He also loves young adults and youth. He has taught at Ensign College for five years and has been employed by Seminaries & Institutes for 30 years.
Brother Decker also loves music. He recently retired from singing with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square after eight wonderful years of opportunities and blessings. He has conducted Institute Choirs since 1999 and has twice conducted institute/young adult choirs for General Conference. He has played the piano since the age of eight. Music is THE universal language and a foremost way to invite the Spirit.
Good morning, brothers and sisters. It is a pleasure to be with you today, though I much prefer my usual devotional place conducting the choir for a musical number. The purpose of an opening hymn, and more particularly a musical number, is to give you a chance to separate yourself from the cares and worries of the world, and to prepare your heart to be more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I hope you will pay attention to your Holy Ghost-inspired feelings, and even record them. You may even be prompted to take action relative to what you hear. Those are the things you ought to record.
A favorite children’s song to both sing and conduct is “I Love to See the Temple.” You are probably familiar with the lyrics of this simple melody and have likely sung it. Of all the temples you have seen, either personally or in pictures, which temple is YOUR temple? Why is it YOUR temple? What feelings do you have that cause that connection? Maybe you have a couple of temples that are YOUR temples because of special feelings and experiences associated with them. As we discuss temples today, please ponder on the feelings you have associated with YOUR temple.
I love to see the temple. I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit, to listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God, A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young; This is my sacred duty.
I love to see the temple. I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father; I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place, Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth: A fam’ly is forever.
I grew up in the Salt Lake Valley. The Salt Lake Temple has always been MY temple. It was the first temple I entered as a youth to do baptisms for the dead. In those days, youth could only go to the temple as ward youth groups. Each ward youth group was assigned a specific number of baptisms to complete. I remember one time I was one of only three young men having 100 baptisms assigned to us. Two of us did 25 each and the last young man got to do 50. Good thing he was a swimmer – he felt right at home. I always felt it was a privilege to give those who had gone before an opportunity to receive of the blessings the Lord had so abundantly bestowed upon me.
Just before I turned 13, the Ogden and Provo, Utah temples were dedicated. It was a very exciting time to have TWO more temples available for temple blessings. At that time, I made a naïve goal to visit ALL the temples in the world. The Ogden and Provo Temples were numbers 14 and 15, and I felt I could make that goal happen. The only temples outside the United States at that time were Cardston, Alberta (which really wasn’t THAT far away); Hamilton, New Zealand; Bern, Switzerland; and London, England. I figured I could attend the London and the Swiss Temples in the same trip. As a teenager, I had it all planned out but obviously didn’t have the vision of prophets for temples to ‘dot the earth.’
I received my endowments in the Salt Lake Temple prior to serving a mission. Though I didn’t understand the magnitude of all the blessings, I felt overwhelmed at that which the Lord desired to bless me. That endowment of “power from on high” was a remarkable trust and a tangible blessing I soon realized while serving in Japan. I had native Japanese companions who were good missionaries but seemed to have to work extra hard, yet something was still missing. It wasn’t until I realized they had NOT been to the temple to receive their endowments prior to serving their mission that I BEGAN to understand the endowment of “power from on high.” At the time, the closest temple to Japan was the Laie, Hawaii Temple. Native Japanese missionaries couldn’t afford the trip to the temple in Hawaii, and then to go on to their mission. My understanding of the importance and magnitude of the endowment of “power from on high” was made even more clear, when, towards the end of my mission, the Tokyo Japan Temple (the 18th temple) was dedicated. ALL native Japanese missionaries were able to attend the dedication and then spent several days receiving their own endowment and participating in other temple blessings. When those missionaries returned to their assigned missions, they were changed. They were powerful. They were on fire. They were like the 2,000 young warriors of Helaman. The endowment of “power from on high” stayed with those missionaries.
Sonja and I were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. With family gathered and supporting us, we knelt across the altar and made covenants with each other and jointly with God. I was, and am, much relieved and at peace knowing that our relationship is eternal. There is no one with whom I would rather spend eternity. Our marriage has not been perfect (I don’t believe any are truly perfect, without any sort of bumps), but the covenants and perspective received in the temple have been invaluable in smoothing out rough times.
Early in our marriage, while still in college, I served in the Salt Lake Temple. It was a sacrifice of time for several years but blessed us then and, I believe, ultimately guided us in our career choice. I had applied to and been accepted to two different graduate schools. We had gone through all the decision-making exercises of writing down the positives and negatives of each school. With all the diligence of prayer and fasting we had exerted, we had not received anything that we would consider a confirmation, or a warning related to either school. In the midst of this decision confusion, one day, while in the temple, a thought came into my mind: “How much do you love the temple?” I had never previously had that thought. Thinking about the two possible graduate schools, one school was 350 miles away from the nearest temple. The other school was less than five miles away. Choosing to attend the graduate school with the closer temple allowed us frequent temple service opportunities. Attending that school also led us to an opportunity to teach seminary, and eventually be employed by Seminaries and Institutes. That would not have been a possibility at the other graduate school.
Temples have been referred to as the Lord’s university. It is there we learn the things of eternal life.
