—and the LACK of revelation in the face of a very real temporal need—when he finally went before the Lord in abject humility and brokenness, he was brought into the Lord’s presence and redeemed from the fall.

The Lord immediately accepted Mahonri’s proposed solution—the rocks—and intervened with His power to turn them from inadequate stones into the perfect solution to the problem. But that was just a pretense for Him to do what really needed to be done. The Lord wanted the prepared man redeemed from the fall, and he used the man’s struggle to accomplish it. The point of the exercise was, in the end, to accomplish the Lord’s work.

A Pile of Money

Now, with that background, consider how one might go about gathering funds for a temple, when given the task by the Lord and told to go figure it out. On the surface, it sounds rather simple, and no doubt we could all think of some simple solutions. Trouble is, the more the solutions are investigated, the more thorny the problem becomes. Here are some issues:

Fund Raising: this activity is heavily regulated in most states, and requires compliance with state laws in every state where funds are to be solicited. If you do it online…well, that pretty much covers every state. And if you break state laws in any state, you open yourself to lawsuits, penalties, and even criminal charges. Raise your hand if you want to be personally on the line for that…

Taxation: So it turns out the government likes to tax income. Who knew? If money comes to you in such a way that it counts as income…well, kiss half of it goodbye. Do you want to risk losing half the sacred funds to taxes because your solution isn’t structured properly?

Liability: A large sum of money could create an attractive target for the greedy or disgruntled. Would you want to be the one who loses the sacred funds you failed to protect?

Ownership: Under our legal and economic framework, the funds must be owned by a person or an entity. Any business entity, like a corporation or a non-profit, is a creation of the state, and therefore only exists under the control of the state. It is subject to regulation, and even dissolution by state action—if the state creates it, the state can dissolve it. In the case of non-profits, if the state affords an organization tax-free benefits of operation, they also control almost every other aspect of the organization through a vast array of regulation, including what can be done with the funds and property when the time comes to dissolve the non-profit. Zion and the  temple cannot risk future conflict and control for mere expediency in the ease of collecting money at the present.

On the other hand, a person, who cannot be dissolved by the state, becomes personally liable and accountable for all activities involved in the collection, handling, and dispersement of funds. There is no way to shield the person, their family, their other assets, or their reputation from any difficulties that arise from the effort. Risk is present with either form of ownership.

Past Abuse: Many who are interested in donating to the temple fund have also suffered past abuse, both financial and ecclesiastical, by churches and church leaders. Any solution that appears to repeat that abuse is immediately suspect. Though a “church” is the most obvious solution to the problem, it is the least desirable. Forming a church is out of the question.

Target Audience: How to put this delicately? The so-called “remnant” movement includes intelligent, outspoken, opinionated and often passionate people all with varying levels of understanding. While many will respond with gratitude and kindness, ANY effort WILL be also criticized and attacked by those who are eager to find fault. Obviously, this complicates any proposed solution.

Every “simple” solution, including opening a bank account and telling people to donate to it, forming a corporation, a non-profit, or a church, triggers one or more of the above difficulties, ultimately subjecting the fund to inordinate opposition, losses or risks. The three women, who were tasked with this effort by the Lord, spent many months and substantial amounts of their own money consulting multiple attorneys and accountants regarding various possibilities. Ultimately, the problem proved MUCH more difficult than it initially appeared.

And while the solutions they’ve proposed may look like common rocks, I believe the Lord can work with these solutions and touch them to make them exactly what they need to be. Each has unique strengths that help accomplish the task at hand.

Many have asked questions about the two funding routes, and though I’m no expert, I’ll offer what explanations I can.

1. The GoFundMe account

This approach has the advantage of simplicity. It complies with fundraising laws, allows anyone to donate in seconds, and due to the laws associated with gifts, it can aggregate the funds in such a way as to prevent taxation. It’s actually a very good solution, as evidenced by the thousands who use the service every day for all sorts of purposes.

