Monday, June 6, 2011

Important Counsel from President Monson’s Apr. 2011 talk “The Holy Temple—A Beacon to the World”

It’s time to scour President Monson’s talk for important counsel.
During the October general conference in 1902, Church President Joseph F. Smith expressed in his opening address the hope that one day we would “have temples built in the various parts of the [world] where they are needed for the convenience of the people.”

During the first 150 years following the organization of the Church, from 1830 to 1980, 21 temples were built, including the temples in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. Contrast that with the 30 years since 1980, during which 115 temples were built and dedicated. With the announcement yesterday of 3 new temples, there are additionally 26 temples either under construction or in preconstruction stages. These numbers will continue to grow.

The goal President Joseph F. Smith hoped for in 1902 is becoming a reality. Our desire is to make the temple as accessible as possible to our members.?
How wonderful that President Monson calls our attention to the prophetic hope expressed by Joseph F. Smith a century ago that temples would be built in various parts of the world for our convenience! I imagine that not many people were aware of that. (I wonder how many other little-known temple-focused prophecies have been uttered in this dispensation? What a great topic for someone to research!) For my part, in my patriarchal blessing it states that “temples will dot the earth” and I would often wonder to myself just what “dot” meant. As a teenager, I thought that it was pretty well fulfilled already. And then came that famous general conference announcement by President Hinckley that he had set the goal to have 100 temples built by 2000, and I quickly realized that my conception of “dot” was too limited.

I think President Monson brings up the history of temple building to remind us of the great progress that has occurred in temple-building over the last few decades. There is a danger that we may become complacent and forget what a great blessing it is that new temples are being built.

Yet when President Monson says, “These numbers will continue to grow,” is it possible that temple-building may yet accelerate even further? It may be. Considering my estimations of “dot the earth” have been too limited before, I am obliged to believe that President Monson prophesies of more to come.

President Monson recounts two very touching stories of people who sacrificed their comfort and means and even their family togetherness to meet their goal of going to the temple to seal their families for eternity. These two stories are similar in two important respects—great sacrifice was made, and many years after the great sacrifice was made, a temple was built close by. I believe that President Monson wants us to understand that the way that we qualify for more temples among us is to sacrifice to go to them. I know that is true because I’ve been able to see it happen in my own life at least twice. When my husband and I lived in Austin, Texas, we made the decision to go to the temple at least once a month. The nearest temple was in Houston, which was a three-hour drive one way. It was three hours to drive down, two hours in an endowment, and then three hours back, which meant that we were sacrificing a day to go. I think we did that for a year. Then a temple was announced to be built in San Antonio, Texas, which would cut the travel time in half. (Excitement!) Then we moved to Chandler, Arizona and we found that travel time to the temple was about 20 minutes! Going once a month was suddenly… too easy. So we decided to step it up a notch and go once a week. We did that for maybe two or three years. And it seems there were enough other people who were going that often or more frequently that a new temple was announced in Gilbert, Arizona, not five miles from where we live!

I’m not telling these things to boast, but to show that I’ve seen how temples come to people who use them and sacrifice to attend.

In his talk, President Monson seems to have taken great pains to point out a number of different ways that people have sacrificed to obtain the blessings of the temple. The Kirtland temple was built even when the church members were extremely poor. They sacrificed time and labor. The Salt Lake Temple was built over 40 years of sacrifice. The story of the 100 saints of Manaus illustrates a sacrifice of traveling over great distances in great discomfort and hardship. The story of the Mou Tham family illustrates how family togetherness was sacrificed over a number of years in order to ensure family togetherness through the eternities. (I found this an incredibly daring venture. For a married couple to make it through those years apart it would take great faith and loyalty.)

President Monson highlights the sacrifice involved:
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.
We love adventure stories and quests, but we are overlooking that the rewards of temple attendance are so great that the quest to attend the temple makes all those adventure stories pale in comparison. Because the quest to attend the temple is REAL! And it is right in front of us! [1]
Today most of us do not have to suffer great hardships in order to attend the temple. Eighty-five percent of the membership of the Church now live within 200 miles (320 km) of a temple, and for a great many of us, that distance is much shorter.

If you have been to the temple for yourselves and if you live within relatively close proximity to a temple, your sacrifice could be setting aside the time in your busy lives to visit the temple regularly….

If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple. Your sacrifice 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. Whatever it is, qualify to enter the temple of God. Secure a temple recommend and regard it as a precious possession, for such it is.
It seems that President Monson is pointing out that there are as many ways of sacrificing to go to the temple as there are life situations. He also commended those who wake up early in the morning to do baptisms for the dead before going to school. (Man, how I wish I could have lived that close to a temple when I was a teen!)

When I was a teenager, I sacrificed band performances to go to the temple. Our high school band played pep band on Friday evenings for football games in the fall and for basketball games in the winter. Attendance was required. This was also the time when youth temple trips were scheduled to visit the Chicago temple, a two-hour drive away. Youth temple trips only happened a few times a year, so when one came up, I made sure to go and let my band teacher know I was going to be absent from pep band that night. I don’t know if my grade was ever docked, but I was determined to go to the temple even if it was. I knew that what I was doing at the temple had eternal significance and was far more important than a band grade. Maybe it was a small sacrifice, but I was pleased to make it.

President Monson says something very interesting when he addresses parents of young children.
To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.”
I notice that he doesn’t say anything about going to the temple in this case. This shows how well aware he is of parents’ difficulty of leaving very young children with a babysitter to go to the temple. He doesn’t push for a sacrifice to visit the temple, but suggests a sacrifice of taking the trouble to get temple pictures for each room so that the concept of temples can be introduced to children at a young age.

