Lesson Helps: The Temple (John Taylor Lesson 20)

Ezra Taft Benson on the importance of teaching children about the temple:

I would like to direct my remarks to you parents and grandparents. I would like to share with you what I would hope you would teach your children about the temple. The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren. As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.

I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his. ("What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple," Ensign 15 [August 1985]: 8.)

(Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 251.)

Apostle Amasa Lyman's "temple preparation" discourse given at the Nauvoo Temple 21 December 1845:

Doubtless with most of the present assembly it is the beginning of a new era in their lives—they have come to a time they never saw before—they have come to the commencement of a knowledge of things, and it is necessary that they should be riveted on their minds. One important thing to be understood is this, that those portions of the priesthood which you have received are all essential matters. It is not merely that you may see these things, but it is a matter of fact, a matter that has to do directly with your salvation, for which you have talked and labored many years. It is not for amusement you are brought to receive these things, but to put you in possession of the means of salvation, and be brought into a proper relationship to God—hence a man becomes responsible for his own conduct. . . .

It is not designed that the things that are presented today should be forgotten tomorrow, but be remembered and practiced through all coming life—Hence it is a stepstone to approach to the favor of God. Having descended to the lowest state of degradation, it is the beginning of a homeward journey; it is like a man lost in a wilderness, and the means with which we are invested here are to direct us in our homeward journey. You then see the reason why you are required to put away your vanities, cease to talk of all those things which are not conducive to eternal life. This is why you are required to be sober, to be honest, that you could ask and receive, knock and it should be opened, and that when you sought for things you would find them. It is putting you in possession of those keys by which you can ask for things you need and obtain them. This is the key by which to obtain all the glory and felicity of eternal life. It is the key by which you approach God.

No impression which you receive here should be lost. It was to rivet the recollections of these things in your memory, like a nail in a sure place never to be forgotten. The scenery through which you have passed is actually laying before you a picture or map, by which you are to travel through life, and obtain an entrance into the celestial kingdom hereafter. If you are tempted in regard to these things here, you will be tempted when you approach the presence of God hereafter. You have, by being faithful, been brought to this point, by maintaining these things which have been entrusted to you. . . .

It is not merely for the sake of talking over these things that they are given to you, but for your benefit and for your triumph over the powers of darkness hereafter. We want the man to remember that he has covenanted to keep the law of God, and the woman to obey her husband, and if you keep your covenants you will not be guilty of transgression. The line that is drawn is for you to maintain your covenants, and you will always be found in the path of obedience, after that which is virtuous and holy and good, and will never be swallowed up by unhallowed feelings and passions. If you are found worthy and maintain your integrity, and do not run away and think you have got all your endowment, you will be found worthy after a while, which will make you honorable with God. You have not yet been ordained to anything, but will be by and by. You have received these things because of your compliance with all the requisitions of the law, and if faithful you will receive more.

You have now learned how to pray. You have been taught how to approach God and be recognized. This is the principle by which the church has been kept together, and not the power of arms. A few individuals have asked for your preservation, and their prayers have been heard, and it is this which has preserved you from being scattered to the four winds. Those who have learned to approach God and receive these blessings, are they better than you? The only difference is they have been permitted to have these things revealed unto them. The principles which have been opened to you are the things which ought to occupy your attention all your lives. They are not second to anything; you have the key by which, if you are faithful, you will claim on your posterity all the blessings of the priesthood."

(Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1999], 297—298.)

Three insights on the temple from Hugh Nibley:

In the temple we are taught by symbols and examples; but that is not the fullness of the gospel. One very popular argument today says, "Look, you say the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel, but it doesn't contain any of the temple ordinances in it, does it?" Ordinances are not the fullness of the gospel. Going to the temple is like entering into a laboratory to confirm what you have already learned in the classroom and from the text. The fullness of the gospel is the understanding of what the plan is all about — the knowledge necessary to salvation. You know the whys and wherefores; for the fullness of the gospel you go to Nephi, to Alma, to Moroni. Then you will enter into the lab, but not in total ignorance. The ordinances are mere forms. They do not exalt us; they merely prepare us to be ready in case we ever become eligible.

(Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992], 26.)

The temple is the earthly type of Zion, a holy place removed from contact with the outer world, set apart for ordinances from which the world is excluded; while it is in the world, the temple presents a forbidding front of high gates, formidable walls, narrow doors, and frowning battlements, dramatizing the total withdrawal of Zion from the world and its defensive position over against it.

(Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 27—28.)

A temple, good or bad, is a scale-model of the universe. The first mention of the word templum is by Varro, for whom it designates a building specially designed for interpreting signs in the heavens—a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe. fn The root tem- in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, "the point where the cardo and decumanus cross," hence where the four regions come together, fn every temple being carefully oriented to express "the idea of pre-established harmony between a celestial and a terrestrial image." Eusebius expressed the idea clearly long ago when he said that the church was "a great Temple, which the divine Word . . . had established upon earth as the intellectual image of the celestial pattern, . . . the earthly exemplification of celestial regions in their revolutions, the supernal Jerusalem, the celestial Mt. Zion," etc. Varro himself says that there are three temples, one in heaven, one on earth, and one beneath the earth. fn In the universal temple concept these three are identical, one being built exactly over the other, with the earth temple in the very middle of everything representing "the Pole of the heavens, around which all heavenly motions revolve, the knot that ties earth and heaven together, the seat of universal dominion." Here the four horizontal regions meet and here the three worlds make contact. Whether in the Old World or the New, the idea of the three levels and four directions dominated the whole economy of the temples and of the societies which the temples formed and guided.

