Count It All Joy

Count it all joy – what a great scriptural reminder we find in James 1:2! President Russell M. Nelson has taught that joy is “a principle that will only become more important as the tragedies and travesties around us increase.”1 Does that sound a little like this year? Interestingly, the entire scripture reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”2 In the Joseph Smith Translation, the last few words are “when ye fall into many afflictions.”3 Many afflictions? Absolutely! What about different temptations? I’m sure there have been at least a few times this year when we’ve been tempted to complain, to get upset, to give up, to be unkind. And yet, we are to count it all joy.

President Nelson reminded us that “joy … as little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”1

When everything started shutting down, I found myself focusing on what I couldn’t do. I could no longer go to the temple or to church, go on vacation or out to dinner. I was allowing restrictions—circumstances—to blur my focus. Places, as wonderful as they may be, are not the source of my joy.

Luckily it didn’t take me too long to get my focus where it belonged. Never before have I  felt such a longing to be in the temple, been more anxious to hear from the prophet, so excited for general conference, and more eager to go to church. The sacrament has become more sacred, the temple more cherished, family more valued, and the living prophet more important.

Through this year of tragedies and travesties, temptations and afflictions, I am more profoundly grateful for my family, my faith, and my friends. Yes, I can count it all joy.

References:

1.  Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson

2.  James 1:2

3.  James 1:2 – Joseph Smith Translation

A Much-Needed Reminder

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love the temple! I have missed being able to go to the temple so much! I found great comfort in something Elder Dale G. Renlund said in a video he posted on his social media a couple of weeks ago, “The fact that we can’t go to the temple doesn’t change the impact that the temple can have on us in our lives. … Keeping covenants will bring the power of godliness in our lives whether we’re able to physically go to the temple or not.”1 I loved this tender reminder!

In his closing remarks in general conference in April, President Russell M. Nelson said something much the same, “During times of our distress when temples are closed, you can still draw upon the power of your temple covenants and endowment as you honor your covenants.”2 I remember hearing the prophet say this (and I loved it because it he said it just after he shared a part of President Wilford Woodruff’s dedicatory prayer of the Salt Lake Temple asking for Heavenly Father to bless us if a time should come when we were unable to attend the temple), but those encouraging words didn’t have quite the same impact on me when I heard them in April as it did when I read them the other day. In April, the temples had only been closed for a couple of weeks. Now we are getting close to six months!

It’s amazing what time and perspective do for us!

I remember when I heard D. Todd Christofferson say, “In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact.”3 He said that only three months after Adrianne had passed away. Never before had I felt the power of godliness flow into my life with such power as I did during that time in my life! It wasn’t necessary for me to be in the temple to be able to draw upon the power of my temple covenants. Oh, how I needed and cherished that power!

Drawing upon the power of godliness is imperative in times of distress, but we need to be able to access that power every day. A definition I recently read that I especially like said that “the power of godliness is the power of righteousness, by which we come to know God and become like Him.”4 Elder Christofferson describes the power of godliness as Heavenly Father’s divine influence. He said that by keeping our covenants, that divine influence will “flow into our lives.”3

President Nelson once said, “Obedience allows God’s blessings to flow without constraint.”5 Remember what Elder Christofferson said about our covenants being paramount and our obedience being exact. I believe the two go hand in hand. When our covenants mean everything to us, being obedient will be an active part of our daily striving. Obedience is keeping covenants and keeping covenants is being obedient.  

Imagine God’s influence and His blessings flowing into our lives! When I think about flowing without constraint, I visualize a mighty and powerful river. During the winters here in Utah, we usually get quite a lot of snow. As winter turns to spring, all that snow melts. The reservoirs fill up and the rivers and streams begin to flow. Some years we get so much snow that the runoff fills our rivers and streams to overflowing. (That’s as close to a mighty and powerful river as it gets here in the desert!) These last several months of being unable to go to the temple have felt a bit like the cold winter months to me. But spring will come! I’m not suggesting that while the temples are closed I cannot feel God’s influence or blessings in my life. Quite the contrary. I have felt inspired to research my family history. I have had new and exciting opportunities to study the gospel with some very dear friends. Those are just two things I would not otherwise have done during these past several months. And my life has been so blessed because of them! Most likely we are all being blessed more than we realize. But I do think that when the temples reopen, it will be like a beautiful warm spring after an unusually snowy winter. We will feel an undeniable outpouring of His influence and His blessings.

