Cover image: Kirtland Temple, by Al Rounds.
For the Salvation of Zion
At the time D&C 94-97 was received, it had been six-and-one-half months since the commandment to build a house to the Lord had been given as now recorded in D&C 88. In the same revelation, the saints were also told to cease from lustful desires, from all their pride and light-mindedness and from their wicked doings.
Even though a temple committee had been formed and attempts made to get underway, little progress had happened in the building of the temple. Perhaps the efforts to cease from lustful desires and pride were also progressing at a slow pace.
So, in section 95, the saints are chastised for their failure to get started. Getting started whether it’s building a temple or a pure character isn’t always easy and doesn’t happen without faith, sacrifice and determination.
Perhaps the task to build a temple or anything else at the time seemed unsurmountable. It’s hard to imagine building a temple when you are trying to sustain life or a farm having recently moved to a new place. It’s hard to think of being pure in heart when you still struggle habitually with small worldly sins. But the path to building a house or holiness must follow a determined course.
The Determined Path
On Christmas eve, Juliane, a new high school graduate, boarded a plane with her mother. The flight was from Lima to a research station in central Peru. Her Father Hans-Wilhelm, a college professor, operated the station to study the flora and fauna of the amazon rain forest.
Unable to find another flight, the two travelers boarded a Lockheed L-188 aircraft with 92 other passengers. The flight from Lima was delayed seven hours because of weather, but because they wanted to be there by Christmas, Juliane and her mother boarded the plane in the middle of a rainstorm.
Ten minutes into the flight as the plane ascended past 10,000 feet, the pilot steered the aircraft into a fearsome dark cloud. Immediately there was heavy turbulence. The plane started lurching up and down, and side to side. Packages, suitcases, and Christmas gifts were tossed about the cabin. Passengers began to cry and scream. All Juliane could do was hold on to her mother’s hand and tighten her seat belt.
In the middle of the massive dark clouds, Juliane could see lightning strikes. Dozens of them.
Suddenly there was a bright light on the left side of the aircraft that filled the passenger cabin. Her mother exclaimed, “That is the end, it’s all over” and the plane tipped forward into a nose dive towards the ground. Juliane couldn’t hear over the deep roar of the engines.
Then, in a matter of only a few seconds, the engine roaring stopped and Juliane realized she was outside of the plane. All she could hear was the whispering of the wind. She soon realized that the plane had broken into pieces and she was spinning round and round in the air still strapped to her row of seats.
She looked to her side to the seat where her mother was also strapped in, and her mother was gone. Juliane was alone and free falling through the air at 10,000 feet.
The weight of the seat pulling on the seatbelt was squeezing her so tight and the pain so excruciating that for a moment, she lost consciousness. When she regained her senses, she saw the treetops closing in on her at over 100 miles per hour. Then, she blacked out.
She said, “I will never forget the image I saw when I opened my eyes the next morning. I saw the trees above me with the light gleaming through, I was lying in the mud next to the row of seats, and I was alone, utterly alone.”
With a near-fatal concussion, her left eye was swollen shut and her right eye was only slightly open. She had lost her glasses and couldn’t see. Her collarbone was broken, her left leg was cut wide open. She began to crawl around, almost blind, searching for her mother on the floor of the rainforest. She called out in desperation. She heard no one. She found nothing, but mounds of ants, beetles, spiders and mosquitos.
There was no sign of the plane wreckage anywhere around her, but she found a bag of candy which became her only source of food.
In the first few days of survival, she heard the sound of airplane engines overhead. But there was no way for anyone to see her buried under the canopy of trees and overgrowth that covered her. On the fourth day, she found a bench from the plane with three passengers. They had fallen head first into the ground and none survived.
She waited for help to arrive. None came. She hoped that someone would find her. No one did. She wished she hadn’t taken the flight in the middle of the rainstorm. But she had. As she waited and hoped and wished, none of her circumstances changed. Finally, she came to a determination: that she must save herself or die hoping and wishing.
Have you ever felt that way in life? Struggling to make progress. Waiting for the right circumstance. Hoping for things to change. Wishing you had the power to do what you know you need to do. I have.
