STQ: Temples & World Peace

March 11, 2004 | 7 comments
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My Seminary class has just started studying the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 2:2-4 contains the oft-quoted verses:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD?s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

While most Mormons view these verses as a source of great inspiration, I read them and say, “huh?”

Donald Parry et al. authored a book entitled Understanding Isaiah. In it the authors suggest that “temple service and worship (2:2-3) are directly connected to worldwide peace and prosperity (2:4).” And later in the same paragraph, “temple attendance (2:2) results in peace.” Does this interpretation make sense?

The timing seems to be messed up. The references to people going to the temple place that event (or period of time) “in the last days,” but the references to peace are clearly millennial. Indeed, the authors of the commentary expressly tie peace to the millennium, not to “the last days” (an expression that they interpret to mean “our day”). I suppose that it is possible to connect temple attendance today with peace in the millennium, but would you really claim that one causes the other?

Also, the fact that “all nations shall flow unto it” might be completely unconnected with temple attendance. Some people (including Apostle Robert Hales, in the April 2002 General Conference) have suggested that the 2002 Olympics was a fulfillment of that prophecy, but most of the people who attended the Olympics were not permitted to enter the temple.

Nevertheless, temple attendence does seem to be part of the prophecy. After all, the people “go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob” so that the Lord may “teach us of his ways.” Surely, this is a reference to the learning of the temple ordinances.

What does Isaiah mean when he writes, “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”? Here is an excerpt from the dedicatory prayer of the Idaho Falls Temple:

We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under Thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that “out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

No problem, but does the spread of constitutional democracy have anything to do with temple attendance? The 2002 Olympics? To be clear, I am not saying that these ideas are not related, but the connections are more opaque than generally assumed. Based on the foregoing, these verses contain at least five separate concepts:

* The temple is built in Salt Lake City (late 1800s)
* People of the world visit Salt Lake City (2002)
* Members do temple work in the Salt Lake Temple (1893 – present)
* The nations will embrace constitutional democracy (1989 – present?)
* Peace will prevail on earth (Millennium)

This raises my Seminary Thought Question: Can you explain how these five ideas might be interconnected?

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7 Responses to STQ: Temples & World Peace

  1. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2004 at 10:10 am

    I was a little perplexed at your perplexity. Nothing in the verses seems all that unclear to me. I read on and realized you were really aiming at the various *interpretations* of the verses. So here’s my thought:
    -Do we have to believe all those interpretations are correct?
    -Even if they are in some sense correct, do we have to believe they are related? Scriptures can serve as a conduit for revelation. The fact that the same scripture can serve to reveal two different ideas doesn’t mean the ideas are connected.

  2. Logan on March 11, 2004 at 12:30 pm

    Gordon, I just want to say that I have been studying Isaiah with my family this year and we have been using the book you mentioned, Understanding Isaiah. While Parry and his co-authors do have some interesting insights, more often than being elightened I find myself absolutely bewildered by the conclusions he draws from the arguments he makes.

    But I’m with you on this passage. Compared with the extent to which it is trumpeted and quoted, I don’t understand it very much either. What Adam says is true, that the ideas aren’t necessarily connected. Still, I have to think that Isaiah thought they were connected in some way, and people like Nephi always talk about how plain and simple Isaiah is. I wish I could be let in on the big mystery.

    Instead of answering your question, I guess I’m echoing it.

  3. Charles on March 11, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    This is my initial thought.
    The church is based out of Salt Lake City, UT. Perhaps the law being referenced is not necessarily constitutional democracy, as not even most of the world’s countries have adopted a system similar to the US. Perhaps it is instead the law of the church, the covenants we enter into, the ordances we are asked to perform, the law of concecration that was once used etc.

    As the church grows and reaches more places throughout the world one could see that the law of the church is growing and reaching further as well.

    People of the world going up to the top of the mountain to visit the house of the LORD, may just be a metaphor for people coming unto the church. General conference is one example where people from all around the world virtually go to SLC, UT.

    The full realization of peace on earth will probably only be seen during the millennium, but I feel it is important to note that as more people attend the temple, they will likely find greater peace in their hearts. Peace starts with one’s self. Also, if people want to go to the temple they must be living worthy of a temple recommend. The more people honestly trying to live this lifestyle will undoubtedly result in a greater peace.

  4. Gordon Smith on March 11, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Adam, Can you share with me and Logan what you think these verses mean? Do you read these verses as a series of bullet points that refer to (mostly) unconnected events? Or is this passage a coherent story about the Salt Lake Temple? Or something else?

    While I suppose I could go along with the bullet-point theory, it does not seem to be a particularly plausible reading of the text, which seems to me to treat the events as connected. Notice that the conjunction “and” connects the building of the temple with the flowing of nations, which is connected by another “and” to people going to the mountain of the Lord, which is connected by another “and” to the learning of those people, which connected by a “for” to the spreading of the “law.” Even the Millennial stuff is joined by an “and,” though I admit that the connection there seems less obvious.

    The problem with treating the events as connected is that the story doesn’t make sense, at least under any interpretation I have seen. That wouldn’t bother me (lots of stuff in the OT doesn’t make sense to me), except that we cite these verses so often to mean … what? Something about Isaiah and the Salt Lake Temple. I am genuinely puzzled by it.

    By the way, Logan, I agree about the book. I use it for the tidbits, but don’t find it very helpful as “authority.” Actually, I find it most helpful in provoking a reaction to fanciful interpretations.

