Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 13: Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord

This is the temple chapter for the Ezra Taft Benson manual. The life section focuses on the example of temple-going that his parents set for him. Section one focuses on all the wonderful things that temples stand for and can remind us of. Section two focuses on the relationship between the temple ordinances, receiving the fulness of the priesthood, and exaltation by referring to several scriptures about Adam’s life. Section three focuses on the blessings gained through temple attendance. Section four deals with encouraging members to do temple work for deceased individuals. Section five focuses on teaching children about the temple so that they will be excited to go. Section six focuses on returning to the temple over and over to gain a better understanding of the ordinances and increase our flow of revelation.

Logan, Utah Temple

Logan, Utah Temple

Resources for Lesson/Teaching Helps:

Suggested Hymns

“High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns #5 and #333)

“What Was Witnessed in the Heavens” (Hymns #11)

“Rise, Ye Saints, and Temple Enter” (Hymns #287)

“Turn Your Hearts” (Hymns #291)

“Families Can Be Together Forever” (Hymns #300)


“Strength Beyond My Own”

“Time Well Spent”

“Temples Are a Beacon”

“Endowed With Power”

“Why Mormons Build Temples”

Object Lessons

Get two envelopes; put a picture of the temple on one envelope. Put cut-outs (paper dolls? magazine people?) of family members in each envelope. Seal shut the envelope with the temple picture. All the while, talk about the one family going to the temple and the other not going. Then dump both envelopes containing families upside down. The family in the envelope that was not sealed will fall out all over the place. The family in the sealed envelope, will be all together.[1]

Have a talent contest to see who can comb their hair without bending their elbows or talk on a cell phone without touching it? Ask two sisters to eat a candy bar without bending their elbows. What’s the punch line? It can’t be done, unless they help each other. Our ancestors need us as much as we needed them. Together, we save each other.[2]

Further Reading

David A. Bednar: “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” CR, October 2011

Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” CR, October 2012

Quentin L. Cook, “Roots and Branches,” CR, April 2014

First Presidency Letter: Names Submitted for Temple Ordinances

Terryl L. Givens: “The Heavenly Logic of Proxy Baptism”

Terryl L. Givens: Latter-day Saint Temples in Context: Restoration, Romanticism, Anthropology and Passibility


Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Temples are an unyielding witness that goodness will prevail. President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, once said, “Every foundation stone that is laid for a Temple, and every Temple completed … lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness.”

While each temple increases the influence of righteousness in the earth, the greatest blessings, of course, come to those who actually attend the temple. There we receive further light and knowledge and make solemn covenants that, if followed, help us walk in the path of discipleship. In short, the temple teaches us about the sacred purpose of life and helps us get our true physical and spiritual bearings.[3]

Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley: The Lord has made it possible for us in these holy houses to receive our own [ordinances]. Then we have the opportunity and responsibility of extending these same blessings to those who have passed on without the privilege. But in the very process there comes into our own lives a refinement of character, together with increased spirituality. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that although many on the other side may not receive the ordinances done for them here, those who perform these ordinances will be blessed in the very process of doing so.[4]

I hope that everyone gets to the temple on a regular basis. . . . If we are a temple-going people, we will be a better people, we will be better fathers and husbands, we will be better wives and mothers. I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the House of the Lord, you will be blessed; life will be better for you. Now, please, please, my beloved brothers and sisters, avail yourselves of the great opportunity to go to the Lord’s house and thereby partake of all the marvelous blessings that are yours to be received there.[5]

Possible photo of Joseph Smith.

Possible photo of Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith: The greatest responsibility resting upon us is to look after our dead.— they without us cannot be made perfect.[6]

2007-04-1040-elder-richard-g-scott-590x332-ldsorg-articleRichard G. Scott: Temple and family history work is one work divided into two parts. They are connected together like the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost….

Father in Heaven wants each of us to receive both parts of the blessing of this vital vicarious work. He has led others to show us how to qualify. It is up to you and me to claim those blessings.

Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received.[7]

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts: While the Gospel is preached in the spirit world, it appears from all that can be learned upon the subject, that all the outward ordinances, such as baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, anointings, sealings, etc., etc., must be performed vicariously here upon the earth for those who accept the Gospel in the world of spirits. This is the work that children may do for their progenitors, and upon learning this, the hearts of the children are turned to their fathers; and the fathers in the spirit world, learning that they are dependent upon the actions of the posterity for the performance of the ordinances of salvation, their hearts are turned to the children; and thus the work that was predicted should be performed by Elijah—turning the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children—was accomplished in restoring the keys of knowledge respecting the salvation for the dead.[8]

John A. Widtsoe

John A. Widtsoe

John A Widtose: It is a great promise that to the temples God will come, and that in them man shall see God. What does this promised communion mean? Does it mean that once in a while God may come into the temples, and that once in a while the pure in heart may see God there; or does it mean the larger thing, that the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God? I think that is what it means to me and to you and to most of us. We have gone into these holy houses, with our minds freed from the ordinary earthly cares, and have literally felt the presence of God. In this way, the temples are always places where God manifests himself to man and increases his intelligence. A temple is a place of revelation.[9]

Come Unto Christ

In the manual, President Benson is quoted as teaching that “The temple ceremony was given by a wise Heavenly Father to help us become more Christlike.” There are several ways in which I can see that that works. First, going to the temple is one way to follow Christ’s example. I know that LDS temples today are not exactly the same as the Jewish temple of Christ’s time, but it is still significant that the Christ went to that sacred ground often. Many of the stories of his time in Jerusalem center on experiences and teachings in the temple. He cleansed the temple because “the zeal of thine [God’s] house hat eaten me up.” (John 2:17.) When He came to visit the Nephites, it was at the temple in the land Bountiful. So, in a way, Christ could be said to be a frequent temple attender.

Christ Appearing to the Nephites

Christ Appearing to the Nephites

Second, the ordinances of the temple point to Christ. It is not my place to reveal too much about the ordinances since, as Elder Steven Snow once said, “We hold those things sacred, and we don’t feel that that should be talked about, and we feel that’s blasphemous when others have published that material online.”[10]  The ordinances do, however, relate the significance in the Atonement by outlining the context of that sacrifice in the Plan of Salvation, and driving home the significance of the Atonement in our lives through symbolism and imagery. As Bruce L. Olsen said at the San Diego Temple on one occasion, “the Savior and His atonement are found on every turn in the temple and are the foundation of each ordinance.”[11] One pamphlet from a temple open house also states that, “Everything done in the temple . . . is done in the name of Jesus Christ because the Savior and His atoning sacrifice make possible every hope and blessing of the temple,” and that the endowment features “the central role of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of all God’s children.”[12]

Third, the temple teaches to live the kind of life that Christ lives. At the heart of saving ordinances are covenants that bind us to live commandments that bring us closer to God. In the temple, we “make sacred promises of honesty, chastity, and service to God and to others” which “become anchors of stability in daily living and pathways to God’s eternal blessings.”[13]  These covenants are a way in which the Lord tutors us “step-by-step . . . to become like Him.”[14] Again this is reinforced by some of the imagery and symbolism of the temple ceremonies. Hugh Nibley pointed out parallels in early Christian writings about washings and anointings: “[The washing] is followed by an anointing, which our guide [Cyril] calls ‘the antitype of the anointing of Christ himself,’ making every candidate as it were a Messiah. . . . Furthermore, the candidate was reminded that the whole ordinance ‘is an imitation of the sufferings of Christ,’ in which ‘we suffer without pain by mere imitation his receiving of the nails in his hands and feet: the antitype of Christ’s sufferings.’”[15] The main focus of this part of temple ordinances is not to literally become Christs, but to help us remember to live Christ-like lives and take part in the Divine attributes.

