Chapter 3 Section A
Need of Temples in the Present Dispensation
Among the numerous sects and churches professing Christianity, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands alone in the teaching and practice of temple ministration. The devotion of this people to the sacred labor of building temples and administering therein the saving ordinances of the Gospel has attracted the attention and aroused the wonder of both philosopher and layman. It is not enough to attempt an explanation of this singular and stupendous sacrifice by ascribing it to assumed and unproved fanaticism; the earnest investigator, the careful observer, and even the cursory reader, indeed, if he be honest, admits that beneath this devotion is a deeply-seated and an abiding faith. It cannot be affirmed that the Latter-day Saints build temples as monuments of communal wealth nor in the pride of human aggrandisement; for we find them thus arduously engaged even while bread was scarce and clothing scant among them; and throughout their history the people have looked upon their temples as edifices belonging to the Lord, and upon themselves as stewards entrusted with the custody of the consecrated properties. Nor can it be said that this Church builds temples as other sects erect chapels, churches, cathedrals, and synagogues; for the Church has the equivalent of these, and indeed the meeting-houses and places of public worship maintained by the Latter-day Saints are proportionately greater in number than are those of other denominations. Moreover, as already stated, these temples are not used as places of common assembly, nor as houses of general and congregational service. �
Why, then, does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints build and maintain temples? In answer let the following pertinent facts be carefully considered.
Necessity of Obedience to the Laws and Ordinances of the Gospel
As part of its declaration of faith, the Church proclaims:
“We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
While professing belief in the possibility of a universal salvation, the Church affirms that salvation is assured only on condition of individual compliance with the requirements established by the Redeemer, without whose atoning sacrifice none could be saved. The atonement wrought by the Christ on Calvary was a vicarious offering, in the beneficent results of which all mankind are made partakers. As to redemption from the thrall of mortality incident to the transgression in Eden, the sacrificial death of Christ met in full the exactions incident to the broken law; and none but Adam shall be held accountable for Adam’s disobedience, nor for any results thereof. In the just judgment to which every mortal shall come, all conditions of inherited weakness, temptation due to environment, the capacity to choose and to act, the measure of knowledge to which the subject has attained, the meed of truth he has accepted or rejected, the opportunities he has used aright or wrongly spurned, the fidelity with which he walked in the light or the depravity through which he wandered in the forbidden paths of darkness,-these and every other fact and circumstance entering into the individual life will be duly weighed and considered. At the bar of God the distinguishing feature of Divine mercy will be, as in the affairs of mortal life it now is, not an arbitrary forgiveness of sin nor unearned annulment of the debts of guilt, but the providing of a way whereby the sinner may be enabled to meet the requirements of the Gospel, and so in due course pass from the prison house of sin to the glorious freedom of a righteous life.
There is but one price set on forgiveness for individual transgression, and this is alike to all,-to poor and rich, to bond and free, to illiterate and learned; it knows no fluctuations, it changes not with time; it was the same yesterday as today it is, and even so shall be forever,-and that price, at which may be bought the pearl beyond all price, is obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Hear this further declaration of faith taught by the restored Church:
“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:-(1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying-on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the fundamental principle of the Gospel, the first letter in the alphabet of salvation with which are spelled the words of life eternal. Yet who can have faith in aught of which he knows nothing? Knowledge is essential to faith, and faith impels its possessor to seek further knowledge, and to make of that knowledge, wisdom, which is but knowledge applied and put to use. To preach Christ and Him crucified is the one and only way by which faith in Him may be taught through the medium of either precept or example. While knowledge and faith are thus closely associated, the two are not identical, nor is the one an assured outgrowth of the other. A man may have learned the truth, and yet may ignore it. His knowledge, far from developing within his soul the faith that leads to right action, may but add to his condemnation, for he sins without even the mitigation of ignorance. Evil spirits have testified of their knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, nevertheless they remain the fallen followers of Satan. As living faith develops within the soul of man it leads its possessor to seek a means whereby he may rise from the thraldom of sin; and the very thought of such emancipation inspires a loathing for the evil contamination of the past. The natural fruitage of that glorious growth is repentance.
Repentance, as a requirement made of all men, constitutes the second principle of the Gospel of Christ. It comprises a sincere sorrow for the sins of the past, and a resolute turning away therefrom with the solemn determination to endeavor by Divine assistance to return thereto no more. Repentance comes as a gift from God to him who has treasured and nurtured the earlier gift of faith. It is not to be had for the careless asking; it may not be found upon the highway; it is not of earth, but a treasure of heaven, and is given with care, yet with boundless liberality unto those who have brought forth works that warrant its bestowal. That is to say, all who prepare themselves for repentance will, by the humbling and softening influence of the Holy Spirit, be brought to the actual possession of this great gift. When Peter was charged by his fellow-worshippers with a breach of law in that he had associated with Gentiles, he told his hearers of the Divine manifestations he had so recently received; they believed and declared “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Paul also, in writing to the Romans, teaches that repentance comes through the goodness of God.
