Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel

Before we had the temple in Oklahoma City, members in our area had to go all the way to Dallas to visit the temple.  Before they had the temple in Dallas, the members in our area had to go all the way to Mesa.   When we talked about this in class, it seemed the pattern was that when our temple was the Mesa temple, people either had to make great sacrifice to go all the way there, or else they visited Utah temples while there already for visits with family and friends.  When we got the Dallas temple, organized groups would go on bus trips together, so ward days really were a sincere effort and a special experience as a group.  Now that we have the Oklahoma City temple, we often go as individuals or families.  Temples are special places, and special to our families, and so vital for our progress in faith.  The sacrifices of time, energy, and finances that we make to attend the temple regularly and often significantly bless our lives.

Ezekiel had a vision of a temple, and it is packed with layers of teaching for us.

 Ezekiel 43:1-12:

 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:

 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.

 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.

 And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.

 So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

 And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

 ¶And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.

 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.

 Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

 10 ¶Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.

 11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

 12 This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

This tells us the temple is a place for teaching (verse 11), ordinances (verse 11), and that even the grounds are holy (verse 12). It is celestial turf, a place where the Lord Himself can visit (verse 7), and we go to the temple both prepared for and expecting to encounter Him.

Brigham Young said:

“Brethren, we are the Lord’s, and all we possess; and I have determined, by the help of the Lord and this people, to build Him a house.  You may ask, “Will He dwell in it?”  He may do just as He pleases; it is not my prerogative to dictate to the Lord.  But we will build Him a house, that if He pleases to pay us a visit, He may have a place to dwell in, or if He should send any of His servants, we may have suitable accommodations for them.  I have built myself a house, and the most of you have done the same, and now shall we not build the Lord a house?” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.1, p.376, Brigham Young, December 16, 1851).

In the next chapter, we read Ezekiel 44:6-9:

And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,

 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.

 And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.

 ¶Thus saith the Lord God; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.

17 ¶And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.

 18 They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.

These verse remind us that we must be worthy to enter the temple (verse 6-9), that workers wear special clothing (verse 17-18), and that the priesthood teaches us to discern between the holy and the profane (verse 23).  Specifically, we read that:

  • The glory of the Lord fills the temple (Ezekiel 43:2, 4–5).
  • The temple is “the place of [the Lord’s] throne” on earth (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • The Lord walks in the temple, calling it “the place of the soles of my feet” (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • The temple is a place where the Lord may “dwell in the midst” of his people (Ezekiel 43:7).
  • We learn about the laws of the Lord in the temple (Ezekiel 43:11).
  • There are ordinances that the Lord wants us to perform in the temple (Ezekiel 43:11).
  • Even the grounds that surround the temple “shall be most holy” (Ezekiel 43:12).
  • Only those who are worthy should enter the temple (Ezekiel 44:6–9).
  • In the temple we learn the difference between holy and profane and between clean and unclean (Ezekiel 44:23).

Only the worthy may enter. Once a temple is dedicated, entrance and participation are limited to those who are able to meet certain rather rigorous requirements.

“You must possess a current recommend to be admitted to the temple. This recommend must be signed by the proper officers of the Church. Only those who are worthy should go to the temple. Your local bishop or branch president has the responsibility of making inquiries into your personal worthiness. This interview is of great importance, for it is an occasion to explore with an ordained servant of the Lord the pattern of your life. If anything is amiss in your life, the bishop will be able to help you resolve it. Through this procedure, as you counsel with the common judge in Israel, you can declare or can be helped to establish your worthiness to enter the temple with the Lord’s approval” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, p. 32).

For the next verses, Ezekiel 47:1; 6-12, we need a map of the area:

map of Judea

 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.

 Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.

 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles.

 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins.

 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.

 ¶And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river.

 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other.

 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.

 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.

 10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.

 11 But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.

 12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.

In Israel, the Dead Sea is called Yam haMaved, or the “Killer Sea”.  It’s not just that every thing in it is dead, but that even those things which lose their way and find themselves in it also die.  Nothing lives there, and nothing living is in it.  This is the opposite of living!  Fresh water is active, besides creating the nourishing environment: rivers polish rocks, change the land, irrigate farms, cleanse, soothe with sound, deposit fertile soil, quench thirst, and remain pure because it is always flowing.