I absolutely miss attending the temple! But gratefully, as Elder Renlund reminded us, “keeping covenants will bring the power of godliness in our lives whether we’re able to physically go to the temple or not.” 1 May we always be obedient and keep our covenants so God’s influence and blessings can flow into our lives without constraint.

References:

1.  August 3, 2020 Instagram Post – Dale G. Renlund

2.  Go Forward in Faith – Russell M. Nelson

3.  The Power of Covenants – D. Todd Christofferson

4.  Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual – Chapter 31

5.  Face the Future With Faith – Russell M. Nelson

Silver Linings

The last five months have been interesting, to say the least. Life has changed dramatically for most people. There is so much chaos and commotion. It is difficult to watch and not be affected by it to some degree. The best word to describe how I have been feeling is gloomy. The most challenging thing for me during this pandemic has been not being able to go to the temple. No matter how overwhelming my life has gotten in the past, I could always go to the temple and find peace. Spending time in the temple grounded me, recharged my batteries, if you will, and gave me the strength to go back out and face the world.

Yesterday President Nelson put out a video where he talked about the weighty decision to close the temples. At the end, he said, “Even through clouds of sorrow, there can be silver linings found.”1 A friend asked what silver linings I have found during the temple closures. I knew immediately what the answer was.

About a month ago, I felt an overwhelming urge to research and study the histories of my ancestors. Almost immediately, I felt the cloud of gloom lifting. I felt a peace and strength very similar to what I would feel in the temple. It has been amazing! This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. In general conference in April, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us, “Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son. … As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional.”2 Where I hear the Savior the best has always been in the temple. I needed to trust Him more so that I could hear Him other places too. Oh that I had listened in April and not in June to this promise from President Nelson, “While worshipping in the temple is presently not possible, I invite you to increase your participation in family history, including family history research and indexing. I promise that as you increase your time in temple and family history work, you will increase and improve your ability to hear Him.”2

There was something else that President Nelson said in yesterday’s video that piqued my interest. “Even though temples have been closed, family history research and work has taken a huge leap forward; more names are being added.”1 Family history research has definitely taken a huge leap forward in my life. I am sad to admit that I have not been as familiar with my amazing family as I should have been. The gratitude I feel for their examples and sacrifices is overwhelming. Because of them, I have the gospel in my life. Their example of unwavering faithfulness is something I want to emulate! This has certainly been a silver lining while I am unable to go to the temple.

But President Nelson said silver linings. After watching the video, I felt compelled to look through names and ordinances I had done the month or two before the temple closed. Some of those ancestors still have ordinances that need to be done but at that time they were not able to be reserved. I decided to look for every person that didn’t have all their work done. To my delight, more had been added! I was able to reserve seventeen more ordinances for my relatives! I can hardly wait for the temples to reopen so I can do this work! What a beautiful silver lining!

We are surely living through some pretty cloudy days right now. The reality of life is that there will always be cloudy days. And there will also always be silver linings! Jeffery R. Holland said, “Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek.”3 As we seek the light and love of our Heavenly Father and strive to hear His Son ever more intentionally, every day we can feel the peace that comes only from Him. And on our cloudy days, I hope we will remember to look for the silver linings.

References:

1.  President Nelson video on decision to close temples amid Covid-19

2.  Hear Him – Russell M. Nelson

3.  An High Priest of Good Things to Come – Jeffrey R. Holland

Marriage & Family

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints firmly we know that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”1  As I have studied Russell M. Nelson’s words concerning the doctrine of marriage and family, which was August’s doctrinal topic, I am grateful for his wise counsel and his prophetic teachings.  


President Nelson once said, “Marriage is protected by an absolute commitment to make it successful.”2  In his first BYU Devotional address in 1974 his example of an absolute commitment to his marriage and family is clear.  He said, “I cannot seek the kingdom of God without loving and honoring first that family he has given to me. I cannot honor that family without loving and caring first for my wife! I love her. She is my highest priority, and our eternal marriage in the temple is our highest commitment. We love our children and their children born and yet unborn. This love we are building in the sanctuary of our home. Here is where we have learned the power of love, and I testify that it is a real, dynamic, all-encompassing power!”3 


He has also referred to “the home [as] the great laboratory of love.”4  One daughter said that when her father was at home, he was 100% at home. His wife and children knew they were loved! What a wonderful example President Nelson is of one who is a loving, committed husband and father!