There is much in temple work to turn our minds to Christ and to help us to follow His example in our daily lives.

San Diego Temple

San Diego Temple

A Deeper Look

Recently, I’ve seen a small uproar in the Mormon community over the potential portrayal of a Mormon character in a TV series. What has been the biggest concern is that the character is to be introduced in a scene where he is seen in temple garments the whole time. We as Latter-day Saints tend to keep quiet about the specifics of temple worship because they are sacred to us, and such a portrayal is a violation of the sacred. Such secrecy on the parts of Mormons, however tends to lead towards concerns by those not of our faith, since silence is often linked to the sinister. If they don’t want it known, it might be reasoned, it must be because it is too terrible for potential recruits or outsiders to know about. I have heard people worry about animal sacrifices, sexual content, covenants to do harm to non-Mormons or overthrow the US government,[16] blood oaths to not reveal temple information on pains of gruesome deaths,[17] and so on. In response, many Mormons have adopted the mantra, “sacred, not secret,” emphasizing that we keep quite because of the sacred nature of the covenants, but that anyone can partake in them once they are in a position to understand the ceremonies as a sacred experience in proper context (i.e. as faithful members of the Church). They do not have the same meaning and power outside of proper context and for those who do not view them as sacred.

There is value in this approach. It is a way to teach that the temple rites are not sinister, just something we want to keep apart from the world. Recently, however, I read some writings by Richard L. Bushman (an eminent Mormon historian) that achieves that same end by turning the phrase “sacred, not secret” on its head, which I thought I would share. He wrote:

With remarkable skill, Joseph Smith and his successors adopted practices that set these buildings apart from all other spaces. They achieved a separation of the sacred from the profane like the one that like the one that Mircea Eliade sees as the point of every church in the modern city.

“For a believer, the church shares in a different space from the street in which it stands. The door that opens on the interior of the church actually signifies a dissolution of continuity. The threshold that separates the two spaces also indicates the distance between two modes of being, the profane and the religious. The threshold is the limit, the boundary, the frontier that distinguishes and opposes to worlds—and at the same time the paradoxical place where those worlds communicate, where passage from the profane to the sacred world becomes possible.”

Before the Manhattan temple was completed in 2003, a few score people were allowed to walk through the rooms. The spaces were still obviously a construction site, with tools on the floors and door frames were still obviously a construction site, with tools on the floors and door frames and trim still missing. Carpets were not laid, no paintings were on the walls, scaffolding was still up. And yet these observers, dressed in their Sunday best as instructed, walked in silence through the rooms, many with arms folded. Already before the dedication, the temple aura was there.

After each temple’s dedication, the full array of measures for sacralizing the temple spaces goes into effect. No one enters the Mormon temple unless they have been interviewed by their bishop to determine their elemental worthiness. Eliade notes the importance of thresholds to sacred spaces: “They are symbols and at the same time vehicles of passage from the one to the other.” At the thresholds of Mormon temples, a man in white clothing stands to examine each person’s credentials. After entering, temple-goers change from street cloths into white temple clothing. Everywhere in the temple they speak in hushed tones. The rooms themselves are spotless, cleaned thoroughly every week. The religious scholar Jonathan Z. Smith says that “taking care” is one sing of a sacred space.

Perhaps as important as anything, Latter-day Saints pledge not to speak of the temple ceremonies outside its walls. Sometimes Mormons, a little embarrassed by this prohibition, say the ceremonies are sacred, not secret. But it is probably just as true to say: the ceremonies are sacred because they are secret. The full temple ritual can be read on the web, like so much other information these days, but the availability of the ceremony, or lack of it, to the curious public is not the point. What matters to Mormons is that the participants in the temple ritual refrain from speaking of it. The restraint on discussion outside the temple hallows both the rituals and the spaces in which they are performed.[18]

Brigham City, Utah Temple

Brigham City, Utah Temple

I have pondered a lot on why temples are so important and what gives them power. Sometimes I’ve asked myself: Why do we have to put so much time and effort and money into building temples rather than just going to mountain tops as was often done in the Bible? Why do we talk so much about feeling the Spirit and receiving revelations in the temple and what enables it to be a place where that can take place better than elsewhere? It almost seems as though it’s a magic place where things out of the ordinary take place, but why would that be so?

A faithful Latter-day Saint might be tempted to say that it is so because it was dedicated to be so by priesthood power. While I believe that is part of it, I do not believe that that is the whole answers to the question. To me, the temples are sacred and powerful because we make them so. It is largely the state of mind, the emotional and spiritual preparation and expectation that we have going in, and the actions and attitudes we take while in the temple that turn it into a sacred space where we can commune with God. The walls of the temple exist both as a literal and a figurative threshold—a boundary that keeps what is going on inside separated from both the world and the worldly things. Once we cross that threshold, we change into cloths that are specific in color to the temple, speak in whispers rather than normal tones, and take place in ordinances only performed in the temple. All these indicate that it is something different from everyday life. Creating that threshold and expecting sacred space on the inside of that boundary likewise creates sacred space within our mind while we are in the temple, opening ourselves up to the power of the experience. This is heightened by practices sometimes done by Mormons to prepare for entering the temple prior to actually being there by listening to sacred music on a day in which one intends to attend the temple, fasting, prayer, scripture study, and so on. Speaking of what goes on inside the temple only inside the temple is another expression of that boundary and the creation of sacred space, as indicated by Richard L. Bushman. It is a way to keep the ordinances separate, special, and unmixed with the worldly. As he wrote, “The ceremonies are sacred because they are secret.”

Salt Lake Temple Image courtesy LDS.org

Salt Lake Temple
Image courtesy LDS.org

As another way of looking at the same idea, there was an old article by Hugh Nibley in which he spoke of ancient temples across the world and observed that:

In his recent study of a primitive Egyptian temple complex, Egyptologist Philippe Derchain declares that “one can almost compare the ancient Egyptian temple to a powerhouse where diverse energies are converted into electric current or to a control room where, by the application of very little effort … one can safely produce and distribute energy as needed along the proper power lines.” (Le Papyrus Salt 5825 [Brussels: Memoirs of the Royal Academy], vol. 58 [1965], p. 14.) Such powerhouses were not confined to Egypt; we find them everywhere, in the Old World and the New.

The ruins of such centers of power and control still comprise by far the most impressive remnants of the human past. Today the great plants are broken down and deserted; the power has been shut off. They mean nothing to us any more, because we don’t understand how they worked.

The most sophisticated electronic gadget in perfect working order is nothing in the hands of one who has never heard of electricity, and it would only frustrate even an expert if he found no power outlet to plug into. Perhaps the old powerhouses were something like that. And did they ever really work?

A great many people went to a lot of trouble for an unusually long time to set up these mysterious dynamos all over the world. What could they possibly have derived from all this effort? They must have gotten something, to have kept at it so long and so enthusiastically. . . .

The idea that divine power can be conveyed to men and used by them through the implementation of tangible earthly contrivances and that these become mere antique oddities once the power is shut off is surprisingly confirmed and illustrated by the Book of Mormon. Thus the Liahona and the Urim and Thummim were kept among the national treasures of the Nephites long after they had ceased their miraculous functions.

Before the finger of the Lord touched the sixteen stones of the brother of Jared, they were mere pieces of glass, and they probably became so after they had fulfilled their purpose. And the gold plates had no message to deliver until a special line of communication was opened by supernatural power.

