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Why do the Latter-day Saints Build Temples?
HE Latter-day Saints are known and distinguished as a Temple-building people. They, in common with religious bodies in general, build houses of worship, which for the different sects range from humble chapels to great churches, imposing synagogs, spacious tabernacles and stately cathedrals; but for none of these edifices is the claim advanced that they are Temples in the true and specific sense of the term.
Be it remembered that Temples are not designed for purposes of general assembly or congregational worship as are church buildings in general, but for the administration of sacred ordinances. It is both interesting and instructive to note that this characteristic applies alike to heathen temples and to exclusive sanctuaries reared to the name of the true and living God. In pagan temples of olden time, the altar of sacrifice stood at the entrance; and though devotees thronged about the altar, none but the officiating priests were admitted to the actual shrine within the temple itself.
So also with the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was a portable sanctuary, constructed by the Israelites in their migration from Egypt; and so with the imposing Temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel and Herod, in each of which were spacious courts enclosed by outer walls, with altar and other equipment, within which courts the people congregated; but the sanctuary itself was a relatively small structure, reserved for the most holy ordinances and cere
monial ministry. Similarly the Temples erected and maintained by the Latter-day Saints are reserved for the solemnizing of sacred ordinances, and are distinctively other than meeting-houses used for public worship.
True to the Divine commission laid upon Israel, the Nephite colonists erected a Temple on the Western Continent as early as 570 B. C., about thirty years after their exodus from Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon informs us that this structure was patterned after the Temple of Solomon, though greatly inferior in size and splendor. (2 Nephi 5:16.)
The Latter-day Saints build Temples because they are commanded so to do through the direct word of modern revelation; and in this divinely imposed labor they recognize the purposes of God with respect to the salvation and possible exaltation of mankind.
Through the Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ the eventual resurrection of all who have lived and died is assured. This deliverance from the power of death is an essential element of Redemption; and Christ is the one and only Redeemer of the race.
By compliance with the prescribed terms as embodied in the Gospel, men may be saved from the blighting effects of sin. This condition constitutes Salvation; and since provision therefor is made effective through the Atonement, Christ is the one and only Savior of the race.
Great and glorious as is the boon of Redemption from the grave, greater and more glorious as are the conditions prescribed for the soul's Salvation, the revealed Gospel of Jesus Christ provides yet more transcendent blessings in the plan for Exaltation, whereby resurrected man may advance from one stage of relative perfection to another, with powers of eternal increase and never ending progression.
The laws and ordinances of the Gospel so far as required for Salvation-specifically the individual exercise of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, submission to baptism by immersion at the hands of one having authority, and to the higher baptism of the Spirit by the authoritative imposition of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost-these requirements may be met and the saving effects thereof secured by the living without Temples. But baptism for the dead, as also the endowments incident to the Holy Priesthood with its boundless possibilities of advancement, in short, administration of the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Christ requisite to Exaltation in the eternal worlds, can be solemnized only in Temples erected and dedicated for these holy purposes, for so the Lord hath declared. See Doctrine & Covenants 124:28-41.
As indicated above, Temples are not for the benefit of the living alone. Existing Temples are maintained for the salvation and exaltation of both living and dead; and the ordinances administered therein in behalf of the dead outnumber many fold the administrations for the living.
Vicarious service for the departed is peculiar to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and rightly so, for to this Church has the commission for this high ministry been given. In the last chapter of Malachi we find a vivid description of the condition of mankind in the last days, and a prophecy of gladsome promise. On April 3, 1836, in the first Temple erected in modern times, that at Kirtland, Ohio, a glorious manifestation was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in the course of which Elijah ministered in person to the two modern prophets, saying:
"Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi, testifying that he (Elijah) should
be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse. Therefore the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands, and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors." (Doctrine & Covenants 110:14-16.)
The requirements of the Gospel are universally applicable, to bond and free, to living and dead. In the plenitude of Divine mercy provision is made whereby the myriads who have died without a knowledge of the required conditions, or without opportunity of compliance therewith, may be ministered for by their living posterity. Thus the departed fathers, if they be repentant in the spirit world, may be made partakers of the blessings provided through the Atonement of Christ. "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." (1 Peter 4:6.)*
Spiritual Banishment Like Unto the First
N the Revelation written by John, the second death is
of the ungodly or wilfully wicked. Physical death is associated with sorrow; and the anguish of bereavement is often so deep that only the assurances of immortality and the
* See the author's "The House of the Lord," 333 pp., with illustrations of modern Temples, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah.
certainty of a resurrection can effectively palliate or relieve. The mere mention or thought of a second death is horrifying. What is this frightful eventuality? And is it to be the lot of the many or the few?
We have seen that a means of redemption is provided even for those who are cast into hell; and that every soul shall be resurrected in due time, whether he be righteous, or foul with sin. The second death, therefore, whatever its nature or extent, is a feature of the final judgment, at which each shall stand in his resurrected body of flesh and bones to receive the sentence of honor or of shame.
We are without scriptural warrant for assuming that the second death is another separation of body and spirit, or that the spirit shall undergo dissolution and cease to be. The spirit of man is eternal; and the resurrected body shall be everlasting. The soul knows not annihilation, neither loss of personality in an impossible Nirvana. You will be yourself and I myself throughout eternity, with quickened senses, amplified powers of perception and vastly increased capacity for happiness or suffering. Neither heaven nor hell can be gaged by the yard-stick of human conception.
In what then does the second death consist? John wrote of an event following the resurrection of the wicked and the pronouncement of judgment: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Rev. 20:14.) The "lake of fire" as elsewhere explained by the Revelator is the abode of Satan and those over whom he has gained power. The second death therefore is final consignment to the dominion of Satan, and, of necessity, banishment from the presence of God and Christ.
The condition of death that Adam brought immediately upon himself through disobedience was essentially a spiritual change, whereby he was shut out from the presence of God;