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I deeply appreciate this opportunity. At her request, my gift to my wife this evening is not asking her to speak. However, I would like her to come here for just a moment. President Clark mentioned my first book and the movie made from it. The movie followed the book fairly closely, so it is quite accurate. However, Jean often adds, “But parts of it were Hollywoodized, as you were never that good of a dancer,” which I wasn’t. I am eternally grateful, however, that Jean didn’t make her decision based on how good of a dancer I was. We were not directly involved in the making of the movie. However, at one point, we were on an assignment in New Zealand when they were filming a segment and had the opportunity to meet some of the principal actors. When I first met Anne Hathaway, who was playing Jean’s part, I said, “So, you’re the lucky girl who gets to play the part of my wife.” She seemed a little surprised, then looked at me quizzically and said, “You really love Jean, don’t you?” I replied, “I sure do. I always have, and I always will.”
The theme tonight is excellence. Jean is truly a woman of excellence. In the scriptures we read, “But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled” (Ether 12:11). The Savior is the most excellent way and the most excellent example in all that we do. Following Him moves us toward excellence. I pray we will all do so.
About 35 years ago, I had the opportunity of teaching part time at Ricks College for two years. We had just returned from serving as mission president in Tonga and business was down. We had quite a few young mouths to feed, and teaching here helped put bread and butter on the table. I remember how kind and thoughtful President John L. Clarke was. Everyone I worked with was helpful and I have had good feelings about Ricks College, now BYU–Idaho, ever since. I appreciate and love the students, the faculty, the President, and everything associated with this great university. I felt the Spirit of Ricks then and continue to do so today. I pray that all of you will do the same by making good friendships and being helpful to everyone. It will bring you great joy now and forever.
I ask for your faith and prayers as we visit this evening on a subject dear to my heart—temples. What is heard in a talk is much more important than what is said. When a speaker teaches and testifies of the truth, even though he may not give a “spectacular talk,” the spirit of the Lord can take parts of that talk and fracture it into a thousand pieces and plant something important in a thousand different hearts to answer specific needs.
The temple deals with eternity. All truth is found in the temple because the temple is all about the life and mission of Jesus Christ. In Doctrine & Covenants 93:24 we read, “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” Truth has no beginning and no end. Only that which lasts forever is real. God is real, truth is real, love is real, life is real, the teachings of the temple are real, unselfishness is real because these things never end. On the other hand, the things of the world, which are here today and gone tomorrow—and often involve selfishness—do not last forever, and are unreal or illusionary. You might say, “Wait a minute. My car is real, my wardrobe is real (sometimes it’s a real mess) or my hair or something else physical is real.”
Yes, we do get sick; we may have accidents or hard times; we even die. But remember that all of those things are temporary—they don’t last forever, so in this sense they are illusions. The things of God are eternal and real; all else is temporary, unreal, and illusionary.
I have heard people say when they leave the temple, “Oh, it is so hard to leave the beautiful atmosphere of the temple and go back into the real world.” I understand how they feel, and I have felt that way myself sometimes. However, I have learned that the temple is the real world, because what we learn and do there lasts forever. It is the world we go out into that is unreal, because it doesn’t last forever.
One of the great truths we need to learn in life is that when we do things for selfish reasons, even though we may get what we want, it ends there. On the other hand, when we do things for unselfish reasons (such as sincerely trying to help someone else), it never ends. Selfishness ends, unselfishness doesn’t. The scriptures say that charity is the pure love of Christ, which to me means unselfish service given to help others. Charity never fails and has no end. I wonder if selfishness, even more than money, is the root of all evil and unselfishness the root of all good. When we do selfish things, bad things follow. When we do unselfish things, good things follow. That is why the Savior invites us to follow Him and live the life of unselfishness.
The Savior is the most unselfish person that ever lived on this earth. His whole life was about helping others, not Himself. He invites us to follow Him and do likewise. Since everything about the temple is based upon the life and mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it follows that the work in the temple is based on unselfish service and is the basis of all good. The power of heaven flows to Earth through the temples and the ordinances and covenants made therein. Our desires to live clean lives, perform unselfish acts, be good neighbors, and become more Christ-like individuals are all enhanced through temple service. Let me repeat, that which we do for our own selfish benefit ends right then, but that which we do unselfishly lasts forever.