  5. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    OK, here’s my simpleminded explanation:
    in the last days (millennium or prior to) a temple will be established, maybe literally in the Mountains or maybe just in the sense that said temple will be above everything else in authority, and in the millennium people will acknowledge the authority of the temple and will go there and learn wisdom and law and will live in peace together.

    Everything else, about the temple being SLC or law meaning constitutional democracy or what not is extra stuff that I don’t think needs to be read into the text as the whole.

  6. clark on March 11, 2004 at 2:03 pm

    Joseph Smith used the parallelism in this to argue that there would be two temples in the last days. “…out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” One in Jerusalem and one in the New Jerusalem. Neither have been built. (Despite all the faith promoting rumors that go around regarding visitor centers that can quickly be converted into temples)

  7. D M Pearson on November 3, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Gordon Smith asked (a year or so ago), ‘What does Isaiah mean when he writes, “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem?”‘

    It is important, I believe, to understand the parallelism used in the scriptures, and especially, but not exclusively, by Isaiah. The Lord had given Isaiah a vision of the history of the world, especially in regards to the people or descendants of Jacob (aka ‘Israel’). Israel is, of course, the newer ‘covenant’ name the Lord gave himself to Jacob. Many of the verses throughout Isaiah have these parallels that sometimes reinforce, sometimes contrast, but always tie together elements that may be disparate according to time, people, or some other factor.

    Technically, to a Jew, ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ may be much of the same thing. As a place, the ancient ‘Zion’ was Jerusalem, at least according to some indications and extrapolations. Before the flood of Noah, ‘Zion’ was the city of Enoch. After the flood, there are some intimations that the city of Salem, that was carried up to be joined to/with the ante-deluvian ‘Zion’ was at the same geographic site (possibly/probably) as was the later city of Jeru-Salem.

    Also, a ‘hill’ or ‘mount’ in Jerusalem, ostensibly, I believe, is where the Temple there was located—on ‘Zion’s hill’ or ‘mount’. Hence, in this way, just as the LDS Temple is somewhat inextricably linked with Salt Lake City, so was the ancient Temple (and hence religion and its accompanying covenants between God and his people) inextricably linked with the “Jews” there.

    Of course, the Savior served his mortal ministry in “Jerusalem” (using Nephi’s larger sense/area connotation of this ‘geographic location’). He issued his word from Jerusalem (and its environs). Hence, the Bible (or ‘the word’ given both by the Savior himself, as well as his prophets, largely issued from “Jerusalem”). And the “law”, his “new and everlasting” covenant, restored in the Latter-Days, comes from “Zion”, a code word used in Isaiah linked with the modern-day Church, the United States, Independence, Missouri, Church Headquarters (Palmyra, Harmony, Fayette, Kirtland, Farr West, Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, Salt Lake City—wherever the Lord’s ‘mouthpiece’ or prophet is). The Book of Mormon contains the ‘fullness of the gospel’, as does, in some sense, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. These, containing the ‘modern day’ “Law” (or covenants & ordinances) come from “Zion” the Church and the ‘other’ Promised Land (American/the Americas).

    Regarding your question about the sequential listing of things in Isaiah, (as well as might be applied to anywhere in the scriptures), you will find, if you only examine the fulfillment of ancient prophecies as indicated in the New Testament, you will not necessarily find any such sequential fulfillment with any chronological or sequential listing in prophecy.

    Just as an ‘MTV’ like video might visually (and lyrically) move forward and backwards, alternately, so does fulfillment of scripture. As there are oftimes multiple fulfillments of ancient prophecies, the parallels made between ancient and modern fulfillments, whether partial or whole, should be expected.

    Nephi was (apparently) shown what Isaiah was shown (largely). Hence, though Nephi delighted in plainess, there is no contradiction between that claim of his and that he also delighted in the words of Isaiah, for he, having had seen much or perhaps all of the same vision Isaiah had, saw the parallels, anciently and subsequently (even to our day and beyond), and Isaiah made perfect sense to him.

    In other words, Isaiah said it plainly, or, as Nephi put it (though it may not necessarily be “patty-cake”, Isaiah (as Nephi did 2 centuries later) “…even as plain as word can be…” That is, while it may not be simple addition, the “math” has been brought down to its lowest possible denominators, so that all that will apply themselves with sufficient earnestness and long enough, will have it shown unto them by the Spirit of the Lord. But, as Oliver Cowdery discovered, understanding hard things, whether Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, or the words of Isaiah, that we must first “study it out in our minds”, which does mean thinking, and everything that thinking entails, including studying other resources, analyzing what is before us, THEN we can and should “inquire of the Lord”, for if we ask, he shall give—but, we cannot ask amiss!

    Nephi’s example and recommendations, and the implication of those recommendations, should be our guide. Nephi sought to know things for himself. Even though his father was shown visions, such as the Tree of Life, etc., Nephi wanted to know for himself. And, he essentially commended Laman and Lemuel to do the same.

    Do we perhaps emulate those infamous murmurers and distractors (of their father, Lehi, and their brother, Nephi), and (essentially) reply (by our words and/or actions)— “…We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” Somehow, they expected to get an answer before asking a question. They doubted more than they questioned. Nephi said, essentially, I found out because I believed in our father. May the Lord not also show us these things if we likewise diligently inquire, which means we must strive to keep God’s commandments most circumspectly?