In themselves these objects were nothing; they did not work by magic, a power that resided in the objects themselves so that a person has only to get hold of the magical staff, seal, ring, robe, book of Moses or Solomon or Peter in order to become master of the world. The aids and implements that God gives to men work on no magic or automatic or mechanical principle, but only “according to the faith and diligence and heed which we … give unto them” (1 Ne. 16:28) and cease to work because of wickedness (see 1 Ne. 18:12). . . .

But what about all these ancient powerhouses—what would happen if they were restored? Nothing, in my opinion. They might be repaired and put in working order, but that would no more make them work than setting up a Liahona or Urim and Thummim, with all of the working parts in order, would enable us to use them. Without power from above, nothing will happen, for this is not magic.[19]

Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

Thus, drawing the idea to the modern temple, the buildings themselves are not magic but work “according to the faith and diligence and heed which we … given unto them.” The Lord pours out the influence of His Spirit and gives power to the ordinances of the temple because they are done in the way He has directed and because we have created a sacred space in which we have mentally and spiritually prepared ourselves to receive certain blessings from above. Our reticence to speak of the rituals performed within the temple outside of the temple is just a way we express those feelings about the temple and give power to those buildings and the experiences we have inside.

[1] http://www.mormonshare.com/lds-object-lesson/families-can-be-sealed-together

[2] Boice, Trina (2013-11-13). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teaching: Joseph Fielding Smith (Kindle Locations 1985-1987). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition

[3] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Temple Blessings,” Ensign August 2010, https://www.lds.org/liahona/2010/08/temple-blessings?lang=eng

[4] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (SLC: Deseret Book Company, 1997), 622-623.

[5] Hinckley, Teachings, 624

[6] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 6051-6052). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

[7] Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” CR, October 2012, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/the-joy-of-redeeming-the-dead?lang=eng

[8] B. H. Roberts, The Gospel: An Exposition of its first principles; and Man’s Relationship to Deity, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Desert News, 1901), 245.

[9] Widtsoe, John A. “Temple Worship.” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine12 (April 1921), 56

[10] Snow, Steven. Fireside, 10 November 2013, Logan, Utah. Cited from Chad L. Nielsen notes, in author’s possession.

[11] Bruce L . Olsen, San Diego Temple Coordinator Workshop, September 11, 2011.

[12] Brigham City Utah Temple open house brochure (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012).

[13] Brigham City Utah Temple open house brochure.

[14] Bonnie D. Parkin, “With Holiness of Heart,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 103.

[15] Cited in Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement (SLC: Deseret Book, 2000), 295-296.

[16] It must be acknowledged that during the 1800s, it was standard to pray for the Lord to take revenge on people who had been involved in Joseph Smith’s death. That is the closest thing I am aware of that could be taken this way. Such is no longer the case.

[17] Covenants are made to not reveal certain, very sacred parts of the endowment ceremony. In times past these did include symbolic punishments attached to each of these obligations, to emphasize that recipients would rather do such and such than reveal the information at hand. As time has gone on, references to punishments have been removed from the endowment ceremony while retaining agreements to not reveal certain information.

[18] Richard Lyman Bushman, “Joseph Smith and Creation of the Sacred,” in Jospeh Smith Jr.:  Reappraisal after Two Centuries, ed. Reid L. Neilson and Terryl L. Givens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 104-105.

[19] Hugh Nibley, “Ancient Temples: What Do They Signify?” Ensign, September 1972.


Joseph Fielding Smith, Ch 17: Sealing Power and Temple Blessings

I’m experimenting with different ways to present resources for class discussions on this blog, so most of these blog posts will probably come out different in form, though content will ultimately be similar.

Temples are very important to me, and I am excited to teach about Sealing Power and Temple Blessings (lesson 17, Joseph Fielding Smith manual). The timing of this lesson for us—the week before the Ogden Temple rededication—adds interest to the lesson as well. Speaking of which, I recently attended my parents’ ward in the suburbs of Ogden and a sister in their ward bore her testimony of temple work. She shared that at a meeting for people involved in the temple open house she was told that the goal for the Ogden Temple is for it to be a self-sufficient temple. By that, she explained, they hope that Ogden Temple district members will provide all the names that ordinance work will be performed for in the temple once it is operational. While probably not realistic, the goal is impressive. The sister also shared that when she first heard this, she said, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be attending the Ogden Temple because all my family work is already done.” Another ward member showed her how to do “cousin lines”—researching descendants of direct ancestors rather than just direct ancestors—and she has had tremendous success in finding names to use. My wife has picked up on this cue and has been doing similar work on her ancestry with good results.

The newly renovated Ogden Temple.

The newly renovated Ogden Temple.

As I mentioned, though the goal of a self-sufficient temple is probably not realistic, it is inspiring, and I want my ward to catch some of the spirit of that idea, even though we’re in a neighboring (Logan) temple district. Since most of Utah (at least Northern Utah) will have their church services taken over by the Ogden Temple Dedication on the 21 of September, Joseph Fielding Smith’s quote from the original Ogden Temple Dedication in the manual is particularly suited to the situation: “May I remind you that when we dedicate a house to the Lord, what we really do is dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service, with a covenant that we shall use the house in the way he intends that it shall be used.”[1] My goal for the lesson is to motivate quorum members to dedicate themselves to hastening the work of salvation for the dead in all aspects of that work.

The Manual

There are six sections in the lesson manual chapter, covering about 10 pages. The historical introduction focused on President Smith explaining the Spirit of Elijah to a non-member with a short conclusion of quotes about the importance of temple work. Section one explains the role of Elijah in restoring the sealing power and some discussion of the sealing power. Section two underscores the necessity of temple work in preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ. Section 3 teaches that temple ordinances are necessary for salvation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. Section 4 outlines the doctrines behind proxy work for the dead. Section 5 extols temple service as selfless and wonderful. Section 6 discusses the work of welding families together for eternity that occurs in the temple.

For my purposes, I have chosen to emphasize four themes in my lesson:

  1. Temple work has hastened and grown line-upon line since it was introduced to today.
  2. Understanding the role of Elijah and the Sealing Power.
  3. It is necessary to weld families together in the eternal scheme of things.
  4. By serving in the temple we become more like Christ.

Other teachers may approach it differently according to their styles and the needs of the quorum or class, however, this is how I’ve felt to prepare the lesson based on the manual.

Extra-Manual Resources and Quotes

While the lesson should primarily be drawn from the manual (and I would encourage teachers to focus on preparing the lesson mostly from there before adding additional resources such as those presented here), there is a plethora of conference talks and Church magazine articles that can be used to supplement the lesson. In many of these, the emphasis has been on Church members extracting their own names and attending the temple—particularly the youth of the Church. The four most important examples to my preparation were three conference talks and a First Presidency Letter given over the last five years:

David A. Bednar: “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” CR, October 2011. This talk was useful in explaining the role of Elijah and the Spirit of Elijah in the work for the dead. In fact, I actually plan to use about 5 minutes of this talk instead of the first section of the chapter in the manual.

Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” CR, October 2012. Particularly important to me was his statement that, “Temple and family history work is one work divided into two parts. They are connected together like the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Quentin L. Cook, “Roots and Branches,” CR, April 2014. Again, the emphasis that stood out to me is that, “The doctrine of the family in relation to family history and temple work is clear. The Lord in initial revelatory instructions referred to ‘baptism for your dead.’ Our doctrinal obligation is to our own ancestors. This is because the celestial organization of heaven is based on families.” But his statement that, “What a great time to be alive. This is the last dispensation, and we can feel the hastening of the work of salvation in every area where a saving ordinance is involved,” will serve as a sort of theme for the lesson.