Considering these verses, we go back to 43:7, where we notice it refers to the temple as “the place of my throne”, and compare that to Revelation 22:1:

 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

We know that the Savior said he was the living water (see John 4 and John 7:38; also compare Jeremiah 2:13), and that the waters of life are the very doctrines of the gospel, by which we are nourished.  So what in temples bring healing and life?  How have our lives and our families been healed by temples?  If we want healing, or to heal our families, then is visiting only once enough?

Ezekiel goes back to the water, and back again, and back again.  Each time he returns to the living waters of doctrine and ordinances and this fullness of the gospel, the waters are deeper for him.  Every time we go back to the temple, especially when we go regularly and often, we receive more nourishment, more revelation, and more healing.  Our capacity increases, our burdens are lightened, and our families become more united.  We, together with our ancestors, become stronger.  When we take that back home with us, our homes become more peaceful, and our communities receive healing, also, as we “irrigate” those around us.

Ezekiel talks about a literal water that will come forth out from under the temple in Jerusalem someday, but it is also figurative and teaches us these things through symbols.  But there will also be a literal river.  Doctrine and Covenants 133:29 also references this:

29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.

 30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.

Joseph Smith also said the river was a literal one, though also full of symbolic meaning:

“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, Etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make his appearance” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843–44, p.286).

Isaiah references this also, even the other temples that will someday be built in Israel, even one on the border of Egypt as a highway to the people (see Isaiah 19, and this essay I wrote about it).

In those same verses, Ezekiel also describes seeing trees, which we learn will be both real (from the land being healed and restored) but also figurative.  We compare this to those same verses in John, where the Savior called himself “living water”, and look again at Revelation 22, this time verse 2:

 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Even the nations will be healed!

Temples have the power not just to cleanse us, and heal us, and restore us to how our Heavenly Father promised our lives could be, but also bring that healing to our communities, and even to nations.  This is the fullness of the Gospel!  We see the same vision in 1 Nephi 8:10-11:

 10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

 11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

The symbols of the water and the tree are interpreted in 1 Nephi 11:25:

 25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.

This is His great love for us, to provide this great plan to rescue us, to heal us, and to restore us to being His people as He promised we could be, as He promises we already are.

In Moses 6:57, it refers to Heavenly Father as “Man of Holiness”, meaning He-who-is-holy.  Then it says that the Lord, who is the Only Begotten Son, has a title, a name like His Fathers: “the Son of Man”.  In the New Testament, all four gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) refer to the Lord – at some point – as the “Son of Man”.  But Moses 6:57 clarifies for us the full title:  if Heavenly Father is called “Man of Holiness” and his son is called “Son of Man”, then the full title for the Lord is “Son of Man of Holiness”.  From this we get mankind, kindred, kin, all meaning like-one-another, or the-same-as-the-pattern.  So we get this:

Heavenly Father = Man of Holiness
Lord = Son of (Man of Holiness)

In the same way, if we – who are “the House of Israel” by birthright – do the work to choose the covenant, then we become more than the House of Israel.

We become the House of the Lord.

The House of Israel is a genetic lineage, with promised blessings.

The House of the Lord is a chosen adoption, with claimed blessings.

How do we get from promised blessings to claimed blessings?

By being “adopted”.

How do we get adopted?

We choose.

How do we choose?

We take His name upon us.

How do we take His name upon us?

At our baptism, we declare ourselves willing to take His name upon us.  At the Temple, we actually do so.  At Sacrament, we remember that we have done so.

We are “adopted” at the Temple.

At the Temple, we become the People of Holiness.  We become the House of the Lord.

He gives to us His righteousness, and we give Him our Holiness.  This makes us The House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord.
The House of the Lord.

“The House of the Lord” has, like all things – ALL things, both a temporal (physical) and spiritual meaning.

It is, physically, the House of the Lord.  It is a consecrated, set apart space that is His holy house.

But it is also, spiritually, the place we go to become His people, to be adopted, to choose the covenant, to become His people: “the House of the Lord”.

President Howard W. Hunter 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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