For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is one of our most distinguishing features and cherished treasures. In Chapter 23, The Blessings of the Holy Temple, Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us that the temple is “is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.” It stands as “a monument to our belief in the immortality of the human soul … and that as certain as there is life here, there will be life there. … [T]he temple becomes … the bridge from this life to the next. The temple is concerned with things of immortality. These unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology.”
Recently David A. Bednar taught, “Temples are the most holy of all places of worship. A temple literally is the house of the Lord, a sacred space specifically set apart for worshipping God and for receiving and remembering His great and precious promises. … A principal purpose of the temple is to elevate our vision from the things of the world to the blessings of eternity.”1
Because the ordinances of temple represent the ultimate in our worship, it is easy to understand why President Hinckley had such a strong desire to “take the temples to the people instead of having the people travel great distances to get to them.” While serving as the chairman of the Temple Committee, he had the thought that the Church could build several smaller temples for the same cost as one large one. After his call to serve in the First Presidency, his travels took him far and wide. He could see firsthand the faithful Saints, some who would never have the opportunity to go to the temple and others who could not attend a temple without great personal sacrifice. In the Priesthood Session of October 1997 General Conference he said, “[T]here are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear. We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances.”
Six months later President Hinckley spoke of the many members who made “tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples” and had to “travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats” and who had to “save their money and do without to make it all possible. They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable temples.” He then made the historic announcement that construction of 30 smaller temples would begin immediately.
There are countless stories of people who have had to make these tremendous sacrifices to go to the temple. The one that touches my heart and is almost hard to imagine is the story President Monson told of Tihi and Tararaina Mou Tham and their 10 children. This is their incredible story:
“The entire family except for one daughter joined the Church in the early 1960s, when missionaries came to their island, located about 100 miles (160 km) south of Tahiti. Soon they began to desire the blessings of an eternal family sealing in the temple.
“At that time the nearest temple to the Mou Tham family was the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to the southwest, accessible only by expensive airplane travel. The large Mou Tham family, which eked out a meager living on a small plantation, had no money for airplane fare, nor was there any opportunity for employment on their Pacific island. So Brother Mou Tham and his son Gérard made the difficult decision to travel 3,000 miles (4,800 km) to work in New Caledonia, where another son was already employed.
“The three Mou Tham men labored for four years. Brother Mou Tham alone returned home only once during that time, for the marriage of a daughter.
“After four years, Brother Mou Tham and his sons had saved enough money to take the family to the New Zealand Temple. All who were members went except for one daughter, who was expecting a baby. They were sealed for time and eternity, an indescribable and joyful experience.
“Brother Mou Tham returned from the temple directly to New Caledonia, where he worked for two more years to pay for the passage of the one daughter who had not been at the temple with them—a married daughter and her child and husband.”2
In the lesson, President Hinckley recalled hearing the testimony of a man who had sold all his worldly possessions so he could take his family to the temple which was located far from his home. He remembered the man saying, “We could not afford to come. Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our dishes. I said to my family, ‘We cannot afford to go.’ Then I looked into the faces of my beautiful wife and our beautiful children, and I said, ‘We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed in both life and in eternity.’”
For those of us who are blessed to live near a temple, it is almost impossible to comprehend the great sacrifices so many have made to attend the temple. Thomas S. Monson reminds us, “Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance. Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God. Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.”2
Clearly these faithful Saints understood what the Prophet Joseph meant when he said, “We need the temple more than anything else.”3
Just as President Hinckley did not want those who lived so far from a temple to be denied the blessings of those sacred ordinances, he reminds us, “There are uncounted millions who have walked the earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered in the temples of the Church? Through living proxies who stand in behalf of the dead, the same ordinances are available to those who have passed from mortality. … Most of the work done in [the temple] is performed vicariously in behalf of those who have passed beyond the veil of death. I know of no other work to compare with it. It more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God in behalf of all mankind than any other work of which I am aware. … It is a service which is of the very essence of selflessness.”
There has been a greater emphasis on doing family history work. We are encouraged to find and learn about our ancestors. Russell M. Nelson said, “Sealing ordinances are essential to exaltation. A wife needs to be sealed to her husband; children need to be sealed to their parents; and we all need to be connected with our ancestors. … It’s wonderful to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers by telling important family history stories in ways that are accessible and memorable. If we leave it at that level, however, we really haven’t done enough. As Church members, our interest in family history work has been motivated by instruction from the Lord that our ancestors cannot be made perfect without us and that we cannot be made perfect without them (see D&C 128:15). That means we are to be linked together by the sacred sealing ordinances of the temple. We are to be strong links in the chain from our ancestors to our posterity. If our collections of stories and photos should ever become an end point in themselves—if we know who our ancestors are and know marvelous things about them, but we leave them stranded on the other side without their ordinances—such diversion will not be of any help to our ancestors who remain confined in spirit prison.”4 Similarly David A. Bednar taught, “[A]s members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. … For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent ‘the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse’ (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.”5
We are all part of God’s family. We have a great responsibility to do temple work, for our own ancestors and for others. And without family history work and indexing, there would be no temple work. Earlier this year, President Nelson reminded us, “We need to be spending more time in the temple and in doing family history research, which includes indexing.”4
President Hinckley reiterated the fact that increased temple activity and increased family history work go hand in hand. Then he taught us a marvelous truth, “The computer in its various ramifications is accelerating the work, and people are taking advantage of the new techniques being offered to them. How can one escape the conclusion that the Lord is in all of this?” Does that sound familiar? Other prophets have taught the same truth – the God would provide the means necessary to further His work! President Hinckley continues, “As computer facilities improve, the number of temples grows to accommodate the accelerated family history work.”