The following First Presidency Letter also formed an important part of the lesson, emphasizing the importance of bringing your own names to the temple, but also just going to do work if you cannot:

1st Pres letter

It is also notable that Dr. Terryl Givens has a few essays up on his website about temple work that may be appropriate. I primarily looked at his essay, “The Heavenly Logic of Proxy Baptism.” Since the lesson I have planned is already too full of extra sources, the only quote that I may use is the following:

Jewish tradition, full of anticipation and yearning, weaves this interpretation [of Elijah’s return]: At the coming of the great judgment day, “the children . . . who had to die in infancy will be found among the just, while their fathers will be ranged on the other side. The babes will implore their fathers to come to them, but God will not permit it. Then Elijah will go to the little ones, and teach them how to plead in behalf of their fathers. They will stand before God and say, ‘Is not the measure of good, the mercy of God, larger than the measure of chastisements? . . . [May they] be permitted to join us in Paradise?’ God will give assent to their pleadings, and Elijah will have fulfilled the word of the prophet Malachi; he will have brought back the fathers to the children.

Another excellent resource I recently got my hands on is Trina Boice’s Ready Resource for Relief Society: Joseph Fielding Smith. The book provides a summary of each lesson, suggestions for hymns, talks and articles from general conference and Church publications as well as quotes to supplement the lesson, and object lessons, videos from lds.org, etc. that can be used in the lesson. An object lesson she suggests for this lesson that I intend to use to start the lesson is as follows:

Have a talent contest to see who can comb their hair without bending their elbows or talk on a cell phone without touching it? Ask two sisters [or brothers] to eat a candy bar without bending their elbows. What’s the punch line? It can’t be done, unless they help each other. Our ancestors need us as much as we needed them. Together, we save each other.[2]

A Deeper Look

In each lesson I prepare (and for the sake of this blog) I like to take a deeper look at one or more topics presented in the lesson, particularly doctrinal or historical issues of interest. In the case of this lesson, there are two points I wanted to investigate.

The first point is the hastening of temple work during Joseph Fielding Smith’s lifetime. Time will not allow an in-depth look either here or in class, so a short summary will have to do. During Joseph Fielding Smith’s lifetime, temple work took on the shape and form that we recognize today. He even had a role in shaping that process at a few points. As per his philosophy on temple work, he declared at the corner stone ceremony of the Ogden Temple that, “Temple building and temple ordinances are at the very heart of our religion…. There is no more glorious work than the perfecting of family units through the ordinances of the house of the Lord.”[3]

President Smith liked to joke that “his first Church assignment came when he was a baby. When he was nine months old, he and his father, President Joseph F. Smith, accompanied President Brigham Young to St. George, Utah, to attend the dedication of the St. George Temple.”[4] The dedication of the St. George Temple and the years immediately surrounding that event constitute one of the most important turning points for temple work in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the excellent work of historian Richard E. Bennett, there were at least four reasons that this was so.

St. George Temple while still under construction

St. George Temple while still under construction

First, with the completion of the St. George Temple the Latter-day Saints had a temple to perform temple work in for the first time since the Nauvoo Temple. Temple work that had occurred since the Saints left Nauvoo took place in a variety of places, including Willard Richard’s Octagon House in Winter Quarters, at least once on Ensign Peak above Salt Lake City, in the Salt Lake City Council House, and mostly in the Temple Pro Tempore known as the Endowment House. In the St. George Temple, however, the Saints had the chance to reengage in temple work on a full scale and to develop temple worship more fully under the Wilford Woodruff’s tutelage as temple president.

While temple work for the living and baptisms for the dead were performed in the various places listed above prior to the St. George Temple’s completion, endowments for the dead were not. Although both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were both aware that this ordinance was necessary for salvation and that it would one day be performed by proxy for the dead, the Saints had to rush in Nauvoo to perform ordinances for the living—leaving little time to perform higher ordinances for the dead—and after Nauvoo, Brigham Young consistently expressed that the performance of endowments for the dead was reserved for an actual temple. Once the St. George Temple was operational, endowments for the dead began. This gave Latter-day Saints more to do when they came to the temple, a constant chance to review the endowment ceremony, and a need to return again and again to do proxy work.

The third thing that resulted in an increase of temple consciousness during Joseph Fielding Smith’s childhood was the construction of three other temples strategically located in Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake City. Most of the early Utah temples took less than ten years to build, but the monumental Salt Lake Temple—the temple closest to President Smith’s childhood home—took forty years to build, being completed in 1893 when Joseph was 17 years old. He later recalled that, “I used to wonder whether I would ever live long enough to see the [Salt Lake City] temple completed.”[5] The sacrifices in both time and resources that the Saints made to build these temples functioned to keep temples constantly on their minds and to raise expectations of blessings reaped from their sacrifices. And, with the completion of each temple, another region of Mormon settlements was given access to the opportunity to perform temple rites on a more consistent basis.

Mormonism's Pioneer Temples

Mormonism’s Pioneer Temples

The fourth and final reason for the rising temple consciousness among the Latter-day Saints in the late nineteenth century was the canonization of Doctrine and Covenants Section 110 in 1880. This section is a record of the visit of various angels, including Elijah, to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple in April 1836 and presented various priesthood keys to the Prophet. Prior to the 1880s, the section was little known—Joseph recorded the visit in his journal around the time he claimed that it happened, but we have no record of the Prophet sharing the vision in public during his lifetime. The journal entry was printed once in the Deseret News in 1852, but was not included in the Doctrine and Covenants until the 1876 edition, prepared by Elder Orson Pratt. After it was included in the Latter-day Saint scripture, this document became the doctrinal and historical cornerstone for discussion of the restoration of the sealing power and the role of Elijah in temple work, as can be seen in the historical introduction and 1st section of this lesson in Joseph Fielding Smith manual.[6]

The next shift in LDS temple theology occurred when Joseph Fielding Smith was a teenager. Prior to the 1890s, for a variety of salvation and dynastic-related reasons, Latter-day Saints were often sealed to (adopted by) priesthood leaders, especially Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. In 1894, however, President Wilford Woodruff declared that the Lord wanted “the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it.”[7] After this proclamation, the Utah Genealogical Society was formed to provide support for temple work by assisting Latter-day Saints in genealogical research so they could be linked to their ancestors. During the 20th century, Joseph Fielding Smith became a “principle force behind the society” and helped the organization’s growth and efficiency by studying the libraries and programs of the eastern United States in 1909 and introducing improved methods of filing and record keeping to the Utah society during a time of great expansion in genealogical and temple work. He went on to serve as president of the society 1934-1961.[8]

Joseph Fielding Smith at work in some archives.

Joseph Fielding Smith at work in some archives.

Once Joseph Fielding Smith was called as an apostle in 1910, he served in other positions that related to temple work. While serving as a de facto secretary to his father, President Joseph F. Smith, in 1918 Joseph Fielding Smith recorded his father’s vision of redemption of the dead, now D&C 138. He also served as a counselor in the Salt Lake Temple Presidency 1919-1935 and as president of the temple 1945-1949. During the era President Smith served as an apostle and as president of the Church, the rapid expansion of temple work initiated by the St. George Temple’s completion continued, even when measured on a per-member basis (see the figure below). As Elder John A. Widtsoe noted in 1921:

There is at present an unusual increased interest in temple activity… [and] the number of temples is also increasing. The Hawaiian temple has only recently been dedicated; the Canadian temple is being rushed to completion, the Arizona temple is being planned, and numerous communities in the Church are anxiously waiting and praying for the time that they may have temples.[9]

Chart of the number of endowment ceremonies performed per member over the course of a number of years. Image taken from David John Buerger, "The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony," Dialogue: A  Journal of Mormon Thought, 20, No. 4, 65.

