Worshipping around the Temple

Drawing Closer to the Lord

This is a wonderful time of year where we can reflect on how close we are to the Saviour. Life-changing decisions will be made every day of our lives. It is ever more vital that these decisions are made with the Lord in mind. In an address given by Elder Neil L Andersen, he stated:

“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.”

The decisions you make with your lives each and every day will have an impact on the strength on your faith and the power of the hand of the Lord in your lives. What do you plan to do after Church on a Sunday? When and how often are you planning to study in the scriptures this week? The answer to these questions will have an impact on the person you find you are next week when you go to worship at the sacrament table again next week to reflect upon your covenants.

A Renewed Focus

As we enter the year of 2018, a great focus to have would be to gather in and around the Temple more regularly.

Do we recognise how blessed we are to have Temples on the Earth today? In D&C 109:13 we read:

“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.”

We are taught in the scriptures that the influence of House of the Lord is so powerful that even being there at the doorway will constrain us to acknowledge that it is his House. On my mission we knocked on the door of a lady who invited us in straight away. With surprise and a spring in our step we entered. She went on to say she had been taught by missionaries almost 10 years ago and at the time, the Preston Temple had its Open House. She went to that sacred building and as soon as she entered the doorway, she said she knew it was a holy place, the House of the Lord and she could not deny it. Time and various barriers meant that she stopped receiving lessons and attending Church. However, almost ten years later it was clear that she had been constrained to acknowledge that the Preston Temple was sanctified, a holy place. She began attending Church again and receiving the lessons. The Temple’s influence and power had changed her heart.

Temple Recommend Holders

So, what does this mean for us? How can we ensure we make the most of the opportunity provided by the Temple? Quite simply – go!

For those of who hold a full temple recommend, never let it expire. President Howard W Hunter, the 14th President of this Church, was only sustained and called as the Prophet 9 months before his death in 1995. However, one strong, clear message that resonates from his ministry is the need for all members to hold a temple recommend. He stated:

“It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.”

At that time when President Hunter made this statement, there was around 47 temples in operation – that means since 1830-1995 (about 165 years) there had been 47 temples built. In the past 21 years till now, another 103 have been dedicated. Why would it please the Lord that every member of the Church is able to enter the Temple? Why has there been such a dramatic focus towards the Temple? If we continually live our lives in such a way that we can hold that recommend and regularly go then we will be living in such a way that the Lord can help us (can help you) guide important decisions in our lives. And in a world which, unfortunately, is becoming more and more unsettling to live in, it is even more vital we have power from on high to support us.

Once received and up to date, those of us who have already entered the Holy House of the Lord and have received our endowments have a lot of things we can do – yet we probably hold the most responsibility. In fact, we do! In D&C 82:3 we read some strong warnings:

“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”

This verse is not meant to sound harsh, but if we have entered those holy doors and we do not take the time to plan our regular visits to that sacred building, we must change. There are individuals in this Church struggling with afflictions and problems which mean they cannot enter right now, who would love to enter that Holy House to feel of the Spirit there. I have fallen victim occasionally to not going to the Temple as often as I should, just as we all sometimes don’t do things as often as we should. However, worshipping at the Temple stands out from everything else – if we spend the time to go to the Temple we will feel empowered and strengthened in all we do.

We often fall into the trap of planning Temple visits when we are reminded, or planning them simply when we remember. Can we be a little more proactive? I suggest 2 options:

  1. Plan dates for the whole year TODAY – decide that every third Tuesday (?) that you will do something dedicated to the Temple (notice I did not say necessarily go to the Temple but that would be ideal). If you need to shift a date, then shift it – don’t just cross it off.
  2. Decide as you leave the Temple when you will return. Too often we go to the Temple, feel a marvellous Spirit there, then we leave the Temple, go to McDonald’s, get home and most of that is forgotten – until we eventually remember that we need to go again a few weeks later.

Either of these options will help you get there more often.

