All three emblems of the mirror, the sword and shield are found in the House of the Lord and the ordinances therein. Mirrors are everywhere, constant reminders of who we are as well as symbols of eternity as they reflect back on each other. In the initiatories we find both the ability to fight evil as we wield the sword of justice in defense of truth and virtue, and a shield of greater protection from evil through the blessing of the temple garment. And of course, the endowment ordinance contains all three symbolic powers in every moment as we learn to take our first steps in our ascension into heaven and arm ourselves with power from on high.
I found a curious parallel to the temple in Interstellar that I think is enlightening. If you have seen the film, I wonder what you think about the similar role NASA plays in the work of saving the world? It too is serving a semi-sacred purpose in its mission to save humanity, a mission the rest of the world would pointedly not understand. Like the temple, the details of the work within is kept secret from the world—not out of covetousness or paranoia, but because the world would not appreciate it. “Public opinion won’t allow spending on space exploration,” Professor Brand reminds Cooper when he asks about it. “Not when we’re struggling to put food on the table.” Similarly, some might criticize the Church for building such lavish, elaborate structures when many in the world struggle to escape poverty and hunger continues to rake the world. But like NASA’s project, the temple is about something more than any given temporal struggle. Is a little extra food more important than the raising of humanity, God’s sons and daughters, to celestial heights? So great a cause is both essential and global, no matter the economics of the soil beneath one’s feet. In worshiping and doing work in the temple, we shake that dust from our shoes anyway, and for a time, leave all such problems behind as we take our first steps onto celestial ground.
As David O. McKay said, the ordinances of the temple represent “the step-by-step ascent into the eternal presence.” The pattern of godly growth, from intelligences to spirits to souls to gods to eternal lives, as presented in premortal life—the eternal arc. We are organized first as spirits—in a way, as ideas. Theories. Spiritual creations. But that is not enough. We must apply those ideas, realize those spirits in corporeal form. Amelia, when confronted by the horrible effects of relativity on Miller’s planet, confesses, “I thought I was prepared. I knew all the theory. Reality’s different.” Yes, reality is different. And we need to learn it. Experience the physical world, the feel, the touch, the pleasure, the pain, the good, the evil, the right, the wrong. That is a necessary step to becoming like God. But through those purging experiences, God is forging a veritable sword. Like Cooper repairing that surveillance drone that had been floating aimlessly in the sky for years, God takes something useless and makes it useful.
Murph protested to her father, “Couldn’t we just let it go? It’s not hurting anyone.”
A kind, non-judgmental view, but in a way—if I may be this bold—satanic, for it squanders the potential of a device capable of soaring through the heavens. Keeping us grounded in the dirt is the adversary’s entire goal, after all, and even doing no harm is wasting the greater heights we can attain to if we choose to take flight. As Edmund Burke is claimed to have said, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I might add that in this case good men doing nothing is the very evil that is attempting to triumph! The earth was made for us to take our first steps on, the dust made for us to plant our feet, where we begin our eternal journey to explore the endless expanse of the universe’s possibilities. Without a little pain, without some discomfort, and without God’s distance, we’d never even want to take those first steps away from where we started, never want to reach upwards with aspiration.
I’ve seen the more evangelical atheists proclaim publicly their distaste for a God who makes a world where bad things happen. These same atheists will just as loudly argue for science to replace religion as the answer to man’s dilemmas. I want to shake them by the shoulders and point out the hypocrisy: science would not exist if there were no problems in the world, I want to shout. What cause would we have to explore the marvelous mysteries of the human body if disease did not necessitate it?
It takes painful shaping, a hard physical press, to craft us out of clay. The core of all crafts—all creations—is an idea, the theory behind it, and then it must be clothed in material form. Craftsmanship must be behind both of these skills. A musician must compose the music and then use his fingers to play the instrument to make it. A novelist must dream up a plot and then know how to put the words together to show scenes and sequences. A warrior must plan out a strategy for a fight and then use his discipline and physical training to wield that sword and shield to actually wage it. It is in the union of these two forms that we find true, godlike Creation, a beautiful, almost magical process where the thing becomes more than the sum of its parts, ultimately unified by sealing ordinances and priesthood. That is the creation of souls, the creation of gods—the very work of God’s temples. That is the means and end of the hero’s path.