“A House of Learning,a House of Light”
President and Sister Tanner speaking at BYU–Hawaii Devotional
President and Sister Tanner
University President and Wife, BYU–Hawaii
September 10, 2019
Download Button
Share Button

"Our Personal Temples"
 By Sister Susan W. Tanner

            How thrilling that we are celebrating our Laie temple this year!  It has been wonderful to read histories and stories about the prophecies, the construction, the dedication, and the miracles of the temple.  We feel bound to and united with the temple and the University, each one as a house of learning and a house of light. 

            When we stand on the roundabout that joins Halela’a and Kulanui Streets and see both houses of learning and light, we know that the Lord revealed that each would be deliberately placed in this community side by side.  They inform both our sacred and secular learning and reinforce that all learning and all light come from God.                                                  

           I personally feel another deep connection to the Laie Temple because my Grandpa and Grandma Winder were here as missionaries in Nov 1919. Not only did they attend the dedication, they spoke at one of its four dedicatory services. Grandma said at the conclusion of her short remarks,” I pray the Lord to bless each and every one of us to keep our bodies clean that we may be able to do work in this house. Today I will use my Grandma’s words as a guide to my message that our bodies are our personal temples.  They must be “clean” – respected, protected, and appreciated as houses of learning and houses of light.

            How well do we appreciate our bodies and understand their significance in God’s plan?  When one of our granddaughters was 3 years old, she attended a “joy” pre-school.  One morning they were talking about the delights of their bodies. Among other activities, they outlined their own image on newsprint paper and they weighed themselves.  When our granddaughter was measured and weighed, she was the tallest and the heaviest.  Everyone cheered.  It was as if she had won the prize for being the biggest.  On the sidelines, her mother ruefully wondered how that scene might change in the next dozen or more years.  Would she appreciate her body then, if she were the biggest?

            We could do a quick little experiment right now.  If there is something you don’t like about your body, please stand.  Now, stay standing if you like that you can feel the sand in your toes when you walk on the beach, that you can use your fingers to text, that you can taste hot chocolate chip cookies or juicy fresh mangos, that you can see a beautiful sunset. Now you may sit.  I hope this small experience will help us concentrate, not on the things we don’t like about our bodies, but rather on how many wonderful ways our bodies are a blessing to us.

In the premortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness for us.  The family proclamation states:

“Spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God and that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element (or body) inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33).

With the restoration of the gospel on the earth, we are again privileged to know these truths about the body. Joseph Smith taught:

 “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment”  (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 60).

Satan knew these same eternal truths about the body, and yet his punishment is that he does not have one. Therefore he tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift. He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence, and addictions. He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. Today I want to counter those lies with my testimony that the body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect.

You will all remember as we have been studying in Corinthians that the apostle Paul compared our bodies to temples. He said: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17). 

What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples, keeping them clean as my Grandma prayed? The result would be an increase in chastity, modesty, observance of the Word of Wisdom, and a similar decrease in the problems of pornography and abuse, for we would regard the body, like the temple, as a sacred sanctuary of the Spirit. Just as no unclean thing may enter the temple, we would be vigilant to keep impurity of any sort from entering the temple of our bodies.

Likewise, we would keep the outside of our bodily temples looking clean and beautiful to reflect the sacred and holy nature of what is inside, just as the Church does with its temples. We should dress and act in ways that reflect the sacred spirit inside us.  In For the Strength of Youth it says:

 “Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. … The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside” ([2001], 14–15).

Modesty is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire. It also describes the attitude of our hearts. The word modesty means “measured.” It is related to moderate. It implies “decency, and propriety … in thought, language, dress, and behavior” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:932). 

On this campus we have all promised to keep a code of honor which includes dressing with decency and propriety whether we are walking to the beach, attending class, eating in the cafeteria, or going to our Church meetings.  As we dress appropriately, we are more likely to act in seemly ways.  A grubby, grungy, or revealing appearance may promote slovenly actions; dresses, shirts and ties, and other well-groomed clothing and practices invite reverence and respect.

In addition, moderation and appropriateness should govern all of our physical desires. Keeping the law of chastity is also part of the honor code that we live on this campus.  President Russell M. Nelson teaches: 

“We will cherish our chastity and avoid ‘foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown [us] in destruction and perdition.’ We will ‘flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience [and] meekness’ (1 Tim.6:9-11) – traits that edify the whole soul.” 

We pray that all of us will keep your bodies pure, that our spirits may be edified.

The pleasures of the body can become an obsession for some; so too can the attention we give to our outward appearance. Sometimes there is a selfish excess of exercising, dieting, makeovers, and spending money on the latest fashions (see Alma 1:27).  