Limited-Use Recommend or Non-Recommend Holders

Obviously there will be a large number who will not hold a temple recommend or hold a limited-use recommend to do baptisms and confirmations. Remember the words of President Hunter:

“It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple”

Notice that initially he doesn’t say his desire is for all members to hold a recommend – his desire is every member to be worthy of holding a recommend. There will be a variety of reasons why some do not hold a temple recommend: some are awaiting missions, some are awaiting marriage, some do need to make some changes in their lives – whatever the reason, our first priority is to ensure we live worthy – do whatever it takes. No change required is too small or large that isn’t vital. President Gordon B Hinckley once told of an experience he has:

“I recall a bishop’s telling me of a woman who came to get a [temple] recommend. When asked if she observed the Word of Wisdom, she said that she occasionally drank a cup of coffee. She said, “Now, bishop, you’re not going to let that keep me from going to the temple, are you?” To which he replied, “Sister, surely you will not let a cup of coffee stand between you and the house of the Lord””

The Lord’s standard is high, it may be a challenge to many. However, the eternal blessings are too important to miss out on! To all those who do not hold a recommend, live your life so that you may be able to receive one when the time comes.

Of course, that time may a little while off and so the question is, or should be, what can I do now though? How can 2018 be focused on the Temple for me? There are a number of things we can do (and actually, if all temple recommend holders do these things it will enhance our experiences even more!):

  • Family History Work

 

Family History work and taking those names to the temple has increased dramatically across the Church in recent years and this is not going away. Why? Because this is something that all can do and it will make the experience of going to the Temple even more personal.

One line in True to the Faith (pg 63) really stands out, saying 

“Your effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice – you perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves.” 

Notice it does not say our work is equal to the Saviour’s, in fact it explicitly says our efforts ‘approach’ the Saviour’s – He makes everything possible through His Atonement. However, we can receive great blessings from being a part. In fact the Prophet Joseph Smith stated in D&C 128:15 

“…For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as…they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Obviously our efforts help to bless our ancestors and help them progress. And before we say that your Uncle Fred is doing your family history and doesn’t let anyone else near it – please think about this, does Uncle Fred go to Church for you too? Doing our Family History is something that the prophets and apostles have challenged us all to do. And do not worry there will be something to do. Think about it. We each have four grandparents and that doubles each generation. In 10 generations we have 512 “grandparents”—not counting the thousands of other family members they bore. In 16 generations, we have nearly 33,000 direct ancestors. That doesn’t even include siblings, cousins and so on…Our family history hasn’t all been done—I guarantee it.

  • Visit the Temple

 

Again, this is something all can do! My family and I have made the decision from the last Stake Conference to go to the Temple once a month as a family. Our 5 and 3 year old cannot enter, but we make it a special visit. We go to McDonalds on the way (by the way, not every Temple visit requires a McDonalds…but it is recommended!), we talk about why we’re going and what do we find special about the Temple, and then we walk around the grounds reverently and point out features. Nothing is more amazing than seeing your 3 year old point out the angel Moroni and start speaking in their usual garbled language, or hearing your 5 year old asking when can we go to the Temple again. This may seem like a simple, trivial thing to do, but it has brought our little family closer to the Temple.

The priority of the Temple is to bring us to Christ and also our families. It can do that here in mortality and for the eternities. Commit to focus more on the Temple in 2018.

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Active Involvement in Family History

I want to share the story of someone who probably none of you know and not many (if any of you) have heard his name. His name is Michael Cowan. Michael was a young man when the First World War ravaged many areas of Europe and threatened many countries in becoming battlefields. As the number of casualties that had affected the Great British army were far outweighing the number of volunteers, an unpopular but seemingly necessary decision was made – to introduce conscription, compulsory active duty. All males between the ages of 18-41 were given three options when the Bill became enforced:

  1. Enlist at once

     2. Attest the decision at once (publicly refuse)

     3. Or on 2 March (just two months later) be automatically enlisted.

Michael Cowan was about 17 years old when the conscription act was enforced. However, like many other young men at that age, he went to sign up. Of course, he was not old enough. Therefore, he went to a different parish and lied about his age, making him 18 years old. Now, whilst I am not condoning lying on official government documents, what is inspiring about Michael Cowan was his desire to defend his family and his country. He was dedicated and showed a strong desire to serve others.

