31 January 2010

Meetings and Covenants of Consecration

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we meet together in what are called wards (local congregations) every week on Sunday. We attend Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School (called Nursery and Primary for the kids 1.5 to 3 and 3 to 12, respectively), and Priesthood, Relief Society or Young Women's meetings. In all we have 3 hours of church each Sunday. In the meetings we partake of the Sacrament (bread and water), listen to talks given by members of the congregation (or occasionally, the local church leadership), sing songs, and pray and worship together. During the rest of church we attend classes and are taught (or teach). Some leaders in the ward attend meetings before and/or after church to coordinate efforts and discuss the needs of LDS Church members in the area. There are other meetings held regularly too.

Twice a year our normal Sunday meetings are canceled as we listen to and watch General Conference, an event that occurs on the first Saturday and Sunday in April and in October. Men and boys 12 years old and older have five sessions of Conference to attend, each session is 2 hours long and is broadcast from Salt Lake City. Women in the Church who are 18 years and older attend a Relief Society (women's) broadcast the last Saturday in September each year. Young Women (12-18) attend a broadcast the last Saturday in March each year.

Additionally, twice per year in lieu of regular church meetings, we attend Stake Conference. Stakes are the superordinate group of wards in an area. There are typically 6-10 wards in a Stake. Stake Conference is conducted by the Stake President - a man called to watch over and organize the efforts of the wards in the stake. For Stake Conference there is usually an adult session (for 18+) on Saturday night and a general session (for all ages) on Sunday. Also on Saturday there is usually a Priesthood Leadership meeting for those men who are called into leadership positions within the wards and stake. Each of these meetings last 2 hours. Stake General Priesthood Meetings are also held twice per year (often on a Saturday or Sunday night) as are various meetings for the Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, and Primary.

The Young Men and Women (ages 12-18) have weekly night time meetings (to work on Scouting or service or education or just to have fun). I could go on but one thing we usually are in the LDS Church is busy. Much of this busy-ness comes because we do not have a paid clergy - all the local administration and ministration in the Church is done on a volunteer basis (technically we are called by the Lord {through church leaders} to serve in various capacities within the church. If we accept these callings - most do - then we fulfill that job in the ward or stake (or broader church) until we are 'released' from the calling or until we move to a different geographic location). For example, I currently serve as the 1st Councilor in the Young Men's Presidency in our ward; this means that I directly with the 14 and 15 year old young men in the ward (and indirectly with all those 12-18). I teach them every Sunday as well as attend meetings on Wednesday nights (and others as scheduled). I also play the organ in church - in Sacrament Meeting - as well as sing in the ward choir (although I've not been consistent in singing in the choir in the past few years).

Yesterday (Saturday) I was sitting in the Priesthood Leadership session of Stake Conference (held from 3-5 PM). Our Stake President asked the question of all in attendance: "Why are you here on this Saturday afternoon?" We could have been home with our families, we could have been working on our house, paining a picture, napping, playing, reading, working, or whatever else we might do. Some in attendance gave various answers as to why they were there: duty, responsibility, knowledge, and so forth. My thought on the matter was similar to the duty answer.

I thought that I was there because I had made a covenant of consecration to the Lord, to the building up of His Kingdom. I've covenanted that I will consecrate my time and everything else I can to serve Him. This means that if there is a meeting on a Saturday afternoon, I will be there. Now, there might be circumstances when I cannot be there - that is understandable - but it is important to be true to the covenants we make.

Our Stake President then brought up the reason he hoped we were there - because of love: love for God, love of the gospel, and love of those for whom we hold responsibility. Our service and sacrifices are a way to show and grow our love. A William James quote came to mind: "Begin to be now what you will be hereafter." If we want to love others more, we should act like we love them and eventually we will love them. If we want to love others we need to serve them and sacrifice for them. Jesus loves us more than any other person who lived on the earth and He provided the greatest act of selflessness and sacrifice and love ever performed. He atoned for our sins and sorrows because He loves us. It is this love of Christ's that we should seek. This charity is Christ's pure love; it should be our motivation for all we do in His service. If it isn't then by our righteous actions of service we can gain this love. We gain if by faith, sacrifice, righteousness, and prayer. Charity is a gift from God.

