“Holiness to the Lord”

The clothing Aaron wore in the ancient tabernacle had profound significance. God instructed Moses, “Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). This clothing reminded everyone, including Aaron himself, of his role in bringing the children of Israel closer to God. The articles of clothing included:

  1. A blue robe, with pomegranates and bells woven along the hem (Exodus 28:31-35, Exodus 39:22-26).
  2. The ephod, a multicolored waistcoat with two shoulder pieces made of onyx stones and engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. The ephod was held in place by a girdle (or sash) made of the same material (Exodus 28:6-12, Exodus 39:1-7).
  3. Hanging from the shoulder pieces of the ephod, a breastplate, containing twelve precious stones, which represented the tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:13-29, Exodus 39:8-21). The breastplate also served as a container for the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30).
  4. The mitre, a head-covering made of fine linen. On the front of the mitre was a gold plate engraved with the words “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36-39, Exodus 39:30-31).

Aaron bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his chest, signifying that he was their representative as he entered the holy place. (See Exodus 28:12, 29.) And he wore the words “Holiness to the Lord” on his forehead, signifying that his purpose was to hallow the imperfect gifts his people brought and to help make those gifts acceptable to God. (See Exodus 28:38.)

The words “Holiness to the Lord” are inscribed on each temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Russell M. Nelson has indicated that these words, visible as we enter the building, are as much about us as about the building:

Those who enter the temple are also to bear the attribute of holiness. It may be easier to ascribe holiness to a building than it is to a people. We can acquire holiness only by enduring and persistent personal effort.

Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” General Conference, April 2001

“Ye shall be holy,” the Lord said to ancient Israel, “for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2; see also Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 20:26). While this process of becoming holy does not happen all at once, we can be grateful for inspired leaders who provide guidance to help us achieve that goal. The prophet Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother, explained to his people why he was giving them corrective feedback:

If ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin.

2 Nephi 9:48

We also recognize that it is only through the grace of God that we can overcome our sins and weaknesses. Moroni told us to “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness,” so that we could be “sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of [our] sins.” Because of that grace, we can “become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).

Today, I will remember the inscription on the mitre of Aaron, which also appears on modern temples. I will remember that God can make me holy as I strive to follow Him. I will remember that my imperfect gifts can be sanctified, and that His representatives can teach me what I must do to become more holy.

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