What makes Michael Cowan’s experience even more remarkable to me, is that he is my great-grandfather. This is part of the blessings of active family history. If it were not for the blessing we have in this day and age to have access to all the genealogical records we do, then I would not even know about Michael Cowan’s existence…

We did not know much about my Dad’s family – only his mother and his brother and sister. My Dad was always told that his father passed away and never had any reason to question this. However, as the months rolled into years and then to decades, my Grandma passed away in 2005. My uncle decided to do a little research and look for the grave of their father, to find their roots. Whilst he was looking in a graveyard close to the supposed area where he grew up, a lady approached him and asked if he was looking for anyone’s grave in particular. When my uncle gave my Grandfather’s name she apologised and said that she thought my uncle was looking for a grave…not a living person…this of course completely threw my uncle. For their whole life, my Dad and his siblings had thought that their father was dead, when it turns out he was alive. Unfortunately, he was battling cancer and died a few years later and in this time he wasn’t up to meeting a whole other family he wasn’t aware of. As such we didn’t learn a lot of information but we were able to gather a few bits and pieces about both my Grandfather’s family and Grandma’s family. This led us to Michael Cowan.

We have learnt from scripture and many modern day leaders about the need to discover our ancestors.
Elder Russell M Nelson: While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families.

Elder William R. Walker: It would be a wonderful thing if every Latter-day Saint knew the conversion stories of their forefathers.

President Boyd K Packer: No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the family history research that supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness. Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people.

President Packer’s comments are particularly powerful – this family history principle is not being pushed so we can try and fulfil numerical targets. It is not so we as members can be kept busy in a world which constantly tries to pull our attention away from things that matter most. It is life-saving, not only for the deceased, not but also for those who engage in it with their energy of heart because it provides power.

How can we not be a part of this great work? We are blessed, our families are blessed and those who previously had no hope, are blessed. So what is stopping you?

There may be many reasons – I mentioned in a talk recently that I received my Patriarchal Blessing when I had just turned 16 years old. I had been prepared, I was ready to receive, yet I wanted one thing not to be included – that I would seek out my ancestors. At the time, I suppose it was because I viewed family history as something that wasn’t for me at the time (I am reluctant to say I thought it was for the older generation – but that may be true). Sure enough, I went to receive my blessing and it was indeed revealed that I would be blessed with the Spirit of Elijah and seek out my ancestors. I then went on my mission two years after and it was forgotten about for a while.

So, some do not feel it is for them – some feel ill-equipped to be able to do it themselves. To those, please just try and if you struggled the first time, try again. You will get there, the Lord will provide a way.

My active involvement in searching out my family history begun in the extra-long summer I got as a student, just before our first child, Joshua, was born. Maybe it was coincidence that I began to catch the fire around the time I was about to become a father myself? However, the need to look towards my ancestors became stronger. Perhaps I hoped that, as I wanted my children to learn from me and develop a strong bond, I recognised more than ever that I needed that bond with those that had gone before me. This is a literal fulfilment of what we read in the well-known verses in Malachi 4, the hearts of the children must be turned to the fathers and the fathers to the children.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Due to the sanctified work that followed – Michael Cowan and others were discovered and have received life-saving ordinances. What’s more, I have been privileged to witness and been a part of a number of faith-building experiences. I have witnessed live members of mine and Chrissie’s family be sealed to their parents. These are treasured moments that the temple are all about. As I now have engaged in family history work, I am in a position where I can share with others how to take part in this vital work, which is part of the Work of Salvation. This has been a great opportunity I’ve been able to have with some YSA in our Stake but even more so with my Dad.

One Sunday afternoon recently, my Dad came to me and said that he should probably begin trying to take part in searching ancestors. I said I was more than willing to help. As we sat down together to begin, I mentioned to my Dad that my wife and I over time had managed to make a number of discoveries, but we had been still struggling to make a breakthrough with his father’s parents. We felt impressed that we should focus there despite the fact that my wife and I had occasionally looked for the past three and a half years in this branch but had no success. So, I showed my Dad how to use FamilySearch and link up with the popular site, Ancestry, to search a multitudes of records. Then the miracle occurred. We found a link! We then realised that my Dad’s grandparents were called David Edward Roberts and Mary Ann Jones. We found a number of pieces of information, including more children, who in turn had children of their own (aunts and uncles and relatives my Dad never knew existed). We didn’t stop there! We went another generation further and found my Dad’s great-grandparents (and this is where things get even more remarkable). My Dad’s great-grandparents were called Peter Roberts and Mary Elizabeth Hughes…and the family links became apparent. My Dad’s middle name is Peter and his sister is called Elizabeth. We were truly finding generations that could be linked with love. Half an hour of what was going to be a brief tutorial by me became over two hours of discovering new family links and family names.