We can keep very busy within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are meetings and more meetings; there are programs upon programs but what is most important is not the programs but rather the people. The organization of the Church has been established by God to provide the means of bringing His children back to His presence. We covenant to serve God and to consecrate our whole lives unto Him. We show this consecration and love by our actions towards and for others.

25 January 2010

Sons of Helaman

In the Book of Mormon we read of a group of Lamanites who renounce their past murders and other sins. They covenant with God to never fight again lest they return to their old ways and sin again. They vowed to never fight even to save their own lives or the lives of their family. Here is this account in the book of Alma:
"12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.
14 And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
17 And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands." (Alma 24:12-18).
These faithful followers of Christ gave up their sins. For them, killing had been a common occurrence. They were a wicked and warlike people. By giving up fighting altogether they demonstrated their desire to change.

Some time after this covenant was made some of the children of these people decided they needed to go to war to fight to protect their families, freedoms, and religion. They had not promised that they would not fight again - their fathers and mothers had made that covenant. These stripling warriors were of great faith. It is written of them: "Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." (Alma 56:47-48).

Recently I pondered this scripture. Why were the teachings and faith of their mothers so important to these young men? Mothers are always important, they do most of the teaching of children. Mothers are important and should be recognized but why were these mothers recognized here? Was it the miraculous nature of the survival of these young men? I'm sure that was part of it but there was more.

I then realized that this group of people - the Anti-Nephi-Lehis - had been slaughtered by fellow Lamanites a few years before. Those are the verses I quoted from Alma 24. Most of those killed probably were men. Both men and women faced death fearlessly after they covenanted to never kill again. However, it is my opinion that most of those killed were men. I think they would have placed themselves in a position so they were the first attacked by the Lamanites. So many of these young men had likely lost their fathers in this attack. A lot of the attackers when they saw what they were doing, threw down their weapons of war and joined with the Anti-Nephi-Lehis but I doubt any of the mothers would have remarried any of those other Lamanites - it's possible but not probable. They were forgiving people but there is a difference between forgiving the person who might have killed your husband and turning around and marrying them.

While some of these widows might have remarried (men other than their converted attackers), it's likely that many were left to raise their children on their own (with the help of the church and community). There were fathers involved ("they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives") but the mothers played the larger role. Again, I believe that it is because many of their fathers had been killed by the wicked Lamanites. These were "Momma's boys" because for many of them, a mom is all they had. This is all opinion (and maybe literary license) but it makes sense. These sons of widows were taken care of by He who watches over and cares for the fatherless and widows.

This might also explain why Helaman referred to these youths as his sons (even "little sons") and they him as their father. "And I did join my two thousand sons, (for they are worthy to be called sons) to the army of Antipus..." (Alma 56:10). The young men were upstanding, honest, and righteous. They had great faith: "For as I [Helaman] had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us..." (Alma 56:46). While many of these young men might not have had living earthly fathers, they had Helaman who cared for them as sons and they had their Heavenly Father who watched over and protected them.

22 January 2010

Help Those in Haiti

Today the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued this statement:
"Our hearts are filled with sadness as we have watched the suffering in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. We turn to the example of Jesus Christ who reached out to 'lift up the hands which hang down' and 'strengthen the feeble knees.'  We are keenly aware that many in America are dealing with economic challenges caused by the recession. However, we are appealing to members to donate to Church Humanitarian Services as their means allow in order to help our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Many have already contributed and others are anxious to do so.