As this picture shows, the Savior is the connection between heaven and earth. Temples are among the portals he uses to convey His eternal truths to Earth. In front of every temple is the phrase, “Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord.” The scriptures ask us to “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). Where is He? How do we find Him? Where do we go? We go to His house, for that is where He is. Yes, we pray, we read the scriptures, we keep His commandments, we follow the Prophet, and we go to the temple.
I testify that the Savior is the connection between heaven and earth and is the most unselfish person on the face of the earth. I know He lives in heaven, but He is also in His temples. Temples are a bit of heaven on earth. Read with me the words on the screen: “There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection makes everything meaningful, including death. Missing that connection makes everything meaningless, including life.” (John H. Groberg, from the movie The Other Side of Heaven) If we have the Savior and His truths in our lives, life will be full of meaning. Otherwise, it won’t.
The essence of the temple is the essence of the Savior’s life. We can learn more about Him in the temple than most anywhere. Every time we go to the temple, we learn more about Him. As we learn more about Him, we feel a deeper love for Him and a greater desire to express our gratitude to Him for all He has done for us. We then ask, “What can we do to express our gratitude and love?” His answer is simple: Keep My commandments and help other people.
When I talk to young people who come to the temple to do baptisms, I always remind them that the Savior was baptized just like they are baptized. When we experience the death of a loved one or face illness, either personally or that of a friend, we take great comfort in the assurance of the Savior’s promise that He has overcome all these things and has taken upon Himself the sicknesses, challenges, and pains of His people. He came to help everyone. He did for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. In the temple, He gives us the opportunity to do things for others that they cannot do for themselves. In doing so, we learn of Him and experience some of the joy He has. I pray that all of us will qualify and regularly attend the temple.
Some people wonder why only qualified members can enter the temple. Think of it this way: What we do in the temple is sacred, but not secret. Usually that which is secret is that which we try to keep to ourselves and not share with others. That which is sacred, including that which is done in the temple, is that which we desire to share with others—with everyone, whether they live now or have lived on the earth in the past. Temple work is totally unselfish. We want to share its truths and opportunities with everyone and not keep them to ourselves.
Anyone can enter the temple if they qualify. If some ask, “Why do I need to qualify?” explain something like this: if you have a powerful new car, would you feel comfortable turning it over to someone who has never driven a car before? If someone does not have the maturity or the understanding to drive a car, allowing him to do so puts him and others at risk and would be a foolish thing to do. People need to qualify to drive a car or to enter the temple. Only as we desire to learn the truths taught in the temple and show that desire by our actions will we be able to understand and be blessed.
The Savior explained to His disciples (which includes all of us) that He wanted them to be in the world, but not of the world. Temples are in the world, but not of the world. The best way to learn how to overcome the tests and trials in this world is to go to the temple. You will have the great blessing in the not-too-distant future of having another temple even closer to you. Please make the new Rexburg Temple a big part of your life. In the meantime, continue attending the Idaho Falls Temple as well as other temples where you may be.
President Hinckley has said, “I would hope that we might go to the house of the Lord a little more frequently … and so, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to take greater advantage of this blessed privilege. It will refine your natures. It will peel off the selfish shell in which most of us live. It will literally bring a sanctifying element into our lives and make us better men and better women.”1
Sometimes universities are referred to as temples of learning. The temple of the Lord is the ultimate temple of learning. It invites us to inquire, to learn, to understand and to become better people. Whether we are students, faculty, staff members, or residents, I promise that by attending the temple regularly we will become better students, better researchers, better parents, better spouses, better teachers, better farmers, better doctors or whatever we may be. Attending the temple puts us more in tune with the infinite so we can see things more clearly. It brings us closer to Him who knows more than all and who is the most unselfish of all. It gives us the opportunity to render unselfish service. The temple is where the Savior is, and He has invited us to come unto Him.
Another way of defining the real versus the unreal is referring to Zion versus Babylon. Babylon is the pride of the world, or man’s wisdom. Generally, Babylon is made up of people, companies, and groups who are essentially selfish—striving for their own ends. The opposite of Babylon is Zion, or “the pure in heart” (Doctrine & Covenants 97:21). Zion is made of individuals or groups of people who are striving to be pure in heart and who know the only way they can do this is to become totally unselfish through following the Savior and always helping others.