If you look up the word “determine” in the dictionary, you will see one of the definitions is to “settle a dispute.” When you go to a judge, he or she will give you a determination. So it is with us. The first thing we must do when making a determination is to settle the dispute inside us. I want to, but it’s hard. I am willing, but unable. I set a goal, but in the difficult moments I falter.
I’ve learned that when trying to live a pure life, it won’t happen by chance. If you need to raise the standards of purity in your life, then remember Juliane.
When she found her determination and decided to move from the area where she had landed in the rain forest, she suddenly remembered her father telling her to follow the water, that streamlets turn to streams which turn to rivers and rivers lead to civilization. So, she followed the trickle of water to a stream.
As she followed the stream through the thick vegetation, she encountered snakes, spiders, and poisonous plants. The stream led to a river swollen and muddy because of the rainy season.
She floated down the muddy river. Each night as the sun set, she slept on the ground, in the rain, wet and cold. The mosquitos were relentless, crawling into her ears and nose. Every morning she faced the decision, should I continue or give up and die. Every day, she determined to move on.
After ten days floating in the water, she saw a small cabin. Inside the cabin she found gasoline. Her body was covered in maggots. She poured the gasoline on her arm and dozens of maggots fell off. She had second-degree burns on her back and neck from the sun.
Soon, several lumbermen arrived taking her to civilization, a hospital and eventually her father. Years later she returned to the jungle and found the wreckage of the plane. She was the only survivor from her flight. She credits her determination as the factor that saved her life.
I believe that the path to becoming pure in heart is similar to Juliane’s journey. We may find ourselves waiting in the wilderness where life has tossed us. We are hoping, wishing and praying for strength. But it also requires a determination to move. We follow a small stream—inspiration or a suggestion we hear in church. This leads to a river–a realization that we can change our daily habits. Which leads to a cabin or house where we find greater ability.
We’ve likely had times in our life where we have given in to habit and circumstance on the path to becoming more holy. But there are also times, where we say, in so many words, “No more. I will do what I can and should do. I am determined to start walking out of my jungle of sin and worry and habit, so to speak, … and will do so no matter what.”
Michelle Craig said, “I am reminded that John Stott, an Anglican priest, said, ‘No one ever drifted into holiness.’ Echoing that thought, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that ‘nothing worthwhile ever just happens.’ (Worldwide YSA event, March 2016). In other words, we need to be intentional and deliberate about developing the quality of holiness in our lives! Even the most ordinary of tasks, done with intention, can help our efforts to be more holy…. if I want my life to be holy—then I must dedicate my life to that purpose.”[i]
The Path to Holiness
President Russell M. Nelson said, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.”
Increased purity will protect us from the world. John describes the “world” as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn. 2:16.) Elder Bruce R. McConkie defines the “world” as “the social conditions created by such of the inhabitants of the earth as live carnal, sensuous, lustful lives, and who have not put off the natural man by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”[ii]
It is easy to let the world creep into our daily walk. When it does we often experience an erosion of purity and strength. Neal A. Maxwell said, “If we are not serving Jesus, and if he is not in our thoughts and hearts, then the things of the world will draw us instead to them! Moreover, the things of the world need not be sinister in order to be diverting and consuming.”[iii]
Therefore, we all, at some point in time and to some degree or another need to push the world out of our life and seek increased purity. And there IS a path to holiness.
Nephi tells us that Christ, being an example of holiness, showed us the path and was obedient to the Father. “And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them” (2 Nephi 31:9).
So what is the path to holiness?
Nephi continues, “I know that if you shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take up on you the name of Christ, by baptism….” Then, he promises the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
There is something powerful about being determined to follow the Son with full purpose of heart, with real intent. Sometimes, when we struggle to keep the world out of our lives we forget that it takes full purpose of heart to stay on the path.
What is full purpose of heart? Determination, purposeful effort and sacrifice. This includes writing down goals, accountability, and doing what is necessary. It does not happen by chance. I’ve learned that while prayer, fasting and scripture study are critical to holiness; we are more apt to shun the world when we are determined and willing to sacrifice for our end goal.
D&C 97:8 says, “Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.” Holiness requires sacrifice.