Of course, this simplicity comes at a price, and GoFundMe takes 5% for providing the service—which I think is reasonable for what they provide. An additional 3% (approximately) is taken by the credit card processing, which is typical for accepting credit cards. So in the end 8% of the funds go elsewhere and 92% go to the temple, which is an issue to which some have objected.

I’m not a financial expert, but I do know that it is lawful to give money to anyone you choose and you can do so without any tax consequences to yourself if you keep your gift to no more than $14,000 per year ($28,000 if married). If you find the GoFundMe fees excessive, then there’s nothing stopping you from sending a check directly to the woman behind the fund. It may take a little ingenuity on your part to figure out how to get it to her, as there is no address, but where there’s a will there's a way. In such a case, 100% would go into the fund, with no processing costs. If you do that, I recommend including a “gift letter” stating that the money is a gift, donated to a cause you believe in, with no exchange of value or services rendered to you in exchange for the monetary gift. This letter gives added protection from the money being classified as income.

2. Tree of Life Creations

Quintina BearChief-Adolpho, a full-blooded Blackfoot First Nations member, has an established business on the Siksika Nation Reservation, through which she can accept gifts in exchange for providing services to members of her tribe. Located, as it is, in a sovereign nation, the business receives favorable protections and eliminates taxation and regulation. If you read her website carefully, you’ll note that 100% of the funds gifted will be consecrated by her to the facility to be built. This approach has clear advantages due to its unique situation. Her family has other sources of income, which allow her to give complete consecration of the gifted revenue received in exchange for the service provided by her business toward this objective.

My personal opinion is that the Lord’s hand is in each of these approaches, and that promises made to the fathers thousands of years ago—promises the Lord has kept in miraculous ways—have paved the way for these solutions to be available for these perplexing problems. If you search scriptural prophecy carefully, you may likely encounter delightful discoveries about these efforts.

I do believe each of these solutions complies with applicable law, while brilliantly solving the regulatory and taxation issues that appeared to be insurmountable problems, now leaving only the problem of criticism, about which little can be done. People must be free to oppose and criticize the Lord’s work in every age.

By the way, I hear other solutions are also being considered, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see other options made available as the Lord’s strange work progresses. Through it all, remember nobody is getting paid, and 100% of what makes its way to the fund will go to the temple and grounds.

Gossamer Thread

The Lord accomplishes His work by small and simple means. If you’re looking for something grand, powerful or polished, you may miss the mark. Seemingly, there’s nothing but a gossamer thread tying these present efforts to the eventual construction of a temple and the establishment of Zion. Many things could go wrong, and there’s no end of ways to fail.

Therefore, it takes faith to get behind this effort. And this is as it should be. If it were so obvious and so superior to opposing ideas, it would be easy to do the Lord’s will, and would require no faith. But this situation is the opposite. Only hindsight will ever validate the faith it now takes to donate to this effort. The temple and Zion are, at present, nothing more than desires and hopes. I understand how hard it is to stake your money on what appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream. This is why faith is required.

Now that I’ve explained how I view this effort, I’m next going to take a crack at answering some of the questions that have come my way. Remember, as with what I’ve already written above, I don’t speak for anyone else, so these are my own answers based on my own opinion.


We can start with the following list of questions.

  • Where will the temple be built?
  • Does this mean it will be in Canada?
  • When will the construction start?
  • Who will build it?
  • How will it be built?
  • What will it look like?
  • Who will own the land?
  • Who will control the expenditures?
  • Who will enter the temple once it’s complete?
  • What if the economy crashes and renders money worthless?
  • And so on…

The answers to all of these questions, as far as I know, remain to be seen. Until there is a more detail given by God, these will remain largely unanswered. The present effort only deals with gathering funds against that time. Nothing in the current effort compels any particular answer to any question I've listed above. I’m as excited as you are to have the answers to these things, and until the answers are given, it’s best not to assume anything. The Lord’s work is often surprising, and will likely not unfold in the way we expect.