Isaiah refers to the selfishness or illusion of Babylon as follows: “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations (peoples) be, that fight against mount Zion” (Isaiah 29:8). Those who are selfish and persecute those who are unselfish (it has always been that way, and probably, in this life, will always be that way) will one day wake up thinking they have been filled only to find that they are empty. Think of the great and spacious building seen by Lehi.
The mobs that eventually killed the Prophet Joseph thought they had put an end to Mormonism. Years later, they wake up and find Mormonism stronger than ever. Like those spoken of by Isaiah, their souls are empty and faint. Relying on the arm of flesh will always be frustrating because Babylon is temporary and an illusion. Only Zion, only truth, only unselfishness—only the things of God, including His temple, are real and last forever.
In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord explains some of the reasons He restored the gospel through Joseph Smith. Let’s read verses 15 and 16. “For they have strayed from mine ordinances.” Where are ordinances performed? Think of the temple. “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great,”—which is the selfish part of human nature—“which shall fall.” The temple is where we go to receive strength and clear thinking and understanding of what is right. It is where we prepare to resist the evils of the world.
Most of you remember the great tsunami that recently devastated parts of Asia. The only people who were safe were those who got to higher ground. There is a tsunami of sin in the world today. To be safe, we must go to the mount of the Lord—the temple of the Lord. It is the higher ground. We go from the temporal world to the real world when we go to the temple.
The Lord created the earth for many reasons. Let me mention three: one, so we can gain experience; two, so we can have bodies and eventually have immortal bodies, and three, so we can have our own eternal families. God set up the earth in such a manner that if we have good desires, if we are trying to be unselfish and help people, we will be brought toward Him. The scriptures tell us that everything testifies of God—plants, stars, oceans—everything (see Alma 30:44).
Let’s look at the big picture. Think of the whole world and all the people in it over all time. Most of you are returned missionaries. You have been preaching the gospel and gathering those who would listen into the church. Those who believe enter His church through the waters of baptism. Statistically, not many people do that here. Just as everything in the earth is to bring us to Christ, so everything in the Church is to bring us to the temple. Everything we do in the temple is to purify us and prepare us to enter the celestial kingdom of God, with our families sealed to us for eternity. It is in the temple where we gain the ability to become part of Zion. It is there that we learn how to become pure in heart, to become more like our Savior by unselfishly serving others. It is there that our families are sealed forever.
Let’s review. We come to earth through birth. Everything about the earth is organized to help us believe in God and enter His church through baptism, or a second birth. Everything about the Church is to help prepare us to enter the temple. Everything about the temple is to help prepare us to enter the celestial kingdom of God. As we conform our lives to the template of the temple, we will be able to return to God with our families.
The temple is the essence of reality. It doesn’t change. It has been the same from the beginning of time. We have had temples on earth before. Today we have more temples than ever, but there have been others and there have been many worthy people—Zion people. Think of Enoch and his people. The city of Enoch, or the city of Zion, was translated in the process of time. We become members of Zion in the process of time through many visits to the temple and by making many changes that mold our lives to the eternal template of the temple. Yes, we learn to become part of Zion through the temple.
I challenge all of us to go to the temple more often and determine each time to make a specific change as prompted by the Spirit. The temple gives us the basis upon which to make changes to become more clean and pure. For example, we can truly forgive someone for something they may have done to hurt us. We can determine to not speak evil of others, including ourselves or our spouses.
If we listen and obey, the temple will help us achieve the power of purity needed to be part of Zion. In the temple, prisoners are set free. Think of the bondage of sin. Think of the bondage of pride. Think of the bondage of fear. Think of being prisoners to uncertainty or a lack of self-confidence. Through the temple, in the process of time, and by the grace of the Savior, we can become free from these debilitating things. Go to the temple and be set free and help set others free.
Can you go to the temple too often? Not if you follow the promptings of the Spirit and go for the right reasons. If we go to the temple only to escape from the world or from our problems, we will not receive the full benefit of the temple. If we go to the temple to prepare to meet our challenges in the world with equanimity and faith, we will receive more of the intended blessings.
