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Since moving [to Rexburg] about a year ago, we have embraced "The Spirit of Ricks" and have grown to admire the students, faculty, and especially President and Sister Clark. Whenever we have a chance to be in their presence and in gatherings with the students and faculty, we come away with a strong, positive impression of the powerful influence this institution is having on all of you.
We are grateful to the Lord that he has placed beside this campus a beautiful temple as an aid to your spiritual development.
My earliest recollection concerning temple work came when I was a young boy. Some of my friends and I were driven to the Logan Temple to do baptisms for the dead. I don't remember very much about the day, except that it was emphasized we were doing baptisms for some important people. My friend was baptized for a famous man, Cyrus McCormick, who was the inventor of the reaper. Likewise, I remember having the baptism done for the mayor of Boston. This impressed me, and since that time I recall that day whenever I drive by a field of grain, and a reaper or combine is harvesting the crop. Cyrus McCormick changed the world with his genius, and we changed his life by offering him an invitation to the Lord's kingdom.
When I was in college getting ready for my mission, a good friend and I received our recommends and decided to attend the temple to receive our endowments. We didn't realize that family and friends should be invited as well. Upon arriving at the temple, we were asked to participate in an opening devotional, at which both of us were invited to speak. I received a frightening impression that each time you went to the temple you might be asked to talk. That was a wonderful experience, and we left the temple that day feeling more grown up, more in tune with our Father in Heaven, and more committed to keeping His commandments.
I attended a temple session during my mission in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. I recall on that occasion having a member of the temple presidency tell a very inspiring story. Years before, Brother Edward Wood served as temple president. He was a spiritual man and had unusual experiences. On one occasion he invited a family to participate in a sealing. A mother, father, and some children were present. As he moved to the part of the ceremony where the children were to be sealed, he stopped and asked the parents, "Does this sheet contain the names of all your children?" The parents replied that it did. He moved again to that point where the children were to be sealed and asked the question, "Are you sure all the names of your children are on this list?" A third time he stopped and asked the same question. With that, the parents took the list, reflected back, and realized that they had left off the name of a child who died at birth. The name was added and the ceremony continued to its completion. Afterward, President Wood indicated that as he arrived at the moment when the sealing was to take place with the children, a voice came to him each time, which said, "Don't forget me." Once the name was added to the list, the sealing was completed, and the voice was not heard again.
In our family we have had a tradition of temple work. I think part of that comes from the delightful story that is told of my relative, Thomas G. Lowe, of Franklin, Idaho. Brother Lowe was asked to prepare the gold balls that now sit at the top of the Logan Temple. They were to be thirty-six inches in diameter. In order to prepare them, he nailed planks into a cube, and then using a chisel and hammer he whittled down the wood to the thirty-six-inch diameter. On the ball that sits at the west end of the temple, he worked for many days until he got the ball to thirty-eight inches. It was almost impossible to bring it down to the size specified. He called to Brother Angel, the architect, and asked if he must do the work according to the drawing. Brother Angel confirmed the fact that the ball must be thirty-six inches. When the architect was out of sight, Brother Lowe went to the top of the temple and placed the ball, even though it was two inches too large. The second ball that sits at the east end of the temple was whittled down to thirty-six inches. He then went to Brother Angel after some days and said, "I finally finished my job. How does it look now?" Brother Angel looked up to say, "It's fine. It always pays to build like the architect says."
While putting the second ball in place, Brother Lowe fell off the north side and it took twenty minutes to get a ladder to him. His fingers were stiff for a while but there was no other problem associated with the near-fatal fall.
These stories, along with many other experiences, have drawn me closer to the temple over the years.
Temple building in the latter-days began in Kirtland, Ohio. On April 3, 1836, a week after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, a sacrament meeting was held in the temple. The Prophet described that afternoon in these simple terms: "In the afternoon, I assisted the other presidents in distributing the Lord's Supper to the Church, receiving it from the Twelve, whose privilege it was to officiate at the sacred desk this day. After having performed this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer" (Doctrine and Covenants 110 introduction).