Chart of the number of endowment ceremonies performed per member over the course of a number of years.
Image taken from David John Buerger, “The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 20, No. 4, 65.

Partially in response to this growth, the endowment ceremony was codified and reduced in length during the 1920s. While the core spiritual truths, covenants, and ritual aspects of the ceremony have been retained, the endowment ceremony (the means of carrying those core components of the ordinance to the Saints) has changed and been refined to fit the needs of the Saints under the direction of the leading councils of the Church from time to time. In this case, the process took place over the course of about eight years under the direction Salt Lake Temple Presidents and apostles Anthon H. Lund (1919-1921) and George F. Richards (1921-1927). Joseph Fielding Smith sat on the counsel that performed this work, along with David O. McKay, Stephen L Richards, John A. Widtsoe, and later James E. Talmage.[10]

As president of the Church in the early 1970s, Joseph Fielding Smith directed the completion and dedication of the next two temples to be constructed in Utah, and the most efficient temples constructed to date—the Ogden and Provo temples. Thus, Joseph Fielding Smith witnessed and participated in the hastening of temple work throughout his lifetime. If other instructors would like to present this info, I would suggest tying it into the lesson by asking how temple and family history work have been hastened in the class members’ lifetimes.

Come unto Christ Moment

Since a major purpose of the Church is to invite others to come unto Christ, with each lesson, I like to at least plan a portion focused on coming unto Christ or at least speaking of Christ. In this lesson, there are two potential routes I have been considering focusing on—first, the nature of the sealing power and second, the idea of becoming saviors on Mt. Zion.

As for the sealing power and authority, we use the term sealing in a variety of ways in the Church today. It is, however, useful to understand how the terms developed to understand what they mean more fully. In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary (removing all references to the mammal known as a seal), a seal is:

A piece of metal or other hard substance, usually round or oval, on which is ingraved some image or device, and sometimes a legend or inscription. This is used by individuals, corporate bodies and states, for making impressions on wax upon instruments of writing, as an evidence of their authenticity. The king of England has his seal and his privy seal. Seals are sometimes worn in rings.

Those familiar with movies may recognize the idea of a seal from the ring the Scarlett Pimpernel wears, the wax stamp the Phantom of the Opera uses to mark his letters, or the wax seal on the back of the letters Harry Potter receives from Hogwarts as seals in this sense, officially marking the letters that are thus sealed as authentic within those stories. Likewise, the seal of the United States may be seen on a dollar bill, marking it as authentic. Signatures are used more often today to authenticate documents in the US, but the idea is similar.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel's Seal

The Scarlet Pimpernel’s Seal

Continuing the thought, sealed is defined in the 1828 dictionary as “furnished with a seal; fastened with a seal; confirmed closed,” and sealing is “fixing a seal; fastening with a seal; confirming; closing; keeping secret; fixing a piece of wood or iron in a wall with cement.” Here we see two different ideas of sealing—closing off as well as fixing a seal on something to authenticate it, both of which will come into play in Mormon parlance. Finally, a sealer is “one who seals; an officer in chancery who seals writs and instruments.” This idea of a sealer can be seen in the story of Joseph of Egypt—when he placed as second in command to Pharaoh, as part of the process, “Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand.” [11] This ring was a signet ring—a finger ring in which was set a stamp seal. By receiving Pharaoh’s signet ring, Joseph was made vizier and seal-bearer of Egypt. A seal bearer in this regard would have authority to act in the place of pharaoh (unless the pharaoh overruled the vizier) and use the pharaoh’s seal to validate things.

In this regard, we see the two basic definitions of sealing being used in Mormonism and gradually developing in their use from these along a few lines. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime we see the following uses of the term sealing occur within Mormonism:

  1. Certifying or validating, as in placing a seal of approval on a teaching or ordinance. Most common was validating or certifying an ordinance, particularly a blessing (especially a Patriarchal Blessing) or ordination to the priesthood, quite often in a second blessing or at the end of the blessing (i.e., “I seal your former ordination and blessings.”)
  2. To hide or to remove from access, such as Joseph being told that, “I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed” (D&C 35:18), or the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.
  3. Sealing up individuals unto eternal life, indicating the assurance that God accepted the recipient and guaranteed eternal life. We see in the Doctrine and Covenants a few examples of this use, including the following: “To them [the elders] is power given, to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious; yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked” (D&C 1:8-9).
  4. Occasionally people were sealed against the effects of evil in blessings (“I seal you against the power of Satan,” or something along those lines.)
  5. The linking of one person to another such that a familial relationship was assured not only in this life but after the resurrection. Initially, it was the ordinance or marriage that was sealed, or validated, not the people to each other as the term is often used today, though that use of the term did develop fairly quickly.[12]

With all this in mind, the following definition of the sealing power, given by Bruce R. McConkie, becomes more understandable: “This sealing power, restored in this dispensation by Elijah the Prophet is the means whereby ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ attain ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead’ (D&C 132:7),”[13] meaning that the sealing power is the authority to validate ordinances eternally. It is God’s authority (which is why this can be used as a come to Christ opportunity) given to man to validate things as if God himself performed the ordinances in the temple, hence it being referred to as the fulness of the priesthood. Since Christ is part of that chain of authority, it is through Christ’s authority that temple work is done. It is His atonement that ransoms us, and He has set the path to the Celestial Kingdom, including the temple ordinances. Further, He has set things in order and given authorization so that we can stand in for those in need of these saving ordinances.

As for the idea becoming saviors on Mt. Zion, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that:

The turning of the hearts of fathers to children and of children to fathers, is the power of salvation for the dead, by means of the vicarious work which the children may perform for their fathers, and is in every sense reasonable and consistent. I have heard it said many times by those who oppose this work that it is impossible for one person to stand vicariously for another. Those who express themselves in this way overlook the fact that the entire work of sal­vation is a vicarious work, Jesus Christ standing as the propitiator, redeeming us from death, for which we were not responsible, and also redeeming us from the responsibility of our own sins, on con­dition of our repentance and acceptance of the gospel. He has done this on a grand infinite scale and by the same principle he has del­egated authority to the members of his Church to act for the dead who are helpless to perform the saving ordinances for themselves.[14]

In this way, we serve as saviors to those we perform temple work for, receiving authority from Christ to stand in by proxy for them in saving ordinances they can no longer perform. We see both the idea of sealing described above here, but we also see that we are given a chance to act as the Savoir would act and become like him by working to save the dead. President Smith also felt that this work purifies those who participate, causing them to take on a more Christ-like nature in general. He taught:

There is no work connected with the gospel that is of a more un­selfish nature than the work in the House of the Lord, for our dead. Those who work for the dead do not expect to receive any earthly remuneration or reward. It is, above all, a work of love, which is begotten in the heart of man through faithful and constant labor in these saving ordinances. There are no financial returns, but there shall be great joy in heaven with those souls whom we have helped to their salvation. It is a work that enlarges the soul of man, broad­ens his views regarding the welfare of his fellowman, and plants in his heart a love for all the children of our Heavenly Father. There is no work equal to that in the temple for the dead in teaching a man to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus so loved the world that he was willing to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin that the world might be saved. We also have the privilege, in a small degree, of showing our great love for Him and our fellow beings by helping them to the blessings of the gospel which now they cannot receive without our assistance.[15]


Hopefully something from this will be of use to those preparing lessons in the upcoming weeks. Always remember that the spiritual feeding of the flock is the most important function of teaching in church settings, not the presentation of information or text. Good luck and God bless.

The Salt Lake City Temple

The Salt Lake City Temple

[1] Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013), 217.

[2] Boice, Trina (2013-11-13). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teaching: Joseph Fielding Smith (Kindle Locations 1985-1987). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition

[3] Ogden Cornerstone Laying Report, Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 September 1970, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, UT.

