Mother Hen Do you want the good news or the bad news?
The good news: we have temples!
The bad news: we don't have the fulness of the priesthood.
But let's focus on the good news.
Jesus lamented to the Nephites:
How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
(3 Nephi 10:5)
In our day, Jesus lamented:
How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!
Question: We wouldn't . . . what? What would we not do?
Answer: Be "gathered."
What Does it Mean to be "Gathered?"
On June 11, 1843, Joseph Smith gave an amazing discourse on the temple, priesthood, and hell (the trifecta!).
We have several accounts of his discourse. Let's look carefully at what Joseph taught about gathering.
1. "The reason why the Jews were scattered and their House left unto them Desolate was because they refused to be gathered that the fulness of the Priesthood might be [received] among them which never can be done but by the gathering of the People."
(Discourse, 11 June 1843–A, as Reported by Franklin D. Richards, p. , The Joseph Smith Papers)
2. "It was the design in the cou[n]cils of heaven before the world was. that the pri[n]ciple & law of that pri[e]sthood was predicated up[o]n the gathe[rin]g of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did every thing possible to gather the people. & th[e]y would not be gathered."
(Discourse, 11 June 1843–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. , The Joseph Smith Papers)
1. Who is gathered? 2. What is gathered? 3. Where are they gathered to? 4. When are they gathered? 5. Why are they gathered? 6. How are they gathered?
I think the answer to all these questions are found in understanding the relationship between three things:
(1) Gathering + (2) Temple + (3) Fulness of the Priesthood = ?
What Happened to the Fulness of the Priesthood?
Remember how in the 20th Century we were told to notgather anymore?
So instead of gathering . . . we stay put.
As Bruce R. McConkie taught, "To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area." (Bruce R. McConkie, “Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, 118.)
Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep, and doesn't know where to find them; leave them alone, And they'll come home, wagging their tails behind them.
The only place in the scriptures that uses the phrase "fulness of the priesthood" (that I am aware of) is in Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Given in 1841, it says:
For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
From this verse it appears:
1. The Lord restored the "fulness of the priesthood" sometime in this dispensation;
2. At some point before 1841, the "fulness" had been "lost" or "taken away" from the Saints;
3. The Lord required the Saints to build a House in order for the "fulness" to be restored "again"; and
4. The Nauvoo temple was not completed in Joseph's lifetime, so we do not know what the Lord may have restored through Joseph had he lived.
Little Bo-Peep fell fast asleep, and dreamt she heard them bleating; but when she awoke, she found it a joke, for they were still a-fleeting.
It seems like we've lost a lot in this dispensation already. (And here I thought we were doing better than the Nephites, spinning along on their hamster wheel of pride.)
During Joseph's day there was a lot going on; but after his death it seems like the Good Ship Zion lost some of its steam. I mean, as a Church, we've lost:
1. The fulness of the priesthood;
2. The law of adoption;
3. The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ;
4. The second anointing (for all practical purposes);
5. The rights and privileges afforded to women of the original Relief Society (see the series, "The Key of the House of David").
Is it at all shocking that without these things we are running on fumes ― especially when it comes to our temple worship?
Then up she took her little crook, determined for to find them; she found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed, for they'd left their tails behind them.
In this Series we're discussing what the celestial standard might look like for temple worthiness and worship.
1. All covenants involve the promise to love (sealing). Covenants are kept by lowering ourselves to lift others up (so in a way all covenants are covenants of condescension, which typifies the love of God).
2. We've discussed how covenants are not cumulative. They are cyclical. (The "covenant path" is not linear but round.) Neither are covenants chronological.
3. We want to focus on the aspects of covenants and of the temple that are eternal. Something is "eternal" if it is (1) endless and (2) unchanging. Laws of the Celestial Kingdom are eternal. We are also eternal beings (that is, our spirits).
4. Why would eternal beings, in order to qualify to enter the temple and make eternal covenants, need to follow anything other than eternal laws? (As examples, tithing and the Word of Wisdom are not eternal.)
5. What is the purpose of temple recommend interviews to determine our worthiness when none of us is "worthy" (except the Lamb)?
6. The Israelites refused the Celestial Law from God through Moses, and so they were condemned to live the "law of carnal commandments" which Christ fulfilled and cancelled forevermore (see 3 Nephi 15:3-6).
7.When we condition temple recommends on following the law of carnal commandments, we are taking a step backwards towards the lesser law. (It is like sending a Senior in high school back to Kindergarten.) This is a tacit rejection of the Celestial Law given by Christ (and shows we are repeating the same error as our forefathers).
8. The scriptures teach quite a different thing than a checklist to be read by a Bishop. Paul taught that the "end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (1 Tim. 1:5).