I doubt Nephi had any idea he would eventually build a ship until he had been waiting patiently at the beach for years. Then, when the time was right, the Lord gave details and showed Nephi how to proceed. Likewise the Savior, who was prepared and eager to start His mission at age 12, had to patiently wait a further 18 years before the time was right.

Until more light is given, we are left to act in faith on what light we have. It will certainly take patience.

“Who will receive the commandment when it comes? How will I know it’s from God? I won’t follow a man!”

Yeah, I feel ya. But Enoch managed it somehow. Ask yourself how that happened. Was there a prophet/teacher among them? Did he provide the revelation needed? Did they “follow” Enoch, or did they “follow” the word of the Lord revealed through Enoch? If you believe a man is sent by the Lord and speaking the Lord’s word, does “receiving” that word constitute “following” a man? This is worth considering. The Lord has a pattern He uses in these situations. We would do well to recognize and expect that pattern—and realize that He works through mortals.

Denver Snuffer has repeatedly spoken and written about the need for a temple in Zion. I believe he is speaking the Lord’s word in this matter, and I have good reasons for why I believe so. I also believe the scriptures support this effort. But that’s a large subject for a separate post.

In the end, I believe it’s crucial to be able to hear the Lord’s voice, so you can ask Him and receive His answer. 

“What do these women know about building a temple?”

I don’t know. But that’s beside the point; they’re not building a temple. They’re gathering money, and they know how to do that. We still don’t know who will head up the building effort, or who will participate in construction. If you want to be involved in building the temple, I suggest taking that desire to the Lord and qualifying to be one He calls.

“Why is it just these three women? Why don’t I get a say in this? I really, really want to be involved. Am I not important?”

The best I can tell you is that the Lord calls who He will call and He is not a respecter of persons. Each of these women received a witness from the Lord that they are to do this work. So they shouldered the burden and got to work, sacrificing their time, money, reputations, and peace to accomplish what the Lord has asked of them. Doing the Lord’s work has no glamour or fanfare. It’s usually a difficult slog, filled with challenges and criticism. It’s nothing to be envied. I’m sure it has already been harder than any of us can appreciate, and I, for one, have no desire to join them and be saddled with the labor and difficulties that come with such an assignment.

If you’ve ever worked on a committee or in a group, you know the larger the group, the more exponentially complicated the effort becomes. I see wisdom in handling the fundraising through a small group like this.

As for who is “important” and who is not, it’s perhaps natural to assume there are “big” people and “little” people—but I don’t think that assumption comes from the Lord. He is no respecter of persons, and cares more about your heart than your position. He calls specific people to do specific tasks for specific reasons, so it’s best to be content with what He has allotted each of us. (Alma 29:3)

Those who desire most to be in charge or important are often the least prepared to do what the Lord wants done. How many prophets, when called of God, have responded with “surely, not me!” I think we’re all well advised to remember the Lord’s counsel that the greatest in His eyes is the one who is the least and the servant of all. (Matthew 20:26-27) I don’t envy these women, though I do feel a great deal of gratitude for them. Remember, “envyings” were one of the factors that destroyed the last attempt at Zion (D&C 101:6). 

“But the Lord hasn’t issued a commandment. We shouldn’t do anything until He does!”

Every time I encounter this idea, I nearly get whiplash from D&C 58 leaping to mind:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward…But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26-29)
What would have happened if Mahonri had not worked to solve his problem and taken that solution to the Lord? What if he had waited for a command, explaining exactly how to solve the lighting problem, and expended no effort of his own? And what about the countless other scriptural examples that could be cited of those who proceeded in faith, not knowing beforehand the things that they should do? (1 Nephi 4:6)

I’m truly bewildered by the idea that this effort belongs in a separate category from all the other things you and I do in faith every day, without a command from God. Today I did dozens of things God didn’t specifically ask me to do, as well as some things He did. And likely, so did you. Why does preparing for a future temple require a commandment above and beyond the indication that the commandment will come, paired with the common sense and reasoning ability God has given us all?

