Establishing the Temple of the Lord as the Great Symbol of Membership: Let’s Get Going!

Johannesburg South Africa Temple in springtime jacaranda season


Previous President of the Africa Southeast Area

Several years ago, my wife and I were invited to a social gathering. Imagine my surprise when we were seated across a dinner table from President Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of the Church, and his wife, Marjorie. As we were eating, President Hinckley began telling us about his recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska where he had dedicated the 54th temple in the Church.

I do not know what possessed Sister Renlund, but she blurted out, “President Hinckley, I just have to tell you that you are making it difficult for my husband to keep a promise he made to me when we were first married.” President Hinckley looked at me suspiciously and then asked my wife, “Oh, what’s that?” Sister Renlund replied, “When we were married, my husband promised to take me to all of the temples in the world.” President Hinckley chuckled, and knowing of the future increase in the number of temples, looked at us both intently, smiled, and said, “Well, you better get going!”

Since that conversation, more than 80 additional temples have been built. Nonetheless, President Hinckley’s direction has never been more relevant. When it comes to temples and temple worship, we had better get going.

Claiming the blessings of the temple

Currently, we have only one temple in the Africa Southeast Area, the Johannesburg South Africa Temple (1). But, no matter how far away we live from the temple, we are not prevented from participating in meaningful temple worship and receiving temple blessings. The distance to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple does not affect our ability to claim temple blessings by:

1.      Paying a full tithing and being worthy of and holding a temple recommend;

2.      Identifying our ancestors; 

3.      Submitting the names of our ancestors to the temple so that vicarious temple ordinances performed for them; and

4.      Attending the temple as frequently as time, means, and personal circumstances allow.

President Thomas S. Monson has said, “Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God (2).” We had better get going to claim those wonderful, promised blessings.

Insights into the importance of the temple

Some insights into the importance of the temple come from a vision received by the prophet Ezekiel over 2,500 years ago. He was one of the captives carried away from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. During the 22 years that he prophesied (592 – 570 B.C.), Ezekiel must have longed for Jerusalem and his beloved temple. It must have been this longing that led to his recorded vision (3).

In the vision, a heavenly ministrant shows Ezekiel a city wherein is the temple. He is shown the form and size of the temple, its various rooms, including the holy of holies. He sees the glory of God fill the temple and the ordinances that are performed. Then he sees something inexplicable, water coming out from under the threshold of the temple. There are two unique features about the waters. First, as the distance from the source increases, the waters themselves increase. Ezekiel expresses this by saying that as he goes down river, the level of the water though at first just up to his ankles, goes thereafter up to his knees, to his waist, until it was so large a river that he could not cross it.

Another feature of the water is that everywhere the water touched became alive or was healed. This healing included the Dead Sea. We read, “And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live… for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh (4).”

The water issuing forth from the temple multiplies itself and has the capacity to heal. The waters clearly represent the blessings of temple worship. One way the blessings of the temple multiply themselves is through the sealing authority. As a member does temple work for his parents, grandparents, etc. the logarithmic progression is evident; 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 etc. A similar progression occurs if one assumed that a member had two children who each, in turn had two children. The sealing authority, going both forward and backward, blesses both ancestors from the past and children of the future.   

Just as the water coming from the temple enlivens and heals all that it touches, temple blessings also heal and enliven. These temple blessings include enabling us to change; enabling us to receive clear inspiration; enabling us to bear trials; and enabling us to help our loved ones. Modern day prophets have promised these blessings to those who qualify for the temple.

Enabling change

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I am satisfied that if our people would attend the temple more, there would be less selfishness in their lives. There would be less absence of love in their relationships. There would be more fidelity on the part of husbands and wives. There would be more love and peace and happiness in the homes of our people. There would come into the minds of the Latter-day Saints and increased awareness of their relationship to God our Eternal Father and of the need to work a little harder at the matter of living as sons and daughters of God (5).”

Enabling clear inspiration

Answers, even to secular questions, come more readily. In, Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple(6) we read, “Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once, that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly. At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to life, and we can see things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known.”

Enabling us to bear our trials

Temple worship enables us to bear our trials, at least in part because we have a clearer understanding of the promise of our own, personal eventual triumph. President Thomas S. Monson has said, “As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified (7).” President Boyd K. Packer has said, “When you come to the temple and receive your endowment, and kneel at the altar and be sealed, you can live an ordinary life and be an ordinary soul- struggling against temptation, failing and repenting, and failing again and repenting, but always determined to keep you covenants... Then the day will come which you will receive the benediction: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord (8).’”

Enabling us to help our loved ones

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “There is a power associated with the ordinances of heaven, even the power of Godliness, which can thwart the forces of evil, if we will but be worthy of those sacred covenants made in the temple of the Lord. Our families will be protected, our children will be safeguarded as we live the gospel, visit the temple, and live close to the Lord (9).”

Is it any wonder that the First Presidency has counseled us “We … invite adult members to have a current temple recommend and visit the temple more often. Where time and circumstances permit, members are encouraged to replace some leisure activities with temple service. Millions of our ancestors have lived upon the earth without receiving the benefit of temple ordinances. We particularly encourage newer members and youth of the Church who are 12 years of age and older to live worthy to assist in this great work by serving as proxies for baptisms and confirmations. We request that local priesthood leaders encourage temple-worthy members to consider ways in which more frequent daytime temple attendance could occur. Home and visiting teachers may wish to arrange transportation for those who need it, particularly during the daytime. All of the ordinances which take place in the House of the Lord become expressions of our belief in that fundamental and basic doctrine of the immortality of the human soul. As we redouble our efforts and our faithfulness in going to the temple, the Lord will bless us (10).”  

Paraphrasing President Howard W. Hunter, as an Area Presidency we wish to invite the members of the Church in the Africa Southeast Area to establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. Our hope is that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. We encourage us all to become a temple-attending and a temple-loving people; and to attend the temple as frequently as time, means, and personal circumstances allow (11).

When it comes to the temple, we “better get going!”

References

1.      Two other temples have been announced and will be built, one in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and another in Durban, South Africa.

2.      President Thomas S. Monson. Ensign May 2011, page 93

3.      Ezekiel 40-47

4.      Ezekiel 47:8-9

5.      President Gordon B. Hinckley. Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 6 April 1984

6.      Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple 2002, page 36

7.      President Thomas S. Monson. Ensign May 2011, page 93

8.      See “Lesson 4: Receiving Temple Ordinances and Covenants; Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, 2003” and Matthew 25:21

9.      President Ezra Taft Benson. Atlanta Georgia Temple Cornerstone Laying, 1 June 1983

10.  First Presidency Letter, March 11, 2003

11.  President Howard W. Hunter. Press Conference, June 6, 1994