I have given this topic a lot of thought the last few weeks. Although I've heard the countless stories of saints throughout the world selling all that they have in order to afford a trip to the temple and then traveling days on dirt roads to arrive at the temple, I've not adequately reflected on those dear saints' sacrifices to go to the temple. I sat in Sunday School two weeks ago listening to these same stories again and listening to the stories of the early saints sacrificing time and effort in order to build the temple and I wondered, "would I sacrifice as they did?" As I got to thinking about that, I realized, that except for the 2 years while on a mission, I have never lived more than 60 miles from a temple. In terms of modern-day transportation, I've always lived less than an hour away from the temple. And so, "how can I sacrifice to attend the temple" is a question I've been trying to answer. Perhaps I can persuade you to ask the same question and help you arrive at the right answer for you.
Some Hefty Statements About the Importance of the Temple
To begin to help you answer that same question, let me start off by reading some really hefty statements associated with temple work.
The first one is by Joseph Smith:
He said, "The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The Apostle says, "They without us cannot be made perfect;" (Hebrews 11:40) for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times--a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. Now, I will speak of them. I will meet Paul half way. I say to you, Paul, you cannot be perfect without us. It is necessary that those who are going before and those who come after us should have salvation in common with us; and thus hath God made it obligatory upon man. Hence, God said, "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6.)" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 356)
Whenever I read that quote from Joseph Smith, I want to instinctively counter that the greatest responsibility in this world is raising our family, but as I'll note a little bit later, temple work and raising a righteous family go hand in hand.
This next quote comes from Elder Scott in the April General Conference. Again, this one is a very weighty statement:
He said, "I encourage you to establish your own goal of how frequently you will avail yourself of the ordinances offered in our operating temples. What is there that is more important than attending and participating in the ordinances of the temple? What activity could have a greater impact and provide more joy and profound happiness for a couple than worshipping together in the temple?" (Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need)
Elder Bednar also spoke of temples in his most recent General Conference talk. He made a most profound invitation to everyone.
He said, "Within the sound of my voice are many young women, young men, and children. I plead with you to be worthy, to be steadfast, and to look forward with great anticipation to the day you will receive the ordinances and blessings of the temple.
Within the sound of my voice are individuals who should have but have not yet received the ordinances of the house of the Lord. Whatever the reason, however long the delay, I invite you to begin making the spiritual preparations so you can receive the blessings available only in the holy temple. Please cast away the things in your life that stand in the way. Please seek after the things that are of eternal consequence.
Within the sound of my voice are individuals who have received the ordinances of the temple and for various reasons have not returned to the house of the Lord in quite some time. Please repent, prepare, and do whatever needs to be done so you can again worship in the temple and more fully remember and honor your sacred covenants.
Within the sound of my voice are many individuals who hold current temple recommends and strive worthily to use them. I commend you for your faithfulness and devotion." (David A. Bednar, “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign, May 2009, 97–100)
President Hinckley once said, "I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle.” (“Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 73.)
Another quote, this one from Elder Hales, is directed to the young men of the Church. Now, before I read the quote I want to say that I don't know what it is like being a young man today, but growing up, of all the things I was taught in church, the most important goal for a young man was serving a mission. It was almost as if serving a full-time mission was going to be the pinnacle achievement in my life. But listen to what Elder Hales says:
"Now is the time to prepare for your mission. Depending upon your individual circumstance, you may be able to serve a full-time proselyting mission. While this is important, remember that even more important is going to the temple on the way to your mission. (Robert D. Hales, “To the Aaronic Priesthood: Preparing for the Decade of Decision,” Ensign, May 2007, 48–51)"
And lastly, this one from President Boyd K. Packer.
“Say the word temple. Say it quietly and reverently. Say it over and over again. Temple. Temple. Temple. Add the word holy. Holy Temple. Say it as though it were capitalized, no matter where it appears in the sentence.
“Temple. One other word is equal in importance to a Latter-day Saint. Home. Put the words holy temple and home together, and you have described the house of the Lord!" (Source: Gary E. Stevenson, “Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples,” Ensign, May 2009, 101–3)
To me, this quote means that the temple and the home and the purpose of the temple and the purpose of the home are equally important. I assert that in this time of the history of the world, as parents, we cannot afford to not go to the temple if we expect to raise a righteous family.