Look, nothing happens until mortals DO something. The temple won’t build itself, and the land and building won’t be paid for by magic. We’ve been repeatedly told the command is coming. Do we really need the Lord to command us to prepare for the commandment? If we can’t accomplish anything without being commanded, how will we ever become godly?

If you know you have a future large expense, you save for it. You save for your kids’ college, your retirement, a home, a major purchase and so on. Why? Common sense or commandment?

“You rob the poor by saving for a temple.”

I explained my take on “robbing the poor” in my last post, but some still raise this objection. As I noted in my prior post, using care for the poor as an excuse to thwart the Lord’s work was a Satanic objection offered by Judas Iscariot. Can we stop repeating him?

But there’s this:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)
I don’t believe Enoch’s Zion came as a result of having no poor among them. Rather, I believe the opposite—that the reason there were no poor among them because that they were one with God in heart and mind and righteousness. Naturally, they were also equal in earthly things. 

I also note that there were no poor among them. It does not say there were no poor in all the world. Rather, it narrowly confines the elimination of poverty to what existed among the small cadre of those called Zion. Perhaps there’s a lesson here about realistic expectations and not running faster than we have strength

“But this doesn’t fit my current understanding of scripture or my preferred set of unbeliefs.”

Yeah, I sympathize. Seriously, I do. They don’t call it the Lord’s “strange” act for nothing. When I think about it, none of this fits the beliefs and understanding I had 5 years ago. Had you told me 5 years ago I would be an excommunicated Mormon, watching prophecy unfold, and preparing for Zion in my lifetime, I would have absolutely sworn you were mad. But I’ve learned more since then, and my beliefs have changed. Who’s to say yours won’t as well?

“But you don’t need a temple! All you need is Jesus!”

I believe you’re confusing individual redemption with the establishment of Zion. Yes, our Lord can and does personally minister and provide what individuals lack. He can and does redeem individuals from the fall, and he does it without an earthly building. But Zion is, by definition, a group. If you confuse group accomplishments with individual promises, you fail to understand WHAT great things the Lord intends to do and HOW he intends to do them. 

My last blog post was an attempt to lay out what I understand about it, but in the end, we all need to know much more than we do now. It will take a significant effort in study and prayer to begin to understand what the Lord intends. Saying you just need Jesus is, frankly, an excuse for ignorance of the Lord’s work. Why not set aside the easy answers and seek instead to understand the prophesied marvelous work and wonder? It’s happening.

Remember, our Lord is a Man of Covenants. To know Him is to covenant with him. The LDS church fell under condemnation by 1832 for taking such things lightly. (D&C 84:54-58) At what point will we begin to take seriously the responsibilities devolving upon us?

Though some may disagree and even oppose, I believe this effort is the beginning of the foundation of Zion. 


And now I say unto you, Refrain from these [women], and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 
—Acts 5:38-39 

That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God. 
—D&C 101:95

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Temple, Part 1: House of Glory




And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.
—D&C 97:15-16


An effort is now underway to gather funds in anticipation of the future temple that will be built at New Jerusalem. In my opinion, this announcement marks the beginning of the temple building project. (Luke 14:28) This is a project I enthusiastically support.

Reading the announcement was a moment of joy for me for several reasons. The timing of the announcement, the method of gathering funds, and the meaning of the project now underway all bring me particular delight. This is a topic I’ve studied for some time, and looked forward to with great anticipation. Those with eyes to see will realize that prophecy is being fulfilled (again!) as we watch.

Of course, as with every instance when the Lord moves His hand to further His work, some will misunderstand, doubt, and even object. This is completely understandable, as the Lord’s work is, after all, strange and therefore not likely to be accomplished in the way we expect. It can be tough to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes from false expectations. You like to think you have it figured out—and that’s usually about the time the Lord steps up and mentions the tool you’ve been cracking nuts with is actually a grenade.