Here are a few things he has taught over the years that we can do to be more loving and committed in our family relationships:


“Family life will provide your most enduring rewards. As partners, you and your spouse will work together to achieve mutual goals and enjoy the fruits of your labors. … There is great power in a strong partnership. True partners can achieve more than the sum of each acting alone. With true partners, one plus one is much more than two.  In marriage, a husband and wife can form the most significant partnership of all—an eternal family. … Great partners are completely loyal. They suppress personal ego in exchange for being part of creating something larger than themselves. Great partnerships are dependent upon each individual developing his or her own personal attributes of character.”5 


“Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage from the Lord.  In such a family we study the scriptures and pray together. And we fix our focus on the temple. There we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for His faithful children.”6 


“Marriage—especially temple marriage—and family ties involve covenant relationships. They cannot be regarded casually. With divorce rates escalating throughout the world today, it is apparent that many spouses are failing to endure to the end of their commitments to each other. And some temple marriages fail because a husband forgets that his highest and most important priesthood duty is to honor and sustain his wife. The best thing that a father can do for his children is to ‘love their mother.’”7 


During one particular stake conference, President Nelson reminded the women of the power they have to make a substantial difference in their husbands’ lives. One of the things he told them was, “A man’s perception of his own worth can be shaped by his wife’s attitude.” Another was, “With the help of the Lord and a supportive wife, a man can do infinitely more than he could ever do without that support.” To the men, he counseled, “Your highest priesthood duty is to care for your wife. That is an eternal charge entrusted to you. …The best thing you can do for your children is to love and care for their mother. Let that love show. … Help her to achieve the full measure of her creation. Help her to realize her divine destiny—with you!”8 


“You and your companion should resolve never, never to make uncomplimentary comments about one another to anyone at anytime. Good habit patterns are best established during your courtship. Never stoop to demeaning words that hurt. Together, resolve now to make of your home a place of prayer. Make it a sanctuary of faith where servants of the Lord are always welcome and where scriptures are read and discussed together. You will both want to grow in true spiritual symmetry.”9 


Last year he once again asked us to transform our homes into sanctuaries of faith. He promised if we would “diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, … the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease.”10 


In a recent Instagram post President Nelson said, “Our families are meant to help us in our individual efforts to become more like Jesus Christ. Thanks to God’s great plan of happiness, families can stay together forever. Exaltation is a family affair!”11


Just as he has taught us the importance of making our marriage and family a priority, President Nelson has also reminded us of our responsibility to defend this doctrine. Here are a few of his proclamations defending the doctrine of marriage and family. They are powerful!

 
“Marriage and family are ordained of God. The family is the most important social unit in time and in eternity. Under God’s great plan of happiness, families can be sealed in temples and be prepared to return to dwell in His holy presence forever. That is eternal life! It fulfills the deepest longings of the human soul—the natural yearning for endless association with beloved members of one’s family.”12 


“There is spiritual safety in the circle of the family—the basic unit of society.  The family is a sacred institution.  The gospel was restored to the earth and the Church exists to exalt the family.  The earth was created that each premortal spirit child of God might have this mortal experience, gain a physical body, choose a companion, form a family, and have that family sealed eternally in a temple of the Lord.  If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted.  Scriptures stress that doctrine time and time again.”13 


In an address given at the 2009 World Congress of Families V, President Nelson declared, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with the companionship between a husband and a wife. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can provide the joy and growth that come from happy children who make a family circle. Throughout my life, I have answered to many titles, including doctor, captain, professor, and elder. But the titles I revere most are those of husband, father, and grandfather.


“On all sides, the family is under attack. Many wonder if the institution is no longer needed. Our response is certain. If there is any hope for the future of nations, that hope resides in the family. Our children are our wealth; our children are our strength; our children are indeed our future!
“In the past 50 years, the birthrate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. … What would happen to the future of nations if the next generation failed to appear in significant numbers? The answer is alarming! Yes, we would be poorer economically, but even poorer spiritually.


