Blessings Of The Temples
Talk given 30 November 2014
Once upon a time, President Heber J. Grant invited a number of financiers to visit Salt Lake City. As part of this, J. Golden Kimball was given the task of escorting them on a tour. As they began passing some of the city’s landmarks, one of the financiers began asking how long it took to build certain individual buildings. No matter what timeline Kimball gave, the man scoffed, claiming that folks back East could have done things a lot faster. Kimball was frustrated by this, as it indicated the man was unaware of the circumstances under which the early pioneers labored.
Finally, the tour passed Temple Square. Once again, the financier opened his mouth, this time pointing to the temple and asking what the building was. In response, Kimball said (to paraphrase) "No clue; it wasn't there yesterday." [Kimball]
Those who understood the story behind the construction of the Salt Lake City temple would understand Kimball's frustration with this man and why he was so keen on setting him straight. Indeed, it was nearly 40 years between the time ground was first broken and the time the temple was finally finished. [LDS 1]
Ever since the early days of the church, the members have struggled to build temples for the benefit of humanity. In December of 1832, members in Kirtland, Ohio began work on the church’s first temple. Virtually every last able-bodied man who was not already on a mission assisted in the task; these men built it by day and guarded it from mobs by night. Sadly, this temple had to be abandoned when the church was chased to Missouri. Land had been prepared and dedicated in Missouri, but persecution kept one from being built. Work began anew once the church was in Nauvoo, Illinois, and once again a temple stood on the Earth. But in the face of mob violence and persecution, work was done in haste to ensure that the membership could enjoy its blessings before they had to flee. [Church History]
Once the church was safely settled in Salt Lake City, work began again. The ground was broken for a new temple in 1853, and a few months later workmen began to lay the foundation. The effort was halted in 1858 when news reached Utah that the Army was on its way as a result of a false report of rebellion. Believing that the soldiers might disturb the site, Brigham Young ordered the foundation covered over to look like a field. When the foundation was finally uncovered, it was discovered that the foundation had shifted and was now unstable. It would be 14 more years before the foundation was rebuilt and construction could begin anew, and many more before the temple itself was ready. [Primary 5]
But why is the temple so important? Why would these early members put so much time and effort into building temples even in the face of such opposition? This is because of what exactly goes on inside of the temple.
As we read in the Gospel Principles manual [Gospel Principles, pgs. 233-234]:
"Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are special buildings dedicated to the Lord. Worthy church members may go there to receive sacred ordinances and make covenants with God. Like baptism, these ordinances and covenants are necessary for our salvation. They must be performed in the temples of the Lord.
"We also go to the temple to learn more about Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We gain a better understanding of our purpose in life and our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We are taught about our premortal existence, the meaning of earth life, and life after death."
What are some of these ordinances?
A major ordinance of the temple – and a major blessing – is the endowment. As part of the endowment, members make covenants with God and receive assorted instructions. These help to bring those individuals who have "taken out their endowments" closer to God, both by helping people to become more committed to living righteous lives and by allowing people to become more focused on the gospel. [True 171] As explained by James E. Talmage [House 84]:
"The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King – the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation, a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions."
This is one of the several ordinances which can only be done in the temple, such that in Doctrine and Covenants 124:37 we read "And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?"
Another blessing of the temple is that of eternal marriage. As noted in the Gospel Principles manual [pg. 209]:
"Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us."
In contrast, note the common wedding vows used in society: "…Until death do you part."
As explained in Doctrine and Covenants 132 (15 – 21):
"Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
"Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
"For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.
"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
"Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory."
