Once in high school our math teacher sat next to the overhead projector at the front of the class, writing math equations with his marker, while we all watched with fascination as a dryer lint sheet slowly crawled up his shirt and out his sleeve without him noticing.
Best 45 minutes of trigonometry I ever spent.
(Needless to say, I was not a math whiz.)
Does anyone remember what they learned in algebra and trigonometry (I never made it to calculus)?
Nowadays I couldn't tell my sine from cosine. But there's one thing that has stayed with me after all these years: the quadratic formula.
The quadratic formula is a way to solve algebraic equations that have squared integers (variables?). It makes it easier to chart stuff on graphs.
Anyway, here is the magic formula which high school sophomores everywhere get to cram before midterms:
What Does "±" Mean?
Notice the Plus/Minus symbol in the equation? It shows that there can be more than one answer.
How can that be?
I thought math was black-and-white. You know, two-plus-two-equals-four ― not five or three.
So how can there be more than one answer?
Because we're doing algebra, not simple arithmetic.
What does this have to do with Temples?
Well, spiritually speaking, it is tough for us who are stuck in an arithmetic mindset to think in algebraic terms.
To be clear: all of us have an arithmetic mindset.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we learn to rise above simple arithmetic?
Well, the good news is the Holy Ghost comes along and expands our understanding . . .
The Temple is Much More than Plus/or/Minus
In the above example, we find that the same equation yields two different answers (one negative, one positive) on either side of the y axis.
And if we can get two different answers on a two-dimensional graph, imagine what a fourth-dimensional equation might look like, spiritually.
What is a "Singularity?"
Once I was at Barnes and Noble and purchased a book called String Theory for Dummies.
I must still be a dummy because I still don't understand it.
However, something that fascinates me is the idea of a Singularity.
"In scientific terms, a gravitational singularity (or space-time singularity) is a location where the quantities that are used to measure the gravitational field become infinite in a way that does not depend on the coordinate system. In other words, it is a point in which all physical laws are indistinguishable from one another, where space and time are no longer interrelated realities, but merge indistinguishably and cease to have any independent meaning."
God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son--
The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son--
And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
There is so much more to the temple than just plus/or/minus.
- In the beginning, the Lord divided the light from the darkness.
- Then He divided the waters above from the waters below.
- And in the garden of Eden the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to multiply.
He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.
(Job 26:10, ESV)
Imagine the geometry we could do with the Lord's compass. Where would the coordinates lead us?
The city [of the New Jerusalem] is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width . . . its length and width and height are equal.
(Revelation 21:16, NASB)
Imagine what we could accomplish if we used the Lord's square to become "equal."
Are We Equal in the Temple?
The entire Christian endeavor is to become "one" as Christ is one with the Father, isn't it?
Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Does the temple make us "one?"
Who has heard something like, "I love being in the temple, where everyone is dressed in white and all of our differences disappear!"
Does the temple produce a feeling of unity merely by requiring everyone to wear the same attire?
Is conformity of dress the closest we're going to get to equality in the Church?
(Because if uniforms could bring Zion, the saints in Orderville would have been translated a long time ago.)
Have we created a temple experience that is largely framed by "outward appearances?"
I mean, the clothing, the brass door knobs, decorations, granite, soft fabrics, naves and transepts, all the stained glass . . . it conveys a sense of sacredness based upon aesthetic.
Question: When aesthetics become something we equate with holiness, have we obscured what is genuinely holy?
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Objection: "But Tim," someone might say, "I'd rather worship in a beautiful, air-conditioned building with my family dressed all in white than in a greasy booth at McDonald's."
Answer: How fortunate, then, that we can pass under the golden arches in either case!
The arch of your house is based on the waters; you make the clouds your carriage; you go on the wings of the wind.
(Psalms 104:3, Basic English Version)
I think the issue we need to resolve, then, is what "sacred space" requires.
What does spiritual Feng Shui look like?
"Be Not Moved"
If we were asked, "What is a holy place?" we'd probably answer, The temple.
So when we read the admonition to stand in holy places, is that referring to the temple?
Is that what it means when it says to "stand ye in holy places, and be not moved?" (D&C 87:8)
I guess we need to figure out:
(1) What are "holy places"; and
(2) What does it mean to "be not moved?"
There is something apocalyptic about these words. In fact, in 1831 the Lord provided some helpful context:
And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
[So now we know when we are. Moroni/Nephi told Joseph Smith on the autumn equinox in 1823 that "the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in" (JS-H 1:41). Personally, I suspect we are getting pretty close to the times of the gentiles being fulfilled.]
And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
[So this gives some clues to look for in a coming day, and it appears that when these things happen, the Lord will come again during that generation.]
But my disciples shall stand
[What if "stand" referred to standing in the presence of God? Remember when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and said, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God" (Luke 1:19). Or when Moses "stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face" (Moses 1:31).]
in holy places, and shall not be moved.
My favorite passage that mentions "be not moved" was written by the apostle Paul:
Now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, andbe not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
(1 Colossians 1:21-23)
What if the "holy place" was the temple of God, but not the one built by hands?
What if it was referring to where the Body of Christ was gathered? (Remember Part 7?)
Israel, Israel, God is Calling
Jesus explained something important about the future gathering:
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord?
And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is gathered; or, in other words, whithersoever the saints are gathered, thither will the eagles be gathered together. . .
This he spake, signifying the gathering of his saints; and of angels descending and gathering the remainder unto them.
(Luke 17:30, 37, JST Luke 17:37-38)
I have been suggesting, and will continue to appeal to you, that a hierarchy does not reflect the equality to be found in the Body of Christ.
