Week 40 is scheduled for study Sep. 27-Oct. 3, 2021. The temple is a house of holiness, and starting with the Kirtland temple, temples have become training grounds for us to learn to be holier people.

Day 1

Referring to Doctrine and Covenants 109:24-28, Elder David A. Bednar said, “I invite you to study repeatedly and ponder prayerfully the implications of these scriptures in your life and for your family.”

Doctrine and Covenants 109 – The Lord wants to bless me in His holy house.

Today’s lesson is all about the “implications” Elder Bednar mentions in the quote above. The Kirtland temple was a gateway temple. It was unlike any other in this dispensation. Up to this point in time there were no temple covenants, no baptisms for the dead, and no endowment or sealing ordinances to be had. With the absence of all the parts of the temple we associate today with temple worship, what was so special about the Kirtland temple?

If you have been reading my commentaries for any length of time, you probably have heard me state on more than one occasion that what makes the gospel of Christ able to save us is the covenants we have available. Without covenants there is no exaltation, for God designed the gospel to work through the administration of covenants, and in no other way. He was the God of ancient Israel, because they were His covenant people. He had made covenants with no one else. His priesthood is only available to those who make covenants with Him. All the blessings we hold most dear in our hearts are available only because of the covenants that promise those blessings.

This is the dispensation of the beginning of the work of exaltation among the children of men. The Kirtland temple was the place the Lord required be built so He could begin the process of restoring the keys that bring exaltation to God’s children. This was where the Lord appeared and accepted the temple as a house built to His name. Because of their sacrifices to build the temple, God promised that they would be greatly blessed. He finished accepting this as a house of the Lord by saying, “… this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people.” As soon as he finished speaking and left, the heavens opened and one by one the ancient prophets, who held the various keys of eternal salvation for God’s children, appeared and bestowed the use of those keys on the prophet. These keys included the gathering of Israel, the gospel of Abraham, and finally, the sealing power. If this was the end of the blessings this temple offered, it would have still been worth the sacrifices made to build it.

This is the first time these keys have all been in operation at the same time and place. All are needed to exalt God’s children and turn them into a Zion people, a people worthy and ready to live with God, Himself. The next temple to be built (Nauvoo) had places for all these covenants to be administered to the people. This is another reminder that God rarely gives us anything spiritual in its finished form on the first round of application. Kirtland had no sealing rooms, ordinance rooms, nor a baptismal font. But those things were planned for in Nauvoo. The Kirtland temple is special because the purpose of the temple was more fully revealed in that temple. The other temples to follow exemplified the purposes of the temple with the actual covenants.

The Kirtland temple shows us that the purpose of a temple is for God to reveal Himself to His children. Yes, that can, and has been done, with physical visitations, but more commonly, we have God revealed to us through His answers to our prayers, greater witnesses through the Spirit of revelation, and by learning more perfectly His doctrines of salvation. The Kirtland temple also demonstrates to us that the Lord gives power to those with whom He makes sacred covenants. As we honor those covenants through faith-filled living, He grants us power in our lives, and miracles that demonstrate His love for His faithful children. He also promises those who make covenants with Him that He will fight our battles.

Please note that God never says we won’t be attacked or hurt. He only promises that we won’t ever have to go to war and fight our enemies, for He will do the fighting for us. Where else in the world can you find a promise like that? We live in a period of time that is characterized as a day when peace has been taken from the earth. The whole world will be filled with war and rumors of wars. Wickedness will abound. The only safe place to be found on the earth will be within the confines of holy places, like our homes, church buildings, and among the faithful Saints.

Day 2

Referring to Doctrine and Covenants 109:24-28, Elder David A. Bednar said, “I invite you to study repeatedly and ponder prayerfully the implications of these scriptures in your life and for your family.”

Doctrine and Covenants 109 – The dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple can teach me about prayer.

