What’s your favorite temple?
The architectural and landscaping differences of temples around the world are amazing. They are specifically designed to be perfect for their environment, and the results are breathtaking. Importantly though, the most important attribute of each is that they belong to Heavenly Father and are designed for his purposes. That’s an interesting analogy when we think of our bodies as temples, with different outward appearances but exactly the same divine nature and purpose.
Christ spoke of his body as a temple in John 2:21. Later, Paul taught the citizens of Corinth,
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
We also know that we “shouted for joy” to come to earth, with one of the mail goals in doing so being to obtain a body.
Here’s the thing, I don’t know about you, but sometimes my body doesn’t make me want to shout for joy now that I’m here.
This can happen when we are sick, or have a disability or affliction, or maybe just feel like our body isn’t as beautiful as we want it to be. It seems very easy to take our health and strength for granted when we have it. I think one of Satan’s biggest tricks in his toolbox is to get us to either overemphasize or undervalue our body as a gift from Heavenly Father. Sister Susan W. Tanner taught,
Satan learned these same eternal truths about the body, and yet his punishment is that he does not have one. Therefore he tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift. He has filled the world with lies and deceptions about the body. He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence, and addictions. He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object.
Our body is amazing. Then Elder Nelson, a heart surgeon, beautifully described our physical gifts from God in a conference talk. In summary of these gifts, he said,
“Anyone who studies the workings of the human body has surely “seen God moving in his majesty and power.”
The partaking of the Sacramental bread is for the remembrance of Christ’s body, which was “broken for [us].”
I appeared in court the other day on a family law case. I represented the dad, and the mom did not have an attorney so she appeared on her own behalf. I was a little surprised when I saw her, as she was wearing a pretty devastatingly low-cut blouse. I noticed as I first spoke to her before court, but then didn’t think about it again. As we went through our short hearing, at the very end, the Judge took a moment. He said something like, “Ms. So-and-So, I’m going to ask you as we have further court dates in your case to dress more conservatively. I find the way you are dressed to be extremely distracting.” I was shocked and amazed, and found it very interesting that he took the opportunity to instruct when I would have to guess it was fairly embarrassing for him to do so.
Interestingly, the meaning of the word “modesty,” means “freedom from exaggeration, self-control.” Again from Sister Tanner,
“Modesty is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire. It describes not only the altitude of hemlines and necklines but the attitude of our hearts.”
As I’ve thought about that day in court, I realized that the opposing party had a low neckline, but her demeanor in the courtroom and to the Judge was also incredibly casual . She interrupted quite often, spoke loudly and quite forcefully, and did not listen to the instructions given about how the case would proceed. In short, her behavior could be said to have been “immodest.”
Certainly, if we use any temple as an example, it could not be described as immodest in design, appearance, or purpose. Neither, on the hand, is a temple a symbol of shirking or discomfort with its own inherent beauty.
The Adversary doesn’t really care whether we overemphasize and therefore demean, or whether we devalue the inherent beauty we possess as sons and daughters of God. Either will suit his purposes nicely.
One of my favorite examples of confronting our own inherent biases against our bodies is found in a video produced by the company Dove. Take a minute to watch it here:
I find it so interesting that one woman says she doesn’t feel very good about herself after going through that door. If you watch the video again, you can notice the body language of each woman. If she goes through the “beautiful” door, she almost seems to stand straighter, to square her shoulders, to come in with a smile on her face. On the other hand, the women who judge themselves to be “average” seem to have a sort of defeated body language, with rounded shoulders, looking down, and even looking sad.
As I discussed this video with some young women that I teach, I found it interesting that they made comments about how they would probably go through the “average” door because they would be wondering if other people would judge them negatively if they chose the “beautiful” door. We discussed the importance of supporting our friends, our mothers, and our daughters in this journey, just as some of the women did in the video. We also discussed that when one person in a room starts speaking negatively about themselves, others almost feel compelled to follow. Speaking negatively about ourselves is not humility, it’s being ungrateful.
And though this video is specifically concerning women, this issue isn’t just a feminine one. An easy place to see the overemphasis on male muscles, for example, is in the superhero movies. Now I love a good superhero as much as anyone, but it’s interesting to see the difference between older versions of these superheros and the supersized muscle versions of today.
Is it any wonder that there is an increase in risky behaviors, especially among young men, such as steroid use, eating disorders, risky cosmetic surgery, and high rates of depression? A survey in the UK found that four out of five men expressed unhappiness with their bodies and more than 1/3 said they would trade a year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight or shape.
Sister Tanner shared a personal experience in her talk.
“I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, ‘You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.’ There it was. She was teaching me the Christlike principle of selflessness . . . This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances.”
Forget yourself and start concentrating on others. What a profound principle!
So, what would happen if we truly starting treating our bodies like temples? I think I would start being more grateful for the things that it can do-for all the ways that it can create.
Creation is what Heavenly Father does, and a body helps us do that, so it helps us to feel closer to Him. We can create everything from beautiful music, food, and art, to something as profound as another human being in partnership with Heavenly Father. Isn’t that ultimately why Satan would want us to abandon or misuse this gift? He is the Destroyer and does not have the ability to truly create anything.
So, how do we treat our bodies as temples? A first step is keep the purpose of our bodies in mind, because that gives us the proper perspective, the eternal perspective. Elder Nelson, in a different talk, said:
“With the blessing of our bodies to assist us, we may develop spiritual qualities of honesty, integrity, compassion, and love. Only with the development of the spirit may we acquire “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence.” (D&C 4:6.) Let us pattern our lives after our great Exemplar, even Jesus the Christ, whose parting words among men included this eternal challenge: “What manner of men ought ye to be? … even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)”
 1 Cor. 3:16–17.
 Job 38:7.
 Susan W.Tanner, The Sanctity of the Body, October 2005. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/the-sanctity-of-the-body?lang=eng.
 Elder Russell M. Nelson, Thanks Be to God, May 2012, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/05/thanks-be-to-god.p1?lang=eng#footnote18-10405_000_030. (quoting Doctrine and Covenants 88:47).
 1 Cor. 11:23–24.
 Tanner, 2005.
 Elder Nelson, The Magnificence of Man, from a talk given at BYU in March 1987, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/01/the-magnificence-of-man?lang=eng. This is a great resource for further study.