Everyone’s life situation is different and changing. Some are students; some have young families while others have moved to a different stage. Temple attendance is really a matter of the soul. Anna, who lived in the days of the Savior, was a widow of 84 years, yet came to the temple daily. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, she was there and the Holy Ghost let her know that this was the Savior. What a blessing for her! Remember, we go to the temple primarily to follow the Savior and do things for others they cannot do for themselves. The Savior did so much for us that we could not do for ourselves that we should gratefully do our little bit to help others. All aspects of our lives, including our professions, are enhanced by temple attendance.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord explains some of the reasons He wants to give us temples: “That every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; That faith also might increase in the earth; That mine everlasting covenant might be established” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:20-22). Where do men and women speak in the name of the Lord? We all know. Yes, every worthy person should go to the temple as often as possible.
One of the great promises of the temple is that of eternal families. Many people yearn to have an eternal family but seem, in this life, not to be able to do so. Maybe they lack the opportunity to be married, or maybe there is some other reason. For all of you who wonder, I promise that if you are patient and go to the temple regularly, doing what is right and making the necessary changes to meet the temple template, those blessings will come. President Howard W. Hunter promised, “No blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual. While it may take somewhat longer—perhaps even beyond this mortal life for some to achieve this blessing, it will not be denied.”2 The only qualification is worthiness. We have to be worthy—worthy to go to the temple and worthy in keeping our covenants. If we are worthy, all these blessings will come!
There is an aura of heavenly light that comes from the depths of eternity and enters the temple. When we go to the temple, we absorb some of that light if we are open, humble, and receptive. Thus, when we go forth from the temple, we possess a larger portion of light that, without compulsory means, can be spread to all around us, especially to our own families.
The temple, through its ordinances and teachings, becomes a great protection for us. We live in the last days and some may wonder when the Lord is going to come. I don’t know exactly when, but I personally think the Lord will come when enough good people have been to the temple, received their endowment, had their families sealed, filled their lives with light and then filled enough of the earth with that light that the world will be able to stay in one piece when He does come with His brilliant light. Can you see why the Lord has asked that we build temples all over the world?
The temple is the template by which we measure our lives and receive the proper eternal perspective to move into a celestial existence. We must develop many Christ-like qualities, such as patience, to be pure enough for Zion. Let me relate an experience that Jean and I had over 20 years ago that shows how the temple can help us develop patience.
After the final dedication session of the Tonga Temple, ordinance work began the next day. The day was filled with miracles, great faith, hard work, long hours, and much love and patience. We started early in the morning and went late into the evening. There were many questions, much newness, and great desire, especially on the part of the dozens of couples and their families, to be sealed. Jean and I, along with all of the temple workers, were fully occupied every moment of the day. Taking time to eat or rest was not feasible, nor was it in our thoughts. Regardless of the physical strain on our bodies, during the glorious day we neither hungered, thirsted, nor tired. The Lord’s Spirit is the great healer and the great peace giver in more ways than one. How grateful I was for the skilled temple department staff that so kindly and efficiently guided us through that remarkable time.
As we neared the end of the day, I noticed that there were but two couples waiting to be sealed. All the paperwork was supposedly in order, and soon they, too, would receive the blessings they had patiently waited and prepared for. We were confident that President Paletu’a and others would finish properly, so Jean and I left to return to our room. As we went out through the front door, a worker pointed to a group of seven young children dressed in white whose broad smiles and longing eyes said without words, “When is our turn?” We asked how long they had been waiting. They explained that they had been there since early morning. Their parents had entered the temple before breakfast and told them to wait until they were called (there was no children’s waiting room at the time).
The older girls had patiently cared for the others as they waited and waited and waited. They had had nothing to eat, but did not complain. I asked who their parents were and returned to the temple to check on what had happened.
There was now only one couple left in the waiting area. I asked their name—they were the parents of the children waiting outside. I asked how long they had been there. “Since early this morning,” they replied. “We handed in our paperwork and were told to wait here until our names were called.” I went to the recording area and asked about this couple.
“Sorry,” they replied. “We have no record of them as no paperwork has been submitted.”
Acting on a prompting, I said, “Let’s check through all the completed paperwork to make sure.” We began searching through the large number of completed forms. Partway through, one set felt a little thicker than the rest. We checked and, sure enough, attached to the bottom were the missing forms! The couples’ paperwork had not been processed because it had accidentally been caught by a paper clip on the forms above.
Quickly, we called the couple and brought the children in, and shortly thereafter this precious family was sealed for time and all eternity. As soon as the year-old baby got near his mother, he grabbed onto her, determined never to let go! With tear-filled eyes we all felt a desire to hold fast to our own loved ones and never let go, grateful for the saving ordinance and sealing power in the holy temple of God that made such a thing possible.