9.So what qualifies a person to enter into the temple? I presume the same thing that qualifies a person to enter into the presence of God: a "pure heart," as Jesus taught (Matt. 5:8). Words can lie. Appearances can deceive. Love cannot.
10. By establishing a sort of litmus test for entering the temple, haven't we positioned ourselves as the Pharisee from Christ's parable who said, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican" (Luke 18:11)? Are temple recommends treated as proof we're better than those other sinners?
11. We make the temple a "house of merchandise" when we grant entry in exchange for tithing. By putting a price tag on temple recommends, we affirm that the ordinances, tokens, and covenants of exaltation are available ― for a price. This is one way we pollute the house of the Lord (and is what Ezekiel called "extortion" (Ezekiel 22:12) = holding salvation hostage for money, which unequally discriminates against the poor, which Isaiah calls "oppression" (Isaiah 3:15).
12. History shows a pattern of temples getting destroyed when the Lord's people become hardened. The First Jewish Temple was destroyed by Babylon. The Second Temple was destroyed by Rome. The Nauvoo Temple was burned by mobs.
13. According to the Apostle Paul and Martyr Stephen, "the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48; also Acts 17:24). The living temple of God is the Body of Christ (meaning his family). It is the collective, invisible Church.
14. There was prophesied a 3rd Temple to be built (as in, a physical building), which will be the temple of the New Jerusalem.
15. We have continued to build temples even though we have not restored Zion; and the plentitude of temples has not produced Zion. Why is that?
16. Temple ordinances do not save us. They do not exalt us. Only Christ can. The temple is not Christ; Christ is the temple. The temple can point us to Christ, but it can also supplant Christ as the focus our faith when we rely upon the forms of godliness rather than upon God.
Let's talk about the word "endowment." I am not talking about the endowment of institutions like Harvard (whose endowment is worth $42 Billion).
In Part 19 of the Series, "Done by Common Consent," I said:
So what is Zion?
Zion is . . . a marriage.
Zion is a marriage that produces a family.
Zion is a marriage that produces a family of equals.
Zion is a marriage that produces a family of equal sons and daughters of Christ.
Recall that Christ is the Bridegroom and Zion is the bride. Keep that in mind while reading the following verse from Exodus, which is the only place we find the word "endow" in the Bible:
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
Well, this just got awkward. It is clearer if we read another translation:
If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and sleeps with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.
(Exodus 22:16, NASB)
And it is important to remember who the man pays the dowry to: the father.
The metaphor of Christ / Church (Bridegroom / Zion) makes more sense when we remember that while Christ has always been faithful to us, Israel has not always been faithful to Him. Endowment = Dowry (Dower)
In the old days, a bridegroom would sometimes give a dowry to his bride. A dower was a gift (usually property).
A dowry included at least three parties: (1) the groom; (2) the bride; and (3) the father of the bride.
The endowment includes three parties: (1) Christ (groom); (2) Zion (bride); and (3) the Father.
I know we like to think of the temple endowment as something individuals receive; but I think we need to understand that the temple is not about individual salvation: it is about the salvation of a people (Zion).
See if you can spot the three parties in this verse:
I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I ["Bridegroom"] design to endow those whom I have chosen ["Zion"] with power from on high; For this is the promise of the Father ["Father"] unto you.
So what's the dower Christ paid? What was Christ's gift to His bride?
Purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;
That I may testify unto your Father that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you.
Don't you just love weddings?!
A Wedding and a Funeral
Why don't we conduct funerals in the temple?
I mean, we're doing a lot of work for the dead there already, aren't we? So why don't we build basilicas filled with graves?
In American Society, there are two life-events for which the entire clan gathers:
1. Weddings; and 2. Funerals.
The point: what's odd about how things work spiritually is that the funeral comes before the wedding.
Now, I am not talking about corpse brides or zombie weddings. I hate to say this; please don't misunderstand (I am speaking spiritually): Life doesn't really begin until we're married.
That is, our spiritual life is non-existent until we join into union with Christ.
Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.
The temple was meant to bring Zion to the altar, where she might be married to her Sweetheart.
Moroni captures this image in his final message:
Awake, and arise from the dust, [see, we were dead and here we are reborn]
O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, [think of our wedding gown]
O daughter of Zion. . . that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee,
O house of Israel, may be fulfilled. (Moroni 10:31)
Here, the couple does not exchange rings. They exchange blood. Christ's pure blood. We were lifeless before His blood transfusion. Christ paid the bride price with his own blood.
And we want to squabble over cigarettes and coffee?