Establish a House
In D&C 88:119-120, the saints were commanded to establish a house, a house of prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory, order and of God. Was this command to build a temple or a pure life? It seems to be both. So, the commandment to “build a house” may be as much about you and me constructing a pure life as it is an actual temple.
D&C 94-97 contains some important principles we can follow on the path to holiness.
Endure Chastisement. In D&C 95:1-2 we read: “Whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation.” It’s never easy, when we’ve let the world creep into our thinking and actions, to hear that we are off course. No one likes to be told they need to repent or improve. But it may only be through chastisement that we can find deliverance from our habits or ways of the world.
I believe the Lord wants to bless us. He loves to bless. To help us, sometimes he corrects our actions so we can get back on the path to holiness.
D&C 101:2-5 says, “All those who will not endure chastening cannot be sanctified?” Why is it that we can’t be sanctified unless we endure chastening? Well first, let’s look at the definition of chastening which is to: “have a restraining or moderating effect on something.” When my habits or behavior start to go in a wrong direction, I need a restraining effect. I need help in pushing me back onto the path.
Perhaps we don’t like chastening because we feel it is judgment or condemnation. Yet, as we come to know the nature of Jesus Christ and his atonement, we see that there is no condemnation—only a desire to keep us safe and happy.
This is similar to when I restrain my one-year old grandson. I want to moderate or restrain some of his behavior—when he hits his cousin, walks into the street or even gets a little ornery, his behavior may be restrained or moderated. How I feel about him doesn’t change. I love him dearly. I understand he is young and has a lot of learning to do.
I believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, looks at us similarly. We have a lot of learning to do and he wants us to be happy. And he invites us to endure chastening (restraining or moderating) so we can be happy.
Build a House of Holiness. In D&C 95:3-4, the Lord tells the saints he wants a temple built so he can prepare the apostles to prune his vineyard and bring about a “strange act” and pour his spirit upon all flesh.
At the time, there was great work for the apostles yet to do. They would soon preach to and convert thousands of saints in Canada and Britain. They would build a temple and receive glorious revelations. They would establish the church in the west. Surely, they needed to be endowed with power to bring forth these great events. And surely, these great events could only come about after they were endowed with power.
I wonder similarly, if the Lord has “strange acts” planned for you and me. And he is waiting for us to build a house or life that is pure and holy. Or at least begin the determined path to becoming pure and holy. I suspect we would be surprised of what is waiting once we become separate from Babylon and the things of the world. Increased godliness could be waiting on our efforts.
Be Willing. D&C 95:6 says that some of us have been ordained but not chosen because we are “walking in darkness at noon-day.” Could our pride and arrogance in thinking we know what is best for us cause us to be blind at noon-day? It’s tempting in today’s world to discount the words of the Prophets. Perhaps what they say is hard to accept or even contrary to what our friends or our favorite online influencers say.
Perhaps our habits cause us to ignore the promptings that come to us. Maybe our mood keeps us from listening or attending Sunday school where we could hear inspired words to help us become more holy. In these ways we could be blind to the very things that could enlighten and help us.
Perhaps we are defensive and unwilling because what is asked of us is hard to do. Likewise, when the saints received D&C 95, many had recently moved to Kirtland, left behind farms, wealth and an established way of life to join the saints. Now some were poverty stricken and they were receiving a revelation of chastisement for dragging their feet in getting started. You can see it would be easy to begrudge being asked to make even more of a sacrifice.
You see in every circumstance that comes our way in life and in learning, we have a choice. We can choose to see the purpose and be willing, or be defensive preventing the blessings that could come our way.
We only need to look to the example of what happened after D&C 95 was received. After Joseph Smith received the revelation, “several brethren traveled to the building site, removed a fence, and leveled a field of wheat that had previously been planted by the Smith family. After the grain was cleared, Hyrum Smith commenced digging a trench for the wall.”[iv]
Observe Covenants by Sacrifice.
In the building work of a holy life, D&C 95:11-12 says: “If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it. If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.”
