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Elder Val R. Christensen

The Lord’s Spirit Abides in His Temples

      Good morning, brothers and sisters. What a beautiful way to begin a presentation, after that lovely hymn played in such a skillful way. It’s such an honor to be here at the LDS Business College, and you’re kind of hid away, you know? I know you’re in a big building back here somewhere, but it isn’t exactly the same look that you often get when you visit a university. Nevertheless, I am honored to be a part of this special group, and thank you, President Richards, for that lovely introduction. It was the second best introduction I’ve received of late, actually. I went to speak a few weeks ago to a place and the person who was to introduce me didn’t show up. So I introduced myself.  Actually, it was quite sensational, as I made myself look very well indeed.

      You know I do envy the faculty and the president. I know envy is not a quality you should try to develop in your life, but the fact that you have a chance to work with these wonderful students every day…for 30 years I did that at Utah State, and it’s an inspiration to be around you. I reflect off and on the statement of President Benson, and maybe you’ve heard it said before, but it inspires me, and I come to you with a lot of humility, in a sense, knowing who you are. No one said this about my generation, but he has said, “God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord…Some individuals will fall away, but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head, even Jesus Christ.” While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. He said, “It is that God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly. Make no mistake about it, you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is in us.” They’ve saved you to the last generation.” (President Benson, “In His Steps,” Stake Fireside, BYU, March 4, 1979).

      We’re about ready to move on to the next generation, wherever that is, and I look back at you and realize that you have a lot to look forward to. Some of it’s very frightening, and yet very challenging. That’s why I’m kind of glad I’m nearly out of here. Because what I see coming forward to your generation is a rather frightening experience in some ways. But imagine that, here I am, my wife and I sitting in the presence of God’s children, who were saved for the last inning, because you were so powerfully influential in the pre-life. Now, God bless you, for that great faith which you’ve already developed and will continue to develop and prepare for the Lord’s Second Coming. I know you’ll be a big part of that.

      In a few weeks, you’ll be invited to attend an open house for the new Ogden Temple. I’m going to say “new,” because it is truly a new facility. And it starts August 1. I trust and hope all of you will find a way to get to that location. It will be followed some months later, I presume, by the Payson Temple here in Utah. And then the Provo Temple that’s being built. Now, don’t pass up the opportunity to participate in those wonderful events. Ruth Ann and I have had a chance around the world to visit and be a part of some of the dedication of these beautiful temples. I think the one that stands out, in my mind, other than Rexburg where we were certainly involved in that opening, was the one in Perth, Australia. Perth, Australia, is the farthest place you can go and still be in the Church. It’s the place they send general authorities when they want to forget you. Well, anyway, it is a long way off into nowhere, and we were honored and blessed to have a chance to be there. And prior to the dedication, we hosted a number of people in the open house. I remember one day walking into a room that I was asked to be, and there sat six Catholic priests, some nuns, and a whole bunch of ministers from other churches. My heart just sank a little. But they were so kind and generous, and polite in all they said and asked during that tour. But I realized that I was in for a bit of a challenge as I tried to explain what we did in the temples.

      And so after a brief introduction of what happens in Mormon temples, we walked across the road out at the stake house into the temple. Now remember, these people, and all the others who went through, had never been inside that temple, never even been inside a Mormon church anywhere. They had no idea what they were about to experience. We walked up to a desk and I said, “This is a recommend desk.” I said, “You know, this is the house of the Lord, and therefore we expect everyone who comes in this house to be worthy of His presence. So we ask the bishops in our church to interview people to verify their worthiness, their honesty, integrity, their morality. And once that’s been verified, they are given a recommend, and it’s at this desk they present it.”

      I said, “Now look on both sides of the recommend desk, pictures of Jesus Christ, and will you please, also, as you go through the temple, note the numbers of pictures that depict His life and His teachings, for indeed, it is His house.” I then just took them directly into the baptistry. I said, “You know, when Jesus was upon the earth, he said, ‘Except [you]… be born of the water and of the Spirit, [you] … cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5).

      And I said, “I’ve always wondered, what about all the people who lived before Him? And all the people since who haven’t heard of Him? Are they just lost? Do they never have a chance to go back to heaven at all?” And I said, “I think the apostle Peter had an answer to that. On one occasion he said, well, ‘For this cause was the gospel preached [also] to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit,’ ” (1 Peter 4:6).  I said, “Apparently they had a doctrine in the early church that these people were taught the gospel.” And I said, “I wonder why? Were they just teasing them and making them feel bad? Aggravating them because they didn’t have a chance to be on earth when Christ was here, or even since?” I said, “The reason I ask that question is that Jesus said, even though you’ve heard the gospel, in order to get into the kingdom of God, you must be baptized,” (See Doctrine & Covenants chapter 18). I said, “What is fair about that, if you get to hear it, but can’t do it?” And then I suggested that maybe the apostle Paul had an answer to that question.