“Spiritual concerns are of great importance. Spiritually, we need children as much as they need us. They are our spiritual wealth. Children teach us the joy of building goodness that will outlive our own. They teach us the joy of loving someone more than self. That love lifts one to give from the abundance of one’s own life to help a child. …


“Future happiness and even the future of nations is linked to children. Families with children need to be re-enthroned as the fundamental unit of society. We simply must value children more than we do! Without a new generation to replace the old, there is no wealth; without families, there is no future.”14
 

His boldness in defending the family is extraordinary. He has encouraged such boldness in us as members of the Church. “In the Church, we stress the significance of marriage, children, and the family because we know the doctrine. And we … know that the adversary incessantly aims attacks at the family.  In the past fifty years the birth rate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. Marriages are being postponed until later in life, and families are getting smaller, even in the Church. Our task to defend the family is not an easy one. Trends in the world diminish the significance of the family. … In reality, we are raising our children in enemy-occupied territory. The homes of our members must become the primary sanctuaries of our faith, where each can be safe from the sins of the world. Our Master depends upon us to live according to His truth. … Marriage is ordained of God. It is doctrinally based and eternally significant.”15 


President Nelson has warned, “God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued”16 and has given us a charge to be defenders of marriage. “You will likely encounter increasing debate about the definition of marriage. Many of your neighbors, colleagues, and friends will have never heard logical and inspired truths about the importance of marriage as God Himself defined it. You will have many opportunities to strengthen understanding of the Lord’s side of that argument by the eloquence of your examples, both as individuals and as families.”5


He has also warned that opposition will come. “Life will not be comfortable for true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. … Each of us will be put to the test. … The day is gone when you can be a quiet and comfortable Christian. Your religion is not just about showing up for church on Sunday. It is about showing up as a true disciple from Sunday morning through Saturday night—24/7! There is no such thing as a ‘part-time’ disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus invited anyone who wants to be His disciple to take up His cross and follow Him. Are you ready to join the ranks? Or will you be ashamed of the gospel? Will you be ashamed of your Lord and His plan? Will you yield to voices of those who would have you join them on the popular side of contemporary history? No! … Be courageous and proclaim God’s truth with clarity and kindness, even when His truth is politically unpopular! … Disciples of the Lord are defenders of marriage. We cannot yield. History is not our judge. A secular society is not our judge. God is our judge! For each of us, Judgment Day will be held in God’s own way and time. The future of marriage and of countless human lives will be determined by your willingness to bear solemn witness of the Lord and live according to His gospel.”5


For many of us, we never had to teach our children that God’s pattern of marriage is between a man and a woman because that was how marriage was defined everywhere. There was nothing pushing against that doctrine. But for young families now, their children will grow up with different alternatives being accepted and normalized.  It will be even more important to follow the prophet who has taught that it is “God … who ordained marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Marriage was not created by human judges or legislators. It was not created by think tanks or by popular vote or by oft-quoted bloggers or by pundits. It was not created by lobbyists. Marriage was created by God! … Social and political pressures to change marriage laws are resulting in practices contrary to God’s will regarding the eternal nature and purposes of marriage. Man simply cannot make moral what God has declared to be immoral. Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God.”5


While asking for boldness, President Nelson also counsels us to be Christlike in our actions toward others. He continues, “Undergirded by incontrovertible truth, proclaim your love for God! Proclaim your love for all human beings ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all.’ They as children of God are our brothers and sisters. We value their rights and feelings. But we cannot condone efforts to change divine doctrine. It is not for man to change. … The burden of discipleship is heavy. As disciples of the Lord you will stand as defenders of marriage. And as you are true and faithful, not only will He help you and protect you, He will bless your families.”5 


How grateful I am to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose doctrine on the family brings me incredible peace in this life and gives me reassuring hope for the eternities. My family is the greatest blessing in my life! How grateful I am for our prophet and his marvelous example. May we follow him in living and defending the glorious doctrine of marriage and family.