What joy, what gratitude this family felt! Their waiting all day seemed nothing to them. The only thing that mattered was that they were now an eternal family. They had waited patiently on the Lord and realized his promise, “…how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:45). What a lesson!
I wondered, Where else do people—parents and children—wait patiently all day to be called and told it is their turn, never complaining or even asking, just trusting in the Lord and His servants, knowing that only when it is their turn will they go, not before? I thought of how many other families are waiting, waiting, waiting on both sides of the veil, and realized again how much more work there is to do.
Yes, marvelous things occur when we yield our hearts and minds to the Lord, especially in connection with temple work. Eternally important changes are made in the temple as we soften our hearts, determine to follow God’s laws with more fervor, and become more Christ-like in our nature. “Temples bring eternal blessings to everyone, everywhere, across all eternity. Hearts are softened, latent seeds of truth begin to sprout, prisoners are set free, praises are sung with more harmony and meaning, connections between here and there are more evident, families are sealed for eternity, promises are made, and joy becomes a reality, now and forever!” (Anytime, Anywhere, 70-72). Yes, in the temple we can learn patience—and we all need more patience—as well as every other Christ-like quality needed to qualify for Zion.
As we go to the temple, our problems will not suddenly disappear, but the solutions will become more apparent. It’s like a teeter-totter. If we go to the temple often, our problems will go down. If we go to the temple less, our problems will go up. It’s that simple. If we say we don’t need to go to the temple, it is tantamount to saying we don’t need the purity that comes from temple service. None of us are totally pure or fully in Zion yet. I know that because we are still on Earth. We need to go to the temple regularly, and in the process of time we will become pure and able to be part of Zion.
I testify that Joseph Smith was and is the Prophet of the Restoration in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times. The first vision is real, it actually happened and its effect never ends. We have a prophet on the earth today. I know President Hinckley is a true prophet. Let me give one example of how I know this.
A few weeks ago, President Hinckley called me at home and said, “We’d like you to go to Tonga with your wife to represent us at the funeral of the king who recently passed away.” He gave me a few instructions and then he said, “While you’re there, I’d like you to give my love to the queen and the new king and please give my love to all the people in Tonga.” We did our best. We met the new king and his widowed mother and many other government leaders. We found it necessary to stay an extra day to get everything done.
Near the end of the last day, we received an urgent message asking if we could please come to the National Television Studio for a live interview to be done in the Tongan language. The interviewer had a list of questions, and when she finished the list, she said, “We have a few more minutes. Do you have anything else you would like to say to the people of Tonga?” Suddenly, it hit me. The prophet of God had asked me to give his love to all the people in Tonga. I replied that, indeed, I did have something more to say.
I then told all the Tongans, “We have a prophet on Earth today and he has sent me as his representative to give his love to all of you. If you listen carefully, you will sense that he is a prophet and you will feel the Lord’s love through His prophet by his emissary.” I then expressed that love using the wording in the higher or honorific form of Tongan. Jean was watching the interviewer and noticed a few tears in her eyes. I was, of course, speaking directly into the camera, but I felt that the people of Tonga were feeling and absorbing the Lord’s love through His prophet’s love. I learned again that we can do whatever the prophet asks us to do. The prophet has asked us to attend the temple more regularly. Let’s do it. I know we can.
I will conclude with an additional testimony, after which we will listen to a song sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir based on the 23rd Psalm. As you listen to the song, you will see a picture of the Savior connecting heaven and earth with one hand in the heavens and the other on earth touching the outline of your own Rexburg Temple. Let these truths sink deep into your heart and determine to make the temple a bigger part of your life.
I know Jesus Christ lives and loves us all. I know He is the Savior of all mankind and a perfect, unselfish person. I know He has perfect love. I know that, through His perfect love, He will with perfect mercy and perfect justice render a perfect judgment for all of us. I know the temple is His house and, through Him, it is our way to the celestial kingdom and eventual perfection. I know the best way to be sure we will feel comfortable in His presence in heaven is to learn to feel comfortable in His presence in His house on earth. Temples are a bit of heaven on earth. I express my deep confidence in you and leave my love and my blessings with each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1Gordon B. Hinckley, "Closing Remarks," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 104
2 Howard W. Hunter, 'The Church Is for All People," Ensign, June 1989, 75