[4] Smith, Teachings of Presidents, 117.

[5] Smith, Teachings of the Presidents, 5.

[6] See Richard E. Bennett, “‘Which is the Wisest Course?’ The Transformation in Mormon Temple Consciousness, 1870-1898,” BYU Studies Quarterly, 52, no. 2 (2013).

[7] Wilford Woodruff, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 174.

[8] Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), 313-315.

[9] John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Vol. XII, 1921, 50.

[10] David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship, (Salt Lake City: Smith Research Associates, 1994),  136.

[11] See Genesis 41:39-43.

[12] See Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 155-172.

[13] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 683.

[14] Smith, Teachings of the Presidents, 222

[15] Smith, Teachings of Presidents, 223-224, emphasis added.

Joseph Fielding Smith, Ch 15: Eternal Marriage

One goal of blog is to provide resources for men and women preparing lessons for Relief Society and Elders’ Quorum. As such, I’m going to attempt to put up lesson plans and ideas about a week before I teach the lesson in question. Due to this fact, however, I need to put in a disclaimer that what I may actually teach in the final situation will not necessarily be what is displayed here. Also, due to the varied situations of classroom settings around the world, my situation and the needs of my quorum will be different from many other individuals. As Sister Virginia H. Pierce taught in 1996:

Because the daily life of people varies so much in the 160 different countries where we have organized classes, the stories and examples in the manuals may sometimes confuse the learners. Teachers can prayerfully make adaptations, always taking care that the learning activities chosen truly reflect the doctrine.[1]

My wife and me on our wedding day

My wife and me on our wedding day

My quorum is a married student ward in Logan, Utah. As such, the focus is on members who are all married relatively recently, and generally with zero to two young children. As such, my focus is offering encouragement and doctrine pointing towards the establishment of a successful, long-term marriage. My central thesis for the lesson is “to build a greater respect and desire to live as God would have us live in the marriage covenant.”

Aside from the Chapter 15 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual, which is the basis of the lesson, I was most strongly influenced by Thomas S. Monson’s talk “Priesthood Power” from the Priesthood Session of General Conference, April 2011; Sister Julie B. Beck’s address, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family” that was published in the March 2011 Ensign; and BYU professor Eugene England’s essay, “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel.” Each of these provides wonderful supplementary material for this chapter of the manual.

The 2014 manual

The 2014 manual

The biographical section of the lesson focuses on the experiences Joseph Fielding Smith had in his three marriages (he was a widower from each of them) primarily captured my interest as a way to understand that Joseph Fielding Smith had a lot of experience with marriage (and so his advice was not just theoretical) and a way to connect with the man. I included a minute-long audio clip taken from his 1968 BYU address “The Blessings of Eternal Glory” in which he talks about his wives and children being sealed to him for time and all eternity and a slide for each of his three wives.

Although I currently live in the Logan, Utah Temple district, I grew up in the Ogden Temple district and still have family connections in that area. The timing of this lesson as well as lesson 17 (coming next month!) is fortuitously correlated to the open house and rededication of the renovated Ogden Temple. This is significant both as a current event in local Church history that focuses things on temples as well as a historical link to Joseph Fielding Smith, since he dedicated the original Ogden Temple. As quorum members enter, I plan to show a video of pictures and footage of the new temple taken from the Church’s official news article on the subject to focus their attention on temples. After covering the historical introduction, I plan to bring class members’ attention back to the Ogden Temple and bring in a few quotes from the address President Smith gave at the cornerstone ceremony for that temple over forty years ago. Included are the following:

  • “We are a temple building people, and this is one of the things which sets us apart from the world and that enables us to find favor in the eyes of the Lord. Temple building and temple ordinances are at the very heart of our religion.”
  • “This high salvation which we seek is eternal life. It consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and it is in and through the ordinances of the temple that eternal family units are created.”
  • “There is no more glorious work than the perfecting of the family units through the ordinances of the house of the Lord.”[2]
Joseph Fielding Smith and N. Eldon Tanner at the Ogden Temple cornerstone dedication ceremony. Image courtesy LDSCES.org

Joseph Fielding Smith and N. Eldon Tanner at the Ogden Temple cornerstone dedication ceremony.
Image courtesy LDSCES.org

After reading these quotes, I intend to have a small group discussion initiated by the question, “How are temple building and temple ordinances at the heart of our religion?” After a bit of discussion, I plan to narrow the focus by reading the first two paragraphs from section 1 in the manual, which are as follows:

  • “There is no ordinance connected with the Gospel of Jesus Christ of greater importance, of more solemn and sacred nature, and more necessary to [our] eternal joy . . . than marriage.”
  • “The fullness and blessings of the Priesthood and Gospel grow out of Celestial marriage. This is the crowning ordinance of the Gospel and crowning ordinance of the temple.”

Again, as we are narrowing the focus of the discussion above onto eternal marriage, the next question I intend to ask is “What is it about celestial marriage that makes it ‘the crowning ordinance of the temple?’” After some discussion on that question, we will shift to the second part of the lesson—the idea of a school of love.

To transition to discussion marriage as a school of love, I intend to point out President Smith’s statement that, “The fullness and blessings of the Priesthood and Gospel grow out of Celestial marriage,” and tell them to pay attention for similar statements as we read a few more paragraphs from the manual and to ponder how the fulness and blessings grow out of Celestial marriage. From the manual:

  • Section 2, ¶ 1-2, p. 194-195:
    • Marriage is considered by a great many people as merely a civil contract or agreement between a man and a woman that they will live together in the marriage relation. It is, in fact, an eternal princi­ple upon which the very existence of mankind depends. The Lord gave this law to man in the very beginning of the world as part of the Gospel law, and the first marriage was to endure forever. According to the law of the Lord every marriage should endure forever. If all mankind would live in strict obedience to the Gospel and in that love which is begotten by the Spirit of the Lord, all mar­riages would be eternal. . . .
    • . . . Marriage as understood by Latter-day Saints is a covenant or­dained to be everlasting. It is the foundation for eternal exaltation, for without it there could be no eternal progress in the kingdom of God.
  • Section 3, ¶ 3-4, p. 197:
    • Nothing will prepare mankind for glory in the kingdom of God as readily as faithfulness to the marriage covenant. . . .
    • If properly received this covenant becomes the means of the greatest happiness. The greatest honor in this life, and in the life to come, honor, dominion and power in perfect love, are the bless­ings which come out of it. These blessings of eternal glory are held in reserve for those who are willing to abide in this and all other covenants of the Gospel

After we read these paragraphs, I intend to restate the question as follows: “How does eternal marriage give us a fulness of blessings of the Gospel, serve as the foundation for eternal exaltation and eternal progress, and prepare mankind for glory in the kingdom of God?” After more discussion, I intend to state that one way that I think of it is that marriage is a school of love. To emphasize the point, I will bring in a few quotes from the Eugene England essay referenced above, such as: “Martin Luther, with prophetic perception, wrote, ‘Marriage is the school of love’—that is, marriage is not the home or the result of love so much as the school.” And the Michael Novak statements that:

  • Marriage is an assault upon the lonely, atomic ego. Marriage is a threat to the solitary individual. Marriage does impose grueling, humbling, baffling, and frustrating responsibilities. Yet if one supposes that precisely such things are the preconditions for all true liberation, marriage is not the enemy of moral development in adults. Quite the opposite.
  • Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, for whose learning I cannot help being grateful. Most are lessons of difficulty and duress. Most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant. . . . My dignity as a human being depends perhaps more on what sort of husband and parent I am, than on any professional work I am called on to do. My bonds to my family hold me back (and my wife even more) from many sorts of opportunities. And yet these do not feel like bonds. They are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being, in a way in which I want and need to be forced.
Joseph Fielding Smith with his wife, Jessie Evans Smith. Image from the manual.