I am troubled by the practice of making our bodies after the image of the world. The Lord wants us to be made in His image, not in the image of the world, by receiving His image or light in our countenances (see Alma 5:14, 19).

I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. For years I even went without eating chocolate and greasy foods, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

There it was. She was teaching me the Christlike principle of selflessness. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “seeketh not her own” (Moro. 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances. Our bodily temples become lights for others.

The restored gospel teaches that there is an intimate link between body, mind, and spirit. In the Word of Wisdom, for example, the spiritual and physical are intertwined. When we follow the Lord’s law of health for our bodies, we are also promised wisdom to our spirits and knowledge to our minds (see D&C 89:19–21). The spiritual and physical truly are linked.

I remember an incident in my home growing up when my mother’s sensitive spirit was affected by a physical indulgence. She had experimented with a new sweet roll recipe. They were big and yummy—and very filling. Even my teenage brothers couldn’t eat more than one. That night at family prayer my father called upon Mom to pray. She buried her head and didn’t respond. He gently prodded her, “Is something wrong?” Finally she said, “I don’t feel very spiritual tonight. I just ate three of those rich sweet rolls.” I suppose that many of us have similarly offended our spirits at times by physical indulgences. Especially substances forbidden in the Word of Wisdom, which is also part of BYU Hawaii’s honor code, have a harmful effect on our bodies and a numbing influence on our spiritual sensitivities. None of us can ignore this connection of our spirits and bodies.

Very early every morning, I run past the bright Laie temple which appears to float in the dark sky, lighting the whole community.  Similarly, other temples around the world light their unique landscapes with their brilliance.  There are over 160 functioning temples now standing as beacons of light.

            Likewise, our personal temples can be a light and a beacon to others as we live in purity and reverence.  With over 16 million members of the Church, we could share with the world, not just 160 shining temples, but 16 million temples of light as we cultivate Christlike qualities and keep our personal temples clean within and without.  

Our bodies are our temples. I testify that we are His children, made in His image, with the potential to become like Him, to shine with His light. I pray like my grandma that we will treat this divine gift of the body with great care and gratitude, keeping it clean and pure. Someday, if we are worthy, we shall receive a perfected, glorious body—inseparably bound to the spirit. May we respect the sanctity of the body during mortality so that the Lord may sanctify and exalt it for eternity. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


"A House of Learning, A House of Light"

By President John S. Tanner



Thank you Susan. That was a beautiful message!  May we always remember that our bodies are temples.  What a difference this would make on campus!  Why, it would almost put Campus Security, the Office of Honor, and Title IX out of business.

Our devotional today is intentionally temple-themed in honor of the centennial anniversary of our beloved temple, which was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1919.  The musical pieces today were performed at the temple dedication one hundred years ago.  Susan addressed a temple principle that her grandmother taught at the dedication—to be clean.  I, too, will speak on a temple theme. 

I have chosen to talk about the connection between school and temple.  I have called my remarks “A House of Learning, A House of Light.”

Schools and temples are profoundly interlinked in our history and doctrine, just as they are stylistically in these lovely watercolors.

At times, schools were held in temples, as was the School of the Prophets.  In D&C 88, a revelation that President Oaks called “the basic constitution of Church education,” it is hard to tell when the Lord is referring to the Kirtland temple and when to the School of the Prophets. What the Lord says here about learning applies to both temple and school, as I shall explain more fully later. 

So schools and temples are linked historically and doctrinally. For us here in Laie they are also linked experientially.  We live in the shadow of a temple. Many of us work and worship there regularly.  Our temple is part of the BYU–Hawaii experience, and we are a far better school because of it.

The Hawaiian temple has been part of our institutional identity from before the college even existed. 

Note how the temple hovers over the flag-raising ceremony in the mosaic depicting the day David O. McKay first envisioned a Church college here.  This is historically accurate.  The flag pole was located just down the hill from the temple. 

I am persuaded that President McKay later insisted that the college be located in Laie in no small part so that it would be next to the temple. He regarded college and temple as complementary elements of the gathering here in Laie, where members of the international Church could be both educated and endowed. 

It is not surprising then that when President McKay dedicated the campus, he blessed “the college, and the temple, and the town of Laie” to “become a missionary factor . . . influencing . . . millions of people.” 

Please note, however, that this famous prophecy is preceded by and predicated upon our dedication: “We dedicate our action . . . unto thee and unto Thy glory.”  As we are dedicated to God’s glory, like the temple, we enable the college to fulfill this prophecy.  As we become temples of light, as Susan taught us today, the college will become a house of light, like the temple.   

