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Our Personal Temples

"Our Personal Temples" and "A House of Learning, A House of Light"

How thrilling that we are celebrating our Laie temple this year! It has been wonderful to read histories and stories about the prophecies, the construction, the dedication, and the miracles of the temple. We feel bound to and united with the temple and the University, each one as a house of learning and a house of light.

When we stand on the roundabout that joins Hale La’a and Kulanui Streets and see both houses of learning and light, we know that the Lord revealed that each would be deliberately placed in this community side by side. They inform both our sacred and secular learning and reinforce that all learning and all light come from God.

I personally feel another deep connection to the Laie Temple because my Grandpa and Grandma Winder were here as missionaries in November 1919. Not only did they attend the dedication, they spoke at one of its four dedicatory services. Grandma said at the conclusion of her short remarks,” I pray the Lord to bless each and every one of us to keep our bodies clean that we may be able to do work in this house. Today I will use my Grandma’s words as a guide to my message that our bodies are our personal temples. They must be “clean” – respected, protected, and appreciated as houses of learning and houses of light.

How well do we appreciate our bodies and understand their significance in God’s plan? When one of our granddaughters was 3 years old, she attended a “joy” pre-school. One morning they were talking about the delights of their bodies. Among other activities, they outlined their own image on newsprint paper and they weighed themselves. When our granddaughter was measured and weighed, she was the tallest and the heaviest. Everyone cheered. It was as if she had won the prize for being the biggest. On the sidelines, her mother ruefully wondered how that scene might change in the next dozen or more years. Would she appreciate her body then, if she were the biggest?

We could do a quick little experiment right now. If there is something you don’t like about your body, please stand. Now, stay standing if you like that you can feel the sand in your toes when you walk on the beach; that you can use your fingers to text; that you can taste hot chocolate chip cookies or juicy fresh mangos; that you can see a beautiful sunset. Now you may sit. I hope this small experiment will help us concentrate, not on the things we don’t like about our bodies, but rather on how many wonderful ways our bodies are a blessing to us.

In the premortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness for us. The family proclamation states:

“Spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God and that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element (or body) inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33).

With the restoration of the gospel on the earth, we are again privileged to know these truths about the body. Joseph Smith taught:

“We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 60).

Satan knew these same eternal truths about the body, and yet his punishment is that he does not have one. Therefore he tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift. He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence, and addictions. He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. Today I want to counter those lies with my testimony that the body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect.

You will all remember as we have been studying in Corinthians that the apostle Paul compared our bodies to temples. He said: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17).

What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples, keeping them clean as my Grandma prayed? The result would be an increase in chastity, modesty, observance of the Word of Wisdom, and a similar decrease in the problems of pornography and abuse, for we would regard the body, like the temple, as a sacred sanctuary of the Spirit. Just as no unclean thing may enter the temple, we would be vigilant to keep impurity of any sort from entering the temple of our bodies.

Likewise, we would keep the outside of our bodily temples looking clean and beautiful to reflect the sacred and holy nature of what is inside, just as the Church does with its temples. We should dress and act in ways that reflect the sacred spirit inside us. In For the Strength of Youth it says:

“Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. … The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside” ([2001], 14–15).

Modesty is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire. It also describes the attitude of our hearts. The word modesty means “measured.” It is related to moderate. It implies “decency, and propriety … in thought, language, dress, and behavior” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:932).

On this campus we have all promised to keep a code of honor that includes dressing with decency and propriety whether we are walking to the beach, attending class, eating in the cafeteria, or going to our Church meetings. As we dress appropriately, we are more likely to act in seemly ways. A grubby, grungy, or revealing appearance may promote slovenly actions; dresses, shirts and ties, and other well-groomed clothing and practices invite reverence and respect.

In addition, moderation and appropriateness should govern all of our physical desires. Keeping the law of chastity is also part of the Honor Code that we live on this campus. President Russell M. Nelson teaches:

“We will cherish our chastity and avoid ‘foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown [us] in destruction and perdition.’ We will ‘flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience [and] meekness’ (1 Tim.6:9-11) – traits that edify the whole soul.”

We pray that all of us will keep your bodies pure, that our spirits may be edified.

The pleasures of the body can become an obsession for some; so too can the attention we give to our outward appearance. Sometimes there is a selfish excess of exercising, dieting, makeovers, and spending money on the latest fashions (see Alma 1:27).

I am troubled by the practice of making our bodies after the image of the world. The Lord wants us to be made in His image, not in the image of the world, by receiving His image or light in our countenances (see Alma 5:14, 19).

I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. For years I even went without eating chocolate and greasy foods, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

There it was. She was teaching me the Christlike principle of selflessness. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “seeketh not her own” (Moro. 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances. Our bodily temples become lights for others.

The restored gospel teaches that there is an intimate link between body, mind, and spirit. In the Word of Wisdom, for example, the spiritual and physical are intertwined. When we follow the Lord’s law of health for our bodies, we are also promised wisdom to our spirits and knowledge to our minds (see D&C 89:19–21). The spiritual and physical truly are linked.

I remember an incident in my home growing up when my mother’s sensitive spirit was affected by a physical indulgence. She had experimented with a new sweet roll recipe. They were big and yummy —and very filling. Even my teenage brothers couldn’t eat more than one. That night at family prayer my father called upon Mom to pray. She buried her head and didn’t respond. He gently prodded her, “Is something wrong?” Finally she said, “I don’t feel very spiritual tonight. I just ate three of those rich sweet rolls.” I suppose that many of us have similarly offended our spirits at times by physical indulgences. Especially substances forbidden in the Word of Wisdom, which is also part of BYU Hawaii’s Honor Code, have a harmful effect on our bodies and a numbing influence on our spiritual sensitivities. None of us can ignore this connection of our spirits and bodies.

Very early every morning, I run past the bright Laie temple which appears to float in the dark sky, lighting the whole community. Similarly, other temples around the world light their unique landscapes with their brilliance. There are over 160 functioning temples now standing as beacons of light.

Likewise, our personal temples can be a light and a beacon to others as we live in purity and reverence. With over 16 million members of the Church, we could share with the world, not just 160 shining temples, but 16 million temples of light as we cultivate Christlike qualities and keep our personal temples clean within and without.

Our bodies are our temples. I testify that we are His children, made in His image, with the potential to become like Him, to shine with His light. I pray like my grandma that we will treat this divine gift of the body with great care and gratitude, keeping it clean and pure. Someday, if we are worthy, we shall receive a perfected, glorious body—inseparably bound to the spirit. May we respect the sanctity of the body during mortality so that the Lord may sanctify and exalt it for eternity. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.