Recently my wife told me I am not very "self-aware" sometimes. I nodded and agreed. (What can I say? "Agree with thine adversary quickly," Matt. 5:25).
She was right, of course. I think we all need others to help us with our blind spots.
But I hope we are self-aware when it comes to our place in the unfolding Restoration.
For example, why is it we read about the Jewish Temples being destroyed by Babylon and Rome, and chalk it up to God's judgment for their wickedness; and then when our own temples get destroyed we think, "Hey, that's persecution!"
The Lord promised the Latter-day Saints:
[But if] they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them,
it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.
Temple Session . . . or Obsession?
Temples are kind of a Mormon trademark.
Other Christian churches don't have temples, so why do we?
And do we even need temples?
Well, yes and no.
Let's go back in time. Before the temple-building-years, there were the Zion-building-years.
Back in 1831-1833 the Saints sought revelation from God on all-things-Zion. And one of the cool things they learned was that God wanted them to build a temple as part of the coming Zion.
In fact, 2000 years ago John the Revelator described this remarkable temple (the 3rd Temple) which would be built in the New Jerusalem (see, Revelation 11:1-2).
Sadly, at some point we abandoned our plans for the New Jerusalem but kept as a carry-over our ideas about its temple.
Isn't that strange? We are left with temples but not Zion.
That's like keeping the engine to a car we no longer have. How far will it take us?
By July 1833, the Lord said the Saints' "inheritances" in Jackson County, Missouri had become "polluted" (D&C 101:6) (there's that word again!).
Finally, the Prophet was slain and the saints scattered.
Temple Ordinance Quiz
True or False. Salvation and exaltation are obtained through temple ordinances.
True or False. Salvation and exaltation are obtained through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I wonder if we should rewrite the scriptures to reflect modern sensibilities:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the [ordinances of the temple] with unshaken faith [in your leaders], relying wholly upon the merits of [your temple covenants, which are] mighty to save.
(2 Nephi 31:19, 21st Century Ed.]
If you think I butchered that passage, think again. Has anyone listened to General Conference, lately?
Last month President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk in General Conference called "I Love to See the Temple" and said:
"When we are worthy to receive such teaching, there can growthrough our temple experience hope, joy, and optimism throughout our lives. That hope, joy, and optimism are available onlythrough accepting the ordinances performed in holy temples."
Wow. I guess I need to spend some time in Summer School and brush up on my soteriology, because I thought Nephi taught:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and alove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.
(2 Nephi 31:20-21)
Lesson Learned:The temple is not Christ; Christ is the temple.
Objection, Your Honor
Someone out there is shaking their head. "Come on, Tim. The temple brings us unto Christ by moving us along the Covenant Path. We make sacred covenants with God in the holy temple, so what's the big deal?"
Parable Part 1
Once a young girl wanted to learn to sew. She dreamed of the beautiful gowns she would sew and wear to fancy parties and balls.
The girl went to her mother. "Mother, I want to be become a great seamstress. I shall design and create the most wonderful outfits! What do I need?"
Her mother said, "Well, you'll need fabric. And thread. And of course, you cannot become a seamstress without a sewing machine."
"Where can I find a sewing machine?" the girl asked.
"Sewing machines are expensive, dear," her mother said. "You will have to earn the money. When you have enough, I will buy you a sewing machine."
And so the girl, delighted, worked very hard. She cleaned the neighbor's house. She tutored the boy down the street. And after a long time she earned enough money to buy a sewing machine.
Her mother took her to the fabric store and they selected a beautiful Bernina sewing machine. When they brought it home it was the happiest day of her life.
She admired her sewing machine. She sat down at the table and looked at all of the buttons. Then she took some silk fabric and thread and turned the machine on.
She had no idea what to do. She fumbled about and made a mess of things.
In tears, she ran to her mother and said, "I cannot sew! What good is this machine if it cannot make me fancy dresses?"
The mother replied, "My dear, the machine does not make the dress; it is but a tool. It cannot teach you. You must learn to use the machine from another."
Parable Part 2
[For those of you just joining us, a sewing machine represents our temple covenants]
It was hard work going to night sewing school. The young woman had thick fingers that kept getting caught in the needle, and she hardly had time to learn to sew with all of her other hobbies and interests.
She graduated from her first-year sewing class and was given a certificate. She framed the certificate and hung it on the wall. (Never mind that she could not make a decent garment.)
However, while she failed as a seamstress, she had learned to make money saving up for her sewing machine. So she returned to business and made enough money to buy many pretty dresses off the rack at Nordstrom.
As she became a woman, the sewing machine sat in her closet, unused.
She found it was easier to buy things with money than to make things herself.
And they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely (Alma 1:27).