Temple Work is Work
Now, going back to my thoughts two weeks ago about how many saints throughout the world sacrifice a year’s worth of income or more to go to the temple; I got to thinking about examples of sacrifice to go to the temple in my own family. Almost immediately, I thought of my parents. From 1957 to 1984, the closest temple to them was the Idaho Falls temple which was over 300 miles away or about 6 hours by car. My parents, who had seven children, were not able to go the temple as a couple very often. Instead, my Dad would receive Priesthood assignments to go to the temple. He’d get off work on a Friday afternoon, travel to Idaho Falls, arrive by 11pm, sleep in a hotel and then get up on Saturday and work in the temple all day long. Then he’d drive home in the evening. He would do this two or three times a year. When us kids got a little older, whenever we drove to Utah for vacation, we’d stop by the temple and while one of my parents watched us kids, the other would go do a session. This was how my parents attended the temple for almost 30 years.
For them, temple work was tough work! One of the things my dad told me the other day while talking on the phone with him, was that back then, they didn’t have cruise control. He said one of the toughest things he endured on those temple excursions was keeping his foot on the gas for six hours.
Another example of temple work was when my dad was serving in the young men’s presidency. On one temple trip, they were short a few Melchezidik Priesthood holders. Consequently, my dad did all the baptisms on that trip. He said that over the course of two hours, he performed four hundred baptisms for the dead. I understand that in our ward, we are trying to create a ward on the other side of the veil. It is amazing to think that in one temple trip, my dad almost baptized an entire ward.
Brothers and Sisters, temple work is indeed work. We cannot view temple work as something easy and light. Temple work requires all our body, heart and mind.
Temple work requires our all our body in the sense that we have to be present. First of all, driving to the temple is no quick and easy task. At least for me, it takes longer to drive to the temple than it does to my weekday job. We also have to dress up to go to the temple or at least we should dress differently or especially for the temple. Once we arrive at the temple, we change clothes at least three times. When I go to work every day, I dress once. So, compared to my everyday work, temple work is a little less convenient.
I am reminded of story President Monson told of President Benson many years ago. He recalled, “As a … boy, coming in from the field and approaching the old farm home. … I could hear my mother singing, ‘Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?’ (Hymns, 1950, no. 58.) I can … see her in my mind’s eye bending over the ironing board … with beads of perspiration on her forehead.” She was ironing long strips of white cloth, with newspapers on the floor to keep them clean. “When I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘These are temple robes, my son. Your father and I are going to the Logan Temple.’
“Then she put the old flatiron on the stove, drew a chair close to mine, and told me about temple work—how important it [was] to be able to go to the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances performed there. She also expressed her fervent hope that some day her children … grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy those priceless blessings.” He continued: “I am happy to say that her fondest hopes in large measure have been realized.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Temple of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1993, 4)
What catches my attention in that story are the beads of sweat on President Benson's mother's brow when she was ironing her temple clothes. Unfortunately for me, sweating in the temple can be a common occurrence. I'm going to let you all in on a secret that only my wife really knows about. Although I can control it much better now, I used to quite frequently suffer anxiety attacks. For me, these attacks would come when I felt Closter phobic and trapped. And my body, which is basically like a cold bottle of milk sitting in the hot sun, sweats profusely when I experience these attacks. One time while performing sealings with Jill in the Provo temple, I began to experience an anxiety attack. The sweat began to peal off my brow and drip down to the tip of my nose. The temple clothing was not designed for people like me. In fact, while dressed in temple clothing, my body temperature goes up two or three degrees which makes me sweat even more. The only thing that makes me sweat even further is when someone brings it to the attention of everyone else, which is exactly what happened on this occasion. The temple patron paused, directed his attention at me which caused everyone else in the room to direct their attention at me and asked me if I was OK. He got up, reached for a box of tissues and handed them to me. Wiping sweat on my brow with Kleenex is like trying to clean up a liter of root bear with a few squares of toilet paper. After handing me the tissues, he then proceeded to tell everyone in the room about the time he saw a man faint at the altar. Finally after a five minute pause, he continued with the sealings. I think I lost about 2 pounds that day in the temple.