H. Aldridge Gillespie said, “Now it is time to ‘bind [ourselves] to act in all holiness before [the Lord].’ In other words, … we need to decide on specific actions to bring about needed changes in our lives. This action is called faith, and the changes are repentance. Blessings always follow these two principles. If we do not take action quickly, then the very thing which could have sanctified us may turn to our condemnation.”[v]
The path to holiness is paved with repentance. It is also paved with commandments. For example, one commandment that will help us find greater purity and holiness is the commandment to keep the sabbath holy. The sabbath day, if properly observed, is a dress rehearsal for the rest of the week. It allows us to practice putting the world aside and Christ in front for a period of time each week.
“Jesus taught, ‘The sabbath was made for man.’ What does that mean? It means for a man to have the joy and happiness which the gospel promises, on this day he must sacrifice the world, set aside his employment as possible, and keep the eternal covenant of the Sabbath day.”[vi]
It seems that there is an ever-changing standard of what is right and wrong. So much is written, said, criticized and scrutinized in the social media world we live in. “We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.”[vii]
As we seek to become holy, we will likely not travel a direct course. We will need to “work out” our salvation. In other words, try and try again. Each time repenting, determining and adding strength to our ability.
Neal A. Maxwell said, “Given the tremendous importance of [the virtues to become Godly] now and in the world to come, should we be surprised if, to hasten the process, the Lord gives us, individually, the relevant and necessary clinical experiences? We do not usually seek these, however. Yet they seem to come, don’t they, even when we do not remember having signed up for a particular course? Sometimes we find ourselves enrolled again in the same course. Apparently we were only auditing before; perhaps this time it can be for credit!”[viii]
It’s easy to give in and let the world lead our life. We may think that path has less stress and more ease. But most of us have learned by hard experience that it is not the easy path. It is on the path to holiness that we learn about our Father and how to see what he sees and know what he knows. On this path we begin to be like him. So no matter what, stay on the path. There is joy and safety there.
Holiness to the Lord
Psalms 76 calls Zion God’s dwelling place. Obadiah 1 says, “In Zion shall be holiness.” Moses 7 says that the people shall be called Zion because they are of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness. Zion is the destination of our path to holiness. D&C 97:21 says, “For this is Zion—the pure in heart.”
Just as God wanted the saints to build a house so he could instruct teach them about godliness he also wants us to build holiness in our life so he can instruct us how to become like him or in other words–godly.
If you travel to Washington DC, the most obvious sight you will see, even from a distance, is the Washington monument. It is an awe-inspiring reminder of George Washington’s greatness. The monument, like the man, stands in no one’s shadow.
A joint resolution passed on July 5, 1876 commissioned the building of the monument. The height of the structure is 10 x the width of the base and stands 555 feet five and one quarter inches tall. By law, no building in Washington DC can be taller than the monument.
Atop the monument is an aluminum cap, on that cap there is an inscription, two words: Laus Deo. Meaning Praise to God.
These words stand taller than any other in the city. Praise to God. Be grateful for what you have. Give thanks. Give Praise to God and other people. Give praise rather than criticism. Choose the positive before the negative. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we let those words create the world of our country and our lives?
In the first chapter of Genesis God’s words created the light, seas, land, and world we live in today. It’s no different for us today. The words we read, listen to, speak, and follow construct the light, world and reality of our life.
Standing atop modern-day temples are the words “Holiness to the Lord.” Wouldn’t it be remarkable if we let those words adorn our life and create our world. What if, like the temple, we were dedicated to the cause of holiness?
Remember, purity does not happen by chance. It requires a determination, full purpose of heart, real intent, willingness to repent, and sacrifice in keeping the commandments of God. May we all strive to walk a bit straighter on our path to holiness.
[i] Michelle D. Craig, Lessons Learned from the Salt Lake Temple, BYU Pathway Worldwide Devotional, October 2020.
[ii] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 847.
[iii] Neal A. Maxwell, In Him All Things Hold Together, BYU Speeches.
[iv] The Kirtland Temple, Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material.
[v] H. Aldridge Gillespie, The Blessings of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, October 2000 conference.
[vii] David R. Stone, Zion in the Midst of Babylon, April 2006 conference.
[viii] Neal A. Maxwell, In Him All Things Hold Together, BYU Speeches.