"Money is not the only need in Haiti. People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future. In addition to what people can do in helping with food, water and shelter, there needs to be a calming influence over that troubled nation. We invite our people everywhere to supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people as urgent aid and reconstruction efforts continue." (Link).
Please consider donating - even a small amount - to the LDS Humanitarian Services. 100% of donated funds go to those in need. All administrative costs are covered by other organizations or by tithing funds. All funds will go directly to those in need. The LDS Church is already helping people in Haiti and will continue to do so until the needs they can meet are met.

21 January 2010

A Voice of Thunder - Part 2

Now I will return to D&C 110: "[We heard] the voice of Jehovah, saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father." Jesus said that He is the first and last; He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. What all these titles mean is that Jesus is the power behind the plan of salvation. He created the earth and all life upon it. Because of Jesus Christ are we able to return to God again. Abinadi taught that Jehovah Himself would come down and atone for our sins: "For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things? Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth? Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?" (Mosiah 13:33-35).

It is clear from these verses that Jesus is Jehovah - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the Creator. He is God. This does not mean that He is the same entity as His Father but Jesus is one with Heavenly Father in power and in glory. They are exactly alike in personality and power. Jesus is God because the Father declared Him so and gave Jesus the power and authority to act in His name. It is important to note that we worship God, usually in the name of Christ. We pray to Heavenly Father, not Jesus Christ. However, if we were in Christ's presence like the Nephites were when Jesus appeared to them following His resurrection, it would not be inappropriate to pray to Jesus Christ. In 3 Nephi we read:

"15 And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them.
  16 And it came to pass that he spake unto the multitude, and commanded them that they should kneel down again upon the earth, and also that his disciples should kneel down upon the earth.
  17 And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray.
  18 And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.
  19 And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:
  20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
  21 Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.
  22 Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.
  23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one." (3 Nephi 19:15-23).

The Nephites prayed to Jesus because He was there with them. While they did so, Jesus went and prayed to the Father for them, thanking Him for their faith. Jesus took no glory upon Himself in this case, He prayed to God and explained that the people praying to Him (Jesus) was a manifestation of their faith in Him. In any case, this is an exception. We are commanded to pray to God in the name of His son Jesus Christ. We do not pray to Jesus (but should He ever be here with us, it would not be wrong to do so).

I do not think any of us can really imagine what it would be like to see and hear the Savior. We can get tastes of the experience in the temple or whenever we feel the Spirit strongly but to actually be in Christ's physical presence - what an experience that would be! We all lived with Him before this life so I think - assuming we are cleansed from sin - that it would be comfortable; it's something we've experienced before, even if we do not remember it, and so experiencing His presence again could be comfortable but overwhelming, at least initially. I think of the Nephites who met and talked with the Savior after His resurrection - what a powerful experience! It was so powerful that generations of people passed away before wickedness took hold of the people. Oh, to stand in the presence of Jesus Christ!

To close I'll quote from parts of an old English hymn with words by John Cennick that were modified by Charles Wesley. Its verbiage is not strictly in line with traditional LDS wording but I love the hopeful, expectant pleading of the hymn:

"Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

"Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see....

"The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

"Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!" (Source).

Some day all will hear the powerful voice of the Son of God. Some day all will hear the voice of the Father. We will return to their presence, either to stay or to be sent somewhere else. To stand in the presence of the Lord and to hear His voice and see His face is something that can give hope to us as we hike through the dusty canyons of our lives to reach the fountain of living waters.

17 January 2010

A Voice of Thunder - Part 1

Joseph Smith provided this description of the Savior: "We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father" (D&C 110:2-4).

In this instance Jesus' voice is described "as the sound of the rushing of great waters." A personal experience might elucidate this analogy.

