Elder Charles A. Didier of the Seventy taught:
“Every word is chosen for its particular meaning and inspiring, noble thoughts, elevating our souls to a new level of understanding. We truly have here an expression and example of divine language. . . .
“One word—just a single, simple word—can bring a variety of thoughts and influences. . . .
“Words can get things done, commitments fulfilled, or miracles accomplished. We may, because of words, be moved to tears or to laughter, feel great or miserable, be exalted or condemned. . . .
“Language is divine” (“Language: A Divine Way of Communicating,” general conference, October 1979).
Throughout scripture, inspired authors and prophets have used words to convey specific messages to readers. A careful look at the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin origins of words opens up a new level of relevance and application to our lives.
Let’s look at a few words from the Book of Revelation and a few that are connected to temple worship to see this process play out.
The temple is a significant symbol in the Book of Revelation, from the temple mentioned in Revelation 3:12 to the two witnesses teaching at the temple (Revelation 11:1–13) to the temple coming down from heaven during the Second Coming (Revelation 21:22). The word temple is from the Latin templum, meaning “a piece of ground consecrated for the worship of a god.” This Latin word is then composed of two other roots: tem, “to cut,” and plum, “exact.” These roots are significant because the Lord has established an exact (“plum” ) standard for entrance into the temple in the form of temple recommend questions. The answers to each of these questions help us and our priesthood leaders to know whether we are measuring up to the Lord’s standards for temple worthiness and whether we are “plum” with what the Lord expects of us.
In addition, the English word contemplate, which means “a place to meditate,” also derives from templum and reminds us that pondering the things of God in holy places—such as the temple–may bring revelation and understanding. Psalms 46:10 teaches, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and in Doctrine and Covenants 43:34, the Lord invites us, “Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” The temple is a wonderful place to meditate, and—based on the original meaning of the word contemplate—one reason for having temples on the earth is to provide a place for meditation.
The scriptures are replete with examples of individuals who have taken time to ponder and meditate, including Mary, Nephi, and Joseph Smith, among others (see Luke 2:19; 1 Nephi 11:1; Helaman 10:2–3; 3 Nephi 17:3; D&C 76:19; D&C 138: 1–11; JS—H 1:12).
Those who meditated received incredible blessings. They were able to connect with heaven and receive personal revelation. And as we find time to meditate and contemplate in holy temples, we, too, will find a deeper connection with heaven.
Speaking of meditating in the temple, Elder Neal A. Maxwell instructed:
“We are not merely to attend the temple mechanically to do the work for our dead, but when we go, we ought also to meditate and contemplate, perhaps having spiritual experiences there while at the same time we are doing what may seem to be a rather routine duty” (Notwithstanding My Weakness , p. 111).
So, the next time you find yourself in the temple, take time to ponder. Ponder each word and activity in the temple. Study how they interrelate. Contemplate how the understanding you receive enhances your life. If you meditate on these things with a prayer in your heart, the Holy Spirit will enhance your understanding and enrich your life.
Though at first the word profane might not seem to be connected to temples, we know that no profane thing can enter into the temple. The original meaning of the word profane (as in profanity) was, “not admitted into the temple with the initiates.” This gives further light to Revelation 21: 27, where, speaking of the temple, the Lord revealed, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Being free from things that defile us and that are abominable in the eyes of the Lord, will lead us to become innocent, honest, and pure. These attributes prepare us to enter the temple worthily and to enjoy the revelation that comes from within those sacred walls.
While not explicitly mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the endowment is evoked by the book’s many allusions to the temple garments (see Revelation 3:5, 18 ). Receiving a temple endowment is deeply personal and meaningful for those who are prepared. The word endowment means “a gift.” In this context, the temple endowment is literally a gift from God. Most Latter-day Saints are endowed before their missions or sealings while others who are endowed simply have a strong desire to move forward along the gospel path. Elder Russell M. Nelson reminded us that “every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house” (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001).
At the end of Christ’s ministry, the disciples in Luke 24:49 were instructed to, “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Endue, related to the words endow and endowment, means “to put on, to clothe, or to put on as a garment.” One of the purposes of the temple endowment is not only to provide a protection and a covering but to bring us unto Christ so that we might be redeemed. The gift of the endowment provides a chance to learn the gospel and to symbolically “put on” Christ.
In the Old Testament, we learn a bit more about the protection that comes to us as we fully apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. In Genesis 6:14, the Lord instructed Noah to “make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” The Hebrew root word for pitch is kaphar and means “to cover; make an atonement; make reconciliation.” That ark is a wonderful metaphor for surviving the storms of mortality! You see, as we “pitch” (cover) our lives with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can sail safely through mortality and land our souls on celestial shores.
One antonym of covered is naked. An Old English word, naked literally means “exposed, bare, or empty.” Amulek taught about being naked (or exposed) to justice when he said, “Mercy . . . encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice” (see Alma 34:16 ). Jesus Christ’s Atonement does indeed cover all people, and it fits perfectly, addressing our own individual circumstances. The Lord knows each of us, and His Atonement perfectly covers our needs, challenges, and sins.
Revelation 1:1 reads: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ. . . to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel.” The most common Hebrew word for angel is mal’akh yehowah meaning “messenger of Jehovah.” The Old English word aerendgast, used for angel, literally meant “errand-spirit.” What a blessing to know that angels are literally on errands on our behalf!
To that point, Joseph F. Smith wrote:
“When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants. . . . Our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth . . . may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh” (Gospel Doctrine , p. 435–36).
The Prophet Joseph Smith also penned:
“Enveloped in flaming fire, they [in the spirit world] are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith” (History of the Church, 6:51).
What a delight to know that our loving Heavenly Father dispatches angels in our behalf to give revelation, as in John’s case, in addition to guidance and comfort and direction. Just as John was visited by an angel, we, too, should prepare to receive messengers from Heaven.
Words are, indeed, powerful. Rather than simply reading the black words on the white pages, seek to find personal meaning in the scriptures by studying the meanings of the words chosen by their inspired authors. As you do this, you will be blessed. The Lord has promised that scripture study (not just scripture reading) will:
- Help you learn to respect God and keep His commandments (see Deuteronomy 17:19)
- Teach you to be prosperous and successful (see Joshua 1:8 )
- Light your path (see Psalm 119:105 )
- Tell you all the things that you should do (see 2 Nephi 32:3)
- Heal your wounded soul (see Jacob 2:8 )
- Lead you to act righteously (see Alma 31:5 )
As you take time to let the light of the word reflect in your life, take a few extra minutes to research words and their origins while studying scripture. As you do this, your eyes will be opened to a hidden world of significant meaning and relevant application. Slow down; take the time to truly study the words of God contained in scripture.
Below are some resources to help you discover the original meanings and definitions of words in the scriptures:
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The book of Revelation, brimming with seemingly impenetrable imagery and symbolism, can feel daunting in its account of the climactic conclusion of the world. But now, popular institute instructor and EFY director Eric D. Richards seeks to demystify John's prophetic visions in Preparing for the Second Coming. From the historical background of the verses to their modern applications and ability to prepare readers for the Second Coming, this unique exploration of Revelation centers on the words of modern-day prophets to illuminate the timely teachings found in this book of scripture. Look to the future with patience, hope, and courage as you come to more fully understand the transformative power of the book of Revelation.