The Kirtland Temple stands as a symbol to members of the Church, for it was in this temple that Moses and Elijah appeared. The Prophet received a vision of the celestial kingdom where his brother Alvin was shown to him. Much of the early beginning of the Church and some of the great revelations had their origin in this temple and in the Kirtland area.
When we think about temple work, the focus is on those ancestors who cannot do the work themselves. But the great blessing of participating in the temple ordinances and receiving your endowment comes to those who are living. A beautiful prayer was offered at the dedication of the temple in which Joseph Smith outlined a number of the blessings that come to people who attend regularly. Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants outlines these blessings.
Here is a summary of the blessings for those who attend the temple regularly:
1. They will feel God's power in their lives.
2. They will be taught words of wisdom.
3. They will grow up in Christ.
4. They will receive a fullness of the Holy Ghost, to be comforted and led into all truth.
5. They will be organized according to the laws of God.
6. They will be prepared to obtain every needful thing.
7. They will be armed with God's power.
8. They will have the name of Christ upon them.
9. They will have angels to guide and protect them.
10. No weapon will be formed against them.
11. No combination of wickedness shall have power over them.
12. Those who fight them will dig a pit and fall into it themselves.
We are now blessed to have a beautiful temple here in Rexburg, serving the needs of the saints in the Upper Snake River Valley and the faithful students at BYU-Idaho. I recently wrote an article about the temple for the BYU-Idaho faculty journal, Perspective, which provides a public forum on many topics.
I noted that most of my professional life took place in Logan, Utah, where I worked as an administrator at Utah State University. Ruth Ann and I enjoyed the benefits of working in a university atmosphere among lively and dedicated students. The call to serve the Lord in Rexburg seemed quite natural in many ways. After arriving here, I was pleased to learn that the pioneers who settled this area also came from Cache Valley. The weather and college atmosphere in Rexburg and Logan are similar. Having traveled to the area many times over the years to visit the campus and family members allowed us to be comfortable with the assignment to serve the Lord for a few years in the lovely Upper Snake River Valley.
This beautiful valley reminds me of the words from Deuteronomy 8:8-9: "A land of wheat, and barley, and vines.... A land of ... honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it."
What makes this place productive and beautiful are the faithful saints and their wonderful neighbors. I think Alma, when speaking to the saints in Gideon, may have been referring also to the dedicated members in this valley: "For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight" (Alma 7:19).
Idaho has a "gem" to compete with Old Faithful for the most photographed location in the area. There were a number of predictions that many temples would come to the area. In an address delivered by President J. Reuben Clark at the ceremony marking the laying of the cornerstone and dedication of the Idaho Falls Temple, Sept. 23, 1945, he stated, "This is the first temple in Idaho, but as surely as we are here we shall build other temples in Idaho"1 (Idaho Falls: 1945; Boise: 1984; Rexburg and Twin Falls: 2008).
It was on Sept. 30, 1949, that Mayor J. M. Parkinson and city clerk Loretta M. Rigby verified the sale of the land on which the Rexburg Temple is located. The purchase price was $5,500. The land was used for many years to raise farm crops. There was always a hope and prayer that it might be used some day as the site for a temple. When President Hinckley announced that a temple would be built in Rexburg, many Saints rejoiced to know that it would sit on this prominent spot in the city, next to the campus of BYU-Idaho. It is viewed from at least ten miles away in every direction, especially at night. President Boyd K. Packer provides a perfect description for the temple: "The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. The house of the Lord, bathed in the light, standing out in the darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness."2
The process of opening the temple in Rexburg has been a humbling experience. Over the past few months, at least 1,500 members have been interviewed, called, and many have been set apart to serve as temple workers. Everyone accepted the invitation to serve with faith and devotion. The response to the open house and dedication was impressive. The thousands of volunteers who assisted with these events brought much appreciation and admiration from leaders.
There was an early plan to build a large temple in Rexburg, but to operate it with a small temple philosophy. We were authorized to have a small professional staff to supervise key functions, such as recording, engineering, and custodial duties. The majority of the temple workers would be volunteers, called from local wards and stakes. The Saints in the area have responded to the call to serve in the temple. Many are giving numerous hours of their personal lives to ensure that the temple operates with efficiency and success.
