Expect the Unexpected at the Temple

Vision of Zacharias, James Tissot (1894)

Vision of Zacharias, James Tissot (1894)

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t contributed much to Temple Study in recent months.  I’ve received emails from readers wondering if I’m OK.  I’m still here, but have had other priorities to attend to.  Until life stabilizes a bit, I won’t be able to get back to blogging.  Toby Palmer has offered to help keep the blog alive, and I’m interested in his insights about Hugh Nibley and the temple.

Guest Blogger: Toby’ s self-identifying moment came when he read a Hugh Nibley article describing the characteristics of an eschatologist—someone who loves and seeks the infinite possibilities of God beyond the veil. With this self-proclaimed title, Toby voraciously reads and writes searching the mysteries of God while building his own testimony of Jesus Christ. He proudly contributes to TempleStudy.com in hope of strengthening others. Toby lives with his wife and four children in Orem, Utah.

Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek spiritual guidance for important individual and family decisions as they attend and worship at the temple. Many times divine messages that come to the heart and mind while in these holy spaces is hardly what is expected—and sometimes even a bit surprising.

According to Hugh Nibley in Three Shrines: Mantic, Sophic, and Sophistic1, being surprised by revelation is exactly what should be expected. Nibley explains the mantic individual seeks revelation and the sophic person goes no further than his own learning for knowledge. To the sophic the thought of finding answers from a spiritual source is “uncontrollable, incalculable, and full of imponderables” and completely unacceptable to the cool and rational mind. Conversely, the mantic believes revelation comes in the same unexpected way. The difference between the two is the mantic has learned to trust the divine message as he bends his will to the creator.

Consider scriptural accounts of those being surprised by unexpected revelation. Gabriel’s visit to Zacharias in the temple took the wise man by surprise, the shepherds on the eve of Christ’s birth were “sore afraid” at the site of the angel—a feeling the apostles also experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Even people chosen of God for great things had to do a double take during these personal spiritual experiences.

Nibley cites C.S. Lewis in reference to revelation, “That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up…”

Next time you attend the temple seeking spiritual council, keep in mind the answer you receive may be unexpected and challenge the will to obey. Take heart with this paradox. Our faith can be strengthened by expecting the unexpected answers from Heavenly Father.

  1. Hugh Nibley, Three Shrines: Mantic, Sophic, and Sophistic can be found at http://farmsoldsite.farmsresearch.com/publications/books/?bookid=76&chapid=955 []


  1. Raven
    Posted January 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting observation. I admit, I hadn’t really thought of the surprise element that seems to accompany so many accounts of revelation received. I really like that C.S. Lewis quote–what could me more unexpected then the Lord choosing to restore His great truths to a boy prophet in upstate New York? Not to mention how unexpected it all was for the boy himself! Thanks for the new perspective, Toby.

  2. Rebekah
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Glad that the owner of the blog is okay. Gave me a chance to go over other past blogs and explore other content.

    This reminds me of Sunday School yesterday. Our Sunday school teacher mentioned that it had been a long time since Angels, Prophets and revelation had been given to the Jewish community at that time. So was it surprise? Oh no doubt.

  3. JL
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve come seeking many times. I am happy to find new content and the promise of more.

  4. Posted January 20, 2011 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Bryce is such a great guy and even though there hasn’t been a lot of new content on TempleStudy lately, you can read and re-read through the archives and find new nuggets all the time. The archive alone is worth sending people here for, it’s a fantastic resource.

    The title of this article and the name “Zacharias” alone were enough to hit me with some really interesting thoughts and impressions. Well done, Toby. Thanks for the insights!

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