THE GREAT CONFERENCE OF 124 B.C. I like to compare this part of the Book of Mormon to our modern-day general conference of the church (Pretty good timing for this blog post, isn’t it?). Each time that I read this account I imagine what it would have been like to be there personally (I really do!). I love King Benjamin and his teachings! Not that everything else in the Book of Mormon isn’t as important, but I believe that if the Old Testament contained the account of King Benjamin (Mosiah 1-6) it would be one of the most beloved books of Christendom (and other faiths that revere the Old Testament.). In fact, President Howard W. Hunter called it, “…one of the greatest prophetic sermons ever given“ (“The Opening and Closing of Doors“, Ensign (CR), November 1987, p.54)
For my purpose today, I will simply focus on three simple words that help me remember the treasures of King Benjamin’s teachings: TENT, TEMPLE, TOWER. These are each nouns–simple objects–but they help me remember three simple verbs that make a BIG difference in life: SEE, SACRIFICE, SERVE. I will attempt to describe this relationship below…
A TENT: SEE!. Genesis 26:25, is the key to understanding the connection here. It seems like a very simple and informational verse, but in that scripture, relating to Isaac, you will find the words altar, tent, and well–there is great symbolism in those three words. Each word can symbolically represents an aspect of an individual’s life (anciently). Your “altar” represented your LORD. If your altar was made of unhewn stone, then people knew you worshiped Jehovah. If it were hewn, then people knew you worshiped a god of this world. Your “tent” represented your LIFE. You could tell all kinds of things about a person by simply looking at their tent. You can do the same when camping today. Your “well” represented your LIVELIHOOD. Isaac was a man of the flock and therefore was always in great need of a well (and notice where this scriptural event takes place–Beer-sheba, “well of an oath“. This may have been the same place which was called Beer-sheba a hundred years before this, in the time of Abraham; but as the well, from which it had its name originally, was closed up by the Philistines, the name of the place might have been abolished with the well; when, therefore, Isaac re-opened it, he restored the ancient name of the place. See Genesis 21 for the background to this significant well, and the verses in Genesis 26 that precede verse 25.).
Now, if our tent represents our life, then we can see a likening to the account found in Mosiah 1-2. Where did the people pitch their tents, and in which direction did they face them? “And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple” (Mosiah 2:6). If your tent represents your life, the what does the temple represent? As per the previous explanation the temple is where the Lord’s altar was located, so the temple represent the LORD. So we would say that if your TENT is facing the TEMPLE, then your LIFE is facing the LORD!
A similar illustration can be found in several scriptural accounts. In Numbers 2 as the wondering Israelites are given their order of encampment, all tents are faced toward the Tabernacle! Another example is The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34). The characteristic rite of the Feast of Tabernacles was the dwelling in booths made of the boughs of trees. Remarkable celebrations of the Feast of Tabernacles took place at the opening of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs. 8:2; 2 Chr. 5:3; 7:8) and in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:14). Genesis 13:12; 14:12 is a great example of how facing one’s tent makes a difference. Lot goes from merely facing his tent toward Sodom to dwelling in Sodom (and we know what trouble that caused him…). He should have been more careful about which way he was facing his tent!
For those who are familiar with Salt Lake City, you know that the grid-system is the basis for addresses of businesses and homes. What you may not have realized is that each address is based on your position relative to the Salt Lake Temple. When you give someone your location/address in Salt Lake County, you are really just telling people how far you are/live from the temple (this system was developed when the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed the Plat of Zion [click here for a diagram]). If I were to move to 13200 S. 2700 W., I would be 132 streets South and 27 streets West of the Salt Lake City Temple. Pretty easy to find the temple!
A temple-centered life is a Christ-centered life! So… which way is your tent/LIFE facing?
During the press conference introducing Howard W. Hunter as the new President of the church, he presented the theme that would become the hallmark of his brief administration. He invited “the members of the Church to establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it. Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people.” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 625).
