The Temple as an “Inside-Out” Closet


The highest and noblest ordinance of the temple is the sealing of couples for eternity.  This ordinance, the culmination of the New and Everlasting Covenant, is performed in special rooms that are adorned with mirrors on the walls facing each other, reflecting and re-reflecting each other forever. This represents our conviction that the marriages consecrated therein are eternal, farther than the couple can see or imagine in the mirrors. This particularity of temple design means that, in one real way, Latter-day Saint temples are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside.

When we enter the doors of these magnificent temples, we leave behind all the ugliness and worry of the world. We encounter the beauty and peace of the temple. Outside the temple, there are so many duties, distractions, and difficulties that we cannot be fully ourselves—which in other language is called being “in the closet.” Only within the temple can we put aside the constraints of the world and be more closely reunited with our Parents in heaven. This is the sense in which the structure of the temple is an “inside-out” closet.

Then, zooming out to a larger framework, we see also that mortality on earth is actually a closet experience itself! In the time between our pre-mortal existence and our resurrection, we are trapped within the limitations of mortality. We are apart from the presence of God. In the closet of this world, we can’t be all who we are intended to be. Our truest identity is as divine beings of eternal origin and infinite potential, but these identities cannot be fully expressed at this time. In time, we will each emerge from our chrysalis and become more manifest as the Offspring of God. The temple gives us a heavenly foretaste of that reality. It teaches us how to pass through the veil and come out of the closet of this world.

Accordingly, by planting a little piece of God’s celestial dwelling-place here on earth, the temple is a blurring of the boundary between earth and heaven. It is an ambiguous space that defies categorization. Noting that earth and heaven are interqueered with each other is the only way of grasping the reality that when you are outside of the Temple, you feel inside a closet, but when you are in a temple, you are out of the closet.  (Indeed, God has a peculiar way of reversing our expectations: “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” 1 Nephi 13:42. Compare Matthew 19:30, Luke 13:30, and also another interesting parallel, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Luke 18:14).


In Psalm 118, the Temple is a place where God surprises the world and frustrates the rigid categories of the “experts” who built it.  Within its architecture is an amazing truth that God vindicates all those who don’t fit in. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22, see my further analysis on this here).  There are “experts” in Christianity that will be surprised when God elevates queer people to our rightful place. (For the threshold as an architectural embodiment of queerality, see my post on the threshold as the holiest place in the temple.)

The temple is a refuge from the world’s closets in so many ways. This is seen in the symbols of equity-among-diversity within the temple. At first, the universal wearing of white clothing might not be seen to represent diversity. But it does. What we should remember is that the clothing does nothing to change the actual individual. All the people in the Temple exhibit the same diversity that they did in the outside world—the only difference is that they now are all treated equally. From the president of the church down to a new convert, and from the richest among us to the poorest, we all wear the same thing. This is precious.

Furthermore, people of all genders attain a measure of equality not seen outside the temple. Even the living and the dead are treated equally in the temple, in that we ensure that no one is left out. This spirit of inclusiveness should never be forgotten as we labor in the world outside, fighting injustice and inequality. When we are in the temple, we should never forget all those who are suffering out in the world because they are not fully who they are intended to be, because they are trapped in the structures of homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism, poverty, and so forth.

Temples are needed as a refuge now, but that will not always be true.  There are examples of several signs in this dispensation that will pass away.  Prophesies, speaking in tongues, and knowledge will be set aside; so when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.  But love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8–10).  I sense that the temples are another example of the signs of this dispensation that will pass away.  No refuge from the closet will be needed in heaven, because all of heaven is a refuge from the closet of mortality. Perhaps this is why John the Revelator reports in his vision the New Jerusalem, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22).

May our experience of freedom in the temple remind us to pray for the end of closets everywhere.

The Threshold as the Holiest Location of the Temple


Many people might be surprised by the proposal that the most profound, mysterious, and holy place in the Temple could be the doorway! Of course, from one perspective, the Holy of Holies (or the Celestial Room) may be seen as the most holy place, but from another angle, the entryway, as a liminal space, may be the most precious feature of the Temple. The beautiful praise of the temple in Psalm 84 is the prompting for this idea:

“For spending just one day in your temple courts
is better than spending even a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God
than live in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10).

The verb translated “stand at the entrance” is סָפַף and is derived from the noun סַף (“threshold”), which we will encounter later. This verb could refer to serving as a doorkeeper at the temple, or it could perhaps relate the experience of a pilgrim concluding the beautiful Song of Ascents (Psalms 120–134) after journeying to the Jerusalem Temple. The temple courts referenced in the first half Psalm 84:10 are likewise an amazing place of ambiguity, as a person in the courtyard is not quite in the temple yet, but still on the temple grounds. Either way, the temple courts and the threshold of the temple are both transitional spaces. They are the ambiguous places that blur the boundaries between inside and outside, between special and normal. It is a queer place, if we understand “queer” as referring to whatever doesn’t fit neatly in one category or the other. Just a moment in either place feels more satisfying than eternity anywhere else.