Let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands (D&C 42:40).
Parable Part 3
Years later the girl (now a woman) gave birth to her own daughter.
Her daughter admired the Sewing Certificate that hung on the wall. "Mother," she said, "I want to learn to sew. Can you teach me?"
Mother: "Of course, dear! I have a sewing machine here in the closet that I've been saving for you. I will teach you everything I know," she said, smiling.
Together they made socks and an asymmetrical hat. The little daughter was overjoyed.
"Mother," the little girl said with admiration in her eyes, wearing the lumpy hat, "You are an amazing seamstress!"
"I know, dear," the mother said. "I know." And the mother sat back, happy to be passing along the skills she had learned long ago in her sewing class, her gaze lingering on the Sewing Certificate displayed proudly on the wall.
If temple rituals are intended to symbolize us conversing with the Lord through the veil, what is the point if we do not, in fact, converse with the Lord through the veil?
Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.
I try not to use the term "buttress" in polite company, but you'll forgive me this once. After all, we're talking about the Salt Lake Temple's buttresses.
On the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of my master's program in history, I got married to my Sweetheart in the Salt Lake Temple.
I've always loved the architecture and history of the SL Temple. So you can imagine the way my ears tickled when I heard Elder Boyd K. Packer say the strangest thing I've ever heard in General Conference:
"Sixteen large, inverted granite arches were built into the new foundation [of the Salt Lake Temple].
"There is no record as to why they did that. That manner of construction was unknown in this country then.
"If someday perchance there be a massive force wanting to lift the temple from beneath, then we shall know why they are there."
(Boyd K. Packer, "The Temple, the Priesthood," April 1993 General Conference)
I guess for the coming calamity, we all need to get our buttresses in line.
Did Jesus Have a Temple Recommend?
Isn't it strange that Jesus never went inside the temple at all? Since He wasn't a Levite, Jesus wasn't allowed to go into the holy place.
But Jesus liked hanging around the temple grounds and making observations:
1. "Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise" (John 2:16).
(This is why Deseret Book stores are not built on temple grounds but are located temple-adjacent, I presume.)
Lesson Learned: Jesus called the temple His "Father's house," which had been (and always can be) polluted.
2. The Lord also said, "Ye shall not suffer that mine house shall be polluted" (D&C 88:134).
How Do We Pollute the Temple?
The Old Testament gives us a good grip on how the temple becomes polluted.
Isaiah's book begins with the temple (that's right ― first out of the gate and we find ourselves at the heart of the temple).
I have had my fill of offerings of rams and fat of fatted beasts; the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not want. When you come to see me, who requires you to trample my courts so? Bring no more worthless offerings. . . I cannot approve. When you spread forth your hands, I will conceal my eyes from you.
(Isaiah 1:11-15, Gileadi Translation)
I think the point Isaiah was making is that people were going to the temple and just "going through the motions" ― comparing them to the dumb animals they brought for sacrifice.
They didn't have real intent.
And as we learned from Mormon, if we
offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
What good is it going to the temple to redeem our dead if we are spiritually dead, ourselves?
First Estate Carbon Emissions
Pollution is a hot topic today (what with all the flatulent cows filling our atmosphere with CO2).
But pollution is eternal. Back in our First Estate, before we came to earth, we had a big problem with pollution.
What was it? Those seeking "honor" and preeminence (like Satan and his angels).
A war was fought over this pollution― the pollution of pride and status (which they thought entitled them to special privileges).
Then came the Christ, who chose Condescension.
And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down.
Isn't that strange? Aren't we all trying to "go up?" Don't we want to be exalted?
Christ came to be abased. To be despised. To be the servant of all. Whereas Lucifer wanted to be lifted up above others, Christ chose to be lifted up on a cross.
Moroni the Environmentalist
When Moroni was writing his farewell address to those of us living in the Last Days, he said the work of the Father shall commence
in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.
The "pollutions" he cites are all spiritual.
O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain?
Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls?
How do we use temples to "get gain?"
How do we use "worthiness" as a means of "transfiguring" the holy word of God?
Let's see, where did we leave off? We were talking about Jesus and what He said about temples.
"Destroy This Temple"
3. Jesus prophesied to the Jews: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19).
Was Jesus talking about the physical temple? No. He "spake of the temple of his body" (John 2:21).
Apostle Paul took this idea all the way to the bank.
Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(2 Corinthians 6:16)
Lesson Learned: Jesus's resurrected Body is a temple; but His followers (in whom indwells his Spirit) are also His "body," or temple.
WE (His children) ARE THE TEMPLE of the LIVING GOD!
So now this makes sense, what the Martyr Stephen swore in the presence of God:
The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet.
