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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That I Might Draw All Men Unto Me

 

Don’t we deserve it?

I want to share two examples – one from the scriptures and one from my personal life – where we find an attitude that, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves in which will limit our potential, spiritual growth.

Several months ago I began a renewed study into the Book of Mormon and I have made slow but steady progress. It is slow because I have wanted to look more closely at the messages contained in the verses for experiences I can learn from. In 1 Nephi we see a constant struggle from Nephi and Lehi to teach and touch the hearts of their brethren or sons, Laman and Lemuel. At times, we in the Church depict Laman and Lemuel and wicked, slothful individuals who were so stubborn that even though they had many experiences that we would be changed by, they never seemed to change.

Whilst this may in part be true, we have to be cautious. There are, at times, moments in 1 Nephi where I think my personal reactions (and maybe some of your own) would be closer in nature to Laman and Lenuel’s than Nephi’s.

Shortly after Lehi’s Vision, and after Nephi’s own vision interpreting and unveiling many things, we find Nephi returning to the tent of his father. He finds them discussing here the things that Lehi has just taught. Pause to consider this – Laman and Lemuel, the brethren who were so reluctant to follow their father’s guidance from the Lord to leave Jerusalem, to retrieve the brass plates and other things, are seen here discussing the word of the Lord from Lehi and trying to understand the meaning of these words! Surely this is a massive step forward. But then we learn why they are discussing…we read in 1 Nephi 15:2-3:

And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them. For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.”

Nephi then quizzes his brothers further as to why they haven’t received this guidance. Let’s remember here: Laman and Lemuel are actually seeming to want to learn. However, it seems that they haven’t even thought to ask the Lord for its meaning. In fact, in verses 8-9 we read:

“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Laman and Lemuel were expecting an answer, despite not being close enough to the Lord to feel able to ask Him their questions. They wanted an answer, but they did not take the time to build a relationship with their Saviour to then be close enough to sense revelation when they sought it.

The experience from my personal life is from my mission and, actually, it is not one specific experience but something which happened often. I served my mission in the England Leeds Mission and (whilst I didn’t keep count of this) I think, out of all the questions I was ever asked, there was one that came up the most in our discussions. It was not “How many wives do you have?”, it was not “Are you really Christian?” and it was not “Where in Utah are you from?” – although I loved it when I was asked that one and then seeing the look at utter confusion when I told them I was from Manchester – I was a very popular companion to have for that reason. The most often question asked was not even “Do you not think that the purpose of our lives is the procurement and consumption of bacon?” (yes, that was a real and honest question I once had on a doorstep in York…). The question was “If God really existed, why he has let all these bad things happen to such and such who is one of the best people I know?”

In both these experiences, the asker is expecting an answer without being willing to grow closer to the Lord spiritually, in order to receive an answer.

In the talk I have been invited to base my remarks from by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve, he made this statement:

“Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive.”

 Is Life Fair?

This brings us to a question which even many of us in the Church have struggles over, even if we have an inordinate amount of faith in the Saviour. “Is Life Fair?”

Can we really say that life is fair, when there are thousands, even millions suffering in the world when they themselves have done no wrong?

Can we really say that life is fair, when no matter how careful one person is with their finances and they work so hard to provide for their families, that person could in the very next month find themselves struggling with debt due to circumstances outside of their control?

Can we really say that life is fair, when a person we know and love has lived the most righteous life possible and yet they still come up against the most difficult trials?

Whilst all of the above I have said is happening all around us, there is a much more striking reason for why life is not fair.

Elder Renlund went on to say:

Because they were distant from the Savior, Laman and Lemuel murmured, became contentious, and were faithless. They felt that life was unfair and that they were entitled to God’s grace. In contrast, because he had drawn close to God, Nephi must have recognized that life would be the most unfair for Jesus Christ.”

The further we are from the Saviour, the more we believe we are entitled to help and blessings from Him. Why is this? Because if we truly were closer to the Saviour, the more we would recognise how unfair it is that this perfect, compassionate, merciful man would have to endure more than any other person on this earth would ever have to endure, so that we could be forgiven for the errors we all make, be supported through our trials and experience the tragic events we have done (and will) experience.

