Temples Bless Individuals, Nations
I am grateful, my dear young brothers and sisters, to be here with you. This is a very special occasion for me, and I just want you to know how grateful we are for you, and for what you do.
I know you know how blessed you are to be enrolled here in the LDS Business College. There are very few colleges that will provide students an educational experience rooted in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s a great blessing. We commend you for your quest for knowledge and spirituality, and we’re glad that you’re here. You’re blessed with a dedicated faculty—and, of course, President Richards is a marvelous president—who are committed to these goals. When President Richards was inaugurated as president of the College, I read his address and was greatly impressed with the following statements. He said, “What we do here is connected with the temple; indeed, we strive to emulate a temple of learning. When the College is viewed as a temple of learning, the Holy Ghost becomes an indispensable partner.”
Think of that. That reminded me of when the Prophet Joseph Smith was given the commandment to build the Kirtland Ohio Temple. Let me just read that, and see if these goals do not sound similar. The Lord said to the Prophet: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119, emphasis added).
Do those sound like the same goals and objectives that you have here? You’re grateful for that, to be here, with that goal. We appreciate you, President Richards, for your great vision and leadership, and this wonderful staff and faculty.
What you do here is connected to the temple. One of the blessings of presiding in the Salt Lake Temple is to see you young people come to the temple so frequently. We see you come early in the morning, before school, to do baptisms and initiatory work. We see you come in the afternoon after school, to do these same things. We see you probably when you should be in school. But we’re grateful for you, and we’re grateful that you are here.
In the past, there’s been a notion that temple work was for the elderly. Once you couldn’t do any other thing, you went to the temple. Now that is changing, and we’re grateful for that. Let me just read a statement by Elder John A. Widstoe: “Temple work is quite as much benefit to the young and to the active as it is to the aged who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life. The young man needs his place in the temple even more than his father and his grandfather who are steadied by a life of experience. And the young girl, just entering life, needs the spirit, influence and direction that come from participation in the temple ordinances. If I say nothing else tonight that will linger, I hope that you will remember that temple work is for the young and for the middle-aged, and for the aged. Temple work is for all.”
I think Elder Widstoe would be very pleased if he could see what is taking place throughout the world today with this marvelous increase in temple activity, particularly with our younger people.
Temple work has always been a part of our Heavenly Father’s plan. When Moses led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, he was commanded to build a temple, a tabernacle, a sanctuary. Of course, that temple had to be portable, because they wandered in the wilderness for some 40 years. But then they went into the Promised Land, and we read about the temple of Solomon and then the temple of Zerubbabel and then the temple of Herod when Christ was on the earth. We think that the temple of Herod was the last temple built on the eastern continent, but we know from the Book of Mormon that Nephi built a temple in the land of Nephi, patterned after Solomon’s temple. We know that in Zarahemla, King Benjamin had a temple. And then, of course, we know that after the resurrection of the Savior, He appeared to the people at the temple in Bountiful.
Well, what about in this dispensation? That same emphasis on temple worship and temple building. You remember, of course, the Prophet went into the Grove in 1820, and there received the vision from our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. That began the restoration of the gospel. Joseph was 14 years of age at that time. Three years later, which would have made him 17 years of age, our Heavenly Father was preparing him for his great mission here in life, which had as a main focus temple worship and temple building.
When Moroni appeared in 1823, the Prophet said that he quoted the Old Testament prophets. He quoted Malachi a little different than it is written in our Bible. We find that in the second section of the Doctrine and Covenants. And it’s changed a little bit different from Malachi. Let me just read that, because it’s significant for our dispensation. “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (vv. 1-3).
So you can see, brothers and sisters, in Malachi it’s “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” but when the Angel Moroni quoted, he changed it to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. The promises of their fathers—what were the promises? The Abrahamic covenant, genealogical, temple work. The Lord was preparing the Prophet Joseph at 17 years of age for this great activity. Now we know that there was a great emphasis.
I mentioned the 88th section, the 119th verse was a commandment to build the Kirtland Ohio Temple. That commandment was given in December of 1832. Now remember, the Church had only been organized about a year and a half. But the Lord gave a commandment to the Prophet to build a temple in Kirtland. The people were very poor, and there were not very many of them, and they were being persecuted. So the Prophet did not attempt to build a temple. Well, five months later, he received a rebuke from the Lord. Let me just read that, if I can find it here quickly. It’s found in the 95th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. And here’s what the Lord says—he chastised the Saints for not accomplishing that assignment. He said: “Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face; For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house” (vv. 2-3).
