For Latter-day Saints, the Temple Is for Life Outside the Temple

Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. Photo courtesy the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at churchofjesuschrist.org.

These thoughts are primarily for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who generally understand what we do in our temples and why, and how the temple connects to the gospel of Jesus Christ as we understand it. In case that’s not you, and you’d still like to make sense of the following, let’s take a few paragraphs first and try to give you a foothold.

The Temple: Quick Background

In ordinary times Latter-day Saints meet for worship every Sunday, on our Sabbath, in the local chapel. (Sometimes we call it a meetinghouse or simply a church.) There are thousands of them scattered around the world; they are thick on the ground in Utah suburbs and cities and parts of neighboring states. In the rural Idaho village where I spent my teen years, we had one post office, no stoplights — and three large Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, including two on the same road, a mile and a half apart.

We have far fewer temples in the world, only about 200. These are closed on Sundays. A Latter-day Saint will go to the temple for his or her own rites only two or three times in a lifetime.

Short Take: Huldah the Prophetess

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the Old Testament and related scripture in 2014. Here’s this month’s “short take.”

King Josiah ruled Judah in Jeremiah’s and Zephaniah’s time. Tradition has Jeremiah teaching in the streets, Zephaniah teaching in the synagogues, and Huldah the prophetess preaching to women gathered to hear her outside the temple wall.

Josiah’s father and grandfather had led the people into idolatry, but Josiah’s desires were righteous. He began to turn his people away from idols and to repair and restore the temple.

During the temple renovation, Hilkiah, the high priest, found a scroll that had been hidden for safekeeping and long since forgotten. It contained the Law, the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Tradition dates it to Moses’ time and says it was open to a passage in Deuteronomy which prophesied destruction if the people disobeyed the Law. (See Deuteronomy 28:15-68.)

Knowing his people’s idolatry and shaken by the prophecy, Josiah sent Hilkiah and others to Huldah for her counsel.

She responded, “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil on this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book . . . because they have forsaken me” (2 Chronicles 34:24-25; 2 Kings 22:16-17).

However, she had happier words for Josiah himself: because of his righteousness and humility, this destruction would not be in his lifetime.

Jewish history says Josiah summoned his people to the temple, stood on a platform, and read to them from the Law, and the people renewed their covenant to serve the Lord.

There is no further Old Testament reference to Huldah the prophetess. Josiah reigned righteously for 13 more years, until 609 BC. The prophesied destruction came 22 years later, after new wickedness — without repentance.

Building Our Refuge

Author's Note
I was invited to write the front-page feature for my ward (congregation) newsletter for October 2014. This is based on a longer sermon from April 2008. 

We all have things in life which cause us to seek refuge – either refuge from our troubles, or at least a place where we can endure them in relative safety and find some measure of peace, kindness, and understanding.

There is a refuge for us. Its name is Zion. It is our place of safety, our land of peace, our refuge from the storm. (See D&C 45:66-71; 115:5-6.) In the temple we promise the Lord that we will build Zion – not someday in some other place, but here and now. This place where we live must be a refuge for us and for anyone else who may come here.

You might see a problem here: this place is where our troubles are. How can it also be our refuge?

I suggest four important refuges which together constitute our Zion. It’s important that, when any of the four fails to be a proper refuge for any of us, the others are already built and functioning.

What Mormons Mean: Translating General Conference (into English)

Every church or religion has its own vocabulary, which can easily make its meetings seem strange to outsiders. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are no exception.

Oh, boy, are we not an exception. We even think friendship is a verb; the ripples from this barbarous pebble are sometimes conspicuous. It’s a good thing the Lord is merciful. He gives us excellent, beautiful languages, and we insist on . . . But I digress.

A year or two ago, as I watched the first minutes of a Latter-day Saint general conference broadcast, I was struck by how many terms one would have to understand in the way Latter-day Saints do, in order to get just ten or fifteen minutes into a two-hour meeting. So this week I went back and watched the first 15 minutes of two previous conferences, making a list as I did so.

Here are some words and phrases you might have wanted to know, if you had been watching with me. The vocabulary will be approximately the same tomorrow, if you watch the first general session of the October 2014 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The definitions are brief, despite the temptation to be expansive.