Sometimes our prayers are given to us and we may not even know what it is we are supposed to pray for. But if we are paying close attention to the scriptures, and the teachings of the prophets, we may begin to see in their teachings what it is we need to pray for. Section 109 is a good example of how this works. Look at Doctrine and Covenants 109:6-9. Make a list of each thing the Lord has commanded the Saints to do. Once you have your list, now read on from verse 10-21. As you compare your list with the verses 10-21 you will see that the prophet addresses each item the Lord commanded they do, and tells the Lord they have either done that thing or asks that they might be able to do that thing He has commanded be done. In Doctrine and Covenants 42:3 the Lord tells us that when He gives us a commandment and we do as commanded, when we ask the Lord to bless us for our obedience He will bless us to be able to do what is needed to keep His commandment.

We don’t always have to cast about trying to figure out what we should ask for. The scriptures are full of things the Lord wants us to accomplish. When was the last time we choose one of His commandments and prayed for the strength and capacity to fulfill that commandment? When the scriptures say to ask and it shall be given to you, this is what it means. The Lord has already revealed much of what we need to do in order to become better people, and to find greater happiness. But He rarely ever says in the scriptures, “(insert your name here) this is what I want you to pray for!” Instead, God gives us knowledge, wisdom, commandments (not a few), and then expects us to search out those commandments we feel we need to improve upon then ask for His help. This temple dedication prayer was given by revelation to the prophet, and it is a great example of what the Lord wants us to learn in our personal lives. Sure, not everything in our life will be already written in the scriptures, but there is enough in the sacred writings already spelled out to keep us busy praying for a long time.

It is important to note here that there are certain formalities observed in prayer talk that is demonstrated in this section. Have you ever noticed when you read the book of 3 Nephi that when the Savior prays to the Father he always puts forth his own credentials before God that testify of his worthiness to ask what he is about to ask for? Yes, we all know what Jesus did for us, and certainly the Father is more intimately aware of what Jesus did than any of us could be. Yet when the Savior prays to the Father, he is very formal and respectful. He always gives praise and honor to God then explains his desire and why he hopes the Father will fulfill that desire. Christ’s manner of praying sets a good example for how we should pray. Section 109 also demonstrates some things we should consider doing when we pray.

Will God listen to any heartfelt plea from one of His children? Yes, of course, just as we listen to any cry for help from our little ones. But as our little ones grow and mature, so too does our expectation that their pleas for help become more carefully thought through and more respectful and reverent. Whining is for little children, not adults. Adults should know better. Learning to address God with greater respect is one way to improve our relationship with our Father.

One last observation here on prayer and the scriptures. The Lord told Joseph to pray for the gift of tongues and cloven tongues of fire at the dedication of His house. Doesn’t it sound to you like this is what the Lord wanted to give to His children, but may have needed them to ask for it first? Cuz it happened after Joseph prayed for it, just like the Lord told him to ask for it to happen. Often we might be prompted to talk about something or ask for something in a prayer, and when we do, that is what the Lord wanted to bless us with all along. He was just needing us to ask for it. The responsibility is ours to ask for it. This process is all tied up in the Agency issue. God doesn’t force anything upon us, even good things. He waits for us to ask and to seek for it. Are we asking the Lord to send us His Spirit so we can be taught to ask for that which God wants to give to us?

Day 3

Referring to Doctrine and Covenants 109:24-28, Elder David A. Bednar said, “I invite you to study repeatedly and ponder prayerfully the implications of these scriptures in your life and for your family.”

Doctrine and Covenants 110:1-10 – The Lord can manifest Himself to me in the temple.

Here is the promise made to each and every member of the Church who goes to the temple (Doctrine and Covenants 110:8-9).

Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.

Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

Distilled to simpler terms, if we want the Lord to personally visit His servants in the temple, we need to make sure we attend worthily so as not to pollute His holy house. As a consequence of each member’s personal efforts to be obedient and clean before the Lord, He will, through the covenants of the temple, cause “tens of thousands [to] greatly rejoice.”