President Howard W. Hunter also said:
“I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would  be worthy of-and carry-a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families. Let us be a temple-attending people.  Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow.  Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it.  Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing. If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance,  gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work.” (“Exceeding Great and Precious Promises“, Ensign, Nov. 1994)
The following account contains some great examples of how to face our tent/LIFE to the temple/LORD:
“Several years ago I heard about a good brother who described his attitude as President David O. McKay gave the concluding talk of general conference. It was a [muggy] afternoon, and this was the fifth session he had attended. He was sitting in the balcony, and his mind had a serious wandering problem. He noticed a man sitting in the middle section who had fallen asleep with his head tilted back and his mouth open. It occurred to him that if he were in the roof of the Tabernacle, he could drop a spit wad through one of the vent holes right into the mouth of that sleeping man. What a glorious thought! Following the meeting, he overheard two men talking about their feelings during President McKay’s talk. They were visibly moved by what they had heard. He thought to himself, ‘These two brethren were having a marvelous spiritual experience, and what was I doing? Thinking about dropping spit wads from the ceiling!’ President Spencer W. Kimball said that worship is “an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord.” (Ensign, Jan. 1978, p. 5) One youth described how he first experienced the spirit of worship. He had been marginally active through his Aaronic Priesthood years. When he attended sacrament meeting, he usually sat in the back with a group of his friends, and he was less than a model of reverence. One day, however, he came in a little late, and there were no seats by his friends. He sat alone, and for the first time in his life, he closed his eyes during the prayers, he sang the hymns, he listened to the sacrament prayers, and he paid attention to the speakers. About midway through the first speaker, he found tears welling up in his eyes. With some embarrassment, he carefully glanced around; no one else seemed emotional. He didn’t know for sure what was happening to him, but the experience changed his life. It was during that meeting that he really started his spiritual preparation for his mission. He felt something, and fortunately, he acted and thus sustained those feelings. (Elder Jack H. Goaslind, “Yagottawanna“, Ensign, May 1991)
A TEMPLE: SACRIFICE. The tabernacle was a portable temple. Perhaps the best known temple in the Bible is the one built by Solomon in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles. 2–5). In the Book of Mormon, the righteous followers of God were led to build and worship in temples (2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 1:18; 3 Nephi 11:1). Ancient temples were places of animal sacrifice in similitude of the atoning sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Many people miss the fact that in Mosiah 2:3 the people “took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burn offerings according to the law of Moses.”
After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord gave them the law of sacrifice. This law included offering the firstborn of their flocks. This sacrifice symbolized the sacrifice that would be made by the Only Begotten Son of God (Moses 5:4–8). This practice continued until the death of Jesus Christ, which ended animal sacrifice (Alma 34:13–14).
Originally, sacrifice meant to make something or someone holy (What an awesome way to think about sacrifice!). It has now come to mean to give up or suffer the loss of worldly things for the Lord and His Kingdom (I prefer the original meaning…). Disciples of Christ should be willing to sacrifice (MAKE HOLY) all things for the Lord. Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, 69).
In the Church today members partake of the sacrament of the bread and the water in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Members of Christ’s Church today are also asked to offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit (3 Ne. 9:19–22). This means that they are humble, repentant, and willing to obey God’s commandments.
Modern-day temples continue to be a place of sacrifice today! For example, one must make certain sacrifices to be worthy to enter the temple and sacrifice must be made to actually worship in the temple. I like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, put it:
“So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the “sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving “away all [our] sins” in order to “know God” (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him” (Ensign, May, 1995).
A TOWER: SERVE. Perhaps the most oft quoted verse of Mosiah 2 is verse 17, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (my daughter’s current favorite scripture!). King Benjamin became himself the great object-lesson of Mosiah 2. As their king, and in his advanced age, he had not burdened them but rather served them–a servant-leader, like the Savior! Atop his tower–not because he is above them, but so that they can hear him–he stands as a symbol of service!
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that “service is essential to salvation.” (Ensign, June 1975)
President Marion G. Romney, who was a member of the First Presidency, taught:
“Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made. Knowing that service is what gives our Father in Heaven fulfillment, and knowing that we want to be where He is and as He is, why must we be commanded to serve one another? Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service” (Ensign, Nov. 1982).