Not only does the infinite Atonement allow all of us to receive enabling grace through the Saviour’s Atonement, but He has overcome all things for each and every one of us, of you. This is not just an infinite Atonement, but also an intimate Atonement. We read in Mosiah 15:10-11:

“And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed…”

The Saviour saw each one of usHe knows perfectly how weeel. And that is why, if we truly were close to the Saviour, we would feel that we all don’t deserve what He has done for us.

But oh, how grateful are we for the fact He has done this. Elder Renlund commented:

“The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him.”

The truth is that we all need to repent. Every single one of us. But despite the fact we all make mistakes, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ did provide a Saviour for us. Why? Because our Heavenly Father (and our Saviour) love us with a perfect love. We all are in need of accepting this love and enabling grace through the Saviour’s infinite and intimate Atonement.

How can we stay true?

Despite knowing that we are so blessed to have this opportunity to draw closer to the Saviour and become changed through His enabling grace, we sometimes just may not think it is possible. We will be hit by challenges – some sent specifically by Satan to tempt and try us and some will simply by an effect of living in a fallen world – which can bring us to our knees. Elder Renlund said:

“Jesus did not say “if rain descends, if floods come, and if winds blow” but “when.” No one is immune from life’s challenges; we all need the safety that comes from partaking of the sacrament.”

Through the ordinances of the Gospel, administered by priesthood authority, we can draw closer to the Saviour, which will eventually bring us through life’s most difficult challenges. That is why the holy sacrament and sacred temple ordinances are vital because, without these we would struggle. And that is why we have an Area Plan which focuses on these key, regular events we can have (bringing a friend – sacrament, finding an ancestor – temple, both of which help us to become spiritually self-reliant).

In D&C 84:20 we read – Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”

To bring this post to a close, I’ll share an experience related by Elder Renlund in his address. He was speaking about a friend he has in South Africa who, through a simple mistake, was missed out by the priesthood holders in the sacrament worship. Another member noticed this and informed the Bishop, who invited her to a room to the side after the service. Elder Renlund went on further:

“A priesthood holder came in. He knelt down, blessed some bread, and handed her a piece. She ate it. He knelt down again and blessed some water and handed her a small cup. She drank it. Thereafter, Diane had two thoughts in rapid succession: First, “Oh, he [the priesthood holder] did this just for me.” And then, “Oh, He [the Savior] did this just for me.” Diane felt Heavenly Father’s love.”

When the sacrament is next passed to you by one holding the priesthood authority of God remember that, even though for convenience it was passed to the rest of the congregation, this miraculous opportunity to renew your covenants is offered just for you.

Draw closer to the Saviour through the sacred ordinances of the Gospel. Remember to take the sacrament and worship in the Temple often. As you do this, you will begin to draw closer to the Saviour, even if currently you feel so very far away. We are not “entitled” to blessings, as Laman and Lemuel believed, but we are fortunate that our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered all for us.

Jesus Christ has done everything for us – all he asks is that you come unto Him, and He will make your burdens light. He has promised us this and this is available to all, no matter who you are, because you are a child of God and He wants you to draw closer and return.

 

 

Temple/Prodigal Son Analogy

Recently I’ve been able to consider my feelings about the Temple and how important it has been in my life. It really is a place where the Spirit of the Lord can feel so close and where peace can be found.

One thing that has been highlighted to me once more is the importance of symbolism. The Temple is a wonderful place to learn but a lot of the lessons taught are symbolic and require guidance from the Spirit to support our understanding. I explored a little into Parables – these are great examples of the way that the Lord teaches through examples, symbols and analogies.

