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The Saints have now been kicked out of Missouri. After a short stay in Quincy with some compassionate humans, the Saints now looked to Illinois for a new gathering place. It was mosquito-ridden and swamp-infested, but hey…it was home. The Saints worked to clean up the land and make it livable. They created a beautiful city, and they set to work on a temple as well as the Nauvoo House. The Nauvoo House was to be built as directed by the Lord, and it was also meant to be a holy place (though in different ways than the temple).
The Saints found themselves under immense pressure, trying to build their own homes, the city, a temple, and the Nauvoo House. They already had immense amounts of debt, and the Saints were impoverished. Both projects were meant to take precedence in the minds and work of the Saints, and yet, the progression of both construction projects was slow. Resources were limited. The temple was dedicated along the way so that ordinances could be performed before construction was fully complete.
The Lord asks for our all
The Lord was requiring a lot from His Saints. Nobody can deny that. The idea of draining the swamp is enough to make me cower in my air conditioning. The work and heart and soul that these people put into this city is staggering, and the Lord did not shy away from requiring it of them.
Doctrine and Covenants 124:55 And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my name, even in this place, that you may prove yourselves unto me that ye are faithful in all things whatsoever I command you, that I may bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life.
There was no, “Hey guys…as soon as you can catch your breath a little bit, would you mind building this temple? I really think it’s going to bless you.” Nah. The Lord commanded them to build it. He commanded them because He loved them and needed them to step up into tremendous blessings.
The Lord requires our willingness to sacrifice everything, and sometimes, I think we get the wrong idea about this requirement. We believe that the Lord requires everything at our expense; however, the Lord requires everything because our everything is the only step that will allow us to step into the kind of life that He lives. His requirement of our willingness to sacrifice all is a gift to us.
One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith is the following.
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”
If we want to obtain the high blessing of living with and like our Heavenly Father, we have to be like our Heavenly Father. Think of the kind of Being that He is. He is not worried about money or possessions. He is not afraid. He does not hold grudges (though He does make us repent thoroughly sometimes). If we want to experience His kind of life, we have to live that kind of life. The only way to live like Him is to give up our love for worthless, earthly things.
There is another beautiful, historical parable found within this chapter. As I share some verses, take note that the full, completed temple will represent us hitting that high standard of the Lord, namely exaltation. Anything else is…well anything but that high standard. As I talk about the progress that the Saints made on the temple, I want you to think about your own progress. I want you to think about what the Lord requires of you and what is sufficient for your own life.
The Lord can’t sacrifice His high standards because He loves us. He needs us to sacrifice our “all” in order to be prepared for His kind of life.. However, “all” can be an interesting term. “All” looks different for each individual, and “all” looks different at different times for each individual.
Let’s look at a couple of verses from this chapter to better understand.
When “all” fails to meets the standard
Doctrine and Covenants 124:31-32
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.
In order to better understand why I share these verses, you have to understand what the Saints are doing at this point. The temple has not yet been built, but the Saints have already started performing saving ordinances for the dead. They have already started getting baptized for those who have passed on, and they are performing those ordinances in the river rather than in a temple.
In these verses, the Lord teaches that He will accept those ordinances for now. The river isn’t much, but it’s all they have, and the Lord accepts that. In my mind, I believe He’s proud of them for that. Not all the Saints can work on the temple at the same time (too many cooks in the kitchen), and the Saints have an astounding to-do list in order to survive. And yet, they found time to give what they had to the Lord.
Perhaps we come from a home that didn’t give us the best start in life or perhaps we get cancer that puts us flat on our back. It makes it much more difficult to hit the high standards of meaningful ministering, deep family discussions surrounding the gospel, and finding ways to preach the gospel. The Lord does not rescind His commandments to make us feel better when we can’t “keep” them. However, the Lord does extend mercy because of His atonement. We don’t have to meet that high standard today. We just have to give our “all,” and our “all” will be sufficient.
Another thing to note. He will also help to know whether we are being sufficient. He let the Saints know that they were okay where they were at for the time being. He also let them know there would come a time when more would be expected of them. Your “all” is going to change at different times in your life. Ask the Lord to help you know what He believes is sufficient for where you’re at.
In the context of our lives
Doctrine and Covenants 124:38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.
Sometimes our “all” may look like a tabernacle that can be moved around. It’s not quite a river, and it’s not one of the glorious temple buildings that have been offered to the Lord before. However, it is exactly what the Lord’s people needed to be giving at the time. You may have a vision in your mind of what your “all” looks like, but that doesn’t mean the Lord agrees. I would imagine that a transferable tabernacle would have been an odd concept for many, but the Lord is extremely practical. His people were mobile, but they still needed a temple.
One of my favorite characteristics of the Lord is that He is practical. This has been a very necessary lesson for me lately. As I’m working to balance the differing priorities in my life, I have to listen to what He thinks I need to be giving. One of the responsibilities I’ve been given recently has the potential to become an overwhelming, daily project. When I was first asked to do this responsibility, I wanted to throw my hands up and not even go near it. If I got near it, I wouldn’t be able to escape. However, as I calmed myself down, I was reminded that my responsibility isn’t to completely change everything. I only needed to stay in tune with the Lord so that I would know what part I needed to play in this huge project. Though what I’m doing may seem small from the outside, the Lord knows what I’m sacrificing in order to make those small efforts. The efforts are small, but the sacrifice is sufficient in the context of my life. A tent-temple is probably not as grand as the temple we build today, but the sacrifice on the part of the Israelites was sufficient in the context of their lives.
Not yet finished
Last verse, except it’s not really a verse. More of a historical fact.
The Saints dedicated the temple basement before the temple was completely finished being built. Inside of the basement, there was a baptismal font where the Saints could start performing their baptisms for the dead instead of in a river.
The Lord’s beautiful temple was not yet done, but once again, it was sufficient. The Saints were able to move their baptisms into an unfinished temple. Though we remain incomplete, we can still do glorious work right where we’re at. The Lord will never cease expecting us to become a beautiful temple one day, but He is happy with a dedicated basement…for now.
The Lord is a Parent with extremely high ideals. There is no getting around the work that needed to be put forth to build the temple, just like there is no getting around the work that will need to be done for us to become whole, complete temples. He is also a Parent that is very accepting of our circumstances. Both can coexist. High standards and acceptance of circumstances are characteristics that are both absolutely essential to the Plan of Salvation; we are left without hope if we abandon either characteristic. Let it also be remembered that it’s made possible by the atonement of Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, God can bring His children home. He can lift us to His ideals and be patient as He lifts. We would do well to imitate His balance of both principles.