Four days after that rebuke, the Saints began building the Kirtland Ohio Temple. It was completed in 1836, but as you know, we weren’t able to remain in Kirtland. We were persecuted and we were driven to Missouri. In Missouri, in Independence, a spot was selected for the House of the Lord. We were not able to build there. We were driven to western Missouri, to Far West. And in Far West a cornerstone for a temple was laid. We weren’t able to build there. We were driven in 1838 as you know, back to Nauvoo, Illinois. And there, in Nauvoo, shortly after they arrived, in the 124th section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord commanded the Prophet to build a temple. The temple was built. It was never totally completed. The Prophet would not have the opportunity of seeing the temple completed. He was martyred. But before his martyrdom, he received the endowment, a great gift from our Heavenly Father. And over 5,000 members of the Church received their endowment in the Nauvoo Temple before being driven to the Salt Lake Valley.
Four days after their arrival in the valley, Brigham Young laid out the spot to build the Salt Lake Temple. Look at what’s happening today. There are 130 operating temples scattered throughout the world and 22 more that are under construction or have been announced. Why such great emphasis on temple building from the very beginning of time? Why do you think that the Lord is so concerned about temples? Because, brothers and sisters, temples are absolutely essential for our salvation and our exaltation. And so the spirit of Elijah that we talked about will continue to move and go forward, and will fill the whole earth.
In 1853, when Brigham Young and the Saints laid the cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple, he gave the best definition of what the endowment really is, this great gift from our Heavenly Father. Again, emphasizing the necessity of receiving these ordinances in the temple, he said, “Your endowment is, to receive all of those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, and being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416).
You ought to read that, because it’s a marvelous, marvelous definition and example of why these temple ordinances and temples are so very significant.
Knowing that temple worship is so significant, we as members of the Church need to do whatever is necessary. The Lord is helping us by placing these temples throughout all the world. Sister Child and I had the opportunity, as the president mentioned, of living in the Philippine Islands for a couple of years, and living in West Africa. We learned to love those wonderful people in the Philippines and Africa. They are marvelous, wonderful people. In the Philippines, there are 7,000 islands, and it’s very difficult for people—there’s one temple, and that’s in Manila. In order for them to get to the temple, it takes several days, when they’re out in the Basayas or Mindanao, to come into Manila. In June, the First Presidency will dedicate a new temple in Cebu, which will be a great blessing to the wonderful Saints in the Philippines. We’re so excited about that.
One of the great blessings of serving in West Africa was having the opportunity of witnessing two temples built and seeing them dedicated. I’ll never forget the open house and the dedication of the first temple in all of West Africa. The people there never ever thought that they would have an opportunity of going to the temple. It’s about an eight-hour plane ride to Johannesburg, South Africa, and to England. It’s about halfway in between, and very expensive. When it was announced that there would be a temple there, you can’t imagine the joy and happiness of those faithful Saints that they were going to be able to go to the temple.
The open house was something that, as I mentioned, I will never forget. We knew that the many people who came and saw the temple before it was dedicated—most not members of the Church—would be very impressed with the beauty of the building and the grounds. It was the most beautiful building in all of West Africa. But what we were really excited about was that they still felt a very special spirit there, and they knew that there was something special in that temple. We had over 2,500 missionary referrals. We had people come up after and say, “How do we become a member of your church?” Wouldn’t that be wonderful, missionaries, if that happened throughout the world? And what a problem to have—we didn’t have enough missionaries to teach everyone. But they were so excited.
We had a good relationship with the president of Ghana, President Kufuor. We invited him to come to the open house and tour the temple. He didn’t want any of the people to know that. He was a good man. He was not a member of our Church, but we made arrangements and he came to the temple. As we went through the temple he was very, very impressed with what he felt there and what he saw there. And when we completed the tour, we walked out onto the front porch of the temple. The word had gotten out that the president of the nation was there, and there were reporters, newspapers, magazines, and television cameras. They all wanted to take a picture and see President Kufuor.
One of the reporters came up to the president, and he was very kind and he entertained their questions. One of them said, “President, what do you think of this building?” Now, here he is; he’s not a member of the Church. And he said, “There’s a very special feeling in this building. And this building, this temple, will bless the lives and raise the spiritual level of our entire nation.”