Heart and Soul
Temple work requires all our heart and soul. If we go back 15 years to 1994, we’ll remember that our prophet at the time was President Howard W. Hunter. He was president of the Church for only a few months. During that short time, he frequently emphasized the importance of the temple. In his well-known talk “The Great Symbol of Our Membership” he said, “The ability to stand by one’s principles, to live with integrity and faith according to one’s belief—that is what matters. That devotion to true principle—in our individual lives, in our homes and families, and in all places that we meet and influence other people—that devotion is what God is ultimately requesting of us. It requires commitment—whole-souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true in the commandments God has given. If we will be true and faithful to the Lord’s principles, then we will always be temple worthy, and the Lord and His holy temples will be the great symbols of our discipleship with Him.” (Howard W. Hunter, “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 2)
From this quote, we learn that in order to be qualified for temple work; we have to be deeply committed to the Lord’s work. And if we are fully committed and give our heart and soul to the Lord, then we are worthy to enter the temple. Temple work truly requires all our heart and soul.
Temple work also requires all our mind. When we attend the temple, we should maintain a sharp focus on the purpose of our attendance which is to serve the dead on the other side of the veil. Many people have waited years for their ordinance work to be completed. The least we can do is to keep our focus on the names of the people we are serving.
I remember going to the temple those first few times and being helped through the veil. I did not recall all the words then. But I was determined to memorize those words. Soon, I was comfortable in attending the temple and did not feel any anxiety. As I watched others, I noticed that at certain times, they would pull out the slip of paper to remember the person’s name for whom they were officiating. This has always bothered me and I have always committed the person’s name and birth place and birth date to memory for the duration of my temple visit. I feel that if I can remember the person’s name and birthplace and birth date, that will help me focus my mind more on the service I am performing. I also keep a prayer in my heart throughout the entire session praying that the person will accept this ordinance.
One time while in the Dallas temple, my wife and I attended an evening session. While I was getting dressed, this brother walked up to me asked if I would do a family name for him. I agreed. We went through the session. During the session, the officiator just about overlooked me in one of the parts of the session. It was at this time that I felt urgently compelled to remind the officiator that he had overlooked me. It was kind of like being nudged when the sacrament tray is sitting in front of you and you didn't notice it because you were asleep. It was a unique feeling and I felt strongly that the man for whom I was going through the temple was present. His name was Napolean Paquette born on June 10, 1848 in Quebec, Canada. After that point of the session, I felt the Sprit grow stronger. I felt this wonderful gratitude coming from this brother Napolean. I felt as though he had been waiting for his endowment for many years and that today was the day he would receive it and that he was excited and very grateful. Towards the end of the session, I simply looked at his name on the card and I knew he was observing this ordinace. When the officiator demonstrated the procedure at the veil, I felt that Napolean was anxious. I had felt the Spirit strongly before in the temple, but never to the point of weeping uncontrollably. This time was different. To me, this experience was a testimony of the divine work being performed in the Temples.
** Side note … I struggled back and forth about whether to share this experience or not. I did lots of searching on lds.org to see of there are documented sources of people sharing experiences they had in the temple with regard to those who are on the other side of the veil. I found this "A fourth blessing of the temple is receiving the knowledge that we are a part of a great cause. This is an uplifting feeling—to know that we are a part of an inspired and very real plan headed by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We are part of the preparation for his second coming.
"One of the great revelations of the temple to those who go often is the reality and nearness of the spirit world. While serving in the Provo Temple, I can say that we felt the presence of the spirits of this unseen kingdom. Often it feels as if one is standing in the midst of eternity with no veil separating this life from the next.
