The Breathtaking Body

Site of the New LDS Temple in Philadelphia

For a week in August the Montana mountains took my breath away, but the time came to leave paradise. The flight out of Bozeman connected in Salt Lake City, home of the Latter Day Saints. As I plopped into my seat, a very friendly man struck up a conversation. Thirty five-ish and baseball capped, he looked like everyday Joe; but minutes into our conversation I learned he wasn’t. “I’m flying to Philadelphia to begin plans to construct the Mormon Temple. It’ll be right across from Logan Square,” he said as if talking about putting in a flower garden. It turned out John Kemp was one of the two directors of a building project that would entail 1000 workers of various kinds, years of effort, and millions of a certain granite brick which he happily lugged out of his backpack and handed me, saying, “Here’s a sample. Isn’t it beautiful?”

I felt swept into the grand current of history-in-the-making. Curious, I asked, “How much will this temple cost?”

Smiling, John said, “Yep.”

He couldn’t tell me.

The Mormons regard their temples with great reverence. Certain Bible passages inspire them to pour their considerable collective fortunes into grand edifices, numbering well over 100 around the world. I’m sure the story of Solomon’s temple inspires them—it was “the most magnificent building which the world ever saw,” at over 150,000 square feet and 20 stories. God Himself commanded the building of a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring house of worship.

But an interesting lesson emerges later in the story. In spite of the glory of Solomon’s temple, the people strayed from God. This ultimately led Nebuchadnezzar to demolish the city. Years, later, the prophet Haggai urged the people to rebuild. The second temple paled in comparison to the grandeur of the first, yet God said, “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former . . . and in this place I shall give peace,” (Haggai 2:9). In what way did the smaller, poorer, second temple outstrip the first in glory? It would give “peace.” It’s as if God was saying, “The grandeur of Solomon’s temple didn’t save you from national ruin. Now I want to teach you about real glory!”

Buildings can’t give peace. In fact, architectural competition between nations has often brought war. Some say that the World Trade Towers symbolized the prosperity of the U.S., provoking the attack of September 11, 2001. Architectural greatness conveys power, but not necessarily love or good will.

People, however, can bring peace if their hearts are filled with the glory of God—His character. How many churches, grand or humble, have become dens of iniquity as inevitable conflicts tangled into cutthroat wars? How often have religious buildings housed factions that “bite and devour one another,” (Galatians 5:15)? Yet at times a godly man or woman have played the “peacemaker” and miraculously persuaded the warring factions to work and live in harmony.

The New Testament presents a powerful concept: The temple of God, the place where He shines forth, the house of His Shekinah, is the community of believers. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV). If His Spirit fills each believer, it fills the “temple” of the corporate body more so. If the purpose of Solomon’s temple was to glorify God, wouldn’t Jesus’ temple—his community of believers on earth—glorify Him even more?

Does the world need finer buildings? Perhaps. But it much more desperately needs love, peace, and harmony. I know I sound like a hippie; perhaps in some respects I am. But think about it. Jesus could come again, make the earth new, and give us all new buildings, but if our characters still reek of selfishness, if our communities still rankle with strife, it won’t be long before angry graffiti covers the granite walls—granite walls which will ultimately turn to powder in the face of hateful weapons of mass destruction.
I’ll take a look at the Mormon Temple across from Logan Square in a few years’ time. Maybe I’ll see the friendly John Kemp again. His gleaming granite handiwork will rise before me, a man-made, breathtaking mountain. Thousands will look on in similar awe. But better yet, one day God’s people will actually love each other as Jesus first loved them. Their community will become the grandest temple of all time. Then Jesus’ prayer will be answered: “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me,” John 17:21.

Now, that will be breathtaking.

27 thoughts on “The Breathtaking Body

  1. Paula Daniel Reply

    I so enjoy reading all you have to say, and it gives me opportunities to think of things I wouldn’t normally think about. Thank you Jennifer! I praise God for the people He has put in my life, and I’m happy that He included you! God bless all your efforts on His behalf!

  2. Dale Martin Reply

    Bravo Jennifer! Much needed.Thanks, my friend. I just shared with a friend that I believe that in some way Christianity tends to breed insularity or to use the vernacular…navel gazing. An over emphasis on “we are the Remnant” ,sadly, may be the most egregious. Instead of humility noses get tilted upward.

    Have you read Bruce Marchiano’s excellent book Jesus, the Man Who Loved Women? Communicates the personal love of Jesus like I hadn’t seen before. Even if we did nothing more for the rest of our lives than exude the kindness of Jesus what a reformation and revival that would bring.

  3. Jody Reply

    I like what you wrote Jennifer.I was a member of of LDS Church and going to the Temples are very important to the members and they do believe that is where God dwells but as I studied the new testament of the Bible I see that it says God does not dwell in buildings made of stone but within us and we are the temple of God. I am now studying to prepare to join the SDA Church and learning these truths bring me closer to God. Praise God!!