Think about that. He was impressed. He knew. I think in all of Africa, Ghana is one of the most upcoming and progressive nations. And, of course, members of the Church attribute that to the temple being there, and I do too. About two weeks later, President Hinckley came and dedicated the temple. In his dedicatory address, he said basically the same thing that President Kufuor said. He said, “This temple will not only bless the lives of the members of the Church, but it will bless the lives of this entire nation.” A wonderful thing.
As President Hinckley was there, he held a fireside for the members of the Church. Now here you think about this. Here a prophet of the Lord is going to speak to the members of the Church that he’d never had an opportunity of speaking to in person, but they had never seen a prophet of the Lord. So you can imagine, they came from all over the country to see and hear the Lord’s prophet. They thought this might be the only time that they would ever see a president of the Church, a prophet of the Lord. We rented the largest building that we possibly could, and of course it was filled to overflowing.
When President Hinckley stood and addressed these people—now, you think about this. Here he’s having an opportunity to speak to some people who he’s never spoken to before. You would think for sure that the words he spoke would be very pertinent, and were the words that he wanted those people to know and to remember and understand. As he stood, he said, “Brothers and sisters, tomorrow we’re going to dedicate the House of the Lord.” He said, “I’m an old man.” You know his sense of humor—marvelous. He said, “I’m an old man. I’ll not be back here to Ghana to speak to you again. So I want you to pay attention to what I’m going to tell you. It’s going to be very simple. I’m going to tell you four things that you need to do in order to remain worthy or to get worthy to go to the house of the Lord which we will dedicate tomorrow.”
These are the four things that he talked about, and I’d like to review those just briefly in conclusion, because they apply to each one of us. They’re significant. He said first, “These four things: First, pray daily. Second, read your scriptures daily. Attend your meetings, particularly your sacrament meetings, where you have the opportunity of renewing the covenants that you made with the Lord. And fourth, pay your tithing.”
Let me just refer to those quickly. As he stood there, he said to these wonderful people, “Think about prayer. It’s a miracle! Here we as personal mortals can speak to our Heavenly Father, and He hears us and He answers those prayers.” Think about that. He said, “It’s a miracle that we can actually talk to our Heavenly Father. Now sometimes He doesn’t answer the way that we’d like. But He answers them in the best—for our own well-being.”
I love the hymn that you sang this morning. Prayer really marked the beginning of the restoration of the gospel, the beginning of the Church. This young boy, Joseph, as he read James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). As a result of that scripture, he went to pray. And as a result of that prayer, we are here today. The scriptures are very clear that prayer is not just a way of communicating with our Heavenly Father, but it helps us, humbles us, and it’s also a commandment. We know that in the Book of Mormon, Amulek said to pray often, pray always, pray over your crops and fields. We pray for everything (see Alma 34:17-27). I have a strong testimony that if a merchant, for example, prays about his business, he’s going to be honest in his dealings. I know if you as students pray about your studies, your classes, and the work that you do, you’re not going to cheat on the tests. Prayer is a marvelous thing.
We have a great neighbor, Alex, a wonderful man. We couldn’t ask for a better neighbor. He is not a member of the Church. A couple of months ago, I was shoveling snow off our driveway and Alex came—I could see him coming over and wanting to talk to me. He always comes, and we always have a wonderful embrace, and you could see that he had the weight of the world on him. He was not happy, and I knew that there was something seriously wrong somewhere in his family. As he got to me, and as I shook his hand, he said, “Sheldon, I need a real favor from you. In fact,” he said, “I need a big, big favor from you.”
I said, “Anything, Alex. You know I’ll do anything to help.”
He said, “I’ve just been diagnosed with phase four terminal lung cancer. I need your prayers.”
I said, “Our whole family will be happy to pray for you. But Alex, we’ll do even more than that. I’m going to the temple today, and I’ll put your name on the temple prayer roll where thousands of faithful members of the Church will be praying for you.”
And he said, “I will be grateful for that.” Well, just a couple of days ago, he was getting out of his car. He had just come back from skiing and he ran over. I said, “Alex, how are you feeling?’
He said, “I feel great.” He said, “Prayer works.” I don’t know what is going to happen to Alex, but I know that he has a strong testimony of prayer, and he’ll be a member of the Church someday. He’s such a great man, he and his wife.