      One day he was arguing with some people about the Resurrection. As a means of proving the Resurrection, as it were, he said, well, “Else what shall they do once you’re baptized for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” (Paraphrased—see 1 Corinthians 15:29). Thank you, Paul, for that little scripture, you saved the Mormon Church. No, no. But isn’t that a marvelous little comment? And often that marvelous book, one little sentence that gave us an education that in the early church that they had a doctrine that you could be baptized for people who had already died.

      And then I said, “That’s why in the Mormon Church we do research for our ancestors.” I’ve gone out and found out my great-grandfather was James Bond. Truly, he was. He did not act like the one they have around now, but nevertheless, that was his name. And I said, “We found his name, and those beyond him, and brought their names to the temple. And in their behalf, we have baptized them and given the opportunity to go back into the presence of the Lord, if they so choose to do.”

      And then I said, “Now follow me into the next room. We call this a blessing room, or in our church we call it an endowment room,” since they don’t know all our terminology. I said, “You see, in this room we learn about Jesus Christ, and we commit ourselves to keeping the commandments, to being good people.” I said—I shouldn’t have maybe, I said, “Look, if you’ve got a Mormon working for you and he doesn’t measure up, you say, ‘Have you been to your temple?’ And if he says yes, you say, ‘Well, I understand in that temple you’re asked to make commitments to be honest and have integrity, and you need to shape up some, you know?’ ” And so, in fact, the other day I was with a group of youth, and we were talking about the temple, and I said, “Look, if your mom and dad start yelling at you and giving you a bad time, just raise your hand, and say, ‘Isn’t it time to go to the temple?’ Because in the temple they promise to be good to you, and if they’re not, they need a little upgrade, yes indeed. And so there you are.”

      “It’s in this room though, that we learn a lot about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us. His love for us; it’s a beautiful, beautiful instruction period that we receive. And we make a covenant or a promise that we will be good people.” And then I said, “Now follow me into a room we call the sealing room.” And as we sat there, I said, “Look, it’s in this room that we can bring couples and have them sealed together forever. We know that when the apostle Paul, or Peter was on the earth, the Lord said to him, ‘I give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that whatever you seal on earth will be sealed in heaven,’ ” (Matthew 16:19). And I said, “It’s in this room that we use the power of the priesthood to seal people together including families.”

      And I said, “Now follow me into the room we consider to be the most beautiful, and I guess in a way the most sacred room in the temple. And it’s the Celestial Room.” And I said, “It’s in that room that we try to symbolize Jesus Christ and His life, and once we get in the room,” I said to them, “I’m not going to say anything to you. I just want you to sit and contemplate your feelings of Jesus Christ.”

      Brothers and sisters, I was amazed over the time we gave these wonderful interviews. Some people would walk into the room, immediately kneel—not kneel but put their head down and begin to pray. Some would start to cry. One little girl said to her grandma, “Grandma, you see the angels in this room?” It was so quiet, beautiful, she thought angels were there. And after just a few moments, we’d say, “Now follow us back to the stake center.” And we had people who didn’t want to go. They just wanted to stay. “Now, remember, 10 minutes.” No idea. And yet, there was hardly anyone leave that beautiful temple that didn’t have a different feeling about life and the Lord. And then when we took them back to the stake center where we asked them to write their feelings on cards. Here are some of the comments that were made:

      One said, “The temple is the most beautiful building in all of Perth, and a wonderful contribution to western Australia.” That was a Church of England member.

      Another one said, “I’ve been twice and the peace I’ve felt in the temple the first time, I feel again. The beauty is overwhelming.” Church of England.

      “The temple was absolutely magnificent. We were impressed with the level of commitment of your faith that put our Catholicism to shame.”

      “A wonderful talk, many thanks.” Roman Catholic, practicing.

      Another said, “I am a Roman Catholic, but I’ve never experienced the feeling that came over me on entering this beautiful church. Next time I come back to earth I will change.” [Laughter] He said, “I’m now 92 years old, and a bit too late to change. Good luck,” he said.

      Another said, “Visiting the temple felt like coming home. A feeling of peace and well-being in the Celestial Room. Thank you all for sharing this beautiful place.”

      Another said, “Thank you for opening my heart to Jesus Christ.”

      One said, “Beautiful, friendly, want to be a part of it. Please come to teach me more.”

      And another, “It is beautiful, it was beautiful. I didn’t have feelings one way or another about coming. But once I was here, I was in awe.”

      Another said, “My spirit was so overjoyed and I felt so close to my Heavenly Father. I felt like I had gone home.” Wow.

