Our temples arouse a lot of curiosity among our neighbors from other faiths. Just the fact that we restrict entry to worth recommend holders, and that we are known to worship differently in the temple than in our regular church services causes many to wonder what we are really up to in there.
The Book of Jacob gives a very good idea of how the temple figures in our faith. As the book opens, it has been 55 years since Lehi’s family left Jerusalem. Nephi is an old man, and has passed the kingship on to a successor, unnamed for us since succeeding kings were simply called 2 Nephi, 3 Nephi, etc. Jacob and Joseph, Nephi’s younger brothers, do not mention whether they were eligible to succeed him as king. Instead they have been “consecrated priests and teachers of this people by the hand of Nephi.”(Jacob 1:18)
Jacob received direct revelation from God that inspired the opening discourse of his record: “… as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying, “Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people. ” (2:11)
There were three sins of which the Nephites were guilty: “[they] began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son. Yea and they also began to search much gold and silver, and began to be lifted up somewhat in pride.” (1:14)
Jacob goes into the temple and preaches a sermon that covers three topics that are still covered in every temple worship service: pride, materialism, and marital fidelity. In the ordinance of the endowment that takes place in the temple, these themes are paramount. Here is how James Talmage described the process:
“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,-the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.[i]
Chastity, charity, consecration. Covenants in relation to these principles form the center of the endowment service. We promise to be a certain kind of person, and we promise it solemnly, in the presence of God, angels and witnesses. It is no wonder that Boyd K. Packer cites the covenants made in the temple as the source of the church’s power.[ii]
Sins of Unchastity Break Hearts
Jacob’s sermon is surprisingly tender. He is dismayed that he must talk about matters of chastity and marital fidelity, as there are women and children present. He worries about being forced to use “much boldness of speech concerning you before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tensder and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God.” (2:7)
Just as Jacob saw infidelity as the potential destroyer of the Nephite people, so pornography figures as the cause of more marital break-ups, and more trouble with young people today. Jacob’s words describe its destructive potential with eerie foresight.
“Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.”(2:35)
In the introduction to Gary Wilson’s groundbreaking work, Your Brain on Porn, Professor Andrew Jack sums up the problem of pornography:
“Technology is in danger of making us impersonal, of dampening our capacity and tendency for human connection.
“Perhaps the most important example of the way that digital technology allows us to withdraw from ordinary interaction is pornography. In a healthy relationship, sex is aassociated with the hightest levels of intimacy and rust. It is, or at least can be, the culmination and expression our closest huan connection. It not only helps to reinforce this connection, it also creates entirely new life…. [This drive] has been essential to the flourishing of the human race. Yet pornography transfroms that drive into a force that primarily motivates the completely solitary and unproductive activity of masturbation.[iii]
In his book, Wilson describes experiences with hundreds of young men who find themselves no longer able to function normally in intimate relationships. Not only have they “lost the confidence” of wives and children, they have actually lost the ability to function as men. “Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds,” is a perfect description of the pain suffered by those lured into the illusion of private pleasure that internet porn offers.
What does Jacob offer as a solution to this pernicious evil? His solution is dramatically simple and direct. He urges us to throw ourselves upon the mercy of Christ, the only being who wields power great enough to overcome the terrifying power of the adversary. Then Jacob shows us exactly how to draw upon the power of the atonement, and promises power to overcome evil through grace.
“Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.” (Jacob 2:5-7)
[i] Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord. Deseret Book Co. Salt Lake City, UT. 1976, p. 84.
[ii] (need reference from The Holy Temple, by Boyd K. Packer)