First, pray daily. Second, scripture study. We know that in John it says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: for they are they which testify” of Jesus Christ (John 5:39). The scriptures testify that Jesus is the Christ. Without scriptures, nations, families, individuals perish in unbelief. Let me just give you one quick example of that, and there are many.
Remember when Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates of Laban, they had a couple of unsuccessful attempts. And then Nephi crept in and found Laban drunken with wine. Remember that the Spirit bore witness to Nephi to take his life. Well, he didn’t want to—he’d never taken the life of anyone. That seems like not a great thing to do. But the Spirit bore witness again, and then said this to Nephi: “It is better that one man should perish than that an entire nation…dwindle…in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:13).
The Nephites needed the scriptures. They were going to the Promised Land here on the American continent. They needed the scriptures. Without them, they would dwindle and perish in unbelief.
The third thing—attend our meetings. Of course, we know that the scriptures are full of admonitions to meet together often. Where two or more are gathered in my name, He tells us His Spirit will be there (see Matthew 18:20). There is a marvelous thing about meeting together. A meeting like this, where people come together with the same goals, the same hopes and desires and the same ideals, is an example of that. When we meet together we feel better. You go to a testimony meeting and hear someone bear their testimony. Our testimonies are strengthened as a result.
It’s kind of like a bonfire. You know when a bonfire burns down and all there are are red-hot glowing embers and coals? They’ll remain hot and warm and red. But if you take a little stick and take one of those coals and flip it off to the side, how long does it take before the fire goes out and they become cold, with no heat? That’s kind of like we are, brothers and sisters. When we meet together, we gain strength from one another, particularly, as the prophet said, if we attend our sacrament meetings, and we are able to renew the covenants we make with the Lord.
Let me conclude with his last—tithing. Tithing is a commandment with a promise. I’m going to read that promise from Malachi, and you’re familiar with this. Malachi makes this promise: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10).
That’s generally where we stop reading that scripture. You could quote that, without me reading it to you. Those are marvelous promises. Blessings will be given—material blessings, but mainly spiritual blessings that come as a result of paying our tithes and offerings. But listen to the next verse. This is a physical blessing:
“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.”
A marvelous promise, you see. And then the next verse:
“And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Whenever I read that twelfth verse—all nations—I can’t help but think of President Kufuor and President Hinckley, when they said that as a result of this temple the whole nation will be blessed. When there is a group of faithful, Latter-day Saint full-tithe payers, the Lord is going to bless the nation. Look at Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah, when they were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah would have been saved if there had been even ten righteous people, but the cities were destroyed because there were not enough righteous people.
Let me just conclude by reading quotations from two of our prophets. President Joseph F. Smith made this comment about tithing: “The loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to a test. By this principle [tithing] it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God, and who is against it. By this principle it shall be seen whose hearts are set upon doing the will of God and keeping his commandments … and who are opposed to this principle and have cut themselves off from the blessings of Zion. There is a great deal of importance connected with this principle [of tithing], for by it, it shall be shown whether we are faithful or unfaithful” (“Obedience to the Law of Tithing,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 275).
A very strong statement.
And then, a statement from President Thomas S. Monson: “Always be active in the Church.” I will give you a formula which will guarantee to a large extent your success in fulfilling that commandment. It is simple. It consists of just three words. Pay your tithing. Every bishop could tell you from his personal experiences that when the members of the Church pay their tithing honestly and faithfully, they have very little difficulty keeping the other commandments of God. It is a benchmark commandment (see “Be Thou an Example,” Ensign,Nov. 1996, p. 44).
Let me just conclude in bearing my witness. In summary, those four areas that President Hinckley talked about—praying daily, reading the scriptures, attending our meetings and paying our tithing—if we do those things, my dear young brothers and sisters, we’re not going to get very far off the track. And we’ll be able to receive all of the blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for His children.
One of the great blessings of paying tithing is being able to have a temple recommend and going to the temple. There are many blessings that come from paying tithing, but I think that one of the very best and most choice is being able to go to the House of the Lord.
May the Lord bless you. We love you, and are grateful for you. We just love to see you in the House of the Lord, even if you ought to be here. We’re grateful for you and what you’re doing. I just want to bear my witness to you that I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. I’m so grateful for His atoning sacrifice in behalf of each of us. I’m grateful to have a living prophet on the earth today, who can receive direction from the Lord and pass that wonderful information to us. May the Lord bless you in your studies, in your schooling, and in your life, that you will find the joy and happiness that our Heavenly Father would want you to have, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.