Cover image via LDS.org.
In a revelation given in December of 1832 and January of 1833, the Lord commanded the church to build a temple. He enjoined in people to “prepare every needful thing” (D&C 88:119). Since this was the first of the temples of this dispensation, the Latter-day Saints could only have known the composition of that list of “needful things” by revelation.
One of those revelations was recorded by President Frederick G. Williams as follows:
“Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counsellors Williams and Rigdon and come before the Lord, and He would show them the plan or model of the House to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the Building appeared within viewing distance. I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the Makeup of this Hall seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia” (Temple Manifestations, p. 22).
The Presidency now had some idea of at least some of the needful things, and they had the commandment of God: “Establish a house.” The Lord specified, along with the commandment to build, a profound description of some of the purposes of this house. It would be 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) . . . “A place where “your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High” (D&C 88:120). Verse 120 merits an observation. More than any place on this planet, the temple is a place where everything we do, we do in the name of the Lord. There are no cultural halls here. There are no Scout rooms. There are nurseries and cafeterias, but even in those places we do everything with an eye single to the Glory of God.
So, the Lord commands, “go to work and build this house, and when you go there, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings (D&C 88:121).
I served as an ordinance worker in the Timpanogos Temple for a little less than five years. I remember the discomfort I felt when temple workers with breaks between assignments would gather in that building and talk of football games or favorite movies. Light speeches and laughter indeed!
In June of 1833, the Lord gave an additional revelation about the building of this house. After affirming his love (D&C 95:1), the Lord chastened his people.
“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 (D&C 95:2,3).
“I’ve been considering the implications of this rebuke. “If you wait six months to start this house, it will take six months longer to finish.” Clearly, six months without the blessings of a temple would be costly to the saints–and their delay in preparing for these blessings was a ‘grievous sin.’ And the greatest benefits do not come from working on temples but from working in them.
“I wonder how many blessings I have missed because of my delays in seeking the blessings that come from being in the Lord’s House?” (Journals of Ted L. Gibbons, 1 November, 2003).
In April of 2004, Elder Holland spoke of the inclination some of us have of making temple participation an activity to be reserved only for those times when there are no other things that require our attention.
“The Punta Arenas Chile Stake is the Church’s southernmost stake anywhere on this planet, its outermost borders stretching toward Antarctica. Any stake farther south would have to be staffed by penguins. For the Punta Arenas Saints it is a 4,200‑mile round‑trip bus ride to the Santiago temple. For a husband and wife it can take up to 20 percent of an annual local income just for the transportation alone.
“Only 50 people can be accommodated on the bus, but for every excursion 250 others come out to hold a brief service with them the morning of their departure.
“Pause for a minute and ask yourself when was the last time you stood on a cold, windswept parking lot adjacent to the Strait of Magellan just to sing with, pray for, and cheer on their way those who were going to the temple, hoping your savings would allow you to go next time?
“One hundred ten hours, 70 of those on dusty, bumpy, unfinished roads looping out through Argentina ‘s wild Patagonia. What does 110 hours on a bus feel like? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that some of us get nervous if we live more than 110 miles from a temple or if the services there take more than 110 minutes.
“While we are teaching the principle of tithing to, praying with, and building ever more temples for just such distant Latter‑day Saints, perhaps the rest of us can do more to enjoy the blessings and wonder of the temple regularly when so many temples are increasingly within our reach” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: April 2004, Saturday Afternoon).
Sister Ann C. Pingree spoke of those who really cannot attend the temple, but who still make it a central focus of their lives.
“I will never forget a sauna-hot day in the lush rain forest of south-eastern Nigeria. My husband and I had traveled to one of the most remote locations in our mission so he could conduct temple recommend interviews with members in the Ikot Eyo district. Some in this growing district had been Church members less than two years. All the members lived 3,000 miles away from the nearest temple in Johannesburg, South Africa. None had received their temple endowment.
“These members knew the appointed day each month we would come to their district, but even we didn’t know the exact hour we would arrive; nor could we call, for telephones were rare in that part of West Africa. So these committed African Saints gathered early in the morning to wait all day if necessary for their temple recommend interviews.
“When we arrived, I noticed among those waiting in the searing heat were two Relief Society sisters dressed in bold-patterned wrappers, white blouses, and the traditional African head-ties.
“Many hours later, after all the interviews were completed, as my husband and I drove back along that sandy jungle trail, we were stunned when we saw these two sisters still walking. We realized they had trekked from their village—a distance of 18 miles round trip—just to obtain a temple recommend they knew they would never have the privilege of using” (Sister Anne C. Pingree: C.R., October 2003, Saturday Morning).
I wonder if I could generate enough self-discipline to walk eighteen miles to obtain a recommend that I knew I would need within days to attend the marriage of a one of my children. But would I pay that price to obtain one that I knew I might never use?. I should be winning because President Howard W. Hunter said, “Truly the Lord desires that his people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be tgemple worthy. Ii would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it” (October 1994 General Conference).
Lucifer does not want us attending the temple. He will try to interrupt or oppose our temple experiences in every way he possible can.
“We should expect that the adversary will try to interfere with us as a church and with us individually as we seek to participate I n the sacred work. Temple work brings so much resistance because it is the source of so much spiritual power to the Latter-day Saints” (Boyd K., Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, February 1995, p. 36),
Knowing that we face unceasing opposition, it should not surprise us that we find so many excuses to put off temple work.
