I walked up into the hills in Midway, Wasatch County, recently, gained my favorite vista point and sat for some time looking at and pondering the beautiful world our Heavenly Father has created for us.
From that lovely overlook, I was able to see how the hill upon which I sat descends to a fanned-out valley floor cradled protectively by a ring of hills and mountains. I observed chubby, milk white clouds and their movement, patterns of roads and shopping, communities within the wider community, waterways and several geo-thermal mounds. Inevitably, my gaze was drawn to the far end of the valley and the dancing, sparkling blue water in Deer Creek Reservoir. From there my eyes naturally moved to the felt-like green that blankets the hills behind the reservoir and beyond that the stark contrast of soaring, charcoal, snow-capped peaks. The lay of the community, the topography, the movement of the wind and clouds across the landscape are easily discernible from a high position.
As I began my descent, the scope of my view narrowed. Eventually, I completely lost sight of Deer Creek Reservoir. If that would have been my first time to Midway, unless otherwise informed or having been to that high place, I would have had no knowledge that vast body of water existed. I still had a view of the hills and mountains that encircled the valley, but only as I turned and turned and turned again. The advance of the clouds, the size and extent of the community, traffic and movement were lost to me. The detail, the magnificence, the panoramic view that had been mine was gone.
Only that higher vantage point opened my eyes to the lay of the land, to nuances, insights and understanding that was impossible to gain at ground level.
We read in scripture that prophets frequently ascended to high places to be instructed by the Lord. Temples are often built on high ground or at strategic vantage points in communities and nations. A dedicated temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clearly designated, by the etching on its exterior, as “The House of the Lord,” and it is also a place where we gain the high ground and our views and our understanding expand.
In Doctrine and Covenants 101:45, the Lord gives the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees. The nobleman sends his servants to plant 12 olive trees and prepare his vineyard for the last harvest. He instructs them further: “... set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil.”
Note that the servants are not told “if” the enemy comes. They are told the enemy will come, and creating a high vantage point will allow them to observe and recognize the enemy’s approach, strength and where the enemy will make its assault — and in this way be able to ward off the attack.
Prophets are certainly watchmen upon the tower, who advise and warn. Temples are places of personal revelation. The temple is the “Lord’s university,” figuratively speaking, where we can go to be instructed in matters pertinent to our own personal lives and in the things of eternity. With the broader vision that comes to us in temples of the Lord, we are better prepared to avoid pitfalls and enemies in the world in which we live.
Unfortunately, as written in verses 48-54, the servants in the parable decided they knew better than their master, ignored his counsel and rationalized, “... this is a time of peace. ...There is no need of these things. (And) they became very slothful, and harkened not unto the commandment of their Lord.” And so, “the enemy came by night, and destroyed their works ...”
The Lord expressed his sadness over the harm to which his servants exposed themselves and others: “The watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer.”
The Lord has clearly articulated the benefits that come to us when we ascend to the temple, his “high and holy place.” He promises, “Thy servants (shall) go forth from this house armed with thy power, thy name shall be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:22).
When we obey God’s command to prepare and enter his holy house, by making and keeping sacred covenants, we gain the vantage point. We see things we would not otherwise see and understand things we would not otherwise understand. We are given power from on high and we are better prepared for the challenges that will come.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.