Think about this – in 1980, about the time personal computers were in the early stages, the Church membership was a little more than 4 ½ million with 19 operating temples.6 By the end of 2007, just weeks before President Hinckley passed away, the total membership was slightly more than 13 million members and there were 124 operating temples and personal computers had become extremely accessible.7 Today we hold in our hands devices more powerful than the personal computers just a decade ago. Church membership is now nearly 16 million and today there are 157 operating temples, with 13 under construction. There are also 12 temples announced but not yet under construction. Can you see President Hinckley’s words coming to pass?
The blessings of the temple and the blessings of family history are not only for the adult members of the Church. Any temple-worthy member can attend the temple and anyone can do family history research and indexing. There are many blessings promised for those who do.
Speaking directly to the youth of the Church, Elder Bednar said, “Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family. The Lord has made available in our day remarkable resources that enable you to learn about and love this work that is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. For example, FamilySearch is a collection of records, resources, and services easily accessible with personal computers and a variety of handheld devices, designed to help people discover and document their family history. … It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”5
And here are the blessings he promised them for doing the work, “Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”5
Of course those blessings aren’t just for the youth. Many beautiful blessings have been promised for all who go to the temple. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us of priceless blessings that are available as we do, “[T]hy 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.”8 Just think about those promises for a minute! It helps us to understand why our leaders have such a strong desire for us to be in the temple. President Hinckley encouraged us, “Go to the house of the Lord and there … you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.” If we will “take greater advantage of this blessed privilege,” he promises that it will refine our natures and make us better people. “I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the House of the Lord, you will be blessed; life will be better for you.”
Here are just a few more of the ways our lives can be blessed:
“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.” – Thomas S. Monson2
“Our temples provide a sanctuary where we may go to lay aside many of the anxieties of the world. Our temples are places of peace and tranquillity. In these hallowed sanctuaries God ‘healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’” – James E. Faust9
“Temple blessings are most meaningful when death takes a loved one away from the family circle. To know that the pain of separation is only temporary provides peace that passes ordinary understanding. Death cannot sever families sealed in the temple. They understand death as a necessary part of God’s great plan of happiness.” – Russell M. Nelson10
“The House of the Lord is a place where we can escape from the mundane and see our lives in an eternal perspective. … Regular temple work can provide spiritual strength. It can be an anchor in daily life, a source of guidance, protection, security, peace, and revelation.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin11
The answer to President Hinckley’s prayerful desire to bring the temples to the people ushered in the beginning of unprecedented temple building. Gratefully now 85 percent of members of the Church live within 200 miles of a temple. So for the vast majority, the tremendous sacrifices have been greatly eased. Yet, as President Monson reminded us, there will always be “some degree of sacrifice” to go to the temple.
We often sing, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”12 Do we believe that? What sacrifices are we willing to make to bring the blessings of the temple into our own lives and the lives of our families?
For some, it is a matter of prioritizing our schedules. In a letter from the First Presidency, we were encouraged to “replace some leisure activities with temple service. … As we redouble our efforts and our faithfulness in going to the temple, the Lord will bless us.”13 Richard G. Scott suggested, “When a temple is conveniently nearby, small things may interrupt your plans to go to the temple. Set specific goals, considering your circumstances, of when you can and will participate in temple ordinances. Then do not allow anything to interfere with that plan. This pattern will guarantee that those who live in the shadow of a temple will be as blessed as are those who plan far ahead and make a long trip to the temple.”14
For others, it may be “bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing.”2 President Hinckley issued the challenge to “put [o]ur lives in order, to be worthy to go to the house of the Lord and there to partake of the blessings that are peculiarly [o]urs. … Great are the requirements, but greater still are the blessings.”
Temples are not just beautiful buildings, though they surely are. They are, as President Hinckley teaches, “an expression of the testimony of this people that God our Eternal Father lives, that He has a plan for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations, that His Beloved Son, Jesus the Christ, who was born in Bethlehem of Judea and crucified on the cross of Golgotha, is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, whose atoning sacrifice makes possible the fulfillment of that plan in the eternal life of each who accepts and lives the gospel.” The temple is at the heart of all we believe.
I love the temple! It is impossible to describe the peace, joy and comfort I feel there. In my times of greatest sorrow, it has been my sweetest source of comfort. In my times of greatest happiness, it is there I have tasted eternal joy. Even in this increasingly unpeaceful world, the temple is always a place where I can find peace. I know that in the temple “you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.” May we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to more frequently be in the temple and also to always have the temple be in us.
1. Exceeding Great and Precious Promises – David A. Bednar
2. The Holy Temple–A Beacon to the World – Thomas S. Monson
4. Open the Heavens Through Temple and Family History Work – Russell M. Nelson
5. The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn – David A. Bednar
6. Statistical Report – 1980
7. Statistical Report – 2007
8. D&C 109:22
9. Spiritual Healing – James E. Faust
10. Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings – Russell M. Nelson
11. Seeking the Good – Joseph B. Wirthlin
12. Praise to the Man – Hymn 27
13. Letter from the First Presidency – March 2004 Ensign
14. Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need – Richard G. Scott