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 Corinthians 3:16–17)
During my last trip to Salt Lake, I attended a live endowment at the Salt Lake Temple. It was a symbolic visit in ways that I did not anticipate, and exposed flaws deeply entrenched in my character. I fear that I may be deluded in thinking that if I am temple worthy (really worthy), I must then simply endure to the end and all promised blessings will come my way, eventually.
These symbols included distracting voices, changes to sacred ordinances, mammon, graven images, locked doors, back doors, and a multitude of Christs. Whether these represent any real-world problems is for the reader to decide. I choose to reflect on what I see in the mirror.
I arrived early enough to spend significant time in the chapel reading scripture. A couple and their daughter sat in front of me. Another couple and their son sat behind. Both couples carried on lengthy, ignoble conversations (in whispers, but loud enough to hear). It was interesting to have to fight to pay attention to scripture (metaphor) in the midst of all this noise (metaphor). Mostly, I lost the fight. I literally stuck my fingers in my ears, but to no avail. Not just did the noise still get through, but mild rage and repressed (passive, aggressive) thoughts won the stage. Naturally, I blamed them. Peace: poof. Spirit: poof. Contemplation: poof. Learning: poof. You’d think I’d be mature enough by now….
I very much enjoyed the live enactment of the endowment. As I anticipated, I found that it was much easier for the Spirit to teach through symbols when someone else wasn’t interpreting them. Additionally, there wasn’t any of that “HeartSell” marketing gimmickry. It was refreshing.
There was some hold up that kept us from being able to move from the Telestial Room to the Terrestial Room, so the officiators simply conducted the business of the Terrestial in the Telestial. This (shall we call it) detour was very likely the most pragmatic option. My reflections on how I personally substitute/modify sacred ordinances for the sake of efficiency are beyond this particular append. Leave it be said, that I am complicit in modifying virtually every ordinance and symbol to some “higher” end.
I’ve been in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple a fair number of times. Never at any time did the ornate and truly ostentatious accoutrements pierce my soul like it did this time. While pondering the experience in one of the side sealing rooms, two young women (remember, I’m 61, anyone less than 25 is young :- ) entered and gawked out loud. This was summarized by one who said (approximately, my words), “when you see the glory of this workmanship, you just know the Church is true.” I held no grudge against them. I stood there remembering doing the very same thing nearly 40 years before. In point of fact, for most of my church life, I have presumed that the worldly blessings and consequent offerings were a testimony as to the righteousness of the church. Even when it became intellectually obvious to me a couple of decades ago that this was irrational, it is pretty clear that I have harbored a deeply held, inward regard for such outward demonstrations of faithfulness. While standing there, my heart was pierced. I knew better. I stood convicted.
After exiting the sealing room, I stood before the locked door, further blocked by a fake plant that lead to the Holy of Holies; doesn’t this seem to be a pretty good metaphor for being hard hearted? I thought about how unlikely it was that I would ever be invited through those doors to receive the respective, supernal ordinance. I have since pondered the scriptures and teachings regarding the essential nature of receiving that ordinance while in this life. I have since pondered the question as to whether that is as symbolic as all other temple ordinances. Figuratively, I remain standing there, blocked by barriers keeping the Spirit out of my heart, and keeping me separated from the Lord. On the other side is a face-to-face interaction that requires no temple but my own, once clean and purified.
Exiting the Celestial Room, I studied a locked door leading to a back hallway and wondered if this is a back door used by LDS church authorities to enter the Holy of Holies.
As I threaded my way out of the temple, I gazed at a wide variety of artistic representations of events in the Savior’s life. I was impressed as to the number of Christs there were. Even if there was one that looked a little bit like the original, the vast majority could not be in His likeness. Joy has subsequently removed graven images of our Savior from our home. Over the last couple of years, I have marveled at the diverse opinions regarding Christ, even within the Church, many (most? all?) of which are unjustified by scripture. I pondered the image I vaguely recall from a dream several months ago that dispersed far too quickly, without interaction, and is now nearly forgotten (I have received no spiritual witness that it was actually Him). So many Christs. What stands out are the words,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21–23)
To know goes two ways, doesn’t it? Can I pretend that He knows me when I don’t know the great “I Am”?
It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am…. (Doctrine and Covenants 93:1)
Which is it? Should I temper my expectations that this should (must) occur in this life, and simply endure to the end (“stay temple worthy” ) in the hope that it will happen as part of some post-telestial progression? Or, is this very thinking exactly what Christ was talking about in the scripture above and said in a slightly different way by Amulek,
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. (Alma 34:33–35)
Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days. But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words! And I pray that the anger of the Lord be turned away from you, and that ye would repent and be saved. (Helaman 13:37–39)
But, of course, we are righteous. So, it simply can’t be the latter. Right?