Wilful persistency in sin may lead to the loss and forfeiture of the ability to repent; and for man to procrastinate the day of repentance is to invite and eventually to insure such forfeiture. The Divine word through the mouth of a modern prophet is thus explicit:
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
“Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received, for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
The Latter-day Saints believe and teach that repentance will be possible, and indeed required to the yet unrepentant, even after death; and they affirm that this doctrine is supported by scripture both ancient and modern. We read that while the body of our Lord lay in the tomb, between the evening of the day of crucifixion and the glorious resurrection morn, He was engaged in ministerial labor in the world of disembodied spirits. Peter specifically declares that our Lord “went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” The context with which appear these words of the inspired apostle, shows that the event referred to occurred prior to the Savior’s resurrection. Furthermore, it will be remembered that one of the condemned malefactors, whose cross of death stood alongside that of Jesus, manifested faith and even some degree of repentance, and received from the suffering Christ the benediction and assurance “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” It cannot be maintained that this promise implied the passing of the repentant sinner directly from the cross into Heaven-the abode of the redeemed in the presence of God; for surely there had been no opportunity for the suffering penitent to put his repentance into effect by complying with the established laws and ordinances of the Gospel, and without such compliance, even as to the single requirement of water-baptism alone, the man could neither enter nor see the Kingdom of God, or the word of Christ would have been proven false. Moreover, as conclusive proof of the fact that between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, neither He nor the contrite sinner had gone to the abode of God, we have the words of the Risen Lord to the sorrowing Magdalene: “I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
In view of scriptural affirmation that the disembodied Christ did visit and minister among the spirits who had been disobedient, and who, because of unpardoned sin were still held in duress, it is pertinent to inquire as to the scope and object of our Savior’s ministry among them. His preaching must have been purposeful and positive; moreover, it is not to be assumed that His message was other than one of relief and mercy. Those to whom He went were already in prison, and had been there long. To them came the Redeemer, to preach, not to further condemn, to open the way that led to light, not to intensify the darkness of despair in which they languished. Had not that visit of deliverance been long predicted? Centuries before that fateful time Isaiah had prophesied of proud and wicked spirits: “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” And again, referring to the appointed ministry of the Christ, the same inspired voice of prophecy declared part of that work to be “to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” David, filled with the emotions of contrition and hope, sang in measures of mingled sadness and joy: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.”
From these and other scriptures we learn that the ministry of Christ was not confined to the few who lived in mortality during the short period of His earthly life, nor to them and the generations then future; but to all, dead, living, and yet unborn. It cannot be denied that myriads had lived and died before the meridian of time, and of these multitudes, as of the many since born, unnumbered hosts have died without a knowledge of the Gospel and its prescribed plan of salvation. What is their condition, as indeed what shall be the state of the present inhabitants of earth, and of the multitudes yet future, who shall die in ignorance and without the faith that saves? Let us ask again, how can those who know not Christ have faith in Him, and how, while lacking both knowledge and faith can they avail themselves of the provision made for their salvation?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that the plan of salvation is not bounded by the grave; but that the Gospel is deathless and everlasting, reaching back into the ages that have gone, and forward into the eternities of the future. The ministry of the Savior among the dead doubtless included the revelation of His own atoning death, the inculcation of faith in Himself and in the divinely-appointed plan He represented, and the necessity of a repentance acceptable unto God. It is reasonable to believe that the other essential requirements comprised within the laws and ordinances of the Gospel were made known.
To the less thoughtful reader it may appear that to teach the possibility of repentance beyond the grave may tend to weaken belief in the absolute necessity of repentance and reformation in this life. A careful consideration of the matter, however, will show that this doctrine affords no reason for such objection. To reject or ignore in any degree a gift of God is to forfeit to the corresponding extent one’s claim upon that gift. To the soul that has wilfully neglected the opportunities for repentance here offered, repentance in the hereafter may be, and indeed it is reasonable to believe will be, so difficult as to be long unattainable. This conception is justified by scripture, as witness the words of Amulek, a Nephite prophet, who thus admonished the Church on the western continent four score years before the birth of Christ:
“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; * * * therefore, I beseech of you, that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; * * * Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance, even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his.”