      Another said, “I received the pamphlet in the mail from the Church. I read through it with my family, and we felt strongly that we should attend the open house. We, as we went through the tour, we were really impressed with the fact that families can be sealed forever. I want to know how to become a member of your church.” Some missionary was happy for that referral.

      Another said, “Very humbling, peaceful, and I learned so much to dispel the ideas I’ve been told about your church.” I thought that was a particularly good comment.

      The little children even wrote down their ideas. One said, “I love the Angel Moroni, and where the buffalos carried the little tub. [Laughter] And I loved it when you see the mirrors and it never ends.”

      Another said, “I loved the Celestial Room so much I didn’t want to leave.”

      Another said, “I thought the temple was the best place I’ve been in my whole life.”

      Another, “I like the tempull, it is so butuful,” T-E-M-P-U-L-L. He needs to come to the LDS Business College. [Laughter]. He spelled beautiful B-U-T-U-F-U-L.

      Another said, “My friend and I were in the sealing room. We looked through the mirrors and we saw that we were together forever.” Wow, kindred spirits.

      “I thought I knew a lot about Jesus and how beautiful a temple is. I felt happy in my Father’s house. I felt like I was in heaven.” Wow, imagine. Ten minutes. No idea. That’s why I encourage you to go to the open house, and be a part of the dedication if it’s possible.

      Nevertheless, there is such a powerful influence that happens when you attend a temple, even the open house. One of the ladies that came through the open house in Perth came out and said, “I understand you’re going to dedicate this temple next Sunday.” And we said yes. And she said, “Well, I want to come.”

      And we said, “Well, you have to be a Mormon.”

      She said, “Okay, how do you get to be a Mormon?” And we said, “Well, there’s some lessons to…”

      She said, “Okay, start.”

      The mission president shifted gears in a hurry and allowed the missionaries to teach her within a week. And she came to the open house. When President Hinckley heard about it, he said, “Well, if she comes, let me meet her.” Wow. So, we arranged for that little moment to take place, and I can still remember her taking hold of his hands, and all she could say was, “Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.” And she started crying. A week before she didn’t know a prophet was on the earth. But she felt his spirit, and he gave her a verbal blessing. He promised her she’d always be happy if she stayed close to the Lord.

      I went back to Perth a month later, fearful that she’d already left the Church. No, she was in her ward, they’d called her to be a ward missionary, and she was stirring up the place. It was wonderful to watch her love and enthusiasm that came back mainly because she was touched by the Spirit in that wonderful open house.

      One minister followed us out of the temple after he’d finished the tour, out in Redmonds, and said, “You know, I like you Mormons. I live by you, I work with you, and in fact, I like a lot of your doctrine. It’s a lot like our church.” And he says, “But I sure hope you’re wrong.” [Laughter] He said, “If you’re not, I’m in big trouble.” So anyway…

      We had a man in Rexburg who was talked into bringing loads of youth to the temple from his ward. He was totally inactive and less active in the Church, had been for years. He was really reluctant to do such a thing. But he came and he went through the open house. He was so touched; he went back to the bishop and said, “Let me take another load.” And he came at least four or five times to the temple with loads of youth and other people, and was touched by it. A year later we were pleased to welcome him and his wife back into the temple to be sealed forever. It doesn’t take very much; you don’t have to preach. The Spirit does it for you when you’re in that kind of circumstance.

      One person said, “I was, I’ve been struggling for a long time,” she said. “As each of my brothers and sisters have been allowed, or endowed and gone through the temple before me, I’ve despaired of not finding or having a husband. Tonight in the Celestial Room I got the sweetest feeling of peace and confirmation that I already belong to someone—the greatest of all beings, a loving Heavenly Father, who will never give up on me, or cease to be there for me, as long as I seek Him out.” That was a beautiful comment, I thought.

      Another sister wrote us a letter. She said, “I had a wonderful experience yesterday as I spent a few hours at the temple on my knees. I had the opportunity to help clean the house of the Lord. I got to move furniture, vacuum edges, and clean floor moldings. That’s where the kneeling came in. I was a bit surprised but very pleased to learn that I can feel the Spirit in the temple, even when I’m wearing tennis shoes and in my cleaning clothes. The whole experience was a testimony to me that the building truly has been dedicated as a holy place. I just wanted to let you know that a person can meditate and reflect on spiritual and eternal things, even with a dust rag in her hand.” It’s true. It has indeed; it is such an easy place to find the Lord.

      A few weeks ago in the Deseret News, there was a story about the Oakland Temple dedication, and we’d been there a number of times. In fact, it’s I guess maybe, premier, my favorite place to go. You feel the Spirit as soon as you walk on the grounds, for some reason; it’s just an incredible place. But at any rate, it was in 1924 that Elder George Albert Smith stood on the balcony of the Fremont Hotel, at his side was a Brother McDonald, and he said, “Brother McDonald, I can almost see in vision a white temple of the Lord high upon those hills, an ensign to all the world travelers as they sail through the Golden Gate into this wonderful harbor.” Then he studied the vista for a few minutes, and said, “A great white temple of the Lord will grace those hills, a glorious ensign to the nations, to welcome our Father’s children as they visit this great city,” (“Visible as a Beacon: Oakland Temple Celebrates 50th Year of Service,” Deseret News, published May 1, 2014).