When I was 11 I went on a 3 day backpacking trip down into the Grand Canyon. We started on the north rim of the canyon, which has an elevation of over 7000 feet above sea level. On top of the canyon the temperature is pleasant and cool. Down at the bottom of the canyon (over 4000 feet lower in elevation) it is hot with temperatures often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The hike is regarded as one of the most strenuous in the Grand Canyon. Water is only plentiful (with purification) at the bottom of the canyon at Thunder River itself. All other water has to be carried in. As you hike down the canyon you follow a switchback trail down the cliff. Your legs and knees start to ache from the jolts of walking down and down, sometimes going 2000 feet down in a mere 2.5 miles. As you near the bottom you are hot and tired. If you are not prepared you could end up out of water, lost, and delirious (like a small group of people we came across on our hike). But as we hiked along the prickly pear cactus-lined trail we started to hear something. There was a rumbling in the distance that slowly grew louder. The voice of the spring was a voice of thunder. What was quiet at first became the "sound of the rushing of great waters." Then suddenly we turned a corner and saw the waterfall. It was big, loud, and beautiful. 21 million gallons of water flow from the spring every day. It is an oasis in the desert, a refuge from the heat and dryness.

Now I do not know if the Savior's voice actually sounded like the rushing of great waters but Joseph Smith had to try to condense into the English language the experience of hearing the Lord Jesus Christ. Words cannot do justice to the experience of His voice or to Jesus' appearance but Joseph Smith used simile and metaphor to try to paint a picture for us. Eyes of fire, white hair, and a countenance brighter than the sun. Mortals have to be changed to enter into the fiery presence of the Lord. This fact is implied by the following description of the three Nephites who were promised that they would not die until Jesus' Second Coming: "And whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God" (3 Ne. 28:15). Their bodies were changed "like a transfiguration [so that] they could behold the things of God." We need to be changed, to be renewed and cleansed, to see the things of God.

That we need to be changed is more explicit in the book of Moses. "But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him" (Moses 1:11). Being in the presence of God is like being surrounded by fire, a fire of cleansing and purification. Without transfiguration, we cannot abide God's presence. We cannot withstand the intensity and heat. Joseph Smith said of his First Vision that the trees and plants surrounding him looked as if they were on fire. Like the burning bush Moses saw, the trees were not consumed because they had been changed to be able to withstand God's presence. Moses was commanded to remove his shoes in part as symbolism of the need to leave his old self behind - at least temporarily - in order that he might withstand the Lord's Shekhinah (the presence or dwelling or glory of the Lord): "And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5).

07 January 2010

Come Ye, and Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord

With a week of illness, a busy week back in school, and preparing for a talk this Sunday in Sacrament Meeting I've had little time to post on this blog. I posted it previously (link goes to first of six parts) but have added and edited since then. I feel better about this version of the talk but even at 3,700 words (20-25 minute talk) I find it incomplete but time constraints limit what I write. Without further adieu, here is my talk.

The year was 1834. The Kirtland Temple was being built but it was in serious trouble. The mortgage loan on the temple lot was approaching due but the Saints did not have the money to pay it. Faced with this problem, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other church leaders gathered in prayer and asked the Lord to send someone or some people who had money to save the temple. 200 miles from the birthplace of the Restoration lived the man who was the answer to that prayer. John had joined the Church in 1832. He was a wealthy man who was also very generous. One night he had a dream that he was urgently needed in Kirtland, Ohio. Within two weeks, John sold his land, homes, hotel, and everything else he could and prepared to leave. On Christmas Day, John and his family left their mansion in New York in search of a mansion in heaven. John and his family headed west to Kirtland, the home of the saints. As soon as John arrived in January after 500 miles and a month of travel, he found the prophet (whom he had not previously met) and discovered why he was needed in Kirtland. John loaned Joseph and the church the money needed to pay the mortgage. Without John’s money, the loan would have defaulted and the temple land would have been repossessed. Without John Tanner’s consecration, the Kirtland Temple would not have been completed.

From the days of Adam, temples have always been important to the followers of God. In the ancient world, temples were often at the center of city life. This also is how some modern cities are designed. A good example of this in our day is Mesa, Arizona. The temple is built on Main Street and very close to Center Street – right in the middle of the city. The city radiates out from that point. Salt Lake City is designed in the same manner. Wherever the saints of God lived, they built temples. Adam built an altar upon which he offered sacrifices. This was the first temple. Many years later, the Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle – a portable temple. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that was alternately destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Shortly after Nephi and his family reached the Promised Land, they built a temple. Following the Restoration, the prophet Joseph was commanded to start building temples. The saints built one in Kirtland, Ohio. The saints fled Ohio because of persecutions - leaving behind the precious house of the Lord. They dedicated land in Missouri for a temple. That structure has not yet been built.

Once in Nauvoo, the saints built a temple, finishing it with a trowel in one hand and a wagon in the other as they fled the state to head to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young dedicated the Nauvoo Temple before it was fully completed so some of the saints could receive their temple blessings before they had to cross the plains. I’m sure those blessings gave courage and strength to many who faced the grueling journey ahead. The Prophet Joseph stressed the importance of temples: "The main object [of gathering the Jews, or the people of God, in any age of the world] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose" (as cited in R. Millet, The Power of the Word, p.218).

The prophet Isaiah saw in vision latter-day temples and the church members who attend them: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths" (2 Ne. 12:2-3). One of the first things President Brigham Young did upon entering the Salt Lake Valley was designate the land for the future Salt Lake Temple, that mountain of the Lord’s house, which is built in the top of the mountains. Isaiah saw that temple in vision as he prophesied of the last days.

In the last days - in our day - comes the clarion call to the temple. It is a call to go to the temple to hear the words of the Lord. This is what King Benjamin asked of his people: “And now, it came to pass that Mosiah went and did as his father [King Benjamin] had commanded him, and proclaimed unto all the people who were in the land of Zarahemla that thereby they might gather themselves together, to go up to the temple to hear the words which his father should speak unto them.” (Mosiah 1:18). Mosiah called the people to come to the temple to hear the words of the prophet. In our day, temples are being brought to us – new temples are built every year. Pres. Hinckley started the veritable explosion in temple growth; it continues with a fast pace. As temples are being brought to us we should make sure we are bringing ourselves to the temple.

This call to come the temple is a call to learn the ways of God and to walk in the paths the Lord marks. It is a call to one and all to visit the house of God as individuals and as families in order to receive the blessings of time and eternity. Why is the temple so important? A temple is literally the House of the Lord. It is the place where ordinances necessary for exaltation are performed. Temple ordinances weld generation to generation, husband to wife, mother to daughter, and sister to brother.

We learn further of the importance of the temple in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 124:39-41).

What we learn from this scripture is that the temple is a place of revelation. Within those walls we can know things that have been hidden from “before the foundation of the world.” The temple is a place of covenant - it is a house of holiness.

To be holy means to be dedicated, set apart, or consecrated. When we are holy we consecrate all our lives and everything we have to the work of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah spoke about consecration: "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD...Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 14:20-21). Zechariah envisioned the day when even the horses and dishes would be consecrated for the work of the Lord. Many of us do this in our lives - we drive our children and the children of others to church activities or we drive to our visiting or home teaching appointments; we also use our dishes to take food to those who are ill or in need. Those may seem like small matters, but that is the essence of consecration - it is using our means and lives to serve and support others and further the work of the Lord. John, whose money saved the Kirtland Temple, gave almost everything he owned to the Church without ever being repaid. Elder Maxwell taught, “Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride” (Neal A. Maxwell, "Settle This in Your Hearts," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 66). Consecration is holiness.

Being holy also requires us to be clean. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the cleansing that comes in the temple and through temple service: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:25-27). The Lord promised a new heart, a heart softened by the Spirit, to those who receive saving ordinances and keep His statutes. This new yielding heart allows us to be better people: better saints, better citizens, better mothers, fathers, and friends. It is a rejuvenated heart that beats warmly within our chests, filling us with love and charity for our friends, neighbors, and the entire world. The temple is a place where we learn to live as better people in this world while striving to remain spotless from the sins of the world; Elder Maxwell stated, "Temple work is not an escape from the world but a reinforcing of our need to better the world while preparing ourselves for another and far better world. Thus, being in the Lord's house can help us to be different from the world in order to make more difference in the world" (N.A.M. Quote Book, p. 339). Inner change is not enough, we need to take that inward change and turn it outward by seeking to bless the lives of others. The temple is a place that should inspire us to improve the world. The temple should inspire us to be more like Jesus Christ.

