CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 35.
The last few chapters described the terrors that will occur in the final days of our planet as it is cleansed in preparation for the Savior to rule and reign in righteousness and peace. It makes sense that what is not-of-God must be removed if He is to be here and we are to be able to follow His law in full freedom to do so. In this chapter, Isaiah describes how we will be protected during this time of destruction.
How will the truly righteous survive and endure such horrible experiences, extreme danger, and cataclysmic events? The short answer is, of course, the temple. The temple will be our physical and literal safe place, just as our temple covenants keep us safe and at peace spiritually.
D&C 45:32 says:
But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.
D&C 87:8 says:
Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.
Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gathertogether, and standin holy places; and prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veilof the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall seem together. And every corruptiblething, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed; And also that of element shall meltwith fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glorymay dwell upon all the earth. And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmityof beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation— That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled. Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be; While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.
We will be able and prepared to go to the temples for protection, literally, just as our temple covenants protect us spiritually. Both applications are important. It reminds us of Passover, where the literal obedience (to physical ordinances) provided spiritual protection that saved their physical lives.
It also makes clear why tithing is one of the requirements to survive those last days (with tithing being a requirement to have a temple recommend, and so without tithing there is no access to the temple) (see also D&C 85:3 and D&C 64:23).
Isaiah opens with a beautiful description of what will happen for these righteous people as they gather in holy places, when even the land itself begins to be restored to its former state and flourish to provide for the people (verse 1). Modern day prophets have said that this began to be fulfilled when the Salt Lake valley, which no one else had been able to settle, flourished for the Saints seeking refuge there. D&C 133:26-29 says that this will be fulfilled again later, after the same pattern, when the lost tribes begin to be gathered to America (and then led back to Jerusalem by the priesthood leader David and his two counselors; see Isaiah 11). It will also be fulfilled for the Lamanites as they return to the restored Gospel, which is why we must honor the land and care for our planet the way they hold it sacred (D&C 49:24).
We see this being literally filled in Israel now. For thousands of years, the abundant springs that water the trees and crops of the Jezreel Valley (from the mountains of Lebanon to the plains of Sharon, verse 2) have been blocked, changing the fertile and productive valley into swamps. Tons and tons of silt washed into the Mediterranean Sea from the Nile River, building up giant sand dunes that wouldn’t let the water through. This covered the plains in swamps, and left the rest of the land a dry desert. Prophecy was fulfilled that nothing could grow there. But since the land was dedicated by priesthood leaders for the return of the Jews (in 1841, and five times since), Israel has found a way to dig through the sand dunes so that the water can pass. The land is again a fertile valley, productive and beautiful in its season. Israel is now one of the richest soils for fruits and vegetables in all of the Middle East, shipping its products all over Europe as well. Here is a picture from when I was there last Spring, all the farmland behind me:
But besides the literal and physical fulfillment (Aaronic), there is also the spiritual fulfillment (Melchizedek). The glory of Lebanon wasn’t just the beautiful trees or the timber it provided; these were a symbol of strength and longevity. Mount Carmel was the site where Elijah the prophet was, specifically in the showdown where he called down fire and the priests of Baal could not (see 1 Kings 18), and so symbolizes the power of the priesthood. The prophecy does not only mean that the valley itself will flourish beautifully again; that is true, but it is also saying that the people (of righteousness) will also flourish by the strength (authority) and power of the priesthood. It is only by the authority and power of the priesthood can we “strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees” (verse 3).
Connecting this spiritual piece back to the physical, it also refers to the movement of the people toward the literal places of Zion. Like in the days of Moses leading the people in the wilderness, Brigham Young was obedient to the Lord’s counsel that no one who wanted to go should be left behind. In the same way, when it is time for the near-impossible task of gathering to temples, or even to the New Jerusalem or Jerusalem itself, we must all work together to bring everyone who is willing to go.
