How to Not Defile Your Temple

Study Topics

Atlanta Temple of God

In the trilogy of movies around JRR Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit, one of the chief bad guys is an orc bearing the name and title, Azog the defiler. As in all good stories, evil meets its end, but not before causing as much damage as possible. In the personal realm, the scriptures teach us to not defile your temple, to not be defiled.

While listening to scriptures on my way to work this week, I happened to pull up Doctrine and Covenants section 93, one of my favorites. This section contains powerful promises and some of the deepest concepts in scripture. I’m not going to attempt to explain this section, but wanted to explore a word in verse 35 which stood out to me:

  1. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.

What does it mean to be defiled? Initially it sort of reminds me of the Savior’s teaching that we are the salt of the earth and if we lose our savor we are good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Salt never loses its composition or flavor enhancing ability. The way salt loses its savor is by dilution from contamination. That can be stepping outside our covenants, keeping one foot in Babylon while trying to have one in Zion. That feels a little like this defiling but not quite. Lets take a closer look.

Defining Defile

The word defile contains these definitions in Webster’s 1828 dictionary:

To make unclean, to make impure, to soil, to pollute, to corrupt, to taint, tarnish the purity of character by lewdness, to render impure with sin, etc…

There is a certain element in those meanings that is similar to contaminate, but it feels to me like it has more intention. Regardless, lets look at what the scriptures say about it.

I started off with a search for “defile” and discovered there are 28 references in the Old Testament and 8 in the New Testament and that’s it.

Then I went with the wildcard search for “defil*” (without quotes) and discovered it was still extremely heavily weighted toward Biblical verses.  There are 117 verses with a form of defile.

How to not defile your templeSidenote:

If you wanted to see the other non-major words being used, you would do this:

Search for:

Defil* -defile -defiled

That will net you 11 results taking out the most common forms of the words. Remaining words include: defiledst and defileth.

Defile and Temple

Then I was curious to find verses that mention how you defile your temple so I tried a search for:

Defil* and templ*

This only resulted in 4 verses so I definitely didn’t want to limit my study to just those results.

So I returned back to the main set of results for “defil*”. I now create a collection note from the search results because I want to save my study notes associated with these verses, and then closed all my other panes.

I expand the pane clicking on the right pointing arrow and press ctrl/cmd-F in my browser to search for “defil.” That highlights all the words in the verses for me.

Don’t Defile Your Temple

My main question is what kinds of things do the scriptures teach defile us? I want to have a pure temple so God can dwell with me. What are the activities I have to beware of to keep my temple holy?

I titled my note “Staying holy, avoiding things that defile us” and gave it tags of Defile, Holiness, and Temple.

After reviewing a number of verses and starting to take notes, I decided I would create a table in the master collection note and put things that defile us on the left, and the solutions on the right to stay in an undefiled state. You are welcome to copy/paste this table into your note if you want.

Most of these defiling actions appear in multiple verses but I didn’t want to try and record all the verses into a category.

Things that defile us, the land, the templeHow to stay holy
Adultery/Sexual immorality/Bestiality  (Gen. 49:4; Lev. 18:23)Sexual purity
Put to death if you defile the Sabbath. (Exodus 31:14).Keep the Sabbath day holy
Being in a state of disease (Lev. 13:46)Keep yourself healthy (D&C 89)
Touching uncleanness (Lev. 5:3) including dead bodies (Num. 19:13)Keep physically clean
Wickedness defiles the land which then rejects its inhabitants (Lev. 18:25-30)Keep the commandments.
Seeking for familiar spirits and wizards (unholy revelation) (Lev. 19:31)Seek revelation only from God.
Sacrificing children to false Gods (Lev. 20:3) (Modern day abortion, materialism, vanity, etc…)Protect your children. They are an heritage of the Lord. Teach them correct ways.
Don’t eat meat of beasts that die of themselves or are killed by other animals. (Lev. 22:8)Eat clean foods prepared with holiness of heart.
Murder. The land is defiled and requires the blood of the murderer to be made holy again.(Num. 35:33)Keep the commandments.
Don’t marry outside the covenant and defile the priesthood (Nehemiah 13:29).Honor the priesthood.
Do not abuse the physical temple of God. (Psalms 74:7; 79:1)Keep the temple holy and clean.
Earth is defiled by people transgressing laws, changing ordinances, breaking covenants (Isa. 24:5)Keep the commandments, ordinances, and covenants
Don’t lie or utter perverseness (Isa. 59:3)Speak truth and holiness.
Nations (Babylon) defile nations (Israel) by polluting them with their wicked ways. (Ezekiel 23:17)Reject wicked ways of outsiders. Strictly stay within the covenant.
Reject food and drink that violates the laws of God (Daniel 1:8)Keep the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89)
Higher law: it’s not what goes in but what comes out of a man that defiles him. (Matt. 15:11) The tongue defiles the whole body (James 3:6). Impure thoughts defile a person (Jude 1:8).Purify your heart and mind. Watch your thoughts, words, and deeds to keep them holy.
God will destroy defiled temples. (1 Cor. 3:17; D&C 93:35; 97:17)Keep your temple that houses the spirit of God, holy.
Nothing is pure to the impure mind and conscience. (Titus 1:15)All things are pure to the pure minded. Keep your mind and conscience undefiled.
Bitterness defiles (Hebrews 12:15)Contentment and gratitude are protections.
Pride and envy defile. (Mormon 8:28)Be humble, meet the needs and wants of the poor, don’t envy others.
All unclean things that enter God’s house defile. (D&C 97:15)God’s glory rests upon the holy temple (D&C 97:15)

This gives us a pretty good flavor for what it means not to defile your temple. Doing this exercise was good enough for me to get what I wanted out of it, but if you wanted to go further, you could look up some of the verse meanings in Strong’s concordance, other commentaries, and the LDS Citation Index.

I would like to remind the reader that the purpose of these blog posts is to first and foremost, teach how to approach studying the scriptures, and hopefully share an insight or two about the topic being discussed. I’m not a scholar of the scriptures, but a student and learning all the time about things as I feel led to them. I hope these exercises are useful to you to just demonstrate ways to study and use the Scripture Notes software. There are more resources coming to the Scripture Notes program that will further enhance your ability to quickly find insights and meaning in the scriptures. If you want a robust program to help you with your study of the scriptures, I hope you will consider subscribing and supporting a platform that will continue to grow.


Immediately after finishing this blog post I saw D&C 124:24

“24. This house shall be a healthful habitation if it be built unto my name, and if the governor which shall be appointed unto it shall not suffer any pollution to come upon it. It shall be holy, or the Lord your God will not dwell therein.”

Yet another example of taking care that spiritual things (even buildings) do not become defiled or the Lord will not dwell there.

(Featured Image (c) Darryl Brooks

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About the Author

God, family, country, scriptures, soccer, Sanderson, disc golf, dessert, development. These are a few of my favorite things. :) - Oak Norton

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