The doorway of the temple is also a place of both splendor and compassion. One of the temple gates is called “Beautiful” by the author of Acts.  Perhaps it was named for its physical beauty, but it is also a focal point where grace is expected: “And a man disabled from birth was carried up and placed at the temple gate called ‘Beautiful’ every day so he could beg for alms from those going into the temple” (Acts 3:2). May we always remember the marvelous power and significance of the temple doorway.  It is the only thing in the Bible that has “Beautiful” as its actual name (Acts 3:2, 10).

Furthermore, the doorway to the Temple was a miraculous place in two separate visions recounted in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah describes his experience: “They [the seraphim] called out to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! His splendor fills the entire earth!’ The sound of their voices shook the door frames [אַמּוֹת הַסִּפִּים], and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:3–4. See also 2 Nephi 16:3-4). Secondly, Ezekiel experiences two wild and marvelous visions while he was at the threshold (סַף) of the temple, where the glory of the Lord visits: “Then the glory of the LORD arose from the cherub and drifted to the threshold of the temple. The temple was saturated with the cloud while the temple court was filled with the brightness of the LORD’s glory” (Ezekiel 10:4. The second vision is recorded in Ezekiel 47:1). Indeed, the Lord chooses the threshold as a place of special miracles.

It is no surprise, then, that according to latter-day revelation, the threshold is where the holiness of the Temple and the power of the Lord hit you in the face when you enter. As D&C 109:13 declares: “And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.”

In modern LDS Temples, the entrance is the place where one sets aside the cares of the world. It is also a place of connection and unity, because it is the portal through which the people entering meet the people leaving. It is also the place where newly married couples greet those waiting outside. Even so, I plan to take some time to dwell and pray in the entry of the Temple, or the waiting room, and drink in the glory and profundity of encountering God in the mystery of a transitional space. Spending a moment in the doorway is better than anything else the world can offer (Psalm 84:10). Won’t you join me there sometime?

[For an analysis of the temple architecture as an “inside-out” closet, see here.  For an application of the “stone which the builders rejected” in Psalm 118, see here.]

Who is the Church: What does the Book of Mormon teach?


If you search for the word “church” in the Book of Mormon (where it appears 194 times), you notice that the word is never used to identify a group of leaders. It always refers to the common people gathered around Christ. (The word for church in Greek, ἐκκλησία, is used of an assembly, gathering, or community.) This is also the understanding of “church” the Book of Mormon, whether in the plural or in the singular: (1) “Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches” (Mosiah 25:21). (2) The faithful converts who were baptized in the Waters of Mormon “were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward” (Mosiah 18:17).

Many Latter-day Saints are in the habit of saying “the Church says” or “the Church teaches,” but to me that oversimplifies an important gospel truth, the truth that we are the church. When many people say “church” they only mean leaders or publications associated with the church. However, the church is not a building in Salt Lake City. We should be cautious not to imagine it that way. We have never taught that human prophets are infallible or inerrant. No one is mistake-free except Jesus Christ, the real head of His church.

Remember, Jesus declares: “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Nephi 27:8). Thankfully, my church is not called “The Church of Thomas S. Monson.” In fact, there are only two identities mentioned in the official name of our church:  (1) “Jesus Christ,” our infallible Lord, and (2) “Latter-day Saints,” which is us, all the faithful of this dispensation.  (That’s why I don’t ever say “I disagree with the Church.” We don’t disagree with the church, we are the church!)

Certain relative clauses throughout the text of Book of Mormon define the church to be the people: “I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth” (1 Nephi 14:12). Also, “I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3). From the first book of the Book of Mormon to the last, this is its constant teaching.

This is also the only way that I make sense of the “great and abominable church” of 1 Nephi 13, which cannot be identified with any tangible institution. Rather, the great and abominable church is an attitude, a direction, and a destination.

This realization leads to a mature and profound understanding of what we mean when we say, “the Church is true”: the truth of the Church is its orientation, not its accomplishment. “The Church is true” symbolizes that we seek after truth, even though we don’t have it all. The reality that we don’t have all truth is taught firmly in the Ninth Article of Faith: “we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” The restoration of truth is not a past event. It’s ongoing: “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (D&C 50:40, see also John 16:12).

So, because the truth of the Church is our orientation, not our accomplishment, we realize that we do not have a correct knowledge of all things. But we seek after these precious verities, wherever they come from, and then strive plant them back in Zion. Mark well the humble and sincere witness of two of our prophets:

“We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 1).

“It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 248).

This eclectic and curious attitude is why we pursue truth, not a church. You may be surprised to learn that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have any converts! We are not converted to “the Church.” We are converted to Christ, and we simply walk with the church. Elder D. Todd Christofferson recently explained: “We do not strive for conversion to the Church but to Christ and His gospel, a conversion that is facilitated by the Church. The Book of Mormon expresses it best when it says that the people ‘were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ.’ [3 Nephi 28:23]” (“Why the Church,” October 2015 Conference. See also Helaman 3:26).

I have chosen to follow Christ and walk with the Church. Together, we will seek after truth, no matter where we may find it, and no matter who had it first. The “Church” is not a building in Salt Lake City; the church is the smiling faces of all the gentle people of my ward, who love one another and walk with me along our journey toward Christ, history’s only perfect prophet. And he is not only a prophet, but more than a prophet: the incarnate Son of God, fully divine, who is our Prophet, Priest, and King.