Because my own expectations have been off so many times, I’ve come to recognize that hallmarks of the Lord’s work include surprise, brilliant solutions to complex problems, and small and simple means to accomplish great things. But the Lord’s fingerprints are also easily overlooked and often opposed.

Though I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, I hope that what follows will at least provide some explanations and fill in some gaps for people who are wondering why things are happening as they are. What follows is my own opinion, unless otherwise cited, and I certainly don’t speak for the three women spearheading this effort, Denver Snuffer, or anyone else. So with that framework in place, I’d like to share some thoughts about a temple.

Forget It!

Before we start, I invite you to forget what you think you know about temples. If your background is LDS, you likely already have strongly ingrained ideas about what a temple is, and what goes on there. For purposes of this discussion, let’s just assume those ideas are, at best, woefully inadequate, and at worst, utterly false.

Fact is, we don’t have much in scripture to give details about how an actual, fully functional temple operates, or what goes on there. You’ve never seen one, and neither have I. The Nauvoo temple was never completed, and Joseph never gave details about how it would be used. Section 124 only speaks in broad strokes about things we hardly understand. Furthermore, the only area used was an attic built after Joseph died. He did not provide any plans for the upper floors of the temple, and so what was built was guesswork, not revelation.

Therefore, if you object to the idea of a temple out of hand, you object to something you know nothing about—which, if you ask me, isn’t a great idea. A better course is to suspend judgment until you gain a better understanding.

OK, with that introduction in place, let’s start digging.

What is a Temple?

The word comes from the Latin Templum, meaning “sacred space.” The purpose of a temple is to provide a sacred space, apart from the pull and corruption of this fallen world, where holiness can exist and sacred, even “most sacred” things can be taught, performed, understood and received. Such an internal space can be personally visited by the Lord in His glory. The temple provides the enclosure separating the sacred from the profane.

While reading the above paragraph, I’ll bet you pictured a building with walls. If so, you were right. But now, read it again with the idea that your body is also a temple. Inside is the home of your spirit, which is sent from God and meant to be holy. It is sacred space separate and apart from the fallen, telestial world on the outside.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)
But whether you refer to a building or a body, the inside of a temple is necessary to allow holiness to exist in this dark, fallen world. The rest of this post will primarily speak of a building, though it’s well to remember the many parallels to the personal temple of your body.

Why a Temple?

The short answer is that God has always required his people to prepare a sacred space where He could come and provide what is required to rescue people from the fall and allow them to continue their ascent in eternity. Whenever there’s a people who will listen to God, he offers to exalt them to where He is, and this process begins with, and requires, a covenant with Him. For those who are unable to obtain His direct presence and personal covenant, a temple provides the means for a valid covenant nevertheless to be established using authorized ordinances.

There’s much more information at this link.

Now, I realize some people question why it’s such a big deal to have a building, tent, tabernacle, or other structure. God can do anything He wants, after all, wherever He wants, can’t he? Why go to all the trouble of a building?

This view is based on a very incomplete understanding and fails to take a number of laws into account. Eternal laws cannot be changed, even by God, and He is subject to them as we are—but He knows much better how to properly apply them. One of these is the law of sacrifice. God does what He does by covenant, and covenants require sacrifice. The sacrifice entailed in constructing the sacred space is what enables the Lord to sanctify and make it holy so it can function.

When it is sanctified and made holy, the Lord can safely visit it in His glory without destroying it. This may be a lot less mysterious and a lot more practical than it sounds. I’ll use an example to illustrate:

Our sun gives off its massive energy due to a thermonuclear fusion reaction, which is contained and kept at a safe distance from earth by the sun’s own gravity. Putting thermonuclear fusion power to practical use on earth, however, requires that the reaction be artificially contained and safely harnessed as a power source (which has yet to be accomplished). Due to the high temperature, the reaction plasma cannot be in direct contact with any solid material, and must be contained in a vacuum. But since plasma tends to expand immediately, some force is necessary to act against this expansion pressure and keep the reaction contained in the vacuum chamber without expanding. Current research uses powerful magnetic fields to contain experimental thermonuclear fusion reactions.

