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This devotional address was given in 2004 shortly after the Rexburg Idaho Temple was announced.
On September 4 of this year, it was announced that an architect and a builder had been designated to build the Rexburg Temple. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid,” the Master said (Matthew 5:14). The temple on this hill will be the crown jewel of this campus, and the fulfillment of the sacrifice of many good Latter-day Saints. It will be a source of light to this entire valley, and you who have the privilege of receiving its blessings will carry that light all over the world.
I’d like to speak today out of fifty years’ experience in participating in temple worship. I’d like to talk in a way that I hope will sink more deeply into you than ever, to motivate you to focus your lives on temple worship and on the power of Jesus Christ, which is there. I’m going to give you a few ABCs and use each of those letters as a “memory peg” for my remarks and testimony.
Let’s begin with “A,” which, in temple focus, may mean both “Atonement” and “anointing.” I have learned in the Holy Land that those two words are almost synonymous in Hebrew. The word “kipper,” which is the word for atoning influence, also means “anointing with oil,” or “to cover.” Christ covers up and replaces sin in our lives with light and healing. The ancient high priest went into the temple only once a year, and he would cleanse it. In that process, he would also cleanse the people. Christ is the Great High Priest, and when He promises He will place His name, seal, and glory upon His sanctuary, all who enter therein must come as worthily as they can and leave even worthier.
We move to the next letter, which is “B,” and I suggest the word “born” or “born again.” Today, the religious world often speaks of being a “born-again Christian,” not fully comprehending how complete is His promise to those who come to Him. It is one thing to have faith, and another to have repentance. In the House of the Lord, He requires His children to make covenants from the heart, and then He makes promises. When the Prophet Joseph Smith sent the first Twelve abroad to Britain, he said, “Brethren, being born again comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.”1 All ordinances, therefore, are channels of His Spirit. The crowning ordinances are those of the Holy Temple.
Let’s go to “C,” “covenants.” The temple is a house of covenant-making. I recall in my earlier days, just before my mission, when I began to understand how far-reaching these covenants are. I remember inwardly shrinking, in a way, and saying, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready to make that kind of promise.” I am now convinced, brothers and sisters, that the earlier you can give your whole heart to covenant-making, the greater can be your expectations of the Lord’s blessings. It’s when you make a covenant in the presence of witnesses — and even in the presence of God — that the heavens begin to shake for your good, and He promises with absolute conviction and trust in you — “I make the same covenant with you, and I will never break it.” Ultimately, He asks us to give our all in covenant-making, with the promise that He will then give His all in our behalf.
So we move to “D,” “dedication.” There will be a day when this temple, your temple, will be dedicated by a prophet of God who alone exercises all the keys of the holy priesthood, including the keys of Elijah that involve the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All those keys will be exercised to dedicate your temple. And in that process of dedicating a structure, you will dedicate yourselves and become living temples like unto Him.
That leads us to “E,” “endowment.” The Lord has said, “I deign (or ‘I intend’ or ‘I promise’) to reveal unto my servants an endowment of power, power from on high” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:32; 124:41). How can we live a godly life with all of the struggles that pertain to Earth life? Answer: You can do it if you are a recipient of an increased endowment of the Spirit of God. I suggest to you, out of my own experience, that the temple experience can be enlivening, enlightening, empowering, and vitalizing, and that we need to go back often to have that experience.
Next, the word for “F,” recurrent in the Doctrine and Covenants, is “fullness.” We all speak of the fullness of the gospel, implying that there are parts elsewhere, but that it comes together in this dispensation. The Lord uses the word “fullness” for other things, too. He speaks of receiving, eventually, the fullness of truth. The fullness of truth, and the fullness of the Holy Ghost, and the fullness of the priesthood, and the fullness of the glory of the Father are all connected with the temple, and you cannot receive them without coming through the temple and having the temple come through you.
Which leads us to the word for “G,” “glory.” We’re talking about the glory of God, which is intelligence (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36). Intelligence is subdivided into light and truth. The fullness of the glory of the Father, surely, would include those, but in the Doctrine and Covenants we’re told that marriage and family are included in the everlasting covenant (Doctrine and Covenants 131:2). We are taught that the Father is a Father indeed, and that you and I are begotten sons and daughters unto Him (Doctrine and Covenants 76:24). We therefore believe there was a Heavenly Mother, and that priesthood and parenthood are intertwined. We learn that to be truly glorious is to become like Them, with the powers of creation and procreation given us forever. That is the culminating ordinance of the House of the Lord, which we call “sealing.”
The glory of God is spoken of in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and the fullness of the glory of the Father is the “fullness and a continuation of the seeds” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19). No more literal word could be used for the power bred in us by reason of our own birth to beget posterity. Family is glory, and will be extended, intensified, and increased forever. This earth will become the home of the truly sanctified who will follow in the mirror image of the Father and his Companion, who opened up for us this way of immortality and eternal life.
Let me turn now to personal words and testimony. When I was in graduate school in California, I was reading a chapter in Key to the Science of Theology by Parley P. Pratt called “Laws of Initiation.” I probably marked a paragraph of which this is a paraphrase. He said, “The practice of these principles and ordinances has begun to regenerate the race.” And then he said, “This is reversing the tide of degeneracy, which has been in the world, beginning with the first man named Cain, who sold out his birthright and became the destroyer of life. The laws of degeneration have been working in the race, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will regenerate the race.”
The very man who interviewed President Hinckley, Mike Wallace from cbs, interviewed my wife and me a time ago. We were at the open house of the Manhattan Temple. At some point in our chat with him, he looked at my wife and said something like, “Why are Mormon women so lovely?” I thought of Parley P. Pratt, and I said, “It’s the best-kept beauty secret in the world. It is the Spirit of God.” Parley P. Pratt said, “It contributes to beauty of face, form, and feature.”2
I testify that is so. I believe that not everyone in the Church is aware of how conspicuous that beauty, that light is in the eyes and faces of the faithful. But those who have the same spirit recognize it. Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice and my sheep know me” (John 10:27). I suggest to you that the Lord’s sheep know His other sheep and recognize when He is at work in their lives. That is a temple outcome. It comes with worship and honoring in the sanctuary.
In that period of my life when I had been a little skeptical, a little troubled about the idea of ritual and ceremony, President David O. McKay came to a gathering in Los Angeles to require a sacrifice of the Saints in order to build the temple. President McKay asked for a million dollars from the local Saints, and had pledge cards before the meeting was over for more than that amount. Then he spoke about the temple. He said something that I have cherished, and which bent the twig in me, which has grown ever since.
He said, “Brothers and sisters, I believe there are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the eternal presence. If our young people could only glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives.”
I resolved that day, because of what happened in my heart, to always raise my voice in testifying of the temple and never of criticizing it, to carry out as best I could my dream of finding a queen who would share the total conviction that the temple is ours and that out of that could come a family who would love the Lord Jesus Christ as nothing else in the universe. I bear testimony that whatever is good and true and beautiful in our lives is rooted in the Christ, who is the great giver of the privilege of temple worship. I bear that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 162 2 Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology: A Voice of Warning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 61