Originally from West Valley City, UT, Mike Brady currently resides in Chubbuck, ID, adjacent to where his amazing wife Chelsie grew up. Together they have five children and have heard every “Brady Bunch” joke in the book. Mike has served in various capacities, but a couple of his all-time favorites have been substitute teaching in Primary and teaching youth Sunday School. His BA in International Studies which doesn’t do much in the IT industry where he works as a software product manager for Salt Lake City-based Samaritan Technologies. His passions include dating his wife, playing with those five aforementioned children, NBA basketball, and writing long emails to his bishop.
It is clear that through our prophet, Father is preparing us for our Savior’s Millennial reign. In that preparation, we would do well to more fully understand the sacred role of men and women and the equality therein. Better understanding this role of equality and the valuable perspective all leaders bring to councils, we would do well to ponder on some of the current events and emphasis’ we’ve seen recently coming from our Prophet and general leaders.
As we study and ponder the new Young Women theme and consider why President Nelson announced new temples during the women’s session of general conference, we might better understand how we can inspire, lead, hear and instruct both men and women in that preparation.
On Saturday, October 5, 2019, during a session of the 189th semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson announced the construction of eight new temples, which are regarded by believers as Houses of the Lord. This is quite normal; since his presidency began in January 2018, he had previously announced the construction of 27 new temples, so these additional eight came as no surprise.
But regarding the announcement this time, there was something perhaps insignificant, though I choose to see it as significant as ever. The piece so momentous to me was that he made this announcement at the Women’s Session. When you look at the previous 20 General Conferences, both President Nelson and his predecessor Thomas S. Monson announced new temple construction in general sessions, as the news affected the general membership of the Church: men, women, and children, all-inclusive.
So why this time did he not follow suit? Why did he deliberately break away and use the Women’s Session as his setting of choice?
For starters, he had just completed delivering a landmark address to the temple-endowed sisterhood of the Church regarding their ability to access and utilize priesthood authority and power–a hot-button topic for the past several years (and longer) as gender roles began to feel antiquated and inequitable.
Even so, why is this setting so significant to me? Since 1998 I have been studying and considering the sacred symbolism of these Houses of the Lord. Most temples are adorned with countless symbols inside and out: sunstones, moonstones, earthstones, stars, compasses and squares, and so on. My conclusion, however, is that the greatest of all the symbols you may find in your experience of this most sacred form of worship is that the temple symbolizes motherhood.
To lay the foundation on this topic, I appeal to the authority of scripture.
- Starting at the beginning, in Genesis we read “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:24, emphasis added) In the Gospel of John, Christ teaches Nicodemus that “a man must be born again“ (emphasis added) or “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus takes this saying too literally and asks “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Christ teaches in reply, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” I suppose many of us have sat through multiple Sunday school lessons discussing the importance of receiving baptism (water) and the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit). I suggest that there is a deeper meaning to this. (John 3:3-5)
- In 1 Corinthians we are asked, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)
- Also from 1 Corinthians, we are taught that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:11)
- In Ephesians and the Doctrine and Covenants, we read language discussing being “sealed with the holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13, D&C 76:53, 132:7)
- Finally, the Doctrine and Covenants teaches us the doctrinal definition of the soul: “And the spirit and the body are the souls of man.” (D&C 88:15)
There are many more, but these will suffice. We read here words that speak to
- The unifying of man and woman (Gen 2, 1 Cor 11)
- Rebirth (John 3)
- We, ourselves, are temples, housing a spirit (1 Cor 3)
- Man and woman being sealed by the Spirit (Eph 1, D&C 76, 132)
- Soul defined (D&C 88)
Next, allow me to take a side road before unifying these messages.
In extremely simple terms, in order for human reproduction to successfully occur, the female sex gamete (ovum) must be fertilized by the male gamete (sperm) within the oviduct or uterus and progress from zygote to embryo to fetus, and finally, emerge as a newborn baby.
Though this describes a biological process that transforms a woman into a mother, what does this have to do with the temple?