Bear in mind that spouses are not the only ones who benefit from the sealing ordinances which take place in the temple. Those children born to parents who have been sealed are born "in the covenant" and as such are already sealed to their parents. Individuals who were married outside of the temple and children who were born outside of the covenant can be sealed upon membership in the church. [True 171]
Still another blessing of the temple is the ability to perform work vicariously on behalf of those who have passed on without having received the ordinances or covenants of the restored gospel. Unlike those who may believe that the dead are lost, we have been commanded to actively seek after them. To once more quote the Gospel Principles manual :
"Many of our ancestors are among those who died without hearing about the gospel while on the earth. They now live in the spirit world. There they are taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who have accepted the gospel are waiting for the temple ordinances to be performed for them. As we perform these ordinances in the temple for our ancestors, we can share their joy."
In order to do so, we must first identify our ancestors. Fortunately, we live in a day and age in which we have numerous options. Once upon a time, people were limited to what they were told by relatives and family friends, plus what few documents that they may have had available to them. Nowadays, dedicated researchers and archivists help to preserve documents from the past – including official documents, newspapers, books, and other historical materials – and in doing so often scan these documents so as to gather information from them. Some places simply search the information as needed, while others record material on microfilm & microfiche (making them easier for novices and amateurs alike to explore) and some go so far as to scan images into digital form so that they can be explored and searched via computer. [Gospel Principles 237][Note that the church itself has Family Search.org as an option, and that the church has an arrangement in place with Ancestry.com so that members of the church supposedly have free membership on the site.] I myself not too long ago spent an afternoon helping my mom search through the archives of the newspaper I work for in an effort to locate information for a family friend.
Once we have identified our relatives, we need to see if they have had their ordinances done. This can be determined by checking our own church records and the church's records of all temple ordinances. If a person needs to have work done, then once their name has been submitted a living family member who is worthy (those between 12 and 18 who have special permission and those over 18 who have their endowments) can stand in for these persons while they are being baptized vicariously, and endowed members can stand in for them so that they can be endowed and sealed vicariously. You see, even though these individuals have passed on, they still need to be baptized and can still be sealed; they can also still benefit from having these ordinances performed as well. But because they cannot do it for themselves, we must stand in their place. [Gospel Principles 237, True 171-2]
This cause is so important that The Lord referenced it by name in D&C 124, noting in verse 30 that "For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me." In other words, although the temple is normally the only place in which a person is supposed to be able to perform vicarious baptism, given the plight of the Saints at the time God allowed them to happen as if they were normal baptisms.
There is also another, less commonly discussed blessing to the temple: peace. As noted in True To The Faith [173-174]:
"In addition to being a place where sacred priesthood ordinances are performed, the temple is a place of peace and revelation. When you are troubled or when crucial decisions weigh heavily on your mind, you may take your cares to the temple. There you can receive spiritual guidance.
"Sometimes you may feel that you cannot think clearly because your mind is so burdened with problems and the many things clamoring for attention. In the temple, the dust of the distractions can settle, the fog and haze can lift, and you can understand things that you have not understood before. You can find new ways to deal with the challenges you face."
The temple is so important that God once more spelled matters out in Section 124 (verses 39 - 41) so that there could be no misunderstanding:
"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."
Indeed, as we read again in True To The Faith [True 174],
"The Lord will bless you as you attend to the sacred ordinance work in the temple. And the blessings He gives you will not be limited to your time in the temple. He will bless you in all aspects of your life. Your labors in the temple will strengthen you and refine you spiritually."
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church History In The Fullness Of Times. www.lds.org/manual/church-hist…
_____. Gospel Principles. 2009. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
_____. Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. www.lds.org/manual/primary-5- doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history/lesson-44-the-salt-lake-temple-is-constructed-and- dedicated?lang=eng&query=salt+lake+temple
_____. True To The Faith. 2004. Intellectual Reserve.
Kimball, James. “Salt Lake Wasn’t Built In A Day”. J. Golden Kimball Stories. 1999. Salt Lake City: Whitehorse books
[LDS 1] “Salt Lake”. www.lds.org/church/temples/sal… . Accessed 18 November 2014.
Talmage, James E. The House Of The Lord. 1968. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.