At the Logan Temple cornerstone dedication, President George Q. Cannon made this statement:
"Every foundation stone that is laid for a temple and every temple completed according to the order the Lord as revealed for his holy Priesthood, lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness, moves the heavens in mighty power in our behalf, invokes and calls down upon us the blessings of the Eternal Gods, and those who reside in their presence."3
Already we note the fulfillment of that promise as the Saints come to the temple in large numbers. The youth occupy the baptistry from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Families are sealed for eternity, and couples are enjoying the blessings of eternal marriages. The work for the dead remains a high priority for the members. Enthusiasm for the temple and its saving ordinances is bringing patrons to the temple in large numbers, and we believe the spirituality of the members is enhanced among the wards and stakes.
The temple brings peace and joy to those who attend. From the helpful pamphlet, Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, we read: "Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once, that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly. At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can ‘see' things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known."4 I watch as couples enter the temple for proxy endowment sessions. Many of them are in a rush because they are late. Others reflect frustration with each other. Many bring the activities and difficulties of a busy life at work and home still in their minds. It is a joy to watch these same couples leave the celestial room after a session at the temple. They often hold hands and reflect an obvious love for each other. The frustrations have subsided, and they return home with more determination to love their family and to serve the Lord.
As they walk together out of the temple, I'm reminded of President Gordon B. Hinckley's thoughts:
"Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it."5
I invite everyone to come to the temple. Its beauty draws attention to the spiritual influence it will have in this valley. The words of the Lord to the Saints at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple have application here: "And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people" (Doctrine and Covenants 110:10). This is especially true for the Saints who live in the Upper Snake River Valley.
What can we do to show our love to God for giving us the glorious blessing of having a temple in Rexburg?
1. We can return often to the temple to provide the same blessing for someone else. This is a selfless service since the person cannot even say thank you for the work you provide.
2. We can return often to seek a sense of peacefulness, quietude, and serenity. It's in the temple that you put aside all the cares of the world and take time to reflect upon God's blessing and to feel His spirit and to receive answers to your prayers.
3. We can return often to seek a more clear meaning of the message. What do the symbols mean? What new insight can I gain? Not every time I attend do I receive additional inspiration, but there have been a few sessions where new thoughts about God's love have come as I have more completely understood what was being said through the symbolic reference to our Heavenly Father's work.
4. We can pledge again obedience to covenants and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
5. We can enjoy the wonderful feeling of love and support received from the presidency and the workers in the temple. A few days ago I counted at least fifteen people who greeted me warmly before I sat down to prepare for the temple session. Most people go all week long at their work or other places without having fifteen people greet them warmly.
President Boyd K. Packer said this about temple work: "The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord."6
It is my prayer that we may all understand the importance and the beauty of Latter-day Saint temple work. Again, it is not a blessing that comes just to those who have gone before. But it is primarily a blessing provided for those who are living. Return often to Doctrine and Covenants 109 to read the promised blessings. This will motivate all of us to return to the temple as often as possible in order to receive those great blessings in our lives.
It is an honor to serve the Lord in the Rexburg Idaho Temple. The faithful Saints in the valley are enjoying the spiritual growth that comes from participating in the ordinances provided in the house of the Lord. The Lord is pleased with the overwhelming response from the Saints as they visit the temple in large numbers. There is every indication that the members will continue to be blessed by the Lord. May the Lord open the way for you to visit His holy house often. I offer my testimony that temple work is uplifting and divine. May the Lord bless you to obtain your own witness of this inspired work, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Delbert V. Groberg, "The Idaho Falls Temple: The First LDS Temple in Idaho," (1985): 104
2 Boyd K. Packer, "The Holy Temple," Ensign. (1995): 323 Millenial Star, Nov. 1877, 743
4 "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple," Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple. 1
5 Gordon B. Hinckley, "Why These Temples?" Ensign. (1999): 17
6 Boyd K. Packer, "The Holy Temple," Ensign. (1995): 32