As we finished (with many new names to bring unto Christ) I reflected on this experience. Yes, that evening the hearts of the children turned to the fathers. We learnt about our ancestry, we learnt more about where our family had come from and some of the heritage there. However, I learnt a different aspect to the promise found in Malachi. My heart and the heart of my father had been turned toward each other in a unifying goal – to seek out our loved ones and bring them on our shoulders together. Exaltation is a family matter. And that is the major motivator in those who have caught the vision of this work – to be together for eternity with those they love.

This may seem like a trivial experience on the outside – a father and a son sitting together for a couple of hours on some research. However as we read in Alma 36 (small and simple things) – and it is those glorious moments that can stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Family History Urgency!

This is a short extract from the October 2009 Ensign which I liked, just to highlight how there is a need for everyone to engage with the work of salvation for the dead, and no excuse not to!

All Done?

Some say, “My family history is all done.” Others say, “Uncle Fred is doing it all.”

That’s a bit like saying, “I don’t go to Church, but that’s okay because Uncle Fred goes for me.”

The fact is that we need to be personally engaged in family history so our hearts will be turned to our fathers. Then we will forge that welding link between our ancestors and us that is so important to the Lord.

Think about it. We each have four grandparents and that doubles each generation. In 10 generations we have 512 “grandparents”—not counting the thousands of other family members they bore. In 16 generations, we have nearly 33,000 direct ancestors. Our family history hasn’t all been done—I guarantee it.

Family History Work

One thing which sets Latter-day Saints apart from other Christian denominations is the building of temples. In these temples, important life-saving ordinances like baptisms are performed for those loved ones of our family who have passed on beyond the veil without the opportunity to receive them. Until a few years ago I had not really grasped a good understanding as to why this was such a vital part of the Lord’s work on the Earth. 

A few years ago, I had a look in the publication ‘True to the Faith’ which outlines a number of Church doctrines, principles and policies. First, it talked about how stories from your family history can increase your love and admiration for your ancestors and be inspired by them. This is also found in the Book of Mormon – in Helaman 5:6 we read of one father (Helaman) speaking to his sons saying “Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.” Nephi and Lehi were named so in the hopes that the memory of their ancestors would encourage them to make right choices, just as they had. This can be a motivating reason for us to engage with family history. However, there is a much more important reason.

There is a welding link which occurs when our ancestors have necessary ordinances performed for them. Many people have passed on from this life without even a knowledge of the Gospel – without a knowledge of Jesus Christ. I had a discussion with a non-member about this very important principle. He had ordered a Book of Mormon so he could try and disprove it (a positive start). He knew about the principle being discussed and said that surely, those people would be given a way to be saved without baptism or temple worship because God is a just God – it would only be fair. I then realised, with great assistance from the Spirit, that what he said actually showed temple worship is indeed vital. I asked if he believed John 3:5 which is Christ teaching everyone had to be born of water (baptised) and of the Spirit (confirmation). He did, so I asked, therefore, if God was a just God then he wouldn’t make an exception, he would require the same of all his children? He also agreed. Our Heavenly Father does require baptism and other ordinances from His children to enter  His kingdom (that is scriptural) but there is a way for those who didn’t receive a chance to have baptism – temples! That was the first time I begun to understand the great importance of family history work.

One line in True to the Faith (pg 63) really stood out, saying “Your effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice – you perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves.” Notice it does not say our work is equal to the Saviour’s, in fact it explicitly says our efforts ‘approach’ the Saviour’s – He makes everything possible through His Atonement. However, we can receive great blessings from being a part.

In fact the Prophet Joseph Smith stated in D&C 128:15 “…For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as…they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” Obviously our efforts help to bless our ancestors and help them progress. However, what is little mentioned but should be is the effect it has on the worker (us). We have a responsibility but when we help to make this an accomplishment, we receive blessings in our lives.