Ergo, we are not "gathering" in the scriptural sense anymore; we are not gathering any more than the Jews in Jesus's day, who gathered to their temple (for all the good it did them).
So . . . the angels (eagles) gather the saints to a holy place (we're not talking about missionaries brining converts into the Church), or in other words, to a place made holy by the hope of them that follow Christ's gospel (you know, the gospel where He commanded us to "be one" and to be "equal").
Whilst those that remain in their edifices of inequality . . . well, see for yourself:
I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.
The Greek historian Herodotus described an interesting wedding custom in ancient Babylon.
Each year the most beautiful woman in each village was auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the proceeds were used to provide for the poor. (Herodotus, Book 1, Lanham, Maryland, 1986, pp. 186-187).
(Talk about a beauty contest I wouldn't want to win.)
Hey, at least the Babylonians cared for the poor, right?
Well, that's a good point. What should we learn from this practice?
For one thing, the folks in Babylon used their religious tradition to justify human trafficking as a form of good works.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over Babylon; for no man buyeth their merchandise anymore: The merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet . . . and slaves, and souls of men.
The Point: Babylon doesn't do things that seem "evil" ― Babylon makes things that are evil appear good. How else would Babylon get us to embrace "abomination?"
Starring . . . the Bride of Babylon!
Babylon builds the most beautiful temples.
Where else would the bride of Babylon get married, but in a temple worthy of her beauty and greatness? A magnificent edifice that reflects her position at the top of the hierarchy?
I mean, it's time we stop thinking of Babylon as a drunk john lying in a pool of vomit in some back alley in Amsterdam strewn with dirty needles and STDs.
Because Babylon is beautiful.
On the outside Babylon appears clean and holy. (That's how she entices us to come in.)
Looks can be deceiving.
Babylon is the False Image of the Bride Zion
We know Zion is depicted as a Bride. And so, of course, Babylon styles herself that way, too.
Babylon is the archetype of all false religion. She appropriates the customs, dress and language of the Bride Zion.
And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon.
(Talk about "cultural appropriation.")
What Does "Abomination" Look Like?
When we picture what "sin" looks like, do we imagine vices that are puss-filled, pox-marked, piss-smelling, putrid-looking, and poisonous?
Yuck! Those things are a real turn-off, Tim!
The devil knows. All the worst sins, the devil knows, are gilt with gold. They shimmer like silver. They repose on scarlet cushions in the image of respectability and religiosity.
And king Noah also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold.
The best way to deceive the "very elect" (if possible) is to make them feel at home: in comfortable chapels that serve as prisons ― in religions that draw away from the pure gospel of Christ ― manifesting a form of godliness without the power thereof ― promoting a form of righteousness shaped by status.
In other words, the land of Babylon is filled with beautifultemples that serve as traps.
Let's Repeat: Babylon is the False Image of the Bride
One of my favorite stories from Greek mythology is the tale of Narcissus.
When Narcissus was born, the seer/prophet Tiresias prophesied that Narcissus would live a long life only if he never "discovered" himself. ("He that finds his life shall lose it.")
One day while he was hunting, Narcissus grew thirsty and the goddess Aphrodite lured him to a pool where he leaned down and saw his reflection in the water.
He saw in himself the bloom of youth and the picture of perfection. Not realizing he was looking at himself, he fell deeply in love with his own image and refused to leave.
Narcissus died by the pool of water. He could not abandon his love. For himself.
Tragically, he trapped himself in his own image.
This describes Babylon.
Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
One More Time: Babylon is the False Image of the Bride
Okay, I think we're getting the idea that Babylon the Great is . . . great! She looks amazing. She has killer style. She is something we praise. She is someplace we want to be. She is someone we want to belong to. She is a religion that the we admire.
It's kind of like the way John the Revelator imagined the Anti-Christ: not someone with horns and black mascara torn from the cover of a heavy metal album, but someone who appears like Christ ("Christ-like").
As the Bible Dictionary states, Antichrist is "A word used by John to describe one who would assume the guise of Christ but in reality would be opposed to Christ."
Babylon (and its Great and Abominable Church) offers something called "carnal security."
And others will [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-- and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
(2 Nephi 28:21)
So What is "Carnal Security?"
Carnal security was coined by Nephi to mean the false assurance that we belong to Zion; it is the assurance of salvation based upon one's status.
"All is well," you see, because we don't need to actually be holy as long as we hold the right memberships, the right recommends, etc. Because God will save us as long as we have been initiated into "Zion."
Sure, God may beat us with a few wet noodles at the last day, but He will save us regardless of our sins because we belonged to His church, or we went through His temple, or we received His ordinances, or made special covenants.
Unfortunately, we notice (if we look closely) that the Great and Abominable Church has changed, added to, and subtracted from, the conditions of salvation.
So what is the new name-of-the-game? Well, anything other than the pure gospel given by Christ.
In other words, anything that will externalize our pride and make us idolaters.
And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity;
They shall go with their flocks and with their herds [this is religious imagery] to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
Is history repeating itself?
Why do people follow false prophets?
Why are false prophets credible?
What is appealing about their message?
I think we need to recognize the fact that false prophets are . . . prophets. They look like, sound like, walk like, act like, and are viewed as . . . prophets!
So how do we discern a true messenger of God from false prophets?
If a man shall come among you and shall . . . say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes . . . ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
Yea, ye will lift him up, [give him status] and ye will give unto him of your substance . . . because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well.
There is that phrase again; the same phrase Nephi used: "all is well."
The temples of Babylon are external monuments to man's works: modern examples of the tower of babel from which prophets proclaim, "All is well."
Christ warned us:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine . . . And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation.