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.”