      Time went on, and it wasn’t until 1942, some years later, that we were offered a chance to buy some property in that location. It was during the Second World War; the owner of the property needed to sell it. He couldn’t build on it because he had no materials. And so Elder McKay went out to Oakland and stood on the balcony of the Fremont Motel with Brother McDonald again, and said, “Now, where was he pointing, when he made that prophecy?” So they went over and bought 14½ acres for $18,000. Not bad, huh? Good…and, but they had to go back a little while later and buy 2 more acres for access for $21,000. But time went on with nothing happening until President McKay became a very influential prophet. And he undertook the effort to raise the money and prepare for the dedication. And everything went forward, until just prior to the dedication, he had a stroke. And you’re all way too young to remember, but we remember in general conference having his son get up and give his talks in conference, because he couldn’t speak any longer, could hardly move. But the day of the dedication came, it was scheduled for November 17, 18 and 19 in 1964. And, his doctor told him, “President McKay, don’t plan to go. You’re much too weak.”

      And he said, “I am going to the dedication.” He loved that place. And so they put him on the plane and took him out and put him in a hotel.

      The morning of the dedication someone put his head into the room and said, “Is President McKay coming?”

      And a voice came out and said, “He’ll be there.”

      Once they got to the temple and the dedication started, President McKay asked Brother O. Leslie Stone, who at the time was a stake president, to conduct the meeting. After the singing by the choir and the invocation, O. Leslie Stone startled the Brethren and family members present by announcing, “We shall all now have the privilege of hearing from President McKay.” Remember, now, he hadn’t spoken much for months. He couldn’t walk really, either. The prophet was wheeled to the pulpit, and amazingly, stood, both hands grasping the side of the pulpit. He then began to speak. His enunciation became as clear as it had been years before. Every vestige of the stroke was gone.

      President McKay’s son recorded, “My wife, with tears running down her cheeks, whispered, ‘Lawrence, we’re witnessing a miracle.’ I nodded in agreement.” Members of the Council of the Twelve were crying. At the end of the first session, President McKay’s son sought out the doctor, and said, “Can Dad keep this up?”

      And the doctor said, “Lawrence, this is out of my hands. If I hadn’t have been here to see it, I wouldn’t have believed it.” The Oakland Temple had its day of Pentecost in a loving and compassionate Father had given to one of His faithful sons the fulfillment of his heart in fully participating in the dedication of the temple.

      It is interesting that in the next five sessions, as he called on the apostles to speak, among others, he called on every prophet since his administration, with the exception of Ezra Taft Benson. Those who spoke in the next five sessions were Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Howard W. Hunter, and Gordon B. Hinckley.

      Now, some of you will have the blessing one day of going to California, great place, and to the Oakland Temple. And please, find time to go inside and then go up to the Celestial Room. I don’t think they’ve changed it. It still looks the same to me as maybe when it was dedicated. And just sit and contemplate one of the great miracles of the church. Brothers and sisters, the temple is a beautiful place. It has in it the Spirit of the Lord. And great blessings come to us because of it.

      I read to you just a quote from President Packer, in which he says, “The temple must ever be a place of peace, a refuge from the turmoil of the world,” this is President Hinckley actually, (Johannesburg Temple Dedicated, Ensign, November 1985). All of us live in something of a jungle, if I may use that expression. We long for peace and quiet. We hunger for an opportunity to meditate and reflect on things spiritual and eternal in their nature. There must be no atmosphere of frenzy or hurry in the house of the Lord. It is to be a house of order. There must be an atmosphere that constantly proclaims the holiness to the Lord.

      Now, remember. He’s told us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “I am in your midst, and you [see me not]” (D&C 38:8). You can feel His presence; you don’t see Him. But you walk into the temple and you know it’s going to be a beautiful place of quietude and peace. Everyone’s happy, everyone’s kind, everyone’s dressed appropriately. The music is perfect, there are scriptures everywhere. Oh, just a nice place to go. And so if there’s ever a chance that you would like a little more inspiration, just find time for the temple. And maybe you haven’t found time for it. Maybe there’s some reason why you’ve hesitated to get ready for it. I would not make a judgment about that. That’s for you to work out with the Lord and your priesthood leaders. But nevertheless, I would try very hard to be worthy of the Lord’s house, and to be worthy of His presence. I witness that He is in the house; His spirit is there, to influence all of us who go. I testify that it is God’s house, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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