This then cycles back to the spiritual again, meaning that we should be testifying so people are invited unto His kingdom, and caring for them well enough that those who are willing will be able to do so. We must love people into the Gospel, and support them as they make the difficult decisions in cleansing their lives and preparing for temple ordinances. We must assist those willing to humble themselves for baptism, not just so that they get baptized but that by so doing we are submitting to the Lord’s priesthood together with them.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart,
Be strong, fear not…
Verse 4 reminds us that in every dispensation, those who followed prophets were persecuted and oppressed. This is another time we must work together to care for one another and help those willing to hearken to the counsel of the prophets and priesthood leaders. We know that in the last days, it will get harder before it gets better, but the Lord has promised to fight our battles and we must trust Him to deliver justice to those who refuse mercy. D&C 121:7-8 says:
Peace be unto thy soul;
thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well,
God shall exalt thee on high;
thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Isaiah says that the Lord will come with a recompence, and reminds us that He has promised to save us (verse 4).
Even this serves a purpose. We do not endure trials and afflictions only to be made stronger, though that can be part of the process as we build new muscles of faith. But the purpose is also to testify, so that all those who have refused to see the truth will understand and all those who have remained hard will be softened and able to accept the truth (verse 5; see also Matthew 11:2-5). Only then will those who cannot function well without His help and power will be set refreshed and restored by the quickening of their spirit; those who have long waited to be loved will be nourished by His grace, and all will testify of it (verse 6). Those who have been lost in the pattern of destruction, and lonely and bitter because of it, will become safe resting places for others as they share the mercy and love and forgiveness that has been given them (verse 7).
This is the fruit of righteousness: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We become righteous as we become like Him – not because we are righteous, but because we exchange with Him what is not-of-God for the righteousness He offers. It is by His grace, and through His mercy, that we are changed. This power comes through making and keeping sacred temple covenants. This is the “way of holiness” (verse 8).
Such mighty spiritual transformation does require the physical ordinances, however. Isaiah again says there will be temples there in Israel, with the restored ordinances, for all the children of Abraham – both the Jews and the Muslims as they find the full Gospel completing the pieces they already hold (see Isaiah 11, Isaiah 19, and Isaiah 20). Only the righteous may enter, and all must be prepared by being worthy.
This also applies to the lost tribes, whom have been removed from the Earth. When speaking of other tribes, the Lord always uses the word “dispersed”. When talking of the ten tribes, He uses the word “outcasts” (Isaiah 11:12; 2 Nephi 21:12). The “great deep” in verse 8 is not just the oceans across to America, but the universe itself. The ten tribes will return with Enoch, when he and his temples (“cities of holiness”) return as a sign to the world that the Lord is the Lord and the final dispensation has finished (see also Alma 5; Alma 16; and Ether 13). Enoch and his people will work in their temples to help with us and all of our temples to complete the temple work for all the people of all seven dispensations. The prophet Joseph Smith told us that John the Revelator has been with them, preparing them for their return to earth (Journal of the Discourses, 1:176). When they will return, they will bring many sacred records with them and we will rejoice to read them and study them and understand more than we are now able (D&C 133:30; 2 Nephi 29:13-14; 3 Nephi 16:1-3, 17:4).
Whether now, or in the terrors of the very end of times, temples are our safe place. When we are worthy, and approved to enter, and make the sacrifices to enter, we are protected there. Nothing preys on us there; nothing tries to destroy us there. There is no contention there. There is no drama, conflict, or confusion. There is no chaos, and all things are in Order. There is only mercy, and peace, and love. The temple is the place of redemption, where none are proud and all are equal, each of us humbled by our own redemption. This is how we are at-one, by knowing what the Savior has done for each of us. This is what unites us together (verse 9).
The temple is where we are gathered, where we come to declare that we have been ransomed by the Lord. We acknowledge the plan Heavenly Father has for us, and we state our understanding of who He has called us to be. We confess who we have only been thus far, symbolic of our weakness and failings and sins, and cry out to the Lord for His atonement to cover us. Only this bridges the gap between who we have really been and who He has called us to be. It is by the atonement, by what the Savior has done, that we are restored as children of Heavenly Father and taught to be His people of holiness. This is what gives us peace, gives cause for joy, releasing us from the grief and sorrow and bondage that has held us captive thus far (verse 10). This is what sets us free. This is why we sing. This is why we smile. This is how we love.