Once while reading Doctrine and Covenants Section 109, the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, it struck me that this section was full of blessings related to the temple that the Lord wants to give us. But any time there is a blessing to be received from the Lord, it is a result of obedience to His direction. So, I began to discover both a wide variety of bounteous blessings and things which the Lord expected of me. Some were actions, some were attitudes, some were feelings, and so on. Let’s explore a few verses as an example of my discoveries found throughout the section. Remember the context is that of a prayer.
24 We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity;
25 That no weapon formed against them shall prosper; that he who diggeth a pit for them shall fall into the same himself;
26 That no combination of wickedness shall have power to rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house;
I think most of us easily find the blessings the Lord wants to give us.
I am always interested in overcoming Satan’s influence, so when I found these two blessings, I scripturally knew that attending the temple was another way to combat the influence of that evil one. Notice it states “no weapon formed” and “no combination of wickedness” – we are surrounded by all kinds and “combinations” of “weapons” of “wickedness.” I don’t need or want to give examples of these, but you and I both are exposed to them continually. Notice that the promise is that those “weapons” or “combinations” will not “prosper” or “prevail,” meaning the Lord intends that they will NOT have permanent effect. We may lose a round or two in this fight against evil but if we do as the Lord commands, relying on the atonement of Jesus Christ, we will be the victor.
So, then we need to look for that which the Lord commands us to do. I found three things in these verses.
The Lord desires an established people that shall “worship” in His house. Are there other reasons for going to the temple? Peer pressure, socializing, escape from the world, avoiding homework or something else – just to name a few. Those may be good initial motivators to attend the temple but if they remain the primary reason for our going, we are missing out on a truly spiritual experience. Worship should be a deliberate focus on our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. That should be our reason for attending the temple.
What does is mean to “honorably hold a name?” To honor means to have high respect due to a source of credit or distinction. As we attend the temple, whose name do we respect, give credit or recognize distinction? Actually, several come to mind. First of all – yourself. As you literally ‘hold’ your recommend for the temple worker to check it, you are showing yourself respect and distinction for having the discipline to be worthy to enter the Lord’s House.
Another person you honor as you go to the temple is the person for whom you are doing the temple work. They have gone before you, maybe even a relative, but not having had the opportunity to hear the gospel while on the earth. They likely worked diligently to make this world and their life better, and now in the spirit world have been taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, desiring to receive its attendant blessings. You become, as it were, ‘saviors on mount Zion’ for that person, doing for them something they cannot do for themselves.
Yet another person you honor as you attend the temple is the Lord, whose house it is. He has established the covenants made therein and your attending the temple indicates the respect and distinction you feel associated with Him and His covenants.
You may think of others whose name you honorably hold as you serve in the temple.
Thirdly, the Lord expects us to be “standing in this thy house.” Can we fulfill this directive any better than by actually going to the temple?
A number of years ago, John A. Larsen (1987–1990), then president of the Jordan River Temple, had a dream which he considered a vision. It was given to him as a warning for the members of the Jordan River Temple district, but I believe applies to all of us. Any time he was asked to speak, such as at a stake conference or a fireside, he shared the vision he had been given. He raised a voice of encouragement and warning concerning the importance of attending the temple. He shared this vision often.
In the vision, President Larsen was coming to work at the Jordan River Temple. He drove through one of the front gates and was surprised to find the entire lawn area in front of the temple covered with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The people standing on the lawn were each holding their temple recommend high over their head saying, “We want to get in, we need to get into the temple. We need the peace, safety and security.”
The temple president thought that people not being let into the temple was rather strange. After parking his car, he went into the temple to discover the reason for the problem and to find a solution so those out on the lawn could get into the temple. The president discovered that the temple was FULL. There was no room for anyone else.
Then the Spirit taught him about the two groups of people. Those on the front lawn had valid temple recommends but would use them only infrequently and only for special occasions such as a wedding or to attend when a friend or family member were receiving temple blessings. In contrast, those INSIDE the temple were those who attended the temple on a regular and frequent basis, partaking of the temple blessings available. Both groups of people knew of and were seeking for the peace, consolation and comfort of the temple in times of worldly turmoil and trouble, but only one group had understood enough to prepare for such times.
The temple president never did say what “regular and frequent” attendance is because it is different depending upon our circumstance and situation. We must be our own judge if we are attending often enough.
One year ago, President Russell M. Nelson’s General Conference closing remarks included a review of the updated temple recommend questions. He then added:
Individual worthiness to enter the Lord’s house requires much individual spiritual preparation. But with the Lord’s help, nothing is impossible. In some respects, it is easier to build a temple than it is to build a people prepared for a temple. Individual worthiness requires a total conversion of mind and heart to be more like the Lord, to be an honest citizen, to be a better example and to be a holier person.
I invite you to gather Israel on both sides of the veil by preparing yourself to attend the temple when they re-open. May we commit to attend the temple not like a flood which hits hard then recedes, but more as Lehi described the river “continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” (1 Ne 2:9)
May we, instead of going through the temple, let the temple go through us, and thereby receive the blessings therefrom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.