Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temple: Path to Purity and Peace

I have a Christian friend who is a great follower of Christ and dedicates his life to humanitarian service throughout the world. He was brought up Evangelical and has a wonderful Evangelical theology.  I asked my friend if he believed in the rebuilding of the Temple prior to Christ's Second Coming. My friend said he did. I then asked him if he thought the latter-day temple would serve any special purpose or if he believed the temple would be the mechanism by which Christ's millennial kingdom would be established?  My friend said no but, as he understood it, the future temple would serve as Christ's throne. 

This friend has had social encounters with several ex- or inactive Mormons who criticized the LDS Temple, the LDS Church and the standards of the Church for being too strict.  According to them, the LDS Temple standards like the Old Testament (OT) Temple are divisive and exclusionary when Christ's Church is supposed to be inclusive.  Doesn't the LBGT community make this same argument?

While the OT Temple was purposely divisive and segregated people into the priests and commoners, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, outwardly pure vs. impure; the Latter-day temple is to be established and accessible to all kingdoms, nations, tongues, and peoples. The Book of Mormon says, Christ invites all to come unto him: black and white, bond and free, male and family, and both Jew and Gentile. But the Latter-day temple doesn't do away with the requirements for purity. Holiness to the Lord is the whole purpose of this heavenly institution. Except, while the OT temple was concerned with outward purity, the Latter-day temple is concerned with inward purity.

Evangelical doctrine teaches very little about the purposes of the temple. This is not the fault of my friend.  It is just the consequence that temple theology is not taught in divinity and theological schools.  Evangelicals don't have temples so they don't teach completely about them.  They do correctly point out the purpose of the OT Temple was to emphasize our need for a Savior.

However, if you read what the Bible has to say about the purpose of Christ's Latter-day temple and its importance to us, we should immediately see that God's purpose for the temple is to benefit all mankind and not just God himself.

Isaiah 2:2-4: Temple will judge all nations and rebuke many peoples bringing about the long-awaited millennial peace on Earth.

Isaiah 65:16: God's people "swearing by the God of truth" brings about Mellennial peace and social equity.

Ezekiel 37:26:  Temple will serve to unify and purify Israel.

Daniel 2:35-44: Temple is the mechanism that destroys all false worship and establishes Christ's kingdom in all the Earth.

Malachi 3:1-5: Temple is the mechanism to purify the sons of Levi and judge and witness against evil in the world.

Revelations 3:12-21: Temple is not just Christ's throne alone but, after a little rebuke, chastening, and repentance, will be the throne room of the sanctified who will be enabled to sit with Christ in his throne with Him.

Revelation 18:4;19:8: God's people called out of Babylon by rejecting sin.  Second Coming likened to marriage covenant with God's people dressed in white representing righteous works.

Revelation 22:14: Only those who "do his  commandments" may enter into the New Jerusalem. 

What do you do in the Temple?  The temple is the place of covenant.  In addition to offering covenants to those who are deceased, the temple also offers covenants to those who are alive.   In the temple, followers of Christ make sacred promises to God to live the laws of obedience and sacrifice. So why make covenants? Isn't that an old-timey, Old Testament thing to do?

My wife Ruth had a great observation about the importance of the Temple and Temple covenants.  Some people say there is no more need or purpose of covenants.  Some people see commandments and covenants as limitations and only bringing guilt, judgement, and condemnation.

If Evangelicals see no importance in covenant making or covenant keeping, why would any evangelical get married at all? And why insist on having a ceremony in the Church?  Why not just tell people, "we are together now" and go with that?  What does going to the Church and having the pastor commit the husband and wife to each other before God to be faithful to each other in sickness and in health?  We all do this right? Why would we all do this if it didn't help? Similarly, physicians have a long history of taking the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm". Our government officials, military and public safety officers take oaths to defend the Constitution. Is there no value in this?

As New York Times columnist David Brooks said: “People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice—commitments to family, God, craft and country." -quoted Elder Perry, April 2015 General Conference.

Well, for the exact same reasons we value church marriage ceremonies, any Christian should see the value in making additional eternal covenants in the Temple which serve to restrain the natural man, purify and sanctify us.  Our natural man continually wants to take whatever it can get all the time.  But the eternal covenants of the temple magnify the grace and power of Christ in us, making weak things strong and endowing us with power against the temptations of the devil and the weaknesses of the flesh. 

God equates our relationship with Him to a marriage. Consider what level of behavior our spouses required of us before they were willing to marry us.  No one is perfect, but I'm sure there are some behaviors that would have been a deal breaker.  Our living up to any standard, and especially that our spouses marry us at all, is empowered by the grace of Christ. The standards of purity are a way for us to get real and see if we are being serious about accepting and applying Christ's grace or if we need more true belief.  What we don't want to do is go through the motions of religious observance and just be deluding ourselves about our sincerity. This is why Christ warned His followers not to take his name in vain or partake of the Lord's Supper unworthily.

The covenants of the Holy Temple will one day serve as a  standard by which the people can judge and select our leaders.  Today corrupt leaders are chosen based more on arbitrary merit, family and secret relationships and less based on personal virtue.  Consequently, we are surprised when our leaders are continually caught in all sorts of scandals and nothing ever gets better. Additionally, the covenants of the temple help end poverty by getting to root cause of poverty and disease which is many times impacted by substance abuse, idleness, sexual immorality, illegitimacy and broken families.  While we are all sinner, and not everyone who is poor is an immoral idler, scripture and social statistics testify that sin is a great contributor to poverty as well as the rich being unwillingness to aid the poor.

Why is government not the answer to poverty?  Government is great at taxing and then printing and distributing checks. But, the redistribution of wealth does nothing to address the virtue issues at the root of poverty.  On the other hand, when religion does its job to provide welfare and teach virtue, the poor would no longer need to be dependent upon government.  The bankrupt socialist government of the world need not adopt austerity policies that cut off the poor. Instead, religions need to perform their heavenly mandated purpose.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (New Testament, James 1:27)

Out of all the institution in the world; out of all the social, political or philosophical theories ever devised; only the eternal covenants of the Holy Temple will bring about the end to poverty, the end of racial division, the end of war, and the world peace that we all are hoping, praying and striving for.  Evangelicals love to say "Christ is the answer".  This is correct but not specific enough.  Scripture teaches that the atoning grace of Jesus Christ is accepted, administered, and applied though the covenants of the Holy Temple.

The covenants and standards of Christ's Holy Temple are not divisive.  All are alike unto God and all are invited into Gods presence based upon our willingness to repent and make and keep God's covenants.  The only thing that divides the wicked from God's presence is their choice to refuse God's help to restrain our naturally prideful, selfish, hedonistic, abusive, opportunistic and exploitive behavior.  

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