The prophet Noah lived many years ago. He was asked to do what all prophets of God are asked to do – teach people and call them to repentance. He and his children spent many years teaching the people. Few listened and wickedness increased. The Lord told Noah and his family to build an ark. The ark provided protection and salvation from the deluge.
The Hebrew word for ark is “tebah”, which literally means box or chest. Interestingly, Moses was also put in or on a “tebah” as a baby to escape the destruction of the Egyptians. Arks saved both Noah and Moses upon the waters. Noah’s ark was a sort of reverse Pandora’s box where instead of containing evil and chaos the ark contained good and order. God placed good into the ark to save it from catastrophe. Noah and his family entered into the ark and emerged in safety to a renewed covenant with God. The sign of that covenant was offered as a rainbow, which can represent the light and myriad shades of God’s love.
Some years later the children of Israel fled Egypt as refugees into the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. The Lord commanded them to build a portable temple. Within this tabernacle they placed the ark of the covenant. The Hebrew word for this ark is “aron”; even though the Hebrew word for the ark of the covenant is different than the one for Noah’s ark, it also means chest. This covenant ark held the stone tablets containing the 10 commandments. The ark served as a reminder of the covenants God made with His people. It also represented the presence of God. The lid of the ark was called the “Mercy Seat”. On top of the Mercy Seat were two cherubim — statues of angels — that covered the ark; they represented the glory and power of God. The ark of covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle. On the Day of Atonement (known as Yom Kippur), which occurred once per year, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled sacrificial blood upon the Mercy Seat. This ritual allowed for the atonement of the sins of the covenant children of Israel. Ultimately, the ark of covenant represented the Lord’s great atoning power. The power to cleanse the sins of Israel was in the Lord Jehovah and His future sacrifice. Until the coming of the Messiah, the ark of the covenant represented the power to cover, remove, justify, and cleanse the sins of the Lord’s people. All this was done (although not all understood the meaning) in similitude of the future sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the ark of the covenant with its mercy seat, was able to save the children of Israel. Just as Noah and Moses were saved by arks, from which they and the Lord brought forth new covenants, the children of Israel were saved by the ark of the covenant. This ark ultimately rested within the tabernacle — the temple — of God.
It is now to the temple we turn. In the ancient tabernacle, the high priest approached the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant to obtain forgiveness for the people’s collective and individual sins. In our day, although our temples do not contain the ark of the covenant, the entire building serves as an ark, within which we make covenants with God. Just as the ancient ark, through the power and authority of the priesthood and through the future atoning blood of the Savior, was able to save the children of Israel from their sins, our modern day temple arks provide similar salvation and even the path to exaltation.
Why is the temple so important? A temple is literally the House of the Lord, a place where Jesus Christ can dwell. It is the place where ordinances necessary for exaltation are performed. Temple ordinances weld generation to generation, husband to wife, mother to daughter, and sister to brother.
Within temples we receive ordinances, make covenants, and gain knowledge. The temple is a place of covenant – it is a house of holiness. To be holy means to be dedicated, set apart, or consecrated. When we are holy we consecrate all our lives and everything we have to the work of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah spoke about consecration: “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD…Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 14:20-21). Zechariah envisioned the day when even the horses and dishes were consecrated for the work of the Lord. Many of us do this in our lives – we drive our children and the children of others to church activities or we drive to our visiting or home teaching appointments; we also use our dishes to take food to those who are ill or in need. Those may seem like small matters, but that is the essence of consecration – it is using our means and lives to serve and support others and further the work of the Lord. Consecration is covenant and holiness.
If you have not been to the temple, I invite you to begin preparations. Come talk with me and we’ll work together so you can attend. If you have been to the temple but do not have an active recommend, I also invite you to renew your recommend and attend. It will bring you great blessings and peace in your life. If you have an active recommend, please use it as often as you are able.
There is one more ark I’d like to talk about this morning. This is an ark — a box — many of us carry with us almost everywhere we go. Like the ark of the covenant it too can contain the commandments and covenants of the Lord. Unlike the ark of the covenant this modern ark allows us to review the covenants and commandments at any time. This modern ark is your smartphone or similar device. Do you fill it with the commandments and covenants of God or do you carry that which is unclean? Does your smartphone use uplift you and others or is it used for evil? Do you use it to spread kindness or hurtful and sinful words of gossip? Does your smartphone direct you to the temple or away from it?
Our smartphones can hold the words of God. We have easy access to the scriptures and to the words of living prophets. We have easy access to messages of beauty and peace. We have easy access to almost all current knowledge – good and bad – that which brings light or that which brings darkness. Again, does your smartphone and your use of it bring you closer to God or farther from Him? It might be some of each but I urge you to choose the light. Make sure your personal ark is one of covenant so it, like the arks of old, will provide safety amid the storms of life.
In addition to reading the words of the prophets on your smartphones, you can do many wonderful things with them. These amazing devices allow us to stay connected to one another more easily. They allow us to stay more organized in a complex and chaotic world. They allow us to always know our way home, should we ever get lost. Smartphones and other technologies allow us to be more efficient with our time, if we use them correctly, so we might have time for the most important things.
One night Wilford Woodruff had a vision of Joseph Smith and others in heaven. Joseph was at the door of the temple in heaven. He was in a hurry and could not stop to talk with Wilford. Many people were in a hurry. After a short time, Joseph passed by Wilford again. Wilford stopped him and asked why he and everyone were hurried. Joseph replied, “I will tell you Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the Celestial Kingdom has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation and so much work has to be done [that] we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it!” (https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-wilford-woodruff/chapter-3?lang=eng)
In other words, we do not have much time before the Second Coming. We must be anxiously engaged in the work of the Lord. We must not waste time! We have so much to do and so little time. Those who have already passed on are engaged in the work from the other side of the veil. They continue their work with all the energy they have.
After each General Conference I marvel at the wonderful technology that allows us to watch Conference as it happens, even though we might be across the globe. Video and audio recordings of the sessions are up within hours of each session. As soon as each session ends, we can watch it (again) via streaming video. Within three to four days the full text of the talks are posted.
The Church is constantly working on new ways to reach more people more quickly and with less effort. We can watch church videos on YouTube, we can listen to an LDS radio station online and over the air in some locations, we can read scriptures online or on our smartphones, we can send out emails or text messages to a whole ward or stake announcing activities, we can report home or visiting teaching via email or text message, we can share the gospel using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or any other myriad platforms. The Lord blesses us with technological advances so we might have more time to devote to fulfilling His work. We need to take advantage of these advances and labor and time-saving inventions by making sure we fulfill our gospel responsibilities and our duties to God.
We have little time to do the Lord’s work; let’s not squander what time we have. Those like the Prophet Joseph or Pres. Nelson or many of our ancestors on the other side of the veil are working with all diligence to do the Lord’s work. They need willing and active hearts and hands from us to fulfill our duties. We need to remember the words of Amulek who said, “Behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). We have much work to accomplish in this life – there are things we can only do here. We have work enough to do ere the sun goes down. How are you spending your time? Do you use your smartphone as an ark of covenant that guides you to the home of the Lord – the ark that contains covenants opening the way back to an eternal home? If you are ever feeling in the dark and lost spiritually, set your destination as the temple. If you don’t know how to get there, I and other leaders can give you directions. In there, you and your families will be sheltered from the storm and rising tides of sin and destruction.
I encourage each of you to reflect on the ancient arks and ponder how you can participate in the great blessings of modern arks.