Temples: Structures of Peace



Late-President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the temples, that ‘these unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology’. I have said elsewhere that too many members of the LDS church fail to see the rituals and the teachings we receive in the Temple as an elongated sermon on the mount.

Covenants are in Latter day Saints’ cultural understanding two-way binding agreements entered first through baptism by immersion at the age of eight and then gradually preparing members for the ‘more binding’ covenants made in temples. The covenants LDS make in the Temple intend on bringing the whole Church membership one by one under the obligation to strictly observe ‘instructions as set forth with great clarity and simplicity in the Doctrine and Covenants. These laws and ordinances are’, as Hugh Nibley puts it, ‘absolutely essential for the building up of the Kingdom of God on Earth and the ultimate establishment of Zion’.


the ark of the covenant - covenant spirituality


This covenant-spirituality, reinforced ritually and symbolically, in the context of God’s plan of salvation in temple ceremonies enacted or shown visually through film – also depicting Lucifer’s active opposition to that plan - has the potential of creating a new social reality for members of the Church and provide them with the necessary peacebuilding tools (as found in the Doctrines and Covenants) to affront violences in all their divers ways and means (cultural-structural-direct). In a way, LDS temple-goers covenant to become and act in the latter days as ‘saviors on Mount Zion’ – as mormon peacemakers, peacebuilders and peaceworkers.


Prisoners are set free

In connection with the announcement of the building of the Rexburg Idaho Temple, John H. Groberg, an emeritus general authority of the LDS church, explains in the Importance of Temples, that ‘if we listen and obey, the temple will help us achieve the power of purity needed to be part of Zion. In the temple, prisoners are set free. Think of the bondage of sin. Think of the bondage of pride. Think of the bondage of fear. Think of being prisoners to uncertainty or a lack of self-confidence. Through the temple, in the process of time, and by the grace of the Savior, we can become free from these debilitating things. Go to the temple and be set free and help set others free’.


Rexburg Idaho Temple


But there are many other structures of injustice or of sin/violence in the world today that were not directly addressed by John H. Groberg, and also these structures must come down (1 Nephi 11:35-36). Pope John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis calls unjust structures “structures of sin.”  They begin as sins committed by individual persons.  They are introduced into the society and reinforced again and again. Desire for profit and thirst for power keep them in place.  Soon they are taken for granted by most people.  They become self-perpetuating structures of sin.  They can be blamed on selfishness, bad political decisions, or irresponsible economic decisions.  They are all sin and are at the root of the evils that afflict the world today.


Justice and charity intertwined

Groberg affirms that ‘charity is the pure love of Christ, which [..] means unselfish service given to help others. Charity never fails and has no end’. He wonders ‘if selfishness, even more than money, is the root of all evil and unselfishness the root of all good. When we do selfish things, bad things follow. When we do unselfish things, good things follow’. On the other hand, Pope Pius XI in Divini Redemptori explains that ‘charity will never be true charity unless it takes justice into account. Let no one attempt with small gifts of charity to exempt themselves from the great duties imposed by justice’.

Works of justice and works of charity are therefore intricately intertwined. LDS actually argue that the ordinance of baptism for the dead was revealed in order to meet the demands of justice, so that God, as well as being a merciful God could also be a just God (Alma 42:15). Groberg further believes that, ‘the Savior is the most unselfish person that ever lived on this earth. His whole life was about helping others, not Himself – and that is why the Savior invites us to follow Him and live the life of unselfishness. Since everything about the temple is based upon the life and mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it follows that the work in the temple is based on unselfish service and is the basis of all good. The power of heaven flows to Earth through the temples and the ordinances and covenants made therein. Our desires to live clean lives, perform unselfish acts, be good neighbors, and become more Christ-like individuals are all enhanced through temple service’.


a place of learning – holistic peace education

Leo Tolstoy explains in The Kingdom of God is within you that ‘the fulfillment of the teaching [of Christ] lies only in unceasing progress toward the attainment of ever higher and higher truth, and in an ever greater realization of this, in oneself by means of ever increasing love, and outside oneself by the more and more complete establishment of the Kingdom of God’. Holistic Peace Education (HoPE), as taught by The American Montessori Society, ‘begins with the embryonic environment where the children, through the delicate nurturing of adults, come in touch with their inner peace and learn to relate harmoniously with others’. Now replace children with Latter day Saints, and adults with temple workers:

In the temple, HoPE begins with the embryonic environment where members, through the delicate nurturing of temple workers, come in touch with their inner peace and learn to relate harmoniously with others. From this micro experience the [members] will, hopefully, have the tools and understanding to be able to accept and relate harmoniously to all people and their earthly environment. Holistic Peace Education is educating the “life within” the [member] and assisting them in learning how to relate harmoniously to the “life without.”

In fact, LDS members believe temple ceremonies are connected to the most-quoted millennial scripture in the peace movement: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; [..] and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”.


Light of Christ


Groberg suggests that because ‘we live in the last days some may wonder when the Lord is going to come. I don’t know exactly when, but I personally think the Lord will come when enough good people have been to the temple, received their endowment, had their families sealed, filled their lives with light and then filled enough of the earth with that same light so that the world will be able to stay in one piece when He does come with His brilliant light. Can you see why the Lord has asked that we build temples all over the world?’