We know the parable of the prodigal son begins with children who are due an inheritance from a wealthy father. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance early and then goes and spends it all on material, temporary possessions. I want to focus in on this part of the parable as an example of the Temple and how it can play a comforting and integral role in our lives. In Luke 15:17-19 we read:

“17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

We often may feel like this. I was asked to prepare a talk about being worthy to enter the Temple. Of course it was important to cover the necessary conditions that are required to enter the Temple. The Lord’s House is set apart, sanctified, to enable it to be such a spiritual place for a reason. However, I was also keenly aware of the need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we cannot be good enough. I think this is sometimes more of an issue. I have met so many people who feel that they are not good enough to enter the Temple but often it is because they are comparing themselves to the Lord’s perfect standard. We are not required to be perfect yet. We need to be living our covenants and striving to keep the Lord’s standard but, if we can answer the questions the Lord has set as the yardstick to enter the Temple, then we are good enough.

We must make the decision to enter as soon as we can. The words of the parable continue (Luke 15:20-21):

“20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

Once we have the faith to act, we go before the Lord’s appointed servants and the Lord Himself and aim to go to our Father’s House. We return back home. We see the Father’s (and I imagine our Father’s) reaction in the following verses (Luke 15:22-24):

“22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

I can imagine this. Our Heavenly Father seeing His children gathering at His home and welcoming them all. We feel of this ‘best robe’ when we enter the welcoming, warm entrance to the Temple. It is almost as if He wraps us in His arms of comfort when we enter for those blissful hours we worship in that Holy place. The prodigal child returns – as we enter back into His presence to make the decisions and covenants we make in the Temple.

Temple/Sabbath Connection

The Sabbath Day is a wonderful thing. However, it is one of those aspects of living the Gospel of Christ that can be either be missed out on or bring great blessings. The concept of a holy day in religion is almost universal and clearly has importance to a number of groups of faith and again, is observed differently by various cultures.

The Sabbath Day

The law of the Sabbath has been in force since the time of Moses and probably even further before. We read in Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Sabbath Day has been recognised since the creation of the Earth. This will be why many religions observe a ‘holy day’, whichever day that is for them.

Typically, the Sabbath is a day of devotion to spiritual matters. Often referred to as a day of rest (“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest…” Exodus 23:12), we are encouraged to avoid our work in our career on the Sabbath – as much as possible, of course some jobs require working on the Sabbath. However, every possible effort should be made to avoid it. Also, the Sabbath is an opportunity to focus on the things of the Lord. The Lord told us that people would be blessed “that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it…” (Isaiah 56:2). Considering the imagery used of ‘keeping unspotted from the world’, this applies to focusing activities on the Saviour or with the family.

Recently I was shown this connection between the Sabbath and the Temple also. In D&C 109:13, we read this plea to the Lord in the Kirtland Dedicatory Prayer ” 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.” From this extract of this important revelation, we learn that the House of the Lord is sanctified. To ‘sanctify’ something means to set apart as or declare as holy. The Temple is a sacred, holy place where the Spirit of the Lord can be truly unrestrained. Worshipping in this sanctified place enables us to come a little bit closer to our Father in Heaven.

We can then link this right back to a verse from the Old Testament, right back to when the Sabbath was first ‘set apart’. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The seventh day – the day of the Sabbath – was sanctified and set apart to represent and give thanks for the Lord and His mercy to create the Earth in which we live.

There is a link here between the Temple and the Sabbath. Both have been sanctified for our benefit. Both are set apart for worship and sacred ordinances (this is vital). Both are for us to align our lives and wills in line with the Lord’s life and will. As we strive to live the Sabbath Day more fully, with just as much focus as we do to be ready to enter the Temple, then we can find great strength and guidance from the Lord.

The Temple: The University

I have recently begun teaching a few lessons of the Temple Preparation Course for a couple of people preparing to enter the sacred Temple. It has been a great opportunity for a number of reasons: I have had the chance to reconsider my commitment to covenants made in the House of the Lord, I have been able to share my testimony of the important ordinances that we engage in at the Temple and discussing the scriptures and quotes from General Authorities linked to this holy place.

