King David was a great type of Christ. His name meant “beloved,” echoing the Father’s presentation of Jesus as “my Beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). In fact, when Jesus was baptized, the voice of God in Hebrew would have been “this is my ben david,” “my beloved son.” Great blessings were promised to David, or more specifically to the seed of David:
“When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). This promise has multiple meanings. It applies directly to David’s son King Solomon, who built the temple of Jerusalem.
But it also applies to David’s descendant Jesus, whose “kingdom shall be established for ever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Just as the name “David” or “Son of David” applies to Jesus, so does the name “Solomon,” which means “the Peaceable One.” Both Solomon and the Savior built temples. Solomon built a physical temple; Christ builds the spiritual temple in heaven—the kingdom where the faithful will dwell forever and serve Him.
The temple is the great symbol of the eternal kingdom of God. In this continually changing, deteriorating world, the temple is the only constant. It stands for the body of the Savior given for our salvation. The veil of the temple symbolizes His flesh, as Paul encourages us to enter the celestial kingdom “by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20).
For this reason, our Father continually calls us to the temple, to pass through the veil that represents the Atonement of Christ and into His presence. When we remember the temple, we remember Him and carry out our sacrament covenants.
The Number Seven Signifies Perfection
Everything associated with the dedication of Solomon’s temple is built around the number seven. “Solomon summons the people on the seventh month (8:2), the feasts last fourteen days (8:65), the “fathers” are mentioned seven times, Solomon calls David his “father” seven times, and Solomon enumerates seven prayer occasions” (Tomas Römer, “Redaction Criticism: 1 Kings 8 and the Deuteronomists,” in Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, Society of Biblical Literature, 2009, 69). The dedication is held during the seven days of the Feast of the Tabernacles.
Why is the number seven so important? For ancient Israel, “seven” symbolized perfection or completion and thus represented the Lord. We remember that on the cross He received seven wounds: “He was wounded [Heb. mechalal, “pierced”] for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). By his piercings we can be made perfect: “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
How are we sanctified and perfected? According to President Russell M. Nelson, obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the temple leads to eternal perfection (“Perfection Pending,” General Conference, October 1995).
In his dedicatory prayer over the Jerusalem temple, Solomon enumerates seven reasons for coming to the temple, by which we can draw into our lives the power of the Atonement to save and perfect ourselves.
Seven Reasons for Coming to the Temple
Reason 1: “If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness” (1 Kgs. 8:31-32).
These verses refer to the ancient practice of taking oaths in the temple, thus making the Lord a witness to the oath. People made vows for many reasons, including in this case a vow of restitution for injuring a neighbor. Today we go to the temple to make covenants that bind us to the Savior and to one another.
Reason 2: “When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers” (1 Kgs. 8:33-34).
These verses refer to the gathering and restoration of Israel, which is our great mission as Latter-day Saints. Because of sinful behavior, Israel was scattered among the nations of the world. But the Lord promised to recover them: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them” (Jer. 23:3). By turning to the temple, confessing the name of the Lord and making supplication in His house, we are part of the gathering of Israel. We help to “bring them again.”
Reason 3: “When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance” (1 Kgs. 8:35-36).
The Lord has no choice but to withhold blessings from those who refuse to keep His laws. Although the Lord inflicts literal drought in many cases, drought often symbolizes a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). But if we turn from sin and come to “this place”—the house of the Lord—He gives “rain upon the land.” This “rain” is often symbolic; for example, He promises those who live the law of tithing that He will “open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us” (“Living the Gospel Joyful, Ensign, Nov. 2014, 122).
Reason 4: “If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (1 Kgs. 8:37-40).
For “whatsoever plague or sickness there be,” the temple is a place of healing. Solomon encourages us to “spread forth our hands toward” the temple in our afflictions of mind or body to experience the healing influence of the Lord. Elder Dale G. Renlund has said, “Family history and temple work [provide] the power to heal that which [needs] healing. … God, in His infinite capacity, seals and heals individuals and families despite tragedy, loss, and hardship” (“Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” General Conference, April 2018).
In the words of Sister Reyna I. Aburto, “We all come to the temple to be spiritually healed and to give those on the other side of the veil the opportunity to be healed as well. When it comes to healing, we all need the Savior desperately” (“Miracles of Healing Through Temple Ordinances,” Ensign, September 2020).
Reason 5: “Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name” (1 Kgs. 8:41-43).
Another purpose of the temple is to draw all of Father’s children toward Him. Many thousands of people have felt the power of the Lord’s house just by being around it. An acquaintance of mine, a former Methodist bishop, found it impossible to forget what he felt when he visited the Salt Lake Temple as a tourist. Later, when he and his wife joined the Church, he told us that he was impressed that it was indeed the House of the Lord, that the Lord was a real person and not just an abstraction.
Reason 6: “If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause” (1 Kgs. 8:44-45).
We are all engaged in spiritual warfare. “The war that began in heaven continues to this day,” says Elder Larry R. Lawrence. “In fact, the battle is heating up as the Saints prepare for the return of the Savior” (“The War Goes On,” Ensign, April 2017). In the temple we put on the armor of God that equips us for the defensive war against the Adversary. Wearing the “helmet of salvation” to safeguard our minds, our “loins girt about with truth” and “shod with the gospel of peace,” we can confidently “go out to battle against the enemy” (Eph. 6:14-17). President Russell M. Nelson says, “We wear the temple garment faithfully as part of the enduring armor of God” (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” General Conference, April 2001).
Reason 7: “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee . . . and pray unto thee toward . . . the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee” (1 Kgs. 8:46-50).
Perhaps the culminating reason for coming to the temple is to become one with our Savior. “There is no man that sinneth not,” but the temple stands as the great symbol of forgiveness for all who seek it. It is the monument of the Lord’s mercy. Through His Atonement, those who attend the temple find relief from the “captivity” of sin and the world outside, which is so much the “land of the enemy.” In His house we can feel the Father’s presence and the assurance that the Savior will “maintain our cause” in His advocacy for our repentant souls.
“Let Your Heart Therefore Be Perfect”
In these seven petitions (1 Kgs. 8:31-50), Solomon provides a model of prayer for us to follow. He teaches us to “make supplication” to the Lord for forgiveness for our sins, for the gathering of Israel, for blessings on our efforts to serve others, for help in our afflictions, for the growth of the kingdom, for power to withstand “the Enemy,” and for the advocacy of the Savior in our behalf. As a benediction on his people, King Solomon encourages them to “let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments” (1 Kgs 8:61). The word translated as “perfect” is shalem, a Hebrew word that means “to be complete, safe, at peace.” The Lord does not expect us to be perfect as we understand it, i.e., to be flawless and mistake-proof; rather, He wants us to be completely at peace. And the temple is a key to spiritual peace: “The temple provides purpose for our lives,” President Thomas S. Monson taught. “It brings peace to our souls—not the peace provided by men but the peace promised by the Son of God” “Blessings of the Temple, Ensign, October 2010).