The Jews got so mad that Stephen would denigrate their temple that they ended up stoning him to death.
(Isn't it ironic that by killing Stephen, the Jews destroyed one of God's temples?)
And in case we thought Stephen was delirious under the hot sun, we have a second witness: Paul.
[The] Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands.
Question: So if God doesn't dwell in a house, where is He?
A Different Spin On An Old Favorite
Before we look at a favorite passage of scripture, we need to discuss the meaning of the word "ye."
In the King James Bible, "ye" is translated from the nominative plural of the second person. In other words, "thou" is singular and "ye" is plural. It is like the ancient equivalent of "y'all."
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
(1 Cor. 3:16-17)
It's great telling our children that their bodies are temples and that they should treat themselves with respect.
But I think Paul is also making a point about the Body of Christ (the Church) being the temple of God.
The temple of God is the Church.
Now re-read this passage in that light:
Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(2 Corinthians 6:16)
But the point I want to make is what it means for God to "destroy the temple."
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
(1 Cor. 3:17)
Question: What does it mean for God to destroy a temple (not a building, but the church)? Answer: Ask the Nephites.
They are driven about as chaff before the wind.
They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.
But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her.
O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!
(Mormon 5:16-18; 6:19)
Have You Heard of Pella, Fella?
In the year 70 A.D. the Roman general Titus destroyed the Jewish temple as Christ had prophesied (and remember, this was already the 2nd Temple since the previous one (Solomon's) had been destroyed by Babylon ― so we're seeing a pattern of temples getting destroyed by the wicked when the Lord's people turn away).
The history books make the siege of Jerusalem sound horrific. I'll leave out the gory details. But guess how many Christians died during the sacking of Jerusalem?
How can that be? Why did the Christians escape?
According to early Church Father Epiphanius, "For when the city was about to be taken and destroyed by the Romans, it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed. They sojourned as emigrants in Pella."
(Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 15)
Question: If the true disciples of Christ were warned to flee, what do you think the false prophets were preaching in Jerusalem as the Romans arrived?
False Prophets: "Gather! Gather to God's temple in Jerusalem! He will protect His people and His house from the Romans! God is with us!"
Too bad they didn't listen to Jesus, who said:
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Then let them which are in Judæa flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart.
When God says "flee," flee.
What's To Come?
Remember when Lehi prophesied to the Jews, calling them to repent? They thought he was crazy! They were the Lord's people; they had Solomon's temple.
Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations!
(1 Nephi 1:13)
Well, that was 600 B.C. Who cares what Babylon did back then, right?
Umm. What about in our day?
Behold, I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name.
I want to take you back 2000 years to the 2nd Temple Period.
Picture getting dressed in your finest robes and presenting yourself to the Sanhedrin for a Temple Recommend Interview.
Sadducee Zadok: Hello Timothy ben Byron. I am glad to see you. Typically we don't let Ephraimites serve as priests, but I think we can make an exception in your case. After all, your family is well known for its generosity in supporting temple work, having donated one of the brazen oxen that holds up the molten sea of brass.
Me: Thank you, Brother Zadok.
Sadducee Zadok: Are you prepared to enter the Temple?
Me: I think so, sir.
Sadducee Zadok: Well, I shall be the judge of that. But from the size of your phylactery and the broad borders of your garments, you have certainly made a good first impression.
Me: [Blushing] I am most humbled, esteemed one.
Sadducee Zadok: Do you sustain Moses as God's mouthpiece and prophet? Me: Well, I have never met him, but sure.
Sadducee Zadok: Do you pay a full tithe of your mint, anise and cummin?
Me: Umm. I don't really cook much. I usually pick up fast food on my way home from work.
Sadducee Zadok:Do you fast twice a week?
Me: [Embarrassed] Uh. No. I guess I am not a very good Pharisee, huh?
Sadducee Zadok:When addressing your elders, do you call them "Rabbi" and include their middle initials?
Me: Always, exalted one.
Sadducee Zadok:Do you eat shrimp or pork? Me: Only with cocktail and apple sauce.
Sadducee Zadok: [Shaking his head seriously] I am sorry, my son, but you are not worthy to enter into the house of God.
Me: Really? Why not?
Sadducee Zadok: Because you swore by the gold of the Temple.
Me: [Shrugging my shoulders] Sorry. It just slipped out when I saw all that opulent wealth. I blurted, "Holy crap!"
Example 2: Temple Recommend Interview
Okay, now I want to take you back 2000 years ago to the 2nd Temple Period.
Picture being nakedand presenting yourself to the Lord for a Temple Recommend Interview.
