Building the Temple

September 27-October 3

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Section 109 was the prayer given at the dedication of the Kirtland temple; it was given by revelation from the Lord. So at the dedication of the temple, Joseph Smith gave a prayer that was written by Jesus Christ. It was what Christ wanted Joseph to pray for.

One of the suggested readings for this week includes a section in “Revelations in Context.” As I read about the Kirtland temple being built, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship to the building. In so many ways, the story of the temple is my story and your story. We can find parallels between the construction of the temple and the construction of ourselves. I’m only going to be able to talk about a couple, but there are a million you can learn from.

Gradually revealed

One of the things you learn about in “Revelations in Context,” is that the vision of the Kirtland temple was not given all at once. When I say “vision,” I don’t mean the time when the Lord showed the First Presidency what the temple would look like. When I say “vision,” I mean that the Saints didn’t originally understand what they were building when the Lord first gave the commandment to build a building. In fact, the original revelation that held the commandment to build the temple was vague enough that the Saints thought they were building something that resembled a schoolhouse. Five months later, they were rebuked for not moving forward with constructing it, and then they finally started to get a move on. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams prayed about what to do with the building. A literal vision of the temple appeared before them, and they were able to look around the temple and “go inside” and see exactly what they were to build. Even still, the Saints now had a blueprint for the building but their comprehension of the temple’s purposes were still limited.

I think sometimes Heavenly Father reveals steps for how to proceed in a certain direction. He gives us a commandment, sometimes without a lot of direction, and our vision is often limited in what He desires us to become. We are looking to build schoolhouses, and the Lord is looking to build temples. Sometimes it takes us a while to get started on what He wants us to become. We kind of procrastinate working purposefully on ourselves. As we get started, more direction comes and our vision is lifted. The Lord usually requires us to get started before He starts guiding us more, and even then, He still usually only guides. I think it’s a rarity that the Lord gives us the end at the beginning.

The First Presidency may have received a vision for what the temple was to look like, but it would be a long time before any of the Saints could catch up with what the temple truly meant. They only received a partial endowment in the Kirtland temple; it wouldn’t be until the Nauvoo temple that they received their full endowment. Even now, I’m not sure any of us truly comprehend what the temple is offering us. The vision of what temples are meant to be is still expanding. It is still being revealed.

What we are meant to be is still being revealed. We’ve received a general vision for a blueprint known as the Plan of Salvation. Because of the Plan of Salvation, we know where we came from, we have a general idea of what we’re building though we can’t fully comprehend it just yet, and we know where we’re hoping to go. However, the full import of what we’re supposed to become as well as many of the details will only take form as we build along.

Times and Seasons

According to Revelations in Context, “A decision was made to ‘discontinue the building of the temple for the winter for want of materials and to prepare and get all things ready to recommence it early in the spring.” They took a break because they weren’t able to make enough bricks that had sufficient quality. Does this imply that they could have made enough bricks? Possibly. But they certainly couldn’t make enough of sufficient quality.

Perhaps this idea is obvious to some, but I never really considered the fact that they took a break on the temple, and I love this metaphor for our lives. Perhaps they could have kept trekking along, putting their heads down and muscling through, but the quality would have diminished. Instead, they stepped back and prepared to resume in spring. 

The Lord had given them a commandment to build a temple, and they took a break from fulfilling it. The Lord had chastised them once before so I can imagine He would have done so again if He had been upset about the break. The Lord does not withhold rest from us. He asks a lot of us because He wants us to grow, but He asks for diligence and not bull-headed sprinting. 

Because the Saints had chosen to be patient and wise in fulfilling their commandment, they were actually blessed to build something better than they otherwise would have built. A man named Artemus Millet arrived in Kirtland sometime after the break commenced. He was an experienced masonry builder from Canada, and he recommended stucco instead of brick. The stucco combined with broken glass and dishes would become the outside of the temple, and the temple would glisten in the sun.