I remember when I was young and the Ensign carried a picture of the San Diego temple. I was so excited. I had never seen such a beautiful building. I decided that I wanted to be married in that temple. My parents got me a picture of that temple which I put up in my room. I also took it with me to college. As it turned out, I actually got married in the Chicago temple, but my younger brother got sealed in the San Diego temple and I was able to be present for that. It was a real treat for me to finally go inside. (insert happy sigh here)

Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we may have our own personal favorite temple, each temple is the house of the Lord?
Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer.
Strong words, and true.

President Monson has a number of other pieces of counsel sprinkled through his talk which I picked out.
  • Qualify for a temple recommend
  • Secure a temple recommend
  • Regard your temple recommend as a sacred possession
  • Always have the temple in your sights.
  • Do nothing which will keep you from entering its doors and partaking of the sacred and eternal blessings there.
  • Teach your children of the temple’s importance.
Now, I don’t know if you remember when President Monson gave this talk, but I remember what I felt when he said these words:
Now, my brothers and sisters, may I mention one more temple before I close. In the not-too-distant future as new temples take shape around the world, one will rise in a city which came into being over 2,500 years ago…
When he said that, my eyes got really big and I thought to myself, Oh my gosh, is he going to talk about a temple in Jerusalem?!! I happen to know at least 15 other people had the same thought. You probably had the same reaction. And then when he went on, “I speak of the temple which is now being built in Rome, Italy.” Oh man, that was a bit of a letdown, but then I had to laugh at myself for getting all excited. But then, who wouldn’t? We’ve witnessed the temple announced and rebuilt in Nauvoo, Illinois. Then there’s the temple in Palmyra, New York. Those are pretty amazing. We’ve witnessed more temples being announced than at any other time in the world! Who can fault us for expecting miracles?

Soooo, having gone through this little prophetic fake-out, I had to wonder just why President Monson wanted to draw our attention to the temple being built in Rome. I confess that I didn’t catch his point while he was speaking, which is why I love that these messages are transcribed and sent to us for us to study. So here’s what I read over and over and pondered:
Every temple is a house of God, filling the same functions and with identical blessings and ordinances. The Rome Italy Temple, uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient Apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.

Last October, as we gathered on a lovely pastoral site in the northeast corner of Rome, it was my opportunity to offer a prayer of dedication as we prepared to break the ground. I felt impressed to call upon Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to be among the first to turn a shovelful of earth. Each had been a part of the decision to allow us to build a temple in their city.
Finally, it became evident to me that President Monson felt a deep connection to the apostles and saints of the church in former days. I can imagine President Monson looking around at all the monuments of Rome’s ancient greatness and thinking of Paul and Peter—his fellow servants though separated by almost 2000 years—who gave their valiant witness to Rome’s ancient government officials and then suffered painful death. How significant that the city that once drove the former-day church to meet in secret in the catacombs now allowed a temple to be built in Rome’s precincts. Once, ancient government officials had rejected the apostles and put them to death. Now they had decided to allow a temple to be built. No wonder President Monson was happy to ask Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to help break ground.
As the magnificent choir sang in Italian the beautiful strains of “The Spirit of God,” one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained. In a coming day, the faithful in this, the Eternal City, will receive ordinances eternal in nature in a holy house of God.
Can you imagine the rejoicing on the other side of the veil? Can you imagine the satisfaction of the ancient apostles and saints at this event? High fives all around! Victory dances! Hosanna shouts! Hallelujah choruses!
Each [temple] stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that He desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless His sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth. I so testify.
I never thought that temples could be an expression of our testimony in this way, but I see now the President Monson is right. We call them “The House of the Lord” because we believe and are sure that the Lord lives and that He visits these houses. We strive to qualify to go there and urge others to qualify to go because we have a testimony that the Lord really wants us to come to His House where He can bless us. We return there after receiving our own ordinances because we have faith and a testimony of life after death and that it is just as important for our dead to receive what we have as it is for us to obtain it. So every trip to the temple is an act of testimony to those principles.
My beloved brothers and sisters, may we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attend the temple and to have the spirit of the temple in our hearts and in our homes. May we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, that we might have eternal life and exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.
We can sacrifice because Christ sacrificed for us. Without His sacrifice, none of this would be possible. I have a firm testimony of this.

Questions for teachers to ask while teaching from this talk:
• When you were first able to go to the temple, what was the closest temple? What sacrifices did you make to go on temple trips? What was it like and how did you feel?
• What kind of sacrifices do you make NOW to go to the temple?
• What obstacles have you overcome to make it to the temple?
• If you grew up with member parents, how did your parents build a desire in you to go to the temple?
• Will you share what you have done to try to acquaint your children with the importance of the temple?
• How do you feel your life is different because of going to the temple?
• Question to ponder: What obstacles keep YOU from going to the temple?

Possible Object Lesson—How long is forever?

Bring a roll of twine or yarn and some scissors to class. Ask one class member at the very back left of the classroom to hold the end of the string as you unroll it. At the front-middle of the classroom, cut the string and ask someone to hold it for you. Ask a class member at the opposite back corner of the classroom to hold another piece of the string and unroll it as you walk to the front center of the class. Cut the string so that you have two long separate pieces of string stretching through the classroom.

Tell the class that the string coming from your left represents your pre-mortal life and the string coming from your right represents your life after mortality. Tie the two pieces together and tell the class that the knot represents earth life.

Share your feelings about the opportunity the temple offers us to be with our families forever.


1 At this point, the writer part of me perked up my ears and realized that in the struggle to get to the temple is certainly a worthy conflict to be portrayed in Mormon fiction. It could combine the elements of the quest with all varieties of opposition—man versus man, man versus nature, man versus government, man versus time, man versus poverty, man versus self, etc.


Rach said...

Lovely post!

grego said...

"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*."

And if that is so, what should we be willing to sacrifice to keep our marriages instead of divorcing?