That newborn baby is a new human being, a soul gestated in a sacred womb as the combination of woman, man, and spirit sent from God.
Inside the Temple
Things may get a little esoteric, as we consider the temple endowment ceremony. To add some clarity, here is some language from the Church’s official website:
“You will receive the remainder of your endowment in a group setting along with others who are attending the temple. During this part, the plan of salvation is presented, including the Creation of the world, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Apostasy, and the Restoration, as well as instruction on the way all people can return to the presence of the Lord. Some of the endowment is presented through video and some by temple officiators.
“At the conclusion of the endowment, participants symbolically return to the Lord’s presence as they enter the celestial room. There you can spend time to ponder, pray, read the scriptures, or quietly discuss your experiences with family and friends. It is a place of peace, where you can also find comfort and divine direction.”
The image above, found on the same Church website, is referred to as an “instruction room”, where participants are instructed through video and temple officiators, as explained above. From left to right we see seating for participants, seating for temple officiators, an altar, and finally the veil. Participants pass through the veil as they “symbolically return to the Lord’s presence as they enter the celestial room.”
Throughout the ceremony, sisters are organized to sit among themselves and the same with the brothers. A husband and wife, therefore, are not usually allowed to sit next to one another until the ceremony is complete and they symbolically return to the Lord’s presence. There is much symbolism in this separation, too, but this article will focus only on one aspect of this symbol.
Likewise, the veil can be understood in a number of ways: Paul to the Hebrews (Heb 10:20) teaches that passing through the veil symbolizes passing through Christ’s flesh back into the presence of God. We are also taught that veils separate potential initiates from being exposed to knowledge and power for which they are not yet prepared (see Elder Bruce C. Hafen’s The Value of the Veil). The symbol I would like to focus on, however, is how the veil represents passage of one part female and one part male into the womb of the temple, where, as President John Taylor taught, we “Gods in embryo” can receive through the Holy Spirit of Promise the highest of blessings our Heavenly Parents can bestow: exaltation.
I do not know this, but I like to think that President Nelson deliberately announced new temple construction during the Women’s Session because he understands the symbolism behind the veil and the celestial room. He understands human biology and reproduction, and that the womb of the holy temple can teach us that as one part woman and one part man sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise, we are on a trajectory that can only terminate in exaltation (an oxymoron, as exaltation, is eternal).
President Nelson sees the majesty of women and their great power that is currently veiled–veiled in part by God’s timing, but also in part by the marginalization of their sex by the hyper-patriarchy, which under the control of Satan has tricked nearly all of us into allowing such a culture to exist for millennia. Instead, President Nelson is methodically and effectively leading us out of that darkness while teaching us with words like this, taken from his landmark address of October 2019 General Conference:
When a man understands the majesty and power of a righteous, seeking, endowed Latter-day Saint woman, is it any wonder that he feels like standing when she enters the room?
What does woman symbolize?
She symbolizes exaltation. She symbolizes our gateway back not only to the presence of our Heavenly Parents but life with them as they are: exalted beings. We learn this in part by combining our understanding of human reproduction and temple worship, and as the scales fall from our eyes and we learn with spiritual eyes and ears, we understand that the human body, in this case specifically the female body, truly is a temple. We understand the significance and power of the veil of the temple. We remember Christ’s words to Nicodemus and realize that there is yet another birth even after baptism by water and fire. We understand that human life and Godlike life are viable only when women, men, and spirit combine in the sacred space of the womb.
My amazing sisters, you are the holy temple: the House of the Lord–Holiness to the Lord! Can you ever consider Mother Mary the same way again?
More importantly: can you ever consider yourself the same way again?
Much is being discussed regarding the importance of reverence for and equality in our interactions. These conversations, when had in a spirit of true seeking, will lead to personal revelation that will help elevate our understanding, and we will move forward together. As leaders, both men and women would be well-advised to consider the teachings available to us in President Nelson’s landmark address, Spiritual Treasures, as we move forward equally-yoked toward exaltation.