References:

  1.  The Family:  A Proclamation to the World

  2.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, page 203

  3.  Four Lessons From One Life – Russell M. Nelson

  4.  Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women – Russell M. Nelson

  5.  Disciples of Jesus Christ–Defenders of Marriage – Russell M. Nelson

  6.  Salvation and Exaltation – Russell M. Nelson

  7.  Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson

  8.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 199–200

  9.  Reflection and Resolution – Russell M. Nelson

10.  Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints – Russell M. Nelson

11.  Instagram Post, LDS Living Article

12.  Thanks Be To God – Russell M. Nelson

13.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, page 114

14.  The Family:  The Hope for the Future of Nations – Russell M. Nelson

15.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 201-202

16.  Decisions for Eternity – Russell M. Nelson

Ordinances and Covenants

Because we live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, we have the great blessing of having the saving ordinances of the gospel available to us.  They include baptism, confirmation, the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Also included for men is ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  True to the Faith teaches, “All the saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants.”1  “Ordinances and covenants help us remember who we are.  They remind us of our duty to God.  The Lord has provided them to help us come unto Him and receive eternal life.”2 

I think it is very significant that the first thing Russell M. Nelson said to the members of the Church as our new prophet was, “Keep on the covenant path.  Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.”3

As we discuss baptism and the ordinances of the temple, think of the spiritual blessings that have come into your life as you have kept and continue to keep the covenants you have made with the Lord.

Baptism is the first essential step we make on the covenant path.  President Nelson said, “Covenants made at baptism and renewed when we partake of the sacrament fortify our courage and commitment to the truth. … With that kind of courage, we literally have nothing to fear.  We know that while we will experience incessant opposition, we are also protected by His divine promise.  This scripture is offered to each one of us:  ‘Be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.’ (D&C 98:14)”4  

When we are baptized, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep His commandments and to do His will, or in other words, to serve Him.  To have our commitment to the truth fortified as we renew our baptismal covenants by worthily and intentionally partaking of the sacrament is an incredible spiritual blessing.  When we are baptized, we also make the commitment to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”5   Can you see the spiritual blessing of having our courage fortified as we strive to fulfill that commitment?

Some of us made our baptismal covenants a long time ago.  Yet each week we are privileged to renew those sacred covenants.  Spiritual blessings are available to us as we continue to keep our baptismal covenants.  As we take the sacrament, we renew our commitment to always remember the Savior.  One powerful spiritual blessing is that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion.  Oh how we need the Holy Ghost as we continue on the covenant path!

To continue on the covenant path, we need what President Nelson calls a heartfelt commitment to endure with the Savior.  “Baptism is an extremely important ordinance. But it is only initiatory.  The supreme benefits of membership in the Church can only be realized only through the exalting ordinances of the temple.  These blessings qualify us for ‘thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers’ in the celestial kingdom.”6 

Most recently, President Nelson said, “The Savior invites all to follow Him into the waters of baptism and, in time, to make additional covenants with God in the temple and receive and be faithful to those further essential ordinances.”7

Explaining the blessings of those further essential ordinances, President Nelson said, “Temple ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings enable individuals to be reconciled with the Lord and families to be sealed beyond the veil of death. Obedience to temple covenants qualifies us for eternal life, the greatest gift of God to man. Eternal life is more than immortality. Eternal life is exaltation in the highest heaven—the kind of life that God lives.”8 

And at the dedication of the St. Louis Missouri Temple, he taught, “In the temple we make covenants not only with one another but with God.  He fixes the terms, which we are free to accept.  He offers principles and ordinances, which we receive by covenant.  This places each of us under strong obligation and responsibility to honor that commitment.  You need not fear such a pledge, however, because it is never a sacrifice on your part or on mine.  Quite to the contrary.  Obedience to a divine covenant qualifies each of us for great blessings and joy beyond our present comprehension.”4 

Joy beyond our present comprehension—that is quite an amazing spiritual blessing!  President Nelson reminds us, “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.  Joy comes from and because of Him.  He is the source of all joy. … Just as the Savior offers peace that ‘passeth all understanding,’ He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. … His joy is constant. … How, then, can we claim that joy?  We can start by ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith’ ‘in every thought.’  We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father.  As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase. … Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”9 