Hold on. Actually, we aren't naked because at the last second we threw a fisher's coat around our waist.
But we're sopping wet.
Jesus: Timothy son of Byron, lovest thou me?
Me: Yea, Lord; thou knowest I love thee.
Jesus: Timothy, son of Byron, lovest thou me?
Me: Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus: Lovest thou me?
Me: [Grieved] Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus: [Smiling] Feed my sheep.
What's the Difference?
What is the difference between the two types of interviews?
In Example 1, our worthiness is based on our social status, appearance, and obedience to carnal commandments.
In Example 2, our worthiness depends on love. If we love the Shepherd, we will love (feed) His sheep.
Instead of focusing on the absence of sin, the Lord looks for the presence of love.
After all, aren't we all sinners?
So why make a worthiness checklist to distinguish which sinners get to go to the temple?
Let this sink in. By holding a temple recommend, we put ourselves into the shoes of the Pharisee in Christ's parable, who said (comparing himself to others):
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
Sure, we may not be extortioners or adulterers. (Good on 'ya!) Maybe that's why we are like the Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7, who harshly judged a prostitute to be "unworthy" because of her sins.
("After all," Simon must have thought, "I am a righteous man who keeps the law! Unlike this fallen woman.")
As she washed Jesus's feet at supper with her tears, Jesus said:
Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.
Are we seeing a pattern? Jesus does not focus on our sinfulness; He focuses on our love for Him!
As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, " 'Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.' We must recognize that we are all imperfect — that we are beggars before God." ("The Merciful Obtain Mercy," April 2012 General Conference)
A man had a heart attack while eating a steak dinner at his favorite restaurant.
His wife cried out, "Is anyone a doctor?!"
A woman rushed over to their table. "Yes, I’m a Doctor of Philosophy."
The wife said, "Ma’am, this is serious, my husband is dying!"
The philosopher replied, "We are all dying."
Cholesterol for Christians
The "heart" is a symbol of a person's character.
How is our spiritual heart-health?
1. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in the blood.
2. Cholesterol combines with other substances to form thick, hard deposits in the arteries.
3. Too much cholesterol can result in heart attacks and strokes (read: death).
Question: So what is spiritual cholesterol?
Answer: Anything that restricts our ability to receive and share pure love.
Ideally charity would flow through our celestial veins freely (filling our bodies and relationships with the life-giving energies of creation and love).
The reality? Jesus said:
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
(Matt. 24:12) What happens when love grows "cold?"
Holy Anointing Oil, Batman!
Under the law of Moses, a person was ordained to the priesthood by being anointed with holy oil. This was to sanctify the person (Exodus 30:29-30).
Now, imagine taking the holy anointing oil (olive oil) and putting it in the freezer.
At room temperature the oil is liquid. But as it cools it begins to harden; the saturated fats congeal.
When love grows "cold" we see contention, pride, envy and lust multiplying (read: spiritual death).
Since anointing oil was a symbol of Christ (the "Anointed One") and of his blood (Gethsemane = "place of the press"), what does it mean when the priesthood of God "waxes cold?"
In other words, what happens when love is replaced in our churches with carnal commandments(i.e., "priesthood" authority)?
Come to the Temple
Question:Can a person whose spirit is filled with contention, pride, envy and lust go to the temple?
Answer: Sure! As long as they don't drink coffee.
"Pure" Love + Giardia? If a waiter at a restaurant filled our glass with bottled water, but the glass was smudged and dirty, we would probably not drink the water and ask for a different glass.
We want (1) the water and (2) the vessel to be clean.
I mean, it sort of defeats the purpose of having clean drinking water if we add leeches and giardia to it!
Now, hold on. I suppose if a person were thirsty enough ― desperate enough ― he may not quibble over a little filth and gulp the water down all the same. And that is what we see in terms of love, when people who are starved and craving affection will drink from most any cup, grime and all.
God's love is pure (i.e. "the pure love of Christ"). But what happens when His pure love is poured into lustful, prideful hearts?
In the Old Testament the Lord lamented how His people had “forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The point: hardened, sinful hearts have a tough time holding pure love any better than broken cisterns can hold water.
Paul taught that "the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (1 Tim 1:5).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
So let's take our analogy a bit further:
It appears the Lord wants us to be transparent vessels so that others can see through our hearts to behold His pure love within.
The Pharisees, on the hand, were like beautiful water vessels on the outside, elaborately decorated, which appeared to be worthy vessels.
But because they were opaque, people couldn't see the water inside was actually black as tar.
Temple Worthiness Questions
Our checklist of temple worthiness questions include "carnal commandments" (i.e., the requirements we associate with the lesser law).
