With the combination of last weekend’s Stake Conference and meeting two General Authorities, this Sunday sitting beside someone with a mission call, and next week being General Conference, reminds me of the time when I was just heading out on my mission and the then Elder Eyring came to my Stake Conference in Winnipeg. He held a special fireside for the currently serving missionaries, and myself and two others with their mission calls were invited to attend. After he was done speaking he wanted to shake the hand of everyone there, he wanted to know their hometown. I nervously stood in line, me and others were wiping our hands on the side of our pants. When it was my turn, I said I was Elder Lockhart, from Winnipeg, going to Perth Australia. He looked deep into my eyes, as if he saw into my soul and saw my whole life history, and said ‘nice to meet you Elder Lockhart.’ When I shared this story with my children that I had met President Eyring, it made him and other general authorities seem like real people, instead of pictures and images on a screen.
Family Home Evening
Anyway, at the start of this month, our family did a Family Home Evening lesson on the importance of temples. We watched the bible video of the time that Jesus cleansed the temple, as recorded in John:
“And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:13-17)
Cleansing the Temple
President Howard W. Hunter had this to say about the cleansing of the temple:
“Love of money had warped the hearts of many of Jesus’ countrymen. They cared more for gain than they did for God. Caring nothing for God, why should they care for his temple? They converted the temple courts into a marketplace and drowned out the prayers and psalms of the faithful with their greedy exchange of money and the bleating of innocent sheep. Never did Jesus show a greater tempest of emotion than in the cleansing of the temple. …”
If I may pause here for a Josh insert. Tempest, or anger. We often give the emotion of anger a bad reputation. But here the Saviour of mankind showed anger, and rightfully so. It is alright to be angry, it is what we do with it that matters, there are helpful and non-helpful ways of being angry.
Resuming with President Howard W. Hunter:
“The reason for the tempest lies in just three words: ‘My Father’s house.’ It was not an ordinary house; it was the house of God. It was erected for God’s worship. It was a home for the reverent heart. It was intended to be a place of solace for men’s woes and troubles, the very gate of heaven. ‘Take these things hence;’ he said, ‘make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.’ His devotion to the Most High kindled a fire in his soul and gave his words the force that pierced the offenders like a dagger” (“Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 52–53).
We are Temples for our Spirit and the Holy Ghost
So I am going to use this cleansing reference, another quote and another scripture for the foundation of this talk.
One way we can share the Saviour’s attitude toward the importance of the temple is by keeping ourselves worthy to enter the house of the Lord.
Elder Richard G. Scott taught:
“Before entering the temple, you will be interviewed by your bishop and stake president for your temple recommend. Be honest and candid with them. That interview is not a test to be passed but an important step to confirm that you have the maturity and spirituality to receive the supernal ordinances and make and keep the edifying covenants offered in the house of the Lord. Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple. Anyone foolish enough to enter the temple unworthily will receive condemnation” (“Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 1999, 25).
So we take from that quote the importance of keeping ourselves clean to enter the temple.
Our Body is a Temple
Last part to building the foundation, is in 1 Corinthians, we read:
“...Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
It has been said that we are spiritual beings having a mortal experience (Chardin, 1955), and that each of us has a spirit that is housed within our body (Doctrine & Covenants 88:15).
Let Christ cleanse our Temples
So, spiritually speaking, have we let Christ come into our temple, and cast out “the natural man [that] is an enemy to God” so that we can “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit… [and] become a saint through the atonement of Christ.” (Mosiah 3:19)
To be willing to “give [up] all [our] sins to know [Christ].” (Alma 22:18)
This process of having Christ throw out the tables in our temple, is not easy nor simple. It is like when Professor Dumbledore says to Harry Potter, “we have to choose between what is right and what is easy.”
This process reminds me of the depiction that occurs in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace turned into a dragon because he put on a gold band and had greedy dragon thoughts. Eustace, as we all do, tried to remove the dragon skin on his own with no assistance. He tried three times to remove the dragon skin off of himself only to find another layer underneath. He eventually gave up.
Eustace is then approached by the lion Aslan, who represents Christ. Aslan told Eustace that He had to remove the dragon skins. This is what the Eustace’s account was in the book:
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my own heart. And when he began pulling off the skin, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel.... He peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker , and darker, and more knobby-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft...” (C.S. Lewis – Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
For a scriptural reference, the Lord said: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
We need more than one cleansing
This cleansing process, the removing of dragon skins or denying the natural man, is not a onetime thing. It starts with the cleansing of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But each Sunday when we partake of the Sacrament, and approach it with a broken heart and a contrite spirit as we did when we were baptized, that cleansing of our spiritual temples happens again, and again, and again.
What is interesting is that each of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell the story that Jesus cleansed the temple after entering Jerusalem. However, the earlier account I read in John (which to be honest may be referring to the same event as the others, and John just decided to share it earlier) seems to be referring to a cleansing of the temple that occurred near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, while the others are near the end of His ministry.
So again, near the end of His ministry
… “Jesus [again] went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-16)
Sometimes life happens. We have to deal with: the pressures to succeed, self doubt, self pressure, grief, pain (mental, emotional, physical or spiritual pain), fears, memories that haunt us, hard times, a broken heart, uncertainty, fear of failing, depression, doubt, society’s pressure, parents fighting, regrets, insecurities, genetics (such as alcoholism), being called names, jealousy, poor self esteem, our past, emotional turmoil, and so on. (Tyler Ward – Rescue [Fan Video]) That we lose sight, and the commitment we made during baptism, and therefore need another cleansing through the Sacrament.
Christ wants us to be His disciples
This brings to mind Jeffrey R. Holland’s telling of Peter reuniting with the resurrected Christ on the same shores that Peter was first called to be a fisher of men.
“The Savior [had] asked for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” [And] now… Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”
“To which Jesus responded ([in Jeffrey R. Holldand’s] nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”” (Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2012)
It is my prayer that we will let Christ into our temple’s, and let Him through the Holy Ghost cleanse out the natural man.
If we have been greedy, or have had life happen that has covered us in dragon skin, go to the Lord and let Him cleanse us. So that we may say, as Mormon did of old, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ…” (3 Nephi 5:13)
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.