In a talk he gave at BYU titled A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous, Elder Neil L Anderson said, “As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”
“To understand better, think of these comparisons: If the world were growing more physically dark, He could give us enhanced night vision. If loud noises were constantly in our ears, He could give us a filtering mechanism to block the unwanted sound. If the race we were running was extended, He could give us increased lung and muscle capacity. If the exam we were taking was more difficult, He could quicken our minds.”
With these comforting and prophetic words in mind, I will focus on one of the great mechanisms of compensation, the temple.
A previous job took me and my family to Costa Rica to work on a very large construction project for a semiconductor manufacturer. I was the first employee on site and was part of the site selection team. Four of us would travel to potential sites across the world to gather information and to negotiate in advance as many favorable conditions as possible. One of the conditions that was offered in most international locations is known as a free trade zone. Free trade zones basically allow for a company, like the one I worked for, to build a factory, import materials and export finished goods without paying any duties or tariffs. From a taxation standpoint, it is as though we took a square mile chunk of the United States and plunked it down in Costa Rica.
Brothers and sisters, the temple is the free trade zone of heaven. It is the one place on earth where heavenly activities are authorized, where we learn of heavenly things and where we are given endowments of power, protection, knowledge and spirit. All of this is facilitated and sanctioned by the Holy Ghost.
It is true that the materials used to build the temple are not heavenly but terrestrial, and the people who operate the temples are less than celestial beings. We come together under God’s direction and with flawed people and materials we build a structure as well as we can with what we have.
Then once we have done our best with what we have to work with, we dedicate the temple and through the dedication, it becomes sanctified as recorded in Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
13 And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it,and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.
There is a strong and beautiful parallel between what we do to the temple when we dedicate it and what the temple does with us. In it, God can take us, terrestrial, flawed beings, and dedicate and sanctify us. I will speak more on this later.
Of the many benefits of going for the first time then regularly attending the temple, I will speak of only four, Sealing, Serenity, Standing and Sanctification.
Sealing power is an astonishing thing. It is always a role taken on by the Holy Ghost.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done.”
The Holy Spirit’s sealing role extends far beyond the walls of the temple and even beyond ordinances. For example, when we selflessly serve together or fervently pray or keep the Sabbath Day holy, the Holy Ghost recognizes, ratifies and sanctions the activity which in turn qualifies us for blessings in the same way the pronouncement of a sealed marital union qualifies us for blessings of eternal life. Some activities and blessings like service, Sabbath worship and prayer do not occur as an ordinance, but they are “sealed” in a similar manner, by the Holy Ghost.
Other ordinances, like baptism, require a called and recognized priesthood holder. Still others, like the glorious and special ceremonies that bind families together through generations, require a sealer to officiate. This sealer is given powers that were also given anciently to Peter, Nephi, the brother of Lehi and others, the keys of which are currently held by President Monson.
Brothers and sisters, think for a minute of what a radical notion it is to bind marriages and families together, changing the grammar and finality of our loving associations through death from an emphatic exclamation point into a mere comma.
On my mission in Chile, we were introduced to a young couple through member friends. The couple was catholic and really did not have much interest in pursuing any conversation with us but treasured their friendship with ward members. They were a wonderful little family unit, father, mother and two-year old daughter. A few days after our meeting, the child contracted a fatal disease and passed away two days later. The mother and father were understandably distraught. As far as they knew, this was the end of their association with their beautiful little daughter. They had neglected to get her baptized which added guilt to their wrenching pain because of what they had been taught by their church. I remember at the grave-side service watching the mother throw herself into the hole in the ground when the tiny casket was lowered down. Leaving her child behind was unbearable.
Now think for a minute what happened when we met with them later. We were two unmarried, childless, 19 year old boys, still wet behind the ears, as they say, who could not offer much in relevant life experience, but we carried with us the message of Heavenly Father’s plan for their family and the Holy Spirit. You know the result. If the power to eternally seal families together were the only thing done in temples, it would be worth every expense and difficulty to obtain that blessing.