This is what President McKay specifically enjoined at our founding. At the groundbreaking he said that the beauty of the temple should be reflected in the moral beauty of the people here.  And when he dedicated the campus, he prayed: “May there radiate from these buildings an aura of light as tangible as personality radiates from each individual, influencing all to live clean and upright lives.” 

I felt the importance of the university’s proximity to the temple from the moment I set foot in Laie.  The phrase “a house of learning, a house of light” came to me early in the morning of my first full day here when I stood on the roundabout at the intersection of Kulanui Street and Hale La’a Boulevard.  I knew that these roads had been laid out at the founding of the Church College specifically to connect the temple and school spatially.  That morning as I looked back toward the McKay Building and up toward the temple, I felt a Heaven-sent prompting that BYU–Hawaii must remain connected spiritually to the temple. It, too, must be a house of learning and a house of light.

So when I was invited to choose a design for my presidential medallion, I knew immediately what should be engraved on it:

A HOUSE OF LEARNING, A HOUSE OF LIGHT.  These words lay on my breast at my inauguration and at every graduation since.  I hope they describe the vision of BYU–Hawaii in your heart as well. For this university can fulfill its mission only to the degree that it remains worthy of its proximity to the temple.

And this depends on us!  It depends on each of us being temple worthy, covenant-keeping disciples: obedient, gospel-grounded, chaste, and consecrated.

Knowing this, you can imagine my distress when I occasionally receive reports about student misbehavior, as I did on Sunday night from a respected neighbor who lives across the street from campus. He wrote in an email: 

In all my years I have never seen such disrespect for the honor code by BYUH students as I have this semester. Girls walking through town in bikinis has become common place but tonight, on the Sabbath Day, we had to deal with the music thumping from a silver SUV on Kulanui Street by the BYUH intersection and a girl in a bikini dancing on the roof while others were running around on the street.

Dancing on the roof!! I can scarcely believe it, but I trust the witness.  And I’ve personally witnessed other dubious Sabbath behavior.  The Sunday before last, I saw a group of students dressed in swimming suits, carrying fishing spears, walking on campus toward the beach.  I wondered what sign they intended to give the Lord to honor his Sabbath.

Brothers and Sisters: I do not presume to dictate rules for Sabbath Day observance for you.  But may I remind that sabbaths and temples are spiritually connected.  The Sabbath functions for time as the temple does for place.  Just as the temple demarcates the holy from the profane in space (in fact, the very word “profane” literally means outside [pro] the shrine or temple [fanus]), so the Sabbath demarcates the sacred from profane in time. 

Through temple and sabbath worship, the Lord teaches us the difference between sacred and profane. In the Old Testament, the Lord says that he wants his people to learn to “put difference between the holy and profane” and then rebukes them because they “have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezek. 22:26; cf. Ex. 11:7; Lev. 10:10).   

Brothers and Sisters: I implore you not to hide your eyes from the sabbath nor profane the Lord among us! No more than you would desecrate or profane the temple! Not here where we live in the shadow of a temple and aspire to be, like it, a house of learning and light.  

We inherit this ideal from Joseph Smith himself, who planned to build a university in Nauvoo that he hoped “to make . . . one of the great lights of the world.” The Saints took Joseph’s dream with them across the plains to the Rocky Mountains and eventually here to the isles of the sea, where David O. McKay founded this university to be a light to the world and introduced D&C 88 into its institutional DNA.  We are thus very much an extension of the Prophet Joseph’s plans for Nauvoo U and of his educational vision for the School of the Prophets.

I have in my office these statues of Joseph Smith and David O. McKay.  They are arranged so that seem to be looking at each other.  This reminds me that Joseph passed to President McKay a vision of Church education in Section 88, which President McKay then passed on to us. 

And what are the principles in D&C 88 designed to create schools worthy to be called houses of learning and of light?  Let me mention four. There are many more. 

  1. Students must be worthy and clean 

To learn by the Spirit, we must live worthy of the Spirit.  Hence, the principles in the Honor Code are not incidental add-ons to learning in Church schools.  No!  Honesty, chastity, modesty, virtue, respect for others: these are enduring requirements for learning in both temple and school. 

Both institutions require ecclesiastical endorsements.  Having commanded his people to “sanctify yourselves; yea purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean” (D&C 88:74), the Lord stipulated that “ye shall not receive any among you [in the School of the Prophets] save he is clean from the blood of this generation” (D&C 88:138).  

Those admitted into the School participated in the sacred ordinance of washing of the feet and donned clean garments. 