Are we surprised? The recommend questions appeal to our Pharisee-mindedness because they focus on the "outside" ― on the performances and obligations that are Old School (by which I mean, Levitical).
Who can judge what is on our inside, anyway? Just smell my breath and check my wallet: that'll tell you what you need to know.
I would speculate that if the apostle Paul saw the recommend questions, he would rip the paper into shreds.
Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
When we return to Old Testament practices and carnal commandments, we are choosing to be bound by the law, which is what Christ freed us from!
Why would we call ourselves Christians if we believe we are saved by works of righteousness? Why would we consider ourselves "worthy" to enter the temple when we are demonstrably not living the celestial law? Why do we claim to have God's pure love while we exercise control and authority over others?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Oh boy. If there's one thing the Lord really seems to hate, it is boasting.
Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
Aren't we struck by the irony of recommending our own worthiness?
What Qualifies Us To Enter the Temple?
When we frame the question, "What qualifies me to enter the temple?", we highlight a fundamental flaw in the way we approach the temple.
Instead we should be asking, "Who qualifies me to the enter the temple?"
Answer: Jesus Christ
And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true;
And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.
I wish I had St. Peter's cell phone number.
I wish I could call Peter and ask him to come down from the Pearly Gates and set the record straight.
Oh, here is his number. Wait, it's ringing.
Me: Uh huh . . . yes . . . okay [I hang up].
Well, here is what I think Peter would say about our temple recommend interviews and recommends:
Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.
(Acts 10:15, NIV)
Golly. How long will it take us to learn this lesson?
If the temple is where we see God (it is His house, right?), then would the qualification for seeing God be similar to the qualification for entering His house?
So what are the conditions for seeing God?
I think we could make a good case that the fruit (or sign) of someone who should be welcome in the temple is . . .
[drum roll, please]
Someone who possesses God's love.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
And all the pure in heart that shall come into it [His house] shall see God.
(D&C 97:16) Can love really be . . . it?
Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Definition #1: Do we have "value?" Are we "worthy" in the sense that "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (D&C 18:10)?
Yes! Our worth is not measured in dollars but in the blood price paid by Christ for our ransom, which was infinite and eternal.
Under #1, when we're asked if we are "worthy," the answer is an unequivocal, "Christ showed me I sure am!"
Definition of "Worthy" #2:
On the other hand, if we mean we are "worthy" because of our righteousness, then we might have missed the entire point of the gospel.
Are we worthy of adulation and praise? Are we holy and honorable?
Well, let's make a guess as to who is "worthy" according to the scriptures:
Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book.
And I heard the voice . . . Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.
(Revelation 5:2-5, 11-12)
Under Definition #2, none of us is "worthy" (except for Christ).
In fact, Alma commanded his son, "Acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times" (Alma 38:14).
So if someone asks us if we're "worthy" under #2, the answer is an unequivocal "Hell no!"
What Should a "Worthiness Interview Look Like?
Imagine being welcomed into the bishop's office and he says:
Bishop: [Definition #1] I want to tell you how valuable you are, both to the Lord and to your brothers and sisters in the ward. Your worth is great. You are "worthy." We love you. How can I help? [End of Interview]
Bishop: [Definition #2] As you know, we are all unworthy in comparison to our Lord's remarkable righteousness and virtue. I say with Paul, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15).But I am so glad you have chosen to follow our Savior, and I want to bear your burdens with you. How can I help? [End of Interview]
What Does It Mean to be "Temple-Worthy?"
Of all people, Latter-day Saints seem obsessed with the idea of personal "worthiness" (which is likely an indication of how worthy we really are).
There is actually a third definition of "worthy":
3. Something fit for a specific purpose.
For example, a ship is "seaworthy" when it is constructed, outfitted, manned and ready for a voyage at sea.
But remember, a vessel is not required to be in perfect condition in order to be "seaworthy."
(Maybe the interviewer for temple worthiness is applying this definition?)
Judges in Israel Bishops are called "judges in Israel."
In American Jurisprudence, the three pillars of the judiciary are:
2. Impartiality; and
What did Jesus mean when He said, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man" (John 8:15)?
And when Jesus said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24)?
Ummm. Aren't most of our "judgments" based on mortal appearances?
How Do We Judge Something "Eternal?"
Are we capable of judging that which is infinite and eternal (by which I mean, each other)?
Usually we think of "eternal" as endlessness.
After all, eternal means to "exist forever; without beginning or end."
But there is another aspect of "eternal" which I think is equally important: "something valid for all time; essentially unchanging."
So we're looking for something that (1) exists forever; and (2) is unchanging.
Do we qualify?