Ok, so what happens if there’s a failure of the magnetic containment? Well, we’re familiar with that as well. We call that a thermonuclear explosion and is exactly what powers some of our most terrible and destructive weapons, capable of leveling whole cities.

The holiest part of a temple can be likened to the containment chamber, with the brightness of the Lord’s glory safely within, and that which cannot endure such glory kept outside. Those who are prepared for a higher glory can safely enter the temple and endure God’s presence, while those who are not prepared can remain protected outside.

My point here is that this is not some hypothetical construct the Lord is free to change at will. There are physical laws at work here and power we can’t begin to imagine. There’s no other way for the glory of heaven to safely visit earth. God needs a temple to provide what He offers to mankind.

What Goes on There?

The answer to this question is central to understanding the Lord’s work and what He intends to accomplish. In fact it’s not only about what the Lord intends to accomplish, but also how the Lord intends to accomplish it. I don’t claim to know details about the things that will happen in the temple, but it will have, at minimum, the following uses:

Teaching

The temple will include a library and suitable facilities for teaching. Here’s why:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
Let’s look more closely at this statement. Our immortality and eternal life are defined as the Lord’s:
  • Work, meaning his labor and purpose in laboring;
  • Glory, which is defined in D&C 93:36 as intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. 

The Lord’s purpose is to give us His light and truth, with the aim of providing us eternal life—or the opportunity to continue our ascent to be like Him.

Light and truth must be conveyed to replace the lacking and false ideas that currently damn us (or in other words stop our progress). Such teaching requires sacred space. Since the beginning, such things have been taught in temples, isolated from the world, where the mysteries of God can be discussed, taught, and implemented. It is there that we learn to “walk in his paths.”

One of the results of these teachings will be the establishment of a Zion society, built on eternal truth and united as one with the Lord in understanding. Without the temple, Zion cannot be established. There’s no other way to accomplish the education required.
And many people shall go and say, 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)
Ordinances

God’s necessary covenants include ordinances—not preliminary, practice ordinances designed to point to the real thing, but the actual, binding ordinances that provide actual, binding promises. Though individuals can receive these things from the Lord directly, in His presence, group participation in these ordinances requires sacred space where these things can be properly offered through an administrator the Lord has authorized.

An excellent example from the Book of Mormon is King Benjamin, who provided a group covenant, at the temple, by which those present became the sons and daughters of Christ:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)
It ought not be lost on us that this group covenant involved sacred space and an authorized administrator. Such will be required again if there is to be a Holy City.

Connecting Heaven and Earth

A third function of a real temple is to provide a literal connection between heaven and earth. Such connections are referred to in scripture as a pillar of fire, pillar of light, encircled by fire, etc. Such a fiery conduit connects the telestial earth to realms of higher glory. It enables association between the levels of glory and is the means by which heavenly messengers visit this realm.

The glory and power coming through such a connection are dangerous to this corrupt, fallen world. When such conduits appear in scripture, they are always temporary. But a temple provides a sacred space apart, where a conduit can be permanently kept open, and men and women can come into the presence of heaven, literally before the throne of God.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (Revelation 7:15)
Such a conduit is the means by which translated beings in the cities of Enoch and Melchizedek, and even the cities themselves can return to this world.

Lacking a temple, these things cannot happen, Israel cannot be gathered, the Ten Tribes cannot be restored, Zion cannot be built, Enoch cannot return, Christ cannot personally dwell here, and the earth cannot be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. (Article of Faith 10)

In other words, a functioning temple is quite literally necessary to save the earth, as well as those upon it who will receive salvation. Let that sink in. We need a temple to save the earth. Kinda gives a whole different slant to the “save the planet” environmentalist ideals, doesn’t it?

