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:
- 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.
- 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.