Here's a list I came up with of things that appear to be eternal (maybe you can add to it):
1. God and His word (Moses 1:4).
2. Intelligence, or light and truth (D&C 93:29).
3. Priesthood (Alma 13:7).
4. Christ's atonement and pure love (Alma 34:10).
. Our spirits (D&C 93:23).
. The elements (D&C 93:33).
I wasn't too sure about #5 and #6 because although we exist forever, we seem to "change."
But didn't Christ "change" when he took a mortal body?
How can something be unchanging, and yet change?
D&C 93:33 says:
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.
Do the elements change when they combine with other elements (like Hydrogen when combined with Oxygen)?
In chemical reactions, atoms are rearranged into different molecules but they do not change their essential properties.
Are we like atoms (our eternal intelligences) who, through the process of being "added upon" (Abraham 3:26), can create new "molecules?"
The Celestial Law
In temple worthiness interviews we are dealing with each other's eternal spirits.
But aren't we also dealing with eternal laws?
What if being "judges in Israel" was less about judging people as it was judging whether something is eternal?
Hmmm. Let's pause for a second because this is sort of a big deal.
1. Celestial laws are by nature eternal. This means they are (1) valid across time and space; and (2) are unchanging. (Think of "they have changed mine everlasting ordinance.")
2. Is there any reason why, to qualify to enter the temple, we would need to follow anything other than the Celestial law?
3. Christ said:
I give unto you this commandment that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
[What is the "law" of Christ?]
And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection.
4. Let's consider the Celestial law of sacrifice.
5. This can be confusing because there is also a law of sacrifice associated with the Terrestial and Telestial kingdoms.
6. If each kingdom has a "law of sacrifice" that is different, then how do we know which law of sacrifice we're talking about?
7. In order to be exalted, do we have to live the Celestial law of sacrifice, or can we be exalted by following one of the lesser laws of sacrifice?
What is the Celestial Law of Sacrifice?
What are we taught in Sunday School lessons on the law of sacrifice?
Pay tithing? Serve others? Adam sacrificing a lamb obediently?
But what is the Celestial law of sacrifice?
Adam and Moses sacrificed animals in similitude (or as a type) of the Celestial law, sure, but the Celestial law of sacrifice requires something more than animal sacrifice, right?
For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
Christ showed us what it means to live the law of sacrifice on a Celestial-level.
He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
(Is He referring to his death or his birth?)
Jesus also said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).
I think this shows that the laws of the Celestial Kingdom relate to Condescension.
Covenants are Not Cumulative
Perhaps we should remember that covenants are not cumulative ― they are cyclical.
Because, you know, God's course is "one eternal round." So the "covenant path" is not linear.
(Think of birth and rebirth . . . worlds without end.)
To put the law of the Celestial Kingdom in context, we're talking about the path that the Gods themselves walk, the ordinances which They keep.
They are gods, even the sons of God -- Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come.
The Lectures on Faith say something about Christ being the prototype of an exalted Man.
What does that mean for us, and the Celestial law of sacrifice?
Would Christ pass the current temple recommend interview?
In the temple, we covenant to live:
1. The Law of Sacrifice
2. The Law of the Gospel
3. The Law of Consecration
These laws (dare I repeat myself) are not chronological; they do not stack on top of each other as if one is greater than the other.
When Nephi beheld the Condescension of God, he finally understood, "it is the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:22).
Charity is the "greatest of all."
In other words, love is condescension.
We covenant to love others through lowering ourselves to lift them up.
The Lamb is Worthy
The Lion of Judah was worthy to open the seals because he chose to become a Lamb.
All of the covenants we make are intended to cause us to descend beneath all things so we may ascend up.
What does all of this have to do with Temple Recommends?
Well, remember what we said about the Celestial law being that which is by God's word, or eternal?
Is Tithing eternal? (See my Series, "Thou Hast Made an End of Tithing" for an in-depth discussion of Tithing).
Is the Word of Wisdom eternal?
Objection, Your Honor!
Someone might say, "But Tim, can't Christ command us through his prophet to live a lesser law? President Heber J. Grant had good cause, I am sure, to make the Word of Wisdom a formal commandment."
Sure He can. But what if God only gave "lesser" laws to his children to their condemnation?
Rather than a "pass," what if it were actually a "curse?"
We labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.
I mean, the Law of Moses was a step backwards. It was not what Moses wanted. He wanted to bring his people into the presence of God (the celestial law).
But the Israelites refused, so they ended up with a lesser law and its incumbent lesser blessings.
But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
And the lesser priesthood continued, which [was] . . . the law of carnal commandments.
(D&C 84:24, 27)
So the real question is, Why would "carnal commandments" be the standard for granting entry into the Lord's House?