In another experience, I was serving as a ward mission leader when I was asked by the missionaries to accompany them to a discussion with a beautiful family that consisted of a father, mother and three children. The missionaries were having difficulty conveying the message of the restoration and then the plan of salvation, which was the reason, I came to find out, that they had invited me to join them. During a very difficult moment, I asked the missionaries if I could take over. They gladly said yes. This is how the conversation went:
I asked, “Anna, is this new to you?”
“Yes, it is. could we go over it again.”
“Sure,” I said.
I then went through a brief discussion of the pre-mortal world, having divine parentage and our eternal destiny and related the whole thing to families from start to finish. I then said,
“You want to be with this beautiful family forever, don’t you?”
Anna said, “more than anything.”
“Let me tell you how this is going to happen. The central focal point of this capability and power happens in a temple. In it, authorized servants who have the same power that was given to Peter to seal in heaven that which is sealed on earth are able to pronounce blessings that seal families together. One year from now, you will be eligible to take your family to the temple to seal your family together forever. You will all dress in white and you will all kneel around a sacred altar and join hands. The person with the sealing power will then bind you together according to your faithfulness. Do you want that?”
I looked over at the missionaries who were struck with horror that I would deviate from the lesson plan, which I really didn’t. They were relieved when Anna and Josh both responded,
Anna said, “Of course I do!” Josh agreed, “yes we do.”
I said, “in order for you to do this a year from now, you will need to get baptized today so we are probably looking at a year and three weeks from now due to some baptismal requirements. I think you can be ready in about that time. Elders, is that right?”
The missionaries were astonished. The discussion went from being in trouble to a baptismal commitment in a few minutes. We who are members of the church and have been members our whole lives and have lived with the idea of sealed families often lose the wonder, astonishment and gratitude that we should have when we consider the magnitude of the sealing power and its importance in our lives. For Anna and Josh, the sweet taste of the doctrine of eternal families changed everything. The Holy Spirit witnessed to them the truth of the plan; they were ready and their focus and goal was appropriately on the temple even before their baptism.
President Monson said, “As we enter through the doors of the temple, we leave behind us the distractions and confusion of the world. Inside this sacred sanctuary, we find beauty and order. There is rest for our souls and a respite from the cares of our lives.
As we attend the temple, there can come to us a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart. We will grasp the true meaning of the words of the Savior when He said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ [John 14:27].
“My brothers and sisters,” continued President Monson, “in our lives we will have temptations; we will have trials and challenges. As we go to the temple, as we remember the covenants we make there, we will be better able to overcome those temptations and to bear our trials. In the temple we can find peace.”
Elder Anderson said,
“The temple is an added gift from heaven to us. We need to embrace it with renewed dedication. Our children will need the temple even more in the years ahead. Teach them to love the temple. Help them to be ready to receive their endowment and, eventually, their sealing. Teach them how to prepare for these sacred ordinances, and help them see how these ordinances will be a constant gift to them throughout their lives. As they do, they will not only go through the temple, but, as Brother Truman G. Madsen used to say, they will allow the temple to go through them.”
One verse of the Kirtland temple dedication reads,
109:24 We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity;
What does the word “standing” in that verse mean? Elder Bednar explains
“Shortly after I was called to serve as a stake president in 1987, I talked with a good friend who recently had been released as a stake president. During our conversation I asked him what he would teach me about becoming an effective stake president. His answer to my question had a profound impact upon my subsequent service and ministry.
My friend indicated he had been called to serve as a temple worker soon after his release. He then said: “I wish I had been a temple worker before I was a stake president. If I had served in the temple before my call to serve as a stake president, I would have been a very different stake president.”
Elder Bednar goes on, “I was intrigued by his answer and asked him to explain further. He responded: “I believe I was a good stake president. The programs in our stake ran well, and our statistics were above average. But serving in the temple has expanded my vision. If I were called today to serve as a stake president, my primary focus would be on worthiness to receive and honor temple covenants. I would strive to make temple preparation the center of all that we did. I would do a better job of shepherding the Saints to the house of the Lord.”