  4. Barbara Bolton Reply

    Always find your thoughts inspirational and further thought provoking for me! How can I be sure that my church-temple is one where members and guests find peace and harmony? How can I be more open to the Holy Spirit so that His fruits pour out from me? I need, and wish to share with others, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

  5. Maryann Lee Reply

    well said Jen! There was a pastor who wanted everyone to bring in their last penny it seems to the church and make his church like Solomon’s temple (actually said it)not realizing some of us live in a decaying one room cabin and can’t cut any more from their food budget. Sometimes it gets extreme how much the church demands financially while they live so well and the attitude of love do not show like do unto us but we won’t do onto you. The fruits of the spirit which Jesus shows is the greatest temple with compassion, mercy, and love (inner part of His building). He’s the building to glorify not wood buildings. Yes Jen, you’re right on….the people still strayed from God. Great thinking Jen!

  6. Maryann Lee Reply

    Beautiful nature flower picture on top….so vivid colors, fresh and peaceful….

  7. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer Post authorReply

    Dale, that book sounds like something I need to read. Isn’t he the guy who acted Jesus?

  8. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer Post authorReply

    Barb as I see it from the Word we allow the Holy Spirit to change us individually but that change is facilitated by our relationships within the body of Christ. We retain our individuality but still cultivate a close intimacy with our brothers and sisters–truly a work of the Spirit because we tend to lose either our individuality or community.

  9. Garfield strachan Reply

    Jennifer truly i enjoyed your conversation with that gentle man.It reminds me of Jesus using every day story to make a point

  10. pamela Reply

    Praising God and thanking Him. He has given you a beautiful mind and gift — to recognize His heart and then to share it with us. May He give you His beautiful peace today.

  11. Helga Reply

    I am so glad that God see’s the amazing beauty in your heart! And all of his children.

  12. Robert Best Reply

    Absolutely powerful Jennifer. It was only last night that I listened to a sermon reminding me that the reality of GOD can not be represented by buildings made by mans hand but the reality of GOD can only be seen in the loving characters of the people that make up His church (His Temple). Many Blessings

  13. Sharon Gordon Reyes Reply

    Thanks Jennifer, God sees the heart, not the external right? I also appreciated Jody’s testimony. Praise God! Blessings to all 🙂

  14. Bob Reply

    From the Bible, we know that “the Most High dwells not in temples made with hands.” Acts 7:48. We also know that not everyone believes in the God of the Bible and we can only pray that they see the Light before it is forever too late.

    I’m sure that was a nice granite brick, but there is salvation only in that… “Stone that is cut out without hands…”, Daniel 2:34

  15. Debbie Reply

    I needed to hear this message today, thank you! God is working powerfully among His people, but that makes satan angry and causes conflict. I haven’t been personally attacked by fellow believers so I don’t really know what my reaction would be, but I would hope that the Holy Spirit would help me to seek harmony and peace instead of the “cut throat” reactions you were writing about. I have seen this type of conflict in churches over and over, and it is a terrible distraction that sometimes gains momentum and the church splits on two sides of the matter.– Mountain out of a mole hill usually applies. It’s no wonder Jesus said the greatest commandment is to Love God and love one another! LOVE!!! It’s all about love! He doesn’t want us to get so caught up in our own selfish ambitions that we act in unloving ways. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up (I as Your loving, merciful Savior be lifted up) I will draw all men to me” (paraphrase). They will know we are Christians by our love!!–another concept that comes to mind. And it’s so true, if we can’t get along and show Christ-like love with our fellow believers then how can we show His love to non-believers and lead them to Jesus. Thank you for the reminders in your blog today! –very inspiring!

  16. sabrina lunn Reply


  17. Tom Kohls Reply

    This fits with what I was meditating on earlier this morning. Man looks on the outward appearance, and we often fall into that trap with our “resume” of accomplishments and life experience. But that is what Paul said was dung compared to the excellency of knowing Jesus. He meets us wherever two or three gather. And He is looking at the heart of the believer, where he is reproducing goodness, love, patience, faithfulness which will last longer (eternally) than any temple! And that will be on our resume for our new career in heaven…

  18. Terri M Reply

    The story was certainly thought-provoking; I wonder what your reaction was when traveling with a Mormon who was helping build these large temples? I agree with the last post; Jesus meets with two or three friends and I cannot wait to meet Him! Utah and surrounding states are a stronghold for the Mormon faith; their families mean everything to them and I wish more Adventists were conducting more Bible stories with the Mormons, as time is growing short to reach all people to spread the Word.

  19. Mike Bender Reply

    My how varied are we Christians in our understanding of what God would like to see from us.

    The man in this story truly believed God would look with favor upon the beautiful edifice erected in His honor, and well He may.

    Then I think of the Amish near me who do not build even one church. They arrange their homes to accommodate church services. They don’t believe it wise to spend Gods money on a separate building which will sit empty several days of the week.

    Having visited numerous churches during my growing up years, I came to adulthood believing there are Christians in many churches all seeking to understand Gods will. That understanding is formed by what they are taught as they were growing up.

    My parents moved seven times between my age of nine and sixteen. Dad was often gone to work with the only car we had so mom and I would walk with little sister to whichever church was nearby. I am glad for that as it broadened my background and helped me not be single minded in regards to religious teachings.

    My bible tells me my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, God lives with in me. I can walk into the wilderness and speak to God there and know He is with me. Church buildings are nice. They keep the rain and snow out of my face when the pastor is speaking. They prevent the wind from drowning out his voice. They keep me warm in the winter and shade me in the heat of summer. But buildings are not necessary for the worship of God.

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