Review of Hanks, Marion D. “Christ Manifested to His People.”

Hanks, Marion D.  “Christ Manifested to His People.”  In Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, edited by Donald W. Parry, 3-28.  Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994. [Christian/Mormon/Presence]

From several perspectives this is an insightful and powerful talk about the temple.  Elder Hanks’ special emphasis here is to discuss the blessings of the temple to the living and he begins with a fairly well known quotation from Elder John A. Widtsoe, which enumerates a number of benefits temple worshippers may enjoy.  In the temple setting of instruction and reflection spoken of by President Hinckley, Elder Hanks says we can come to know the Father and Son and begin to glimpse our “own eternal possibilities and present imperfections.”  In this respect many of us are “shallow vessels” who can and may grow through regular, thoughtful, prayerful temple worship.  He affirms, “For me every proceeding and principle of the temple points to Christ….”  (p. 6)

A brief section reviews the ancient and modern commands to build temples, concluding with this statement: “Temple work and worship are part of God’s eternal plan and thus of the restored gospel!” (p. 7) It is followed by another brief review of the introduction of the Endowment by Joseph Smith in May of 1842, and what he said about that event.  In a section on symbolism Elder Hanks teaches that “the elements of temple worship are symbolic, and they are covenant-centered, and they bless us … with the wonderful privilege of association and instruction and education in the mission and in the principles of eternal progression central in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 11, emphasis in original.)  This statement becomes the focus of the remainder of the address.  The temple is a place oflight for Elder Hanks and the light is Christ, and “that which ye have seen me do.”  (3 Ne. 18:23-24.)  Thus the temple teaches what the “path” is and how we walk it, as Christ did.

“One of the most significant and satisfying blessings of temple worship is the clear affirmation of the relationship of the Father and the Son,” he writes.  “And the temple fully attests this monumental truth and leaves no doubt about their complete unity.” (p. 14)  The mission of the Church is to invite people to come to Christ and be perfected in him.  “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people,” Christ told the Church, “that will serve me in righteousness.” (D&C 100:16)  This then lead Elder Hanks to D&C 88:68, 74 which contains the promise that the Lord will “unveil his face” to us if we will organize, prepare, sanctify and purify ourselves, and cleanse our hands and feet before him.  His promise is, “I will make you clean.”  The mission of the Church to do these things is also the mission of the temples.  They both invite us to come to Christ and teach us the way of perfection Christ followed and his promise is that we will be perfected in Him.  Temples provide, “the best of all settings for the purification and sanctification process basic in the perfection of the Saints.”(p. 16)  Elder Hanks reminds us that Jacob taught that “no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Ne. 2:8), and that Jesus said, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  (John 14:6.)

In what I believe is the heart of this message, Elder Hanks leads the reader to see that “temple worship can become a critical key to knowing the Lord.” (p. 18)  Everything in the temple “points ultimately to Christ and to our Father.” (p. 18.)  We learn of them and come to know them in various ways and Elder Hanks spotlights three: prayer, scripture study, and the temple.

“The temple is of utmost importance in providing the setting for purifying and therefore sanctifying ourselves, which, as we learn about Christ, can lead us to that personal knowledge of him and witness of him that lead to the most precious of life’s gifts.” (p. 19)

The temple also teaches us the “principles upon which his holy life was based, the path of principle which he trod….” (pp. 19-20)  How is this accomplished in the temple?  Psalm 27:4 gives two answers: “to behold the beauty of the Lord,” and “to enquire in his temple.”  Elder Hanks suggests that the ordinances and covenants contain the “substance” of the message of the temple, which are built “around a few simple principles” found therein.  These “principles of his holy life lead us to that fullness of salvation known as exaltation.” (p. 21.)  “In the temple we can learn to live as Christ lives on earth and as he and the Father live.”  (p. 21.) What are those principles?  Elder Hanks reviews the principles that governed the Savior’s life, which an alert reader can see reflected in the temple endowment.  “Who of all who ever lived,” he asks, “of all whom we know, was the highest and holiest exemplar of these principles?” (p. 22.) The essence of his message–the “path of principle”–is captured in the following insightful summary:

For me there is no way to conceive a better and more glorious learning opportunity than the temple provides. … ‘[I]n the temple there is distilled in a simple way in a few moments the essence of the pattern of his holy life.  We are in fact reconciled to God through his redeeming and atoning death, and we are saved in the highest and holiest sense by following the pattern of the pure and wholesome principles that were the heart of his life.” (p. 22)

A final important questions is, “What should happen to us through the experience of temple going and temple understanding and temple worship?”(p. 23)  In answer, he says, “The temple should strengthen our preparation to receive the gifts of his atoning love and to follow his example in caring for the downtrodden and needy.”(p. 23)  Ultimately the temple is to transform us, to change us, to cause us to be born again, because,  “What really matters is the kind of people we are, the kind of people we become as we return to the temple to serve others and to ponder our own progress in the principles that were critical in his life….” (p. 24)  Being like Christ in character “is the heart” of the gospel and the temple.  Just as something important changed when the Spirit came at Pentecost, so something should change in our lives because we have worshiped in the temple.

“A purifying spirit can cause us, acquainted now in a special way with the path followed and lighted by the Lord–and loving him–to be new persons, practicing love and brotherhood, rallying to the will of the Lord, serving, sharing, loving, loyal to wholesome standards, seeking first the kingdom of God.” (p. 25)

So, to conclude, Elder Hanks asks again, “How does he manifest himself to his people in the temple?” (p. 26)

“Chiefly, I believe, through the beauty and compelling cogency of temple principles, ordinances, and covenants, through temple worship–through the spirit of revelation and other blessings of the Spirit available there for those whose minds and hearts are in tune, and who are patient and anxious to learn and to move their own lives toward Christlike ideals. (pp. 26-27)

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