In his last moments with his daughter Wendy, in what he called his farewell daddy-daughter conversation, it is obvious the importance President Nelson places on covenant keeping.  He shared this, “I held her hands and told her how much I loved her and how grateful I was to be her father. I said: ‘You married in the temple and faithfully honored your covenants.  You and your husband welcomed seven children into your home and raised them to be devout disciples of Jesus Christ, valiant Church members, and contributing citizens.  And they have chosen spouses of that same caliber.  Your daddy is very, very proud of you.  You have brought me much joy!’  She quietly responded, ‘Thank you, Daddy.’  It was a tender, tearful moment for us.  During her 67 years, we worked together, sang together, and often skied together.  But that evening, we talked of things that matter most, such as covenants, ordinances, obedience, faith, family, fidelity, love, and eternal life.”7 

Death has a way of bringing what is truly important to the forefront.  While it tests us to the core, it seems to put things in perspective.  Our covenants truly are things that matter most!  There is an indescribable peace that comes from knowing you have made and are keeping sacred covenants with God.  Surely peace and joy are tender spiritual blessings that come to us as covenant keepers. 

Consider these spiritual blessings President Nelson describes that come from making covenants.  “With each ordinance is a covenant—a promise. A covenant made with God is not restrictive, but protective. Such a concept is not new.  For example, if our water supply is not clean, we filter the water to screen out harmful ingredients.  Divine covenants help us to filter out of our minds impurities that could harm us.  When we choose to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, we lose nothing of value and gain the glory of eternal life.  Covenants do not hold us down; they elevate us beyond the limits of our own power and perspective.”8  

The analogy of keeping our water supply clean by continually filtering out impurities is so applicable to the temple.  We all need the ongoing purification that regular temple attendance offers.  It is not meant to bless us only once.  It can be a constant blessing to us, while also blessing our ancestors and others for whom we do the proxy work.  President Nelson stated, “We know that our time in the temple is crucial to our salvation and exaltation and to that of our families.  After we receive our own temple ordinances and make sacred covenants with God, each one of us needs the ongoing spiritual strengthening and tutoring that is possible only in the house of the Lord.  And our ancestors need us to serve as proxy for them.”10

One of the spiritual blessings our temple covenants can give us is eternal perspective.  President Nelson said, “[Eternal] perspective helps us to maintain fidelity to covenants made.  President Boyd K. Packer emphasized that ‘ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into [God’s] presence.  To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.’ … One day we will meet our Maker and stand before Him at Judgment.  We will be judged according to our ordinances, covenants, deeds, and the desires of our hearts.  Meanwhile, in this world smitten with spiritual decay, can individuals prepared for temple blessings make a difference?  Yes! Those Saints are ‘the covenant people of the Lord, … armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.’  Their example can lift the lives of all humankind.”8 

President Nelson has said, “The greatest compliment that can be earned here in this life is to be known as a covenant keeper.  The rewards for a covenant keeper will be realized both here and hereafter.”11

We can be those examples!  We can be covenant keepers!  As we stay on the covenant path, we can be a shining light in this ever-darkening world. 

Many years ago during a speech given at a graduation ceremony, President Nelson issued the following invitation.  It is an invitation we all would be wise to accept.  As we do, we will more easily recognize the spiritual blessings and privileges promised to covenant keepers. “Whoever you are and wherever you go, I invite you to come to the outstretched arms of Jesus.  Wherever else you think you may be going, come unto Him first.  You will find your greatest success and happiness when yoked with Him.  In His love, your precious families can be linked together forever, according to the eternal ordinances and covenants that He has established.  I invite you to learn of Him, to follow Him, and love Him as I do.”12

References:

  1.  True to the Faith:  Covenant

  2.  True to the Faith:  Ordinances

  3.  As We Go Forward Together – Russell M. Nelson

  4.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pg. 71

  5.  Mosiah 18:9

  6.  Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson

  7.  “Come, Follow Me” – Russell M. Nelson

  8.  Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings – Russell M. Nelson

  9.  Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson

10.  Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints – Russell M. Nelson

11.  Covenants – Russell M. Nelson

12.  Love of the Lord in Language and Living – Russell M. Nelson

The Blessings of the Holy Temple

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.

References:

  1.  Exceeding Great and Precious Promises – David A. Bednar

  2.  The Holy Temple–A Beacon to the World – Thomas S. Monson

  3.  Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, page 416

  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