The temple at Jerusalem, like God's throne and the law itself, existed before the foundations of the world, according to the Talmud. fn Its middoth or measurements were all sacred and prescribed, with strict rules for orientation. fn Its nature as a cosmic center is vividly recalled in many medieval representations of the city of Jerusalem and the holy sepulchre, which are shown as the exact center and navel of the earth. It was in conscious imitation of both Jewish and Christian ideas that the Moslems conceived of their Kaaba as not only the centre of the earth, it is the centre of the universe. . . . . Every heaven and every earth has its centre marked by a sanctuary as its navel. . . . At each of them the same ceremonies are carried out that are carried out at the Kaaba. So the sanctuary of Mecca is established as the religious centre of the universe and the cosmic significance of any ritual act performed there is clearly demonstrated. . . .

As the ritual center of the universe, the temple was anciently viewed as the one point on earth at which men could establish contact with other worlds. This aspect of the temple idea has been the object of intense research in the past decade. It is now generally recognized that the earliest temples were not, as formerly supposed, dwelling places of divinity, but rather meeting places at which men at specific times attempted to make contact with the powers above. "Though in time it became the dwelling of the divinity," according to Contenau, "originally it may have had the aspect of a temple of passage, a place of arrival." The temple was a building

which the gods transversed to pass from their celestial habitation to their earthly residence. . . . The ziggurat is thus nothing but a support for the edifice on top of it, and the stairway that leads from the same between the upper and lower worlds.

In this respect it resembled a mountain, for "the mountain itself was originally such a place of contact between this and the upper world." fn A long list might be made of holy mountains on which God was believed to have talked with men in ancient times, including "the mountain of the Lord's house." A great many studies have appeared in the 1950s describing the basic idea of the temple as a sort of antechamber between the worlds, and particular attention has been given to the fact that in both Egypt and Mesopotamia temples had regular wharves for the landing of celestial barks.

As the pivot and pole of the universe, the temple is also peculiarly tied to the North Star, around which all things revolve. At the same time, it is the place of meeting with the lower as well as the upper world, and the one point at which passage between the two is possible. That is why in the earliest Christian records the gates and the keys are so closely connected with the Temple. Scholars have often noted that the keys of Peter (Matthew 16:19) can only be the keys of the temple with its work for the dead. fn Many studies have demonstrated the identity of tomb, temple, and palace as the place where the powers of the other world are exercised for the benefit of the human race. fn In the fourth century there was a massive and permanent transfer of the pilgrim's goal from temples to tombs, though the two had always been connected. fn Invariably the rites of the Temple are those of the ancestors, and appropriately the chief character in those rites is the first ancestor and father of the race.

(Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, edited by Todd M. Compton and Stephen D. Ricks [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987], 357—358.)

Joseph Smith on the endowment:

The endowment you are so anxious about, you cannot comprehend now, nor could Gabriel explain it to the understanding of your dark minds; but strive to be prepared in your hearts, be faithful in all things, that when we meet in the solemn assembly, that is, when such as God shall name out of all the official members shall meet, we must be clean every whit. Let us be faithful and silent, brethren, and if God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourselves; be watchful and prayerful, and you shall have a prelude of those joys that God will pour out on that day. Do not watch for iniquity in each other, if you do you will not get an endowment, for God will not bestow it on such. But if we are faithful, and live by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God, I will venture to prophesy that we shall get a blessing that will be worth remembering, if we should live as long as John the Revelator; our blessings will be such as we have not realized before, nor received in this generation. The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same; and we shall finally enter into the celestial Kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever.

You need an endowment, brethren, in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things; and those that reject your testimony will be damned. The sick will be healed, the lame made to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see, through your instrumentality. But let me tell you, that you will not have power, after the endowment to heal those that have not faith, nor to benefit them, for you might as well expect to benefit a devil in hell as such as are possessed of his spirit. . . . for they are habitations for devils, and only fit for his society. But when you are endowed and prepared to preach the Gospel to all nations, kindred, and tongues, in their own languages, you must faithfully warn all, and bind up the testimony, and seal up the law, and the destroying angel will follow close at your heels, and exercise his tremendous mission. . . and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the Saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes.

(Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], .)

I preached in the grove, on the keys of the kingdom, charity, &c. The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed. The rich can only get them in the Temple, the poor may get them on the mountain top as did Moses. The rich cannot be saved without charity, giving to feed the poor when and how God requires, as well as building. There are signs in heaven, earth and hell; the Elders must know them all, to be endowed with power, to finish their work and prevent imposition. The devil knows many signs, but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus. No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something, and this can only be in the holiest of holies.

(Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], .)

Harold B. Lee on the importance of having a marriage solemnized in the temple:

Mine has been the rich experience, for nearly twenty years, of being entertained each weekend in some of the most successful homes of the Church, and, by contrast, almost weekly I am permitted a glimpse into some of the unhappy homes. From these experiences I have reached in my own mind some definite conclusions: First, our happiest homes are those where parents have been married in the temple. Second, a temple marriage is most successful if husband and wife entered into the sacred ordinances of the temple clean and pure in body, mind, and heart. Third, a temple marriage is most sacred when each in the partnership has been wisely schooled in the purpose of the holy endowment and the obligations thereafter of husband and wife in compliance with instructions received in the temple. Fourth, parents who themselves have lightly regarded their temple covenants can expect little better from their children because of their bad example.

In this day, the fashions, the sham, the pretenses, and the glamour of the world have badly distorted the holy concepts of home and marriage, and, even the marriage ceremony itself. Blessed is the wise mother who paints a living picture to her daughter of a sacred scene in an exquisite, heavenly sealing room where, shut out from all that is worldly, and in the presence of parents and intimate family friends, a beautiful youthful bride and groom clasp hands across a holy altar.

(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 242.)

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