Photograph by Scot Facer Proctor
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from chapter 3 of The Temple, Where Heaven Meets Earth, by Truman G. Madsen. To read Part 1 of this chapter, click here. Used with permission of Deseret Book.
When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were at the pulpit at the east end of the Kirtland Temple , they heard from the Lord Himself these words: “Behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. . . . And this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people” (D&C 110:7, 10).
Notice: “my name shall be here.” Solomon pled for that when he dedicated the ancient temple (see 1 Kings 8:28-29). What does it mean? There are depths beyond depths of meaning. You are required as disciples of Christ to come once in seven days and covenant anew to take upon you the name of Jesus Christ. In the house of the Lord you come to take upon you His name in the fullest sense. Why all the emphasis on fulness? Well, there is a promise that we will one day have a fulness of truth. That is temple-related. We are promised the fulness of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith prayed for that at the Kirtland Temple dedication (see D&C 109:15). And we are promised within the temple the fulness of the priesthood.
Likewise, we are promised that in the temple the Lord’s name will be put upon us. It means at its root that we become His. The answer to “Who am I?” can never be complete unless it answers “Whose am I?” You are the son or daughter of a King-the Father Himself. Through the ordinances you are begotten spiritually through His Son. You become heir to His throne. That is a worldly way of saying it. But it is true. An old Jewish proverb says that the worst thing the evil inclination can ever do to you is to make you forget that you are the son or daughter of a king. I don’t know how you can forget that in the temple. You take His name.
To receive Him fully is to receive the fulness of His Atonement. Think about it-the fulness of the at-one-ment that Jesus Christ wrought by the shedding of His own blood. The Atonement was, and is, to enable us to overcome, through His grace and healing power, three things: ignorance, sin, and death. Hence I often say that the temple is a matter of life and death.
“It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). This passage refers to a specific kind of ignorance. The preceding verse is talking about sealing, about coming to know by revelation through the power of the holy priesthood not only that Jesus is the Christ, but also that a relationship has been forged between you and Jesus Christ. It is a testimony that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that He is making you His. How do you come to know that? I can tell you that the promise does pertain to the temple. And we may come to a like testimony about temple sealings to our progenitors and our children.
The Savior said that He came that men “might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life, abundant life, is pluralized in the teachings of Joseph Smith as “eternal lives” (D&C 132:24).
You are all alive in several ways and to certain degrees. You are alive intellectually: you think, you study, you teach. There is, no matter what else we do each day, the life of the mind.
Then there is the life of the heart. The word in Hebrew is leb, “heart,” the inmost throbbing center. A hard heart is different from a malleable, tender heart. Christ’s heart is tender. Those who come to Him feeling mercy and gratitude for His mercy are tenderized in the very center of their being.
We seek life in another way. It is the creative life. It is lodged in the cry of ancient Israelite fathers and mothers: “Give me children, or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). This is the life of creation and procreation.
I testify that in the house of the Lord all three of these modes of life are enhanced and magnified and increased. Therein we are promised that whatever our age or the decline and disabilities that we experience here, we will one day enter in at the gate to eternal lives. On that day of renewal, we will emerge into a celestial condition, into the “fulness of the glory of the Father” (D&C 93:16). There the glorious privilege of priesthood, parenthood, and godhood come together as one. There, forever, will be the reunion of the separated. As this is the crowning ordinance of the house of God, it is also the crowning truth of the gospel.
President Brigham Young was once approached by two sisters, each of whom wanted a divorce. I paraphrase his response: “If you could only see your husband as he will be in the glorious resurrection, this very husband you now say you despise, your first impulse would be to kneel and worship him.” He said the same thing to husbands who had “fallen out of love” with their wives. Those are mighty words.
That leads me to the main and final point. I haven’t yet used the expression “fulness of love.” Consider this passage in D&C section 88: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things” (v. 40).
In the same way, only the virtuous know true love.
In religious tradition much is said and even canonized about how God is “absolutely other.” They say that not one sentence you can utter about human beings applies in any way whatever to God; God must be absolutely different, say they, or we could not love and worship Him. Joseph Smith died to get back in the world the truth that we are in fact in the image of God. In fact, that means that as a statue exactly resembles the person it represents, so man exactly resembles the nature of the Father and the Son. That’s the great and glorious secret. Man and woman are theomorphic; they are in the form of God. That is the foundation of divine-human love.
In some patterns of worship, it is thought that the way to convey our proper relationship to God is to cultivate darkness, magnify distance, use only the kinds of music, or words, or ceremonial procedures that invoke awe and even irrational fear. The testimony of the restored temple is that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ yearn not to widen that gap but to close it. In the house of the Lord we may come to Him in light, in closeness, and in holy embrace. He promises in latter-day revelation: “I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (D&C 110:7). That is love.
I testify, speaking as one who had to be converted to this, that the temple is many things: a house of faith, a house of study, a house of learning, a house of order, a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of glory.
But, surrounding all of those, it is a house of love. None of us receives enough love in this world, none of us. We’re all in a measure love-starved and love-anxious. The Father and the Son call us to come in the spirit of sacrifice and be surrounded by that holy environment which embraces us in love.
Remember that Jesus looked out over the holy city and lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem , . . . how often would I have gathered [you] together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). He repeated those words to the Nephites, using three tenses: I have gathered you, I would have gathered you (speaking of those who were wiped away in a terrible earthquake), and I will gather you (see 3 Nephi 10:4-6).
I suggest to you that here is another symbolic allusion to the temple. The wings of a mother hen are intimate, and protective, and warm. In 3 Nephi the Savior added another phrase about the hen and her wandering chicks: “I . . . have nourished you” (10:4). The Jews speak of the temple as the navel, the emphallos, of the earth, the very place that heaven brings nutriment to earth. Jesus wept because He had been unable to gather his people. Modern revelation tells us He wanted to gather them in order to bring them into His sanctuary to reveal to them and pour out upon them the glories of His temple. But they would not. They hated their own blood. Our generation is slipping more and more into the same mud.
I have stood on the Mount of Olives . There came down on me a prophetic and anticipatory sense that a day will come when He will descend in like manner as He once ascended from that very mount. Angels heralded His birth into the world. So I speculate that a choir welcomed Him home. We have been promised that some of us may be present to welcome Him as he descends. We will sing a new song. He has already given us the words (D&C 88:99-102). Inspired knowledge and maybe even memory will enable us to sing to His glory on that occasion. The very touch of His foot, His glorified and celestial foot, will change the world and eventually the whole human family. A temple will be in place in Jerusalem by then, perhaps more than one. There and elsewhere, worthy people will recognize Him and glory in His presence. This time there will be no tears except tears of joy.
I testify that this is true. I testify that temples have been built by the sacrifice of our friends and loved ones to enable us to reach them as well as the deepest part of ourselves. Beyond that I testify that in the house of the Lord, He, the Lord Himself, will manifest Himself in mercy and in love and give us the fulness of those blessings we all earnestly yearn for.