"How great is the unseen, but definitely felt, spirit world! It contains hundreds of times more people than our mortal world. Perhaps millions there have not heard a gospel presentation. President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the hosts of the spirit world being taught the gospel by the priesthood. (See D&C 138:29–31.)" (Harold Glen Clark, “Four Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, Oct 1983, 68)
While this was the only source I found explicitly discussing this aspect of the temple, there are many, many articles that discuss "the spirit of the temple." In a broader sense, I think this refers to those spirits who are on the other side of the veil and who accept the ordinances being performed for them in the temple.
Another instance is the time Wilford Woodruff was visited by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This one is a bit different in that when they showed themselves to President Woodruff, their work was not being performed, rather they were requesting it be performed.
Again, brothers and sisters, temple work is work. But like anything worthwhile in this life, it requires a bit of extra commitment.
I know that as we work and worship in the temple with all our body, heart and mind, our lives and our children's and family's lives will be blessed and we will be happier than we are now.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Psalmist yearned for the spiritual blessings of the Temple (Psalm 27):
4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. . . .
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
The Temple was vital to the ancient Jews. It was also important to New Testament Christians, who gathered there daily after the Ascension of Christ (Acts 2:46), though they were not in charge of the edifice. Many suggest that the need for the Temple done away when Christ rose from the dead. However, the Bible prophesies that the Temple will continue to matter. When Christ returns in His glory, He will go to the Temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1-3). Afterward, the Saints will serve God day and night in the Temple during the great Millennium (Revelation 7:15). Sounds like it will still matter and still have a role (although the Rev. 7 reference may refer to a temple in heaven, not a temple on earth).
I recently met a Christian from Mainland China who is pursuing a Ph.D. in theology and is doing his dissertation on the topic of temple purity. What a great topic to study. From Psalm 24:
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
When I was a bishop doing temple recommend interviews, I usually forgot to ask the question about lifting up one's soul to an idol, but I hope it was implicit in the other questions I asked. It is a holy house, a place of purity, where serious preparation is required to come and participate.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel said that the Sabbath is like a temple in time. Jewish scholar Jon Levinson, whose writings about the ancient Temple have done much to strengthen my appreciation of the ancient roots of the LDS temple, built on the idea by saying that "The Temple is to space as the Sabbath is to time." (Sinai and Zion) Yes, this is so true. They are both interruptions in the profane world, a place where man can step into and experience the sacred, either sacred time or sacred space. The Temple is there to help man prepare for entering into the presence of Deity, the place where we seek the face of the Lord. Like the Psalmist, we should meditate upon and yearn for the great blessings of the Temple.
* show how temple work supports/ties with the Stake and Ward Visions
STAKE VISION STATEMENT
- Individuals and families are converted to the Lord Jesus Christ and continue to overcome the world.
- Priesthood holders are worthy of the spirit, honor women and magnify their priesthood.
- We are worthy and anxious to be in the temple.
- We fulfill our responsibilities as member missionaries.
- We love one another and reach out to the less active and others in need.
ESSENTIALS OF THE VISION
- Apply the atonement of Christ by repenting daily.
- Align with the prophets.
- Study scriptures 30 minutes a day; personal and family prayer; family home evening.
- Be humble and submit to the will of the Lord.
- Keep the Sabbath day holy and partake of the sacrament worthily.
- Husbands and wives love one another, honor temple covenants, and attend frequently.
- Live the law of chastity with exactness and avoid pornography in all its forms.
- Invite non-members and less actives into our homes often.
WARD VISION STATEMENT
Objective: When the bridegroom comes, all will have lamps burning and vessels of oil. (Matthew 25:1-13)
* We have faith in Christ. (Hebrews 11:6)
* We repent of our sins.
--- Sins of commission-Forsake all ungodliness. (Moroni 10:32)
--- Sins of omission-Do works of righteousness. (James 4:17)
(Serve others, scripture study, personal and family prayer, family home evening, home/visiting teaching, missionary work, family history and temple work, Sabbath day observance, tithes and offerings, preparedness, etc.)
* We endure to the end in obedience. (2 Nephi 31:20)
* Christ's grace is sufficient for us. (Moroni 10:32)
* By His grace we are perfected. (Moroni 10:32)
* We will have eternal life in the kingdom of God. (2 Nephi 31:20)
"Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the bridegroom--For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly." (D&C 33:17-18)