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.
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.
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:
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.
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.