I went to the temple to do some initiatory work for some people from a daughter-in-law’s family file. I always spend part of my time between names looking at the information contained on the cards. One of them this time was for William Stephens, born in Cornwall, England in 1826. I looked at his name and then noted that his first ordinances—batism and confirmation—were performed in Canada, in the Alberta Temple. Interesting. Then I saw the date on which they were performed: 17 September 1940. That was just seven days less than seventy-two days earlier than the day of his initiatory! Of course, he had to wait a while after his death for his work to commence. But once it was begun, he might have expected to have it completed in a reasonable amount of time. If someone offered me something wonderful, and began the process of providing it, and then made me wait seventy-two years to complete the gift, I would be troubled.
A friend of mine had the name of John Lathrop, who needed to have some ordinance work done. It was Saturday evening and the thought he could put it off for week or so until a more convenient time. But as he considered that, a quiet voice whispered, “John Lathro0 has waited long enough.” Les changed clothes and went to the temple at once to do the work. I do not know how long John Lathrop had waited, but when you are ready for the blessings of the gospel and must wait for them, almost any amount of time is too much. Anyway, I took William with me for his endowment the next week. He, too, had waited long enough.
We do not seem to understand the anxiety of those who are waiting, and temple work stands in line after so many things that have little or no eternal significance.
Elder Rudger Clawson related an interesting account of Satanic interference with temple work in the Church Section of the Deseret News, December 12, 1936, Vol, 344, no. 61. The story be found in Temple of the Most High, page 99.
The event was also mentioned in a book about the Logan Temple by Nolan P. Olsen, with a wonderful insight about what we ought to do when we are having trouble getting to the temple. Brother Olson reported the event as follows:
“Brother Merrill [Apostle Mariner W. Merrill, President of the Logan Temple], sat in his office one day and heard a great commotion outside. He stepped out to the window to see what was going on. Here came a great multitude of people from the west end up around the temple, on horseback, in buggies, the majority of them on foot.
“. . . These people stabled their horses, corralled them, tied them up, and gathered out in front of the temple.
“The President said it was such a congregation that if he filled every room in the temple, it wouldn’t begin to hold them. That large room held 2000. Five other rooms would hold 200 each. Fifty other rooms in the temple would hold a big crowd. It must have been a lot of people.
“And he knew they were not Mormons. When you and I go to the temple, we carry our little suitcase, and we head straight in. These people didn’t have a suitcase. They were rather shabbily dressed, and they were just milling around the front of the building.
“The President went out and asked who they were and why they had taken possession of the temple grounds. He said their leader stepped out and said, I am Satan. I don’t like what’s being done in Logan Temple, and I’ve brought my people to close it.
“That was a bit of a shock to the President: he’d never run into the devil before. He wasn’t right sure what to do with him. He finally told him, “This is the Lord’s house, and you know that you or anybody else cannot stop the Lord’s work. It makes no difference what you do, what you say, the Logan Temple stays open. The Lord’s work goes on.”
“Satan told him, “Then I’ll take this congregation of people and scatter them throughout these valleys. If you won’t close the temple, we will keep people from going.” The President was a mighty man: big in stature, big in spirit. He was a member of the quorum of the twelve, temple president, stake presidentBa big man. He used the authority and power of his priesthood and commanded Satan in the name of the Lord to depart from holy ground. He said within four or five minutes there wasn’t a man, woman, buggy, horse, anything in sight. They just faded off into thin air, and were gone.
“And then for a period of about twelve years we might have closed Logan Temple. We’ll be doing more work in one day than they did in a full year after Satan’s visit.
“My Grandfather Olsen lived on 4th North about three blocks away. He said any day that he said out loud he was going to the temple, something happened to keep him away. One day he told the boys, ‘Tomorrow we’ll finish grinding our molasses, and then I’d like to spend a week in the temple.’ The little mill had been running perfectly. They went back the next morning and the main wheel was off. And the more they repaired it, every moving part on the machine broke again and again. It took them one week to repair the mill to get it to grind one day’s molasses, and he didn’t get to the temple.
“Another day when he was going, he got up to milk hi! cows and the corral gate was open. [The] cows were gone. [It] took him all day to find the cows in the West Fields. Another day the gate was open again and the horses were gone. [It] took him two days to find his horses up in the hills.
“He said any day that he said out loud that he was going [to the temple], something like tut happened to keep him away. He soon learned to keep it to himself and not say it out loud. He’d get up, milk his COWS, come in and set the bucket down, and run! And then he could get there.
“Satan knows about temples and what we do, and he’d love to keep you and me out of the temple. We have to learn to set our buckets down and run.” (from the audio cassette: Stories of the Logan Temple – by Nolan P. Olsen [based on his book: Logan Temple; The First 100 Years)
This is great doctrine! If circumstances and events combine week after week to keep us from temple service, the we must learn to do what Grandfather Olson learned to do. We must set down the milk pail and run!
As we ponder the implication of these stories we ought to aks ourselves this question: “What would the Lord say to me ab out my love for and involvement with is house?” Is it possible that we have also committed a grievous sin like the early saints in Kirtland because we have not considered the commandments of the Lord in this matter of temple work?
As we sang, “My Country Tis of Thee” (Hymns 339) in a meeting years ago, I was struck by the phrase, “I love thy . . . templed hills.” That phrase suddenly seemed prophetic. How many hills now have temples in this land? How many hills around the world? From that quiet beginning in Kirtland, temples have multiplied throughout the world. Every new spire, every new Moroni with the trumpet of salvation to his lips, every new pane of stained glass is an invitation to us to go to the mountain of the Lord’s house (see Isaiah 2:2,3)—to one of those templed hills—for the blessings and education to be obtained there. The temple is a well of knowledge that will never run dry. We must drink freely and often.
Temples crown our hills now in every direction. There is work enough to do for all of us. All that remains is for us to set down our milk pails, and run!