Here is a picture of a display about the School of the Prophets reminding us that worthiness, cleanliness, purity, and modesty have been prerequisites for Church schools and temples from the beginning. 

  1. Students must learn by study and by faith

In D&C 88 the Lord emphasizes the need to “seek learning by study and also by faith.”  Church schools are no place for slackers.  Yes, we love and support you here, but we expect you to work hard and use all your faculties of mind and spirit to learn.  The operative word in D&C 88 is “diligence.”  We are to learn diligently,  to teach diligently, to seek diligently.

Joseph set the example, which has been followed by many other prophets, including David O. McKay and Russell M. Nelson.  Joseph was an avid learner.  George Q. Cannon said that “No man in his time loved knowledge more than he.”  He inspired the Saints “with an extravagant thirst after knowledge.”  Church schools and temples invite us to satisfy this thirst by learning in the light.

  1. Students should learn everything they can, for all truth belongs to God

In D&C 88, the Lord articulates a vast curriculum for expanding our minds. 

The Saints were to “be instructed in theory and in principle”; to learn “Of things in heaven and in the earth and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home and abroad; the wars and perplexities of the nations . . . knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (88:79-80).  And if this isn’t enough, the Lord adds that we are to seek learning “out of the best books” (v.118); to “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and peoples” (D&C 90:15). 

Temples and schools attest to the principle that the gospel comprehends all truth. 

They prepare prepare people to go out into the world armed with knowledge and power (see David O. McKay, p. 22 and D&C 88:80).  And they witness that the “glory of God is intelligence.”  David O. McKay said that the purpose of “true education” is not merely economic, but “to awaken in the human heart a sense of the aim and end of human existence on this earth.” One would be hard-pressed to find a better description of the effect of the temple endowment! 

  1. Students and teachers should teach and love each other

Church schools should be places where we teach, serve, and love each other; placec where “all may be edified of all” and where “every [person] may have an equal privilege.”  Like our temples!

One of my favorite experiences in the Laie temple is being served and blessed by student temple workers.  There is no class distinction: we are all brothers and sisters, bound together in love through our mutual covenants with God, just as were those who entered the School of the Prophets. 

There, each student was welcomed by the Prophet with a formal greeted, which reads in part as follows: “I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant . . . in the bonds of love” (88:133). 

As we incorporate here these principles, so dear to the Prophet Joseph Smith and President David O. McKay, BYU–Hawaii may rightly take its place beside our temple as a house of learning and of light. 


Now let me end this devotional where we began.  We opened by singing “Who’s On the Lord Side.” I requested this opening hymn today not because it is my favorite hymn.  It is not. The tune is a sailor’s jig. But the words sound a clarion call that echoed from the temple 100 years ago and that I echo again to you today.  

Following the dedication on Thanksgiving Day, three more dedicatory sessions were held. Then on Sunday morning a special and, to my knowledge, unique meeting was held in the temple for children.  About 235 children attended.  No dedicatory prayer or hosanna shout was offered.  Instead, President Grant led the children in singing “Who’s On the Lord’s Side?”  Then he asked the children to raise their hands if they were on the Lord’s side.  Every child’s hand was raised. 

Imagine this scene.  Hundreds of children in the temple, surrounding the prophet, singing “Who’s on the Lord’s Side” and then responding to his invitation with uplifted hands.  In the other meetings the temple was dedicated.  In this meeting the children dedicated themselves in the temple.  They recommitted themselves to be valiant and true as they sang:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

We serve the living God,

And want his foes to know

That, if but few, we’re great;

            . . .

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

Now is the time to show.

We ask it fearlessly:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?

They then raised their hands in the temple, before God and his prophet, signaling their commitment to stay on the Lord’s side. 

Brothers and Sisters:  I don’t ask you to raise your hands publicly, but I ask you to resolve in your souls this day to stay on the Lord’s side. For there is battle raging in the world and it will likely only get worse.  It’s time to re-up and re-enlist with the hosts of Heaven. You served in God’s army before this life.  Take your place again among his valiant hosts.   Who’s on the Lord side?  Who?  May we each answer: I AM!

Let us stay out of enemy territory and stand in holy places.  For as President George Albert Smith declared:

“There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s

territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side

of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire

to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch

you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not

be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost

the Spirit of the Lord.”

In the spirit President Grant: I plead with you to stay on the Lord’s side of the line.  I ask you not only to live the Honor Code, though I expect this.  I ask you to keep your baptismal and temple covenants.  Only as we all do so will this university become the house of learning and house of light it is intended to be.