The Savior likened the gospel and the kingdom of heaven unto a pearl of great price; this pearl had such great worth that a man sold all that he had so that he might obtain it (see Matt. 13:45-46). The kingdom of heaven is something for which we need to be willing to give up everything. Hopefully, none of us view the gospel as a pearl of great pride instead of a pearl of great price. A pearl of great pride is something we hide away and don't share; we may have worked hard to obtain it and we want the world to know that. We might use that prideful pearl to bolster up our own feelings of superiority over others – to look down on them in the condescension of conceit. A pearl of great price, on the other hand, is something that we give our all for and then share it with others so they too can experience the beauty and blessings of that pearl. We have this great treasure, a great blessing, and we want the entire world to also have that treasure. With this attitude there is no superiority or pride, there is only love and selflessness. That's what Elder Maxwell said about the temple - it's not a place that removes us from the world; it's a place that moves us to improve the world. The temple is not an exclusive club that keeps out the rabble (it's not a pearl of pride), it's an education center that gives us the opportunity to, as the BYU motto states, "Enter to learn, [and] go forth to serve;" the temple is a pearl of great price - something we should be willing to give our all for; it’s not just a one-time purchase but something that requires our whole lives. The price - the responsibility - of the temple is a life of willing sacrifice and service and of obedience and repentance.

The Savior used the pearl analogy again when he stated that we should not cast our pearls before swine - meaning that holy things are to remain sacred and pure. We need to keep the ordinances and teachings of the temple sacred. The same goes for our lives, if we are to be holy. Once we receive temple blessings we need to remain worthy of them and not drag them through the mud. However, we all sin and fall short of our covenants. When we become physically dirty or muddy we can wash ourselves and be clean. Similarly, when we become spiritually dirty or muddy, when we sin and are become as lost sheep, then there is a way prepared for us to become clean again. "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isa. 53: 6) but the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one who has wandered and who seeks forgiveness. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who watches over the flocks of Israel but He is also the Lamb of God. His sacrificial blood atones for our sins as we repent. Through Christ’s Atonement, our scarlet sins can be made white as snow (see Isa. 1:18). The light of repentance disperses the darkness of sin.

The Lord promises great blessings to those who return unto him. During the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith pleaded: "And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house. And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfill that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days." (D&C 109: 21-23; emphasis added).

If we have transgressed, if we have strayed, we need to repent; when we repent, the blessings of heaven shall be poured out upon us. These blessings not only help wash away our imperfections and uncleanliness but also fill us with goodness and joy. Let me repeat some of the blessings promised unto us by the Lord as we remain faithful to temple covenants: we shall be armed with power - power to do the Lord's work and power to resist temptation; we shall have God's name upon us; the glory of the Lord will be round about us - His image will shine in our countenances and He shall be as a pillar of cloud and of fire unto us; and angels will have charge over us, providing strength and comfort. All are powerful blessings. When we receive these blessings I think it is important to remember the words of the Prophet Joseph; he prayed that the saints would go forth from the temple unto the ends of the earth bearing great and glorious tidings. Again, the call is to welcome all people to become worthy to enter the temple. We have a responsibility to share our precious pearl and call to others, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."