Had the Saints just kept running faster than they had strength, the temple would have been of lesser quality. Because they rested, they were given what they needed to build the temple according to the Lord’s standards. Not only did they build something of higher quality, but they still finished the temple “on time.” People received the blessings of the temple before they had to leave Kirtland.

If we take a deep breath and listen to the Lord, He can help us know how much effort is sufficient. When He is asking more, He will give us the strength we need. When it has been enough and rest is warranted, He will still enable to finish His commands “on time.”

Built by amateurs

Much of the temple was built by amateurs. There were a few experienced builders like Artemus, Brigham Young, and Brigham Young’s brother, but most of the Saints had no experience building something of this magnitude. And everyone helped. The men and women, and even the children, helped. The children were the ones who gathered the dishes and glass to make the temple shine.

This can have a couple different implications for our lives. One of the implications is that those who influence our lives are amateurs. I think of the fact that I’m a mom, and it kind of makes me laugh because sometimes I still feel eighteen sometimes. But let’s be honest. I think there are very few people who are actually prepared for parenting. Even when you’ve taken all the classes and have all the best gear and have spent plenty of time with kids, there are very few things that can actually prepare you for the sleepless nights and the needed self-control in the mornings. And yet, even though I’m an amateur, it will mainly be my influence and the influence of my husband that shapes our children. Sometimes this can feel a little intimidating because I’ve never “built a temple” before; how on earth can I expect to do it right? But when we combine our willingness with the Lord’s capability, we won’t fail. Even when mistakes are made, 

Christ’s atonement can make up for it.

Sometimes the Lord uses the underdeveloped gifts within us to help build others and ourselves. Anyone who has held any kind of leadership calling knows how this feels. If you didn’t know it before, you very quickly start to realize you are not cut out for the calling. And yet, the Lord will take care of His people and in the meantime, He has weaknesses you need to develop and iron out. There is no better way to grow and learn than to jump in and build. This can sometimes cause problems because humans are imperfect and make mistakes that can hurt others, but this is the best way for the Lord to push for growth from all of us.

The Lord’s acceptance

There are a million other things we can apply from the construction of the temple for our lives Building the temple required sacrifice and following the Lord’s patterns. It was built by amateurs, and the Lord even allowed for the craftsmen to choose some of the details. It took the entire community to build it. After all these things occurred, the Lord accepted His house and there are some things we can learn from His words.

So the people have built the Lord’s house. The Lord appears to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and shares the following:

Doctrine and Covenants 110:6-7

6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.

7 For 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.

There will come a day, after you have “built” your “temple” when you will stand before the Lord. You will have spent your life in various activities that will build or diminish your character. People will have been brought in by the Lord at various times to help, and hopefully you will have learned that it’s better to do it His way than your own.

If we have done it right, the Lord will tell us that our hearts can rejoice. He has accepted our sacrifice, and His name shall be with us.

The Lord promised that He would visit His people in mercy in the temple. When you look at this from the perspective of building our lives, it teaches us something significant about the atonement. It was the Saints who built the temple from their poverty. They made sacrifices and acted and used all of their energy and resources to help create that building, and the Lord would visit them in mercy. This life will require time and energy and sacrifice. It will require ripping ourselves up at the floorboards over and over to make sure that foundation gets put in correctly. It will require huge paradigm shifts about what we think we know regarding the gospel and ourselves and the Lord. And even if we were to give it our very best, it will still be the Lord’s mercy that wins the day. When we arrive on the other side, we will know that all the effort and sacrifices we made were gifts from the Lord and His mercy; all of that effort was meant to build us, but it was still the Lord who paid for it. When we stand before Him, we will know our efforts were insufficient without His guiding hand and merciful atonement. All the times we had to painfully switch things up and rebuild, we will feel immense gratitude for the Savior and how He made it all possible. If we do it by His plans and power, we will have a “temple” that will be able to withstand time and eternity.

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