“That brief conversation with my friend helped me as a stake president to teach relentlessly about and testify of the eternal importance of temple ordinances, temple covenants, and temple worship. The deepest desire of our presidency was for every member of the stake to receive the blessings of the temple, to be worthy of and to use frequently a temple recommend.”
Later in his talk, Elder Bednar quotes a scripture in Alma.
“Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted” (Alma 26:5).”
We don’t use the word “garners” much today, and it is only used a few times in scripture. Elder Bednar explains,
“The sheaves in this analogy represent newly baptized members of the Church. The garners are the holy temples. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: “Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple.” This instruction clarifies and emphasizes the importance of sacred temple ordinances and covenants—that the sheaves may not be wasted.”
And now the promise to those who are gathered in.
“Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them” (Alma 26:6).
Do you believe that we are in a storm? Do you see it all around us? Temple worship promises us that we will “not be beaten down,” and “not harrowed up by the whirlwinds,” “the storm cannot penetrate to” us, we will not be “driven with fierce winds.” Do we believe that?
The meaning of Standing is to secure a place in the temple to be able to withstand what will come our way as the world gets progressively darker. Amazing promises for sure!
I said that I would return to the idea that God has the capability to take of us, telestial material and certainly less than a celestial will and spirit and make something holy of us. This process is sanctification. We are promised as part of our temple covenants that sanctification comes through anointings and in many other ways. Truman Madsen has said, “You cannot receive the fulness that the Lord has for you without coming through the temple and having the temple come through you.”
The first part of that happens when you go through the temple for the first time. The second part of that happens as you regularly return to the temple in a way described by Elder Bednar, “There is a difference between church-attending, tithe-paying members who occasionally rush into the temple to go through a session and those members who faithfully and consistently worship in the temple.”
Brothers and sisters, as we worship in the temple our characters are transformed. Sharp edges are knocked off, points are rounded and the bristles in our nature become silky. We will have greater capacity to receive spiritual guidance. I am so confident and convinced of this that I need to tell you of one final experience.
Three years ago, our family was faced with a big decision to move or not to move. We loved Washington but had to consider an employment opportunity that would put us in Utah. I asked my bishop for a blessing to give me clarity as we went about making the decision. Surprisingly, his blessing said little about the decision and said a lot about another issue which I was dealing with that he knew nothing about. It was a tender mercy. Our next step was to go to the temple to seek heavenly direction. One Saturday morning, we announced to our children who were heavily invested in the decision, that we would be going to the temple and that we would have an answer when we got out. We made the decision to move to Utah and took that with us.
When we got to the two-tiered celestial room in the Portland temple, we found a secluded place in the mezzanine level and fervently prayed for confirmation. Nothing came to either of us. We reversed the decision and went through another temple session. Just over two hours later, we found the same spot in the celestial room and fervently prayed to get confirmation. Nothing came. I admit that I was frustrated. I had told the children that we would have an answer. I believed that I would receive one. The veil was supposed to be thin in that room. It was not until later, after I had studied and pondered two talks by Elder Scott, that I was given to know that I had received an answer. The answer was this,
“When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.
When He answers no, it is to prevent error.
When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings.”
I had received everything I needed from the temple to make a decision. I had been given “every needful thing.” The temple gave me the spiritual sensitivities that I needed to weigh options then to recognize the packets of help along the way. I had received the sanctification necessary to go forward.
And now a final word for those who struggle with sin, which is really all of us. Sanctification, which means to make holy, has a great cleansing and renewing capacity. It is being born again. Consider the struggle with a pornography addiction. Someone indulging in pornography stands in dire need of being made holy, of being cleansed and being born again. Where there is a struggle with addictive or any behavior that requires the help of a bishop, the focus and goal of the bishop and the member needs to be the eventual return to the temple as part of the repentance process. The temple is not a destination for the already perfected. It is a school, a spiritual clinic, it is where the children of God can seek the the loving embrace of heavenly parents and be renewed.
The temple is a supernal yet under appreciated gift from God. I am grateful to live so close and pray that I will give the temple proper appreciation and attention.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.