3 thoughts on “Temples: Structures of Peace

  1. I have some questions about your post. You talk about justice and charity being intertwined (which is a great idea), However in the LDS faith, is notjustice generallyconnected to a punishment or a form of violence? It apears that in most LDS perspective jsutice is satisfied by punishment or payment of sin. Does this then make God violent in some aspects? I am not sure if the Pope means this so I am not sure how this is related to the LDS idea of atonement you are refering too. How do you reconcile this in your ideas? Also I think that there is peace taught in the temple, but you seem to not discuss the idea of covenant, and salvation being connected to the temple. This is a prime theme of the temple, how do you related this to peace or pacifiism? I not sure if this was clear?


    • Hey Adam (and Eve),

      Indeed, I think that your comment is well-placed. The idea of justice, in the context of Alma 42 may be narrowly interpreted as punishment for unrepented sin. Punishment may come in many forms, but in this case it mentions ‘the restoration of God’ – where God restores good unto those who did good, and evil unto those who did evil, according to their works, and according to the law and justice.

      If we replaced the idea of God in this passage with a concept of a force or a power in the universe, which abides by principles of mutuality and reciprocity: then it is not God that is violent. Rather it is according to the principle of justice that those who kill by the sword physically, shall die by the sword spiritually, or in other words, they will in consequence of their own violence be ‘cut-off from the presence of God’, who is nonviolent. This is so God may protect his own community of Saints from those who would disturb the peace :) The main idea is that we reap what we sow (if we pollute the planet or have unequal or contentious relationships with each other, we reap the consequences of our actions: global warming, poverty and nuclear arms proliferation).

      Because life is a preparatory state to meet God (and for us to learn to live in peace with God and with each other: At-one-ment), life on earth is like a school where we learn the following two eternal principles in our search for justice and at-one-ment (unity):

      1. that justice is at the service of mercy (in my mind, this means that justice is the balance of mutuality that returns good unto those who did good: “blessed are those who are merciful, for they shall receive mercy” – that’s only fair) and;

      2. that service is at the mercy of justice (Mosiah 4:22: “And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth” – read Mosiah 4 to better understand this principle of rendering service to others because we are meant to and that we should do so fairly).

      I believe that God is nonviolent, and that it is also the main lesson that we need to learn, as God embodies both Truth and Love and Truth and Love engender Nonviolence. Attributing the violent consequences of our violent actions to God would be unfair to the ‘weeping God of Mormonism’ (see http://mormongandhi.com/2009/05/18/nobody-is-saved-alone-the-zion-formula/). Because there is war in the world, God meant it to be that way?

      It is the consequences of our actions that make us unable to be in the presence of God (or to live in a just and peaceful society). Not because God punishes us or does not want us to live in a just and peaceful society (or for us not to be in his presence). The unrepentent and violent soul restricts himself from reaching the loving abode of a forgiving and long-suffering God, and of replicating that abode on earth.

      I like the passage where Alma admonishes his son ‘to deny the justice of God no more, but to let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart’. My point of view here is that ‘justice long delayed is justice denied':

      Many of us are delaying the establishment of Zion, the building of the Kingdom of God on earth, and making it difficult for “God to be with us” (the meaning of the name Immanuel, another name for the Messiah). In other words, we are delaying the coming of the Messiah among his children and the reign of the Messiah in the hearts of his children. That’s why the Temple is important: the reason we must turn the hearts of the fathers and the mothers to their children (that they might teach them to live more perfectly through HoPE) and the hearts of the children to the covenants made by their fathers and their mothers (that the covenants made in turn unto them may be realized through our righteous and peaceful living), so that we will not all be cursed and suffer at his coming.

      Covenants or ‘Covenant-spirituality’ gently encourages the children of God to enter on a gradual path of eternal progression (to gain more truth and knowledge) according to those principles ‘taught in the Doctrine and Covenants’ that are necessary for the establishment of Zion and the building of the Kingdom of God – or pertaining to our salvation, if you will. The law of sacrifice and the law of obedience, as well as the laws of chastity and consecration are therefore all linked to peace and pacifism. This can be treated separately elsewhere, but in the above article, I like the HoPE (Holistic Peace Education) approach of the Montessori School to be applied to the Temple.

      By the way, it is mainly through international treaties (or covenants) that nations, governments and in essence that humanity agrees to establish peace and to work for justice, security and the well-being of all. International law established for other reasons than the above should not be international law. Covenants are therefore also important in the secular world of international politics in promoting peace and in our global pursuit of happiness.

      In the LDS church, however, covenants are a way for our heavenly parents to bring us closer in line with their wishes and purpose: for their children to live forever and to be forever learning (immortality) and for their son Jesus Christ to live in our midst, as we start leading a christ-like life (eternal life).

      LDS with a leaning for a violent interpretation of their religion would rather use phrases like ‘God’s commands’ and ‘our duty to obey’ – but as stated in another article: God’s power to remove sin (man’s inhumanity towards others) is limited. Only we can. They (our heavenly parents) can warn and they can teach us (and thus we may be saved because the atoning sacrifice of Christ will claim the truly penitent), but they cannot force us, neither can they provide indemnity or apologies to the victims of our crimes. We could, if we would.

      Are we learning anything if we ‘blindly obey’, or in other words, if the letter of the law becomes more important than the spirit of the law (meaning that the laws we make for ourselves become more important than what they were meant for)?

      Remember: justice is at the service of mercy and service at the mercy of justice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s