That is a call I’d like to extend to the youth of our ward. The temple is a place of beauty and blessing. You Young Women and Young Men are able to go perform baptisms for the dead. Performing baptisms for the dead was always a special experience for me as a youth. I remember the peace I felt sitting in the waiting room. I remember the spirit I felt as I was baptized on behalf of others; I hoped that they accepted the work I was doing for them. I strived to remain worthy to enter the temple of the Lord. Living the gospel – keeping the commandments and remaining true to your baptismal (and priesthood, for you young men) covenants can be difficult at times. Pres. Monson stated at a recent General Conference, “[You] youth…in particular, face temptations we can scarcely comprehend. The adversary and his hosts seem to be working nonstop to cause [your] downfall. We are waging a war with sin…but we need not despair. It is a war we can and will win” (Ensign, May 2008, p. 90).

You youth are in the midst of a war for your souls. On one side are Satan and his followers; on the other are the Lord and His followers. You choose for which side you will fight. Do you fight for the Lord? There will be casualties along the way but we know which side wins in the end. Just as Helaman’s army suffered no losses, with faith and righteousness you can survive the battles and not be counted among the spiritually dead. You might be wounded and suffer greatly, but those are wounds that can be cleansed and healed at the fountain of living waters. Jesus is the source of those living waters and provides healing; He is the Great Physician. Satan will try his utmost to keep you from attending the temple. He will try all sorts of feints and tactics. He will try to get you to lower your guard and remove your armor but you must remain strong and ready. You have inspired parents, leaders, and friends who can help you remain strong and faithful and who can help prepare you to enter the temple and receive its blessings. Temple blessings are shield and armor against Satan.

One of the defining moments in my life was when I was able to attend the temple and receive my own endowment. That’s a day I will never forget – it has eternal significance for me and for my family. I urge you youth to ponder about the importance of the temple and prepare yourselves to enter its doors. Strive with all your energy to keep the Spirit with you in all you do. It will provide the strength and peace needed to face and overcome the temptations of the adversary.

The small and simple actions of prayer and reading the scriptures provide great strength. "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37: 6). Reading your scriptures and praying regularly will help you fight temptations and stand victorious. You are very busy now but life only becomes more hectic as you get older; if these things are not priorities in your lives now it can be hard to make them priorities later.

A couple years ago my family experienced a number of events that brought to our minds the importance of temples and of the sealing of families together for eternity. At the beginning of May 2008 my family and I attended the funeral of my grandmother Beverly. Her spirit slipped out of her mortal frame into the eternal realm and her body was laid in the ground. Her passing was not unexpected but the pain of separation for us was acute. That event was followed by ones of great joy. The day after the funeral my brother was sealed for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. Two lives were joined as one by the priesthood of God in the holy temple. A few days later my sister had a baby who came from God and "trailing clouds of glory" (W. Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality), to join a family who had been sealed together in the temple. Shortly later, my family had the funeral for my grandmother Maxine, who passed away at the end of May. Her death was also not unexpected but again, the pain of separation was acute. Her husband - my grandfather - then passed away only 11 days later.

Within the space of just one and a half months, my family experienced a death, a marriage, a birth, a death, and another death. It's as if the Plan of Salvation was compressed into one month for my family.

At times such as these our minds often turn to eternal matters as we experience these emotions of sadness and joy. Three of those events were sad because they involved separation from loved ones; they were events signaling the end of mortal life. However, through the blessings of the temple, these separations are only temporary. My grandparents merely passed from one stage of their existence into another through the door of death. While there is sorrow on our part, there is also joy knowing that they are reunited with other loved ones who have gone on before. We are also strengthened by the knowledge that at some point in the future we will all be reunited as families. The other two family events brought joy unto us; they signaled the start of new life and lives. I'm grateful for the knowledge and blessings of eternal families - this is the greatest blessing of the temple.
Just as the Lord inspired John Tanner to go and save the temple, we should emulate his example and go to the temple, not to save it but to be saved and help save others. The temple not only will bless our lives but also the lives of those around us - most importantly our family for generations to come. The temple is a holy place that has eternal significance and provides eternal blessings. Let us follow the admonition of Isaiah by gathering all who will be gathered and beckon unto them: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”


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