There’s been a lot of discussion of late regarding a new temple fund that both members and non-members are donating to. Before the LDS Church established tithing as the mechanism to pay for temples, “temple funds” were very common.
In the early days of the Church and according to Malachi, tithing was for the purpose of bringing “meat into the storehouse” so as to care for the poor. Whereas a temple fund was for the purpose of building “a” temple. Once that temple was completed (i.e. Kirtland), the temple fund was no longer needed.
Of course today, the Church has decided to bring the temples to the people. This is a subject for a different day, but suffice it to say that this idea does not seem to reconcile with scripture nor with anything Joseph Smith taught. There is no prophecy I know of that says temples will dot the earth, from Joseph, Jesus, or in the Holy Scriptures. The prophecy as I understand it, is to build temples in two places, New and Old Jerusalem.
Understandably there are many who are worried that some random group starting a temple fund seems premature at best and inappropriate (and/or crazy) at worst. After all, “we don’t have the authority to build a temple or to create Zion, that’s the Church’s stewardship”… right?
I can certainly relate to those who have concerns about this project.
On one hand, it’s amazing to think that at some point if we’re lucky enough in our lifetime, a new temple will be built in the New Jerusalem on this the American continent. And a city will be built up to the Most High God called Zion. Like many of you, I’ve yearned for this day and have prayed many times that me and many others would be so lucky to live to see it.
On the other hand, what if this is all a hoax and people are being led astray?
Like many of you, for most of my life I’ve assumed the Church would build both temples in New and Old Jerusalem and would establish Zion.
I used to ask Hugh Nibley (whose ward I belonged to for a brief period) questions about this very topic. I had just read his book Approaching Zion. “What event will cause the Church to move its headquarters to Independence?” I would ask. “Does the Heber C. Kimball prophecy of ‘not even an old yellow dog being left to wag its tail’ need to be fulfilled first?” “Will an earthquake hit Salt Lake City, thus cleansing the inner vessel, and cause the Church to go back to Missouri?”
Brother Nibley was always cordial about my questions but would usually quickly act as though he had other things to do.
My questions and ideas are very different today however.
I do not seek to offend anyone reading this, but I don’t see the Church as currently being capable of building Zion. Nor do I see Zion being in Independence, Missouri. And sadly, I don’t believe that a prophet, like an Isaiah, or a John the Baptist, or Joseph Smith can rise up in leadership in the Church today.
And so how will it work? How will it all happen? How will Zion come to pass and how will a city and temple be built? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. What will the forerunner of the Messiah’s second coming look like? What will he say and do? How many will believe that messenger or those servants that are sent?
I’m generally a skeptic. Like many of you, I’ve been disappointed by men many times before. But if a group of people seek to raise funds to build what they believe will be the Temple of the New Jerusalem, why should I want to stop them? Or want to see them fail?
I’d rather be foolishly trying to support Zion than to accidentally fight against it.
Let’s say for example that the people involved in this project raise $5M and end up running off with the money. Or build some strange building that looks like a compound in Waco, Texas. For me, that would be a great way to see if the Lord is truly in this effort or not. I’m assuming the Church has wasted our money in the past. Why would this be any worse? If this is from God, we will know soon enough (Acts 5:38).
Some of you may be especially sensitive to the concept of church waste since just this last week we discovered that the Church leaders are paid very healthy salaries. At least $120,000 each, putting our “lay ministers” in the top 10% income bracket in the U.S. Add amazing health insurance and life insurance and pensions and social security benefits and reimbursed travel and food and education for their families and book royalties to this package and these “lay ministers” cost us tithe-payers (directly or indirectly – it’s all the same source of money) more than $5 million a year that’s for sure. The saddest part about this is that most of us have been led to believe or have been told that our church leaders are not paid anything. See Thomas Monson website as one example.
So for me, giving to this effort seems to be a no-brainer, especially given that it can be done anonymously. I’d certainly consider giving money to a homeless person to build a house. Or to any sincere group of people trying to raise money to build a synagogue or a church building or Masonic Lodge or a food pantry. No one here is being asked to sacrifice their china, sell their home or their cars. No one is being asked to make a sacrifice that hurts or to even donate at all.
So why not? Why not give to this effort and see what happens? What would be the worst thing that could come from it?
I love the quote from Joseph Smith who said “It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.” I’d rather give in this case than not, just in case this is the Lord’s project.
In fact, it would be a great strategy for the Church to fund this project. It would be the quickest way to see if this movement is from God or not. The Church donates money to other organizations all the time — to Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, to rodeos, businesses, posh theaters, and to the BSA etc., all of whom by the way, have motives not always aligned with our own, or with the church’s vision of building Zion.
So why not give? What do we have to lose?
If 100,000 people all give $100 to this effort, they’d raise $10,000,000, which I’d think would be enough to buy some land and build a temple. Would you pay $100 to find out if this effort will lead to Zion? I would.
And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be. 1 Nephi 13:37