I was aware of this quote by Elder David A Bednar which says “There are pre-requisites in many forms of life. You cannot take advanced courses in chemistry until you have mastered the basics. And the same thing is true of the Lord’s university. You have to meet the pre-requisites. Anyone can come if they are willing to abide by those commitments.” As we were discussing the importance of the ordinances and covenants in the Temple, we were beginning to discuss how the Temple provides an opportunity for higher learning, further education and greater blessings. As we went down this train of thought, the understanding of the Temple being the Lord’s University rang ever more true to me.

In our educational lives as children we begin in settings where we are almost led by the hand in our learning. Yes, of course, we are encouraged to search certain things out for ourselves but we are given a lot of models for learning – for example, teachers model how to read, how to count, how to write and so on. We can compare this to when we take our first steps towards baptism and then those first few steps as a new convert.

As we progress in the educational world, we advance until we reach a higher level of schooling – secondary school in the UK, maybe middle and high school in the USA and other equivalents across the world. In these settings, we are still expected to attend. We are taught a curriculum. However, we are expected to progress ourselves and identify areas where we are to improve. The equivalent in a Gospel sense is when we progress through from being a new convert towards to the time when we are preparing to enter the Temple. We are still supported and led by caring leaders towards our next destination – the Temple but we are expected to take on more – such as home/visiting teaching, callings and other duties.

After this, in the education system, you then make the step to higher education – university. At this level of learning, you are given some input but suddenly you are expected to be even more self-sufficient. You could not turn up to lectures, do little study and still get some sort of result. However, the level of your achievement will likely correlate with the amount you put in whether you attend sessions, whether you engage in wider reading and so on. And so is the same with the Temple. Once you have received your endowments and other covenants from the Temple, you could make it through the rest of your life without ever attending again, not fully engaging in your covenants and do ok. However, if you attend the Temple more, live your promises fully and so on – we receive more light and inspiration. The Temple is the Lord’s university because, yes we receive great knowledge, but also it is down to us to engage and learn as much as we can.

I was grateful for this discussion – it helped me open my eyes more to the importance of the Temple and the blessings in store as we enter those holy doors more.

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.

I Love to See the Temple

In 2017 we have been invited by our Stake Presidency to make the Temple the central focus of our year. We are promised in scripture if we do this then we will be immensely blessed. We read in D&C 109:17-19, 22 “That all the incomings of thy people, into this house, may be in the name of the Lord; That all their outgoings from this house may be in the name of the Lord; And that all their salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with holy hands, uplifted to the Most High…And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them;” These guidelines and promised blessings are given at the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple and apply to all saints who worship at the temple. We know that as individuals and families come closer together around the temple they will be brought closer together.

As a family we have set a goal to gather at the temple once each month. Obviously myself and my wife will be striving to visit on a regular basis to enter the temple and worship there. However, we felt it was important to involve our 4yo and 2yo children somehow. This is due to a scripture in Moses 7:18 “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” We want to have the blessings and peace of the temple reach the heart of all our little family, not just us as parents.

So once a month, all of us get together quickly after a busy day at school and work, hop in the car, grab a McDonalds (or in the case of our strangely healthy 4yo boy, a healthy dinner bag from Dunelm Mill Coffee Shop!) and drive up to the Temple. On the way we talk about our day, how things are going at school and why we’re looking forward to going to the Temple. The kids love it. We love it except the rush hour traffic but when we come off the exit off the M61 at Chorley and see the welcoming site of the Temple on the hill it makes all the jostling through vehicles worthwhile.

Usually our daughter falls asleep on the way and so she wakes up when we arrive. Each time she’s woken and seen the Temple, she always lights up and says “Oh, Temple!” We get out and hold hands and enjoy a walk around the Temple and grounds. Our son talks about Jesus being there, our daughter points out Moroni and we talk about the precious nature of the Temple and the blessings it has brought and will bring to our family.

At the end of each visit we all put our hands on the Temple and promise that we will return. This has seen our children become excited about the Temple, but I don’t think it’s just the fact it is a sacred place – whilst that is important. What is also happening is the memories we are building, the peaceful sacred time together. We love to see the Temple and will continue to do so in 2017!