So Why Start Now?

Some have questioned why we should start the effort to gather funds now, when there’s been no command given by God, no location appointed, no design revealed publicly, and no indication of when these things will progress beyond concepts.

Here are some things to think about:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. 
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26-29)
  • We ought to be anxiously engaged.
  • We know the commandment is coming. 
  • We have the failure at Nauvoo to inform us. 
  • When the commandment comes, there will be a limited time allotted by the Lord to complete the assignment. In Nauvoo, that time was three and a half years. With the Nauvoo failure to inform us, I don’t expect the Lord to give us more time than they had. 
  • A construction project of this magnitude, from initial design to full completion and dedication will easily take more time than that. (Heck, it took months just to navigate the myriad legal, financial, tax, regulatory and liability issues involved in even beginning to gather funds for such a project.)

Therefore, if we have any sense at all, since we know the command is coming, we will do all we can to be prepared to hit the ground running when the Lord designates the location and tells us to get started. Suppose at that day we have funds at the ready, stand-by engineering plans for utilities, site work, perhaps even preliminary design work for parts of the temple, preparation and organization for supplies, labor, understanding of permits, required trade skills, and ready people who have already organized, having provided all these things by their sacrifice. Suppose that’s the case when we are commanded.

Well, then, we might actually have a chance of succeeding.

Remember, this is a mortal undertaking, to be accomplished by our own labor and sacrifice. It’s not going to happen by magic or fairy dust. It will not be built by angels or paid for by manna. If we “do not anything until we are commanded,” we will fail. 

Like I said, it’s taken months just to figure out how to begin gathering money so any work can be done at all. And then, as soon as the results were announced, a chorus of people who have no understanding of the legal, financial, tax, and other ramifications started complaining that it should have been done differently.

We can’t afford to burn time like that once the command comes, and we most certainly can’t afford to immediately condemn that which we don’t understand.

But What About the Poor?

Some have suggested, or even insisted, that we are, by definition, neglecting the poor if we save money for a temple, and that using money in this way may even offend the Lord.

Let’s review a similar objection made in the past:
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 
Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. (John 12:3-5, 7-8)
The Lord spoke truth when He said the poor we always have with us. In other words, money will NEVER cure poverty. We could all give all we have, for the rest of our lives, and never eliminate poverty—or build a temple. That’s two failures in one.

But the even greater point is that this was a correct and necessary use of money. Christ’s anointing by Mary was necessary to allow His resurrection. Without what she provided, Christ COULD NOT have broken the bands of death, attained unto the resurrection, and returned to Mary on resurrection morning. All humanity would have become forever miserable, angels to Satan, and subject to him, to rise no more (2 Nephi 9:8-9).

Remember what I said above about the body also being a temple? Mary literally anointed, or dedicated, Christ’s temple—providing him with the power of resurrection, and our own means of escape from death, hell and the devil. (2 Nephi 9:10)

Judas Iscariot’s argument that a better use of that money was to buy a few meals for the poor is not only absurd, but actually Satanic.

Of course we must do what we can to help the poor among us. But the very best way to permanently help the poor is to bring Zion—which is, in the end, the only cure for poverty. 

Conclusion

I’ll just conclude with a couple of thoughts. First, I absolutely support this project, and I hope I’ve made at least some of my reasons clear in this post. I have sufficient reasons to believe the things I've written here. Second, what I’ve shared is my opinion, and I don’t speak for anyone else, including the three women who have sacrificed and labored to provide a way for funds to be gathered. 

I know there are still questions about how the money is being gathered, and I hope to address some of those in a future post. Until then, my prayer is that the Lord will bless our efforts and help us prepare for what lies ahead.

The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.
—Psalm 11:4