As I mentioned earlier this week, we probably won’t see Jesus personally in the temple, but everything in the temple points to Christ and the plan of salvation given to us by our Father in Heaven. It is in the temple we can become more comfortable with the revelations Christ has given us through His prophets. We will learn more keenly how to feel and talk to the Spirit while in the temple, if we go in worthily, and seek God’s comfort and direction.

Day 4

Referring to Doctrine and Covenants 109:24-28, Elder David A. Bednar said, “I invite you to study repeatedly and ponder prayerfully the implications of these scriptures in your life and for your family.”

Doctrine and Covenants 110:11-16 – The priesthood keys needed to accomplish God’s work are in the Church today.

The principle keys needed in order to exalt God’s children are the keys to the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, the gathering of Israel, the keys to the gospel of Abraham, and the sealing power. Forgive me if I have forgotten any other equally needed keys. These are just the first to come to mind.

I find it interesting and puzzling that the Father chose Moses, Elias, and Elijah to hold keys that wouldn’t be fully implemented until the final dispensation of time. That means that the realization of their callings weren’t fully realized until many thousands of years after their mortal deaths. But that is just a point of interest. The real issue here is that those keys were given to the prophet so the work of redemption and exaltation could commence in earnest for all of God’s children, no matter which side of the veil they are on.

Some refer to the keys as the rights of presidency. I think of priesthood keys as the rights of administration. The Prophet today exercises all the priesthood keys he has been given by administering the ordinances of salvation/exaltation to both the living and the dead. That is something that has not been done in any other dispensation. Limited ordinance work was practiced in the primitive Church, but nothing to the extent that we have today. And they didn’t have temples in which to do the needed work. The Lord was very clear with Joseph Smith that for those ordinances to be regularly administered, there have to be houses built to the Lord for that specific purpose. That is God’s commandment.

The priesthood keys that permit the work done in our temples is what sets us apart from every other dispensation of time. This is our unique privilege, and our unique responsibility.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 109 – Temple attendance

When we think of the kind of manifestations seen at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, we might feel a little cheated that those kinds of events aren’t happening with regularity today. It is important to remember that at the beginning of every dispensation the Lord provides greater outward evidences of His approval and power than later when the Saints are settled in and regularly practicing and keeping the commandments. This is normal.

Does the lack of miraculous public display mean that the Lord finds us lacking in faith? Does it mean He doesn’t care as much about us as He did about the early Saints? The simple answer to both questions is no. In fact, miracles still happen, and regularly do so in the Temple. People have many stories of seeing deceased family members in the temple or sensing the person for whom they are serving that day, or other family members there to witness what is happening in the temple. Many have seen the spirits on the other side of the veil participating in the baptistry while their work is being performed. How many have you known who have received answers to prayers in the temple, or received comfort in times of distress? Temples act as a nexus, a conjunction, or connecting point between worlds. In this case, between mortality and eternity.

Attending the temple doesn’t guarantee visions. What it does promise is that if we attend worthily, and regularly, the Spirit will become more operative in our life and we will become closer to the Savior and our Father in Heaven. Answers and directions from beyond the veil will come more easily and more regularly. It also means we will become more sensitive in our ability to recognize the Lord’s hand in our life, which means we will experience greater gratitude, and hence peace and joy.

For most of us, attending the temple, especially if we live near one, may feel routine, and nothing “special.” But most blessings routinely enjoyed take extra effort to appreciate as the special blessings they are. Just because our attendance may not be anything special in and of itself, it doesn’t mean that the blessings that flow into our lives from participating in the work of salvation with the Savior will be any less. If anything, regular time spent in the House of the Lord will cause us to feel like that the temple is where we want to be more often, for the noises and distractions of the world don’t usually invade that sacred space. It is a place of peace and tranquility, something sorely missing in today’s society. Our soul can find rest in the sacred space of the Temple.

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It Is Thy House, a Place of Thy Holiness

Week 40