Updated: Jan 19
In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul teaches the Saints, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16, emphasis added). Some have used this passage to assert that Paul’s statement affirms that a physical temple was no longer needed following the Savior’s death and resurrection. They assume that the new testament temple would live solely in the souls of the saints.
Scholar Hugh Nibley refuted this claim. In his landmark article entitled “Christian Envy of the Temple, he observed, “The [physical] temple has never lost its power to stir men’s [and women’s] imaginations and excite their emotions, and the motion which has most often inspired in Christian breasts has certainly been that of envy . . . The temple has cast a shadow over the claims and confidence of the Christian church from early times, a shadow which is by no means diminishing in our own day” (Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, Chapter 9, “Christian Envy of the Temple,” [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 414, text added).
Accordingly, Paul’s statement does not obviate the temple; it elevates the saint. If the saints are to be vessels for the Holy Spirit—covenant children who are to “bear this ministry and priesthood unto all nations” (Abr. 2:9)—then they would need to recognize the importance of their own worthiness and holiness in performing the great commission given by their Master.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:20) could only happen effectively if the saints became vessels of the Holy Ghost, with men and women alike bearing priesthood power unto every nation through the covenants they had made.
So, where would they go to receive this priesthood power? How would they fill the holy vessels of their temple bodies so they could, in turn, fill the vessels of a world that is hungering and thirsting after righteousness (see Matt. 5:6)?
Their ultimate reservoir is the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the fountain of living waters! When we come to Him and partake of His goodness via covenant, we will witness that out of us “shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38) that we can carry forth to fill the empty vessels of those around us.
As Christ’s ministers, we must seek God’s grace and power to be effective instruments in His hand. Where do we find Christ and His power—the power by which we and others can become like Him?
Certainly, we can seek Him in our own homes as we sincerely pray, read the scriptures, and live covenant lives of goodness and righteousness. I have had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences in the sacred space of my home as I have read, pondered, and prayed over the scriptures.
However, our ability to access Jesus Christ outside the temple does not preclude our seeking Him in the temple. We are blessed to find Him at our home and in His house, for in His house are His presence and covenant.
“In the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness manifest!” (D&C 84: 20). Manifest means “clear” or “obvious.” Our most obvious places of power are clear—they are in the ordinances of salvation. Ordinances and their associated covenants begin at baptism and culminate at the physical temple—the house of the Lord—with the higher covenants found there.
The phrase “Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord” is inscribed on every latter-day temple. We bring our meager holiness—our genuine worthiness—to His house, which, in turn, fills our spiritual vessels to overflowing as we worship there. Then, we can turn and bring that holiness to the entire world.
Yes, we are the temples of God! Like the tabernacle of old, we are portable temples who—when we humbly submit to the will of the Father in carrying His message and covenant to the world—can bring His holiness from His house unto all nations.
Aaron Bujnowski is the co-author of Discovering Your Temple Insights, a Cedar Fort Publication that is available for pre-order and will ship in April 2023.