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Have you ever used a template to provide a patterned structure of guidance? Did you know that the word temple and template come from the same root word? Like templates, temples provide patterns of structured guidance. Temples teach us heavenly patterns for how to live and understand God and His children. (The ideas below were inspired by Utah State LDS Institute Teacher Stephen Schank and BYU Ancient Scripture Professor Tyler Griffin.)
2 Nephi 31-33 can profitably be read on the pattern or template of a temple experience.
In ancient Israel, the temple of Solomon was patterned on the design of the mobile tabernacle that traveled with the Israelites through the wilderness. See the image below (courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Old Testament Manual).
After teaching us of the covenantal meaning of the words of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 25-30, Nephi turns to teach the doctrine of Christ. What is that doctrine and how does the temple provide a pattern to understand that doctrine and the covenant path?
Nephi quotes Father in Heaven who urges us “Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son” (2 Nephi 31:11).
We begin our journey by acting on faith and entering the sacred space. In the ancient temple or tabernacle, after passing into the sacred space, the first thing you would encounter would be the altar of sacrifice. Symbolically, this is where we kill our old animal nature and sacrifice it to God and burn it away. This is just like what happened with the king of the Lamanites who was convinced of the truth by Aaron. The king declare in full faith and conviction “I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18). That process of sacrificing our sins on the altar to God is called repentance.
The next step on the covenant path is baptism. In the ancient temple, the next major stop was the grand laver basin where the priests would wash and cleanse themselves. Similarly, after we have repented we must enter the waters of baptism to symbolize cleansing and new birth. But this is not enough. We need to be fully purged of our sins through the fire of the Holy Ghost.
“He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do…. After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” (2 Nephi 31:12, 14)
If we look again at the ancient temple outline we see the holy place. Inside the location we have the light of the God represented by the candelabra on the left, the altar of incense at the veil, and then on the right the altar of bread and wine representing God’s ongoing substance for us.
The ancient veil had depictions of angels or heavenly objects.
That is the place to learn the tongue of angels, to be prepared to talk with God in the language of Heaven, as revealed by angels. We are purged by the fire of the Holy Ghost and led in His light to offer our prayers at the altar of incense before the veil, and then we receive the regular communion of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We continue this pattern throughout our lives, prepared by God’s divinely provided assistance, to enter into His presence.
If we endure to the end, if we do not flag in our efforts to seek the light of the Holy Spirit, to let our prayers ascend unto God, to learn the heavenly language of the angels, and to regularly be empowered through the symbols of Jesus’s sacrifice (the bread and water), we are promised that we will be invited into the presence of God.
“Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:15-16)
God presence is represented by the Holy of Holies.
The Ark of the Covenant, which contains the record of God’s covenants, represents His throne.
If we follow this covenant path, entering into the temple and following the path into the presence of God, “then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.” (2 Nephi 31:18)
But the key is to endure to the end, to not think that if we have repented once we are good and done. We have to continually demonstrate faith by repenting, and show repentance by baptism or partaking of the sacrament, and continuously seeking after the Holy Ghost. That is enduring to the end.
“19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
“20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
“21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:19-21)
Call to action: How else does the temple provide a heavenly pattern for you to live? What else do you see in the writings of 2 Nephi 31-33 that connect to the temple?