Elder Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expounded upon the fact that as “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21) we must do all that we can to repay our indebtedness to the Lord:
“Let me give you three rules of managing the debts of gratitude you have accumulated …. First, wherever you may labor in life, give more than you take. Second, whoever is around you in life, find someone to help. And, third, ask God to multiply the power of your efforts to give and to help. …He will help you to give and to serve others, even when it seems nearly impossible. Then, you can rest assured that you have done your best to manage your debts of gratitude. But, of course, your debts will only grow, since God always blesses bountifully His grateful servants.” (“Debt Management“, Brigham Young University – Idaho Commencement April 27, 2002)
So important is the need for us to make a personal commitment to the service of our fellowmen that President Spencer W. Kimball made it the theme of a message to Regional Representatives in April 1980. He said:
“Recently we established the new consolidated schedule which is aimed at enriching family life even further, together with greater opportunity for individual and family gospel scholarship and for more Christian service. We are trying to provide more time and emphasis on Christian service, so that our example can be more powerful in the world and so that those who are so worthy of attention might get more attention than they sometimes have in the past.” (“We Feel an Urgency,” Ensign, August 1980)
And in a message to the youth of the Church, President Kimball said: “The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others,” New Era, March 1981)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:
“We know . . . that even the most extreme acts of service-such as giving all of our goods to feed the poor-profit us nothing unless our service is motivated by the pure love of Christ. If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children. . . . This principle-that our service should be for the love of God and the love of fellowmen rather than for personal advantage or any other lesser motive-is admittedly a high standard. The Savior must have seen it so, since he joined his commandment for selfless and complete love directly with the ideal of perfection . . . “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt.5:48). . . . Service with all of our heart and mind is a high challenge for all of us. Such service must be free of selfish ambition. It must be motivated only by the pure love of Christ. . . . I know that God expects us to work to purify our hearts and our thoughts so that we may serve one another for the highest and best reason, the pure love of Christ. (Ensign, Nov. 1984, see also “Serve God By Serving Others)
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, illustrated the saving and sanctifying principle of service with the following true story:
“Amidst the terrible hostilities in Missouri that would put the Prophet in Liberty Jail and see thousands of Latter-day Saints driven from their homes, Sister Drusilla Hendricks and her invalid husband, James, who had been shot by enemies of the Church in the Battle of Crooked River, arrived with their children at a hastily shaped dugout in Quincy, Illinois, to live out the spring of that harrowing year. Within two weeks the Hendrickses were on the verge of starvation, having only one spoonful of sugar and a saucerful of cornmeal remaining in their possession. In the great tradition of LDS women, Drusilla made mush out of it for James and the children, thus stretching its contents as far as she could make it go. When that small offering was consumed by her famished family, she washed everything, cleaned their little dugout as thoroughly as she could, and quietly waited to die. Not long thereafter the sound of a wagon brought Drusilla to her feet. It was their neighbor Reuben Allred. He said he had a feeling they were out of food, so on his way into town he’d had a sack of grain ground into meal for them. Shortly thereafter Alexander Williams arrived with two bushels of meal on his shoulder. He told Drusilla that he’d been extremely busy but the Spirit had whispered to him that Brother Hendricks family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came [running]. May God, who has blessed all of us so mercifully and many of us so abundantly, bless us with one thing more. May he bless us to hear the often silent cries of the sorrowing and the afflicted, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the poor. Indeed may he bless us to hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit when any neighbor anywhere is suffering, and to drop everything and come running. I pray in the name of the captain of the poor, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.” (“A Handful of Meal and a Little Oil”, Ensign, May 1996)
President Thomas S. Monson shared the following story of a pioneer family being blessed by celestial service:
“One of my children came in, said that Brother Newton Halls folks were out of bread. Had none that day. I put our flour in sack to send up to Brother Halls. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I, Brother Hall, how are you [fixed] for flour. Brother Millett, we have none. Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided [it] and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you were out. Brother Hall began to cry. Said he had tried others. Could not get any. Went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett. Well, Brother Hall, you neednt bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it. You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.” (Gifts, Ensign, May 1993)
Joseph Millett gives flour to a man who had been directed to him by the Lord.
In 1871, in the tiny Mormon farming settlement in Spring Valley, White Pine, Nevada (about 60 miles from Ely), Latter-day Saint Newman Hall found himself entirely out of flour and unable to feed his family. He asked some of his neighbors for help, but no one had a surplus. Finally he approached neighbor Joseph Millett who divided his supplies with the Halls. When Hall told him that he had been directed there following prayer, Millett told him there was no need to repay the loan. Millett recorded in his diary, “You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.”
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