Joseph Fielding Smith with his wife, Jessie Evans Smith.
Image from the manual.

The point I will be driving at in this section is that marriage is important not only as a place where love should constant exist but also as a place where we are forced to learn and practice Godlike attributes—particularly loving and forgiving as He does—preparing us for eternal glory in the Celestial Kingdom. After a bit of review of the Novak statements in that light, it will be time to move to the next section of the lesson.

To accentuate the LDS-Christian views of marriage and prepare discussion on what pitfalls to avoid in marriage, the next section of the lesson will focus on contrasting the worldly view of marriage to Celestial marriage. While searching for some pitfalls and problems to avoid, we will read the following selections from the manual and Julie B. Beck’s address:

  • Section 2, ¶ 3-5, p. 195:
    • It is very apparent to all of us who read the newspapers, who lis­ten to the news accounts on the radio and who watch what comes over television that all too many do not hold marriage and the family unit in that respect which the Lord intends.
    • Marriage is a sacred covenant, yet in many instances it is made the butt of coarse jokes, a jest, a passing fancy, by the vulgar and the unclean, and, too, by many who think themselves refined but who do not regard the sacredness of this great principle.
    • The Lord has given us his everlasting gospel to be a light and a standard to us, and this gospel includes his holy order of mat­rimony, which is eternal in nature. We should not and must not follow the marriage practices of the world. We have greater light than the world has, and the Lord expects more of us than he does of them.
  • Julie B. Beck:
    • Evidence is all around us that the family is becoming less important. Marriage rates are declining, the age of marriage is rising, and divorce rates are rising. Out-of-wedlock births are growing. Abortion is rising and becoming increasingly legal. We see lower birth rates. We see unequal relationships between men and women, and we see cultures that still practice abuse within family relationships. Many times a career gains importance over the family.
    • We also face the problem that we read about in Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Public policies are being made every day that are antifamily, and the definition of family is changing legally around the world. Pornography is rampant. For those who create pornography, their new target audience is young women. Parents are being portrayed as inept and out of touch. Antifamily media messages are everywhere…. Any doctrine or principle our youth hear from the world that is antifamily is also anti-Christ.

To emphasize the point, I will have the class turn to their neighbors and find the problems listed in the statements above and discuss the questions, “What is significant about the contrast between the Gospel’s view on marriage and the world’s views on marriage?” “How do you feel about your eternal family?” “How can you work to avoid the pitfalls of the world in your marriage?” Then, we will bring everything back together and have people highlight what was said in their discussions.

For the final section of the lesson, I intend to emphasize the need to live up to the marriage covenants. To do so, we will turn to the manual and read the following paragraphs:

  • Section 3, ¶ 2, p. 197:
    • I want to plead with those who have been to the temple and have been so married to be faithful and true to their covenants and their obligations, for in the House of the Lord they have made solemn covenants.
  • Section 2, ¶ 6, p. 195:
    • We know what the true order of marriage is. We know the place of the family unit in the plan of salvation. We know that we should be married in the temple, and that we must keep ourselves clean and pure so as to gain the approving seal of the Holy Spirit of Promise upon our marriage unions.

After a brief discussion about the lifelong process of gaining the “approving seal of the Holy Spirit of Promise upon our marriage unions,” if there is time, I intend to show a 10 minute clip from the President Monson talk referenced above where he talks about avoiding divorce. Before turning it on, I intend to tell the class to reflect on the question, “How do my temple covenants affect my marriage today?” as they watch. After the clip, I will restate this question and facilitate discussion. After a bit, I hope to bring out some of what President Smith thought about the question by reading some of the following from the manual:

  • Section 6, ¶ 1-3, p. 199-200:
    • Marriage was ordained of God. It is a righteous principle when in holiness it is received and practiced. If men and women today would enter into this covenant in the spirit of humility, love and faith, as they are commanded to do, walking righteously in the ways of eternal life, there would be no divorce, no broken homes; but a happiness, a joy, beyond expression.
    • I want to impress upon all my good brethren and sisters who have been married in the temple that they should never forget the great blessings which were bestowed upon them: That the Lord has given unto them, through their faithfulness, the right to become his sons and his daughters, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, possessing, as stated here, all that the Father has [referring to Romans 8:13–19 and Doctrine and Covenants 76:54–60].
    • And yet, there are members of the Church who fail to compre­hend this and after they are married for time and all eternity, . . . receiving the promise of the fulness of the Father’s kingdom, they permit things to come into their lives that bring friction and separate them. And they forget that they have made a covenant for time and all eternity with each other; and not only that, but they have made a covenant with their Father in heaven.
  • Final Paragraph, p. 200-201:
    • If a man and his wife were earnestly and faithfully observing all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, there could not arise any cause for divorce. The joy and happiness pertaining to the marriage relationship would grow sweeter, and husband and wife would become more and more attached to each other as the days go by. Not only would the husband love the wife and the wife the husband, but children born to them would live in an atmosphere of love and harmony. The love of each for the others would not be im­paired, and moreover the love of all towards our Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ would be more firmly rooted in their souls.

We’ll probably be long out of time by this point, so I will testify, encourage them to reflect on the “so what” of the lesson—what application they will make from the lesson—which will hopefully reflect the central thesis for the lesson of building a greater respect and desire to live as God would have us live in the marriage covenant, then close the meeting.

[1] Virginia H. Pierce, “The Ordinary Classroom—a Powerful Place for Steady and Continued Growth,” Conference Report, October 1996, 12-15

[2] Ogden Cornerstone Laying Report, Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 September 1970, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, UT.

Temple Worship by John A. Widtsoe

Elder John A. Widtsoe was born on 31 January 1872 in Frøya, Norway. His family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then moved to Utah in 1883. His professional career was in agriculture and education, and he taught agriculture and biology at what are now Utah State University and at Brigham Young University. Prior to his call as an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921, Widtsoe also served as president of present-day Utah State University and then at University of Utah. Elder Widtsoe died in Salt Lake City on 29 November 1952 at age 80. He is noted for his many writings on Latter-day Saint theology and for compilations of Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith’s teachings.

John A. Widtsoe

John A. Widtsoe


By Dr. John A. Widtsoe.

April, 1921

A Lecture, delivered under the auspices of the Genealogical Society of Utah, at the Assembly Hall, Temple Block; Salt Lake City, Tuesday evening, October 12, 1920.


My brethren and sisters, when those in charge of this work were planning the program, I urged upon them that they do not call this meeting for the Assembly Hall. I felt sure the congregation would be so small that we would all be unhappy. I am happily disappointed; and I am quite sure that neither the drawing power of Joseph Fielding Smith nor myself is the cause of this large attendance, but the conviction in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints that all that pertains to temples and to temple work, to the salvation for the dead, is of tremendous worth. I regret, of course, that Elder Joseph Fielding Smith is not here tonight. I am sorry for those of you who came to hear him speak, for you will have to come again, because he speaks tomorrow. He is filling an important engagement, and we simply ‘ exchanged evenings. I regret, however, for my own sake, that he is not here, because what I have to say needs as a background the splendid talk that he has for us. He will deal with the spirit and the mission of Elijah. I was asked to speak about temple worship. He was to take up the great generalization, the great body of principles upon which this work rests ; and I was to take one small part of the application of the work, for my theme. I feel just a little embarrassed to speak on temple worship without the background of Elder Smith’s discourse. I am embarrassed also because I realize how utterly impossible it is to deal with so vast and comprehensive a subject in the few moments that I can take tonight, especially in the presence of so many of you who have spent your lives in temple service and who understand [p.50] the subject so well. But, like you, I am willing to obey orders and to do the best I can; and with the assistance of your faith and your prayers, I shall try to discuss with you some of the high points pertaining to temple worship which all should understand, whether we have received the blessings of the temple or whether we are candidates for temple blessings. It is to be an elementary, non-technical discussion.


"Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing"

“Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing”

If an apology were needed for speaking on temple worship, I would simply call your attention to Section 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the first recorded revelation of the Lord in these latter days, through the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith.

“Behold I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;

”And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers;

“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at its coming.”

Some day, no doubt, this Society will call us together and devote one evening or more to a discussion of this magnificent revelation—its meaning, historical and doctrinal. Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing throughout this week; and almost the last words spoken by God to the prophet before the Prophet’s death, as far as we can tell, dealt with the same subject.


There is at present an unusual increased interest in temple activity. Our temples are crowded. The last time that I attended the Salt Lake Temple I was a member of the third company. One started early in the morning, one late in the forenoon, and my company started about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It was about 6 p. m. before we had completed the day’s work.

The number of temples is also increasing. The Hawaiian temple has only recently been dedicated; the Canadian temple is being rushed to completion, the Arizona temple is being planned, and numerous communities in the Church are anxiously waiting and praying for the time that they may have temples.

There is a renewed spirit in behalf of temple work, not because people are wealthier than they were before, nor because [p.51] temples are more accessible, but because the time has come for more temple work to be done. The spirit is abroad among the people, and those who are honest in heart and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are willing to give their time and means more liberally in behalf of temple work.


In view of this great temple activity, we may well prepare ourselves for opposition. There never yet has been a time in the history of the world when temple work has increased without a corresponding increase in the opposition to it. Some three or four years after the pioneers came to this valley. President Brigham Young said that it was time to begin the building of a, temple; and some of the old timers here will probably remember that thousands of the Saints dreaded the command, because they said, “Just as soon as we lay the cornerstone of a temple, all hell will be turned loose upon us and we will be driven out of the valleys.” President Young thought that was true, but that they also would have, if temple work were undertaken, a corresponding increase in power to overcome all evil. Men grow mighty under the results of temple service; women grow strong under it; the community increases in power; until the devil has less influence than he ever had before. The opposition to truth is relatively smaller if the people are engaged actively in the ordinances of the temple.


Accra, Ghana temple

Accra, Ghana temple

We need more workers to accomplish the wonderful work that was outlined last night at the reception given by the First Presidency. Even three companies a day in each temple will not be enough; we shall have to organize four, or five, and for all I know, the day may come, unless we build more temples, when we shall keep the temples open twenty-four hours a day. We need more converts to temple work, drawn from all ages, from the young, from the middle-aged, and from the rich and poor, from among the busy and those of leisure. The time has come, I verily believe, in this new temple movement, to bring into active service all the people, of all ages. From the children doing baptisms, to the aged grandparents doing endowments for the dead, all the members of the family, if we do our duty well, must be brought into the work. Temple work is quite of as much benefit to the young and the active, as it is to the aged, who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life. The young man needs his place in the temple even more than his fathet and his grandfather, who are steadied by a life of ex[p.52]perience; and the young girl just entering life, needs the spirit, influence and direction that come from participation in the temple ordinances. If I say nothing else tonight that will linger, I hope you will remember that temple work is for the young and for the middle aged and for the aged—for all—and not for one specialized, separated class within the Church organization.


What is a temple? According to the ordinary definition, it is any place set apart for sacred purposes and dedicated to a sacred purpose—a house of God.

All people of all ages have had temples in one form or another. When the history of human thought shall be written from the point of view of temple worship, it may well be found that temples and the work done in them have been the dominating influence in shaping human thought from the beginning of the race. Even today political controversies are as nothing in determining the temper of a people, as compared with religious sentiments and convictions, especially as practiced in the temples of the people.

In every land and in every age temples have been built and used. In China, age old with four thousand years of written history; in India; on the islands of the sea; in South America; in North America; in Africa and in Australia ; everywhere there are evidences of the existence and use of temples.


Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

There is a fairly complete history of some of the temples of the priesthood, the temples built by the chosen people of God. There are evidences that even in patriarchal days, in the days of Adam, there was the equivalent of temples, for the priesthood was held in its fulness, as far as the people needed it ; and there is every reason to believe that from Adam to Noah, temple worship was in operation. After the flood the Holy Priesthood was continued; and we have reason to believe, in sacred places, the ordinances of the temple were given to those entitled to receive them.

When Israel was in Egypt, the Priesthood was with them, and we may believe from certain sayings of the Scriptures that Israel had in Egypt a temple or its equivalent, the mysterious “testimony.” When Israel was in the wilderness temple worship was provided for, for the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph (D. & C, 124:38):

“For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the [p.53] wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.”

In the tabernacle (or temple) of the wilderness, the ordinances of God’s house were given to a certain extent, at least, as we give them today.

I need not review with you the history of the temples of Israel, the temple of the wilderness or “tabernacle of the congregation,” later placed at Shiloh; the temple of Solomon; the temple of Zerubbabel after the captivity; the restoration of this temple by Herod, and so on. We need simply remember that the story of ancient Israel, the chosen people of God, centers upon their temples.

The Book of Mormon indicates that from about 600 years B. C. until about 35 or 40 years A. D., temples, under the authority of the holy priesthood, were found on this continent. Nephi says distinctly that he proceeded to gather up all the precious things of the people and to build a temple according to the pattern of the temple of Solomon.


When Joseph Smith was commissioned to restore the Gospel and to re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ, the building of temples and temple worship became almost the first and the last issue of his life. The temple site in Independence, dedicated shortly after the organization of the Church; the building and completion of the Kirtland temple and the wonderful things that happened there; the building of the Nauvoo temple and the giving of endowments in the temple after the death of the Prophet; the dedication of other temple sites and many revelations concerning temples, indicate, altogether, that the main concern of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days was the founding, building, and completion of temples in which the ordinances “hid from before the foundation of the world” might be given. In fact, the Lord declared repeatedly to the Prophet that unless temples were built and used, the plan of salvation could neither be in full operation nor fully accomplished.

Let me suggest that the reason why temple building and temple worship have been found in every age, on every hand, and among every people, is because the Gospel in its fullness was revealed to Adam, and that all religions and religious practices are therefore derived from the remnants of the truth given to Adam and transmitted by him to the patriarchs. The ordinances of the temple in so far as then necessary, were given, no doubt, in those early days, and very naturally corruptions of [p.54] them have been handed down the ages. Those who understand the eternal nature of the gospel—planned before the foundations of the earth—understand clearly why all history seems to revolve about the building and use of temples.


Spirit World Mural

To understand the meaning of temple worship, it is necessary to understand the plan of  salvation and its relation to temple worship. The human race were “in the beginning with God,” and were created spiritual beings in a day before the arrival upon this earth. Mankind is here because of its acceptance of the Plan of Salvation, and satisfactory pre-existent lives. We have won the right to be here; we have not been forced to come here; we have won our place upon the earth. We shall pass into another sphere of existence, and shall continue upward and onward forever and forever, if we obey the high laws of eternal existence.

The plan of salvation for eternal beings involves the principle that God’s work with respect to this earth will not be complete until every soul has been taught the Gospel and has been offered the privilege of accepting salvation and the accompanying great blessings which the Lord has in store for his children. Until that is done the work is unfinished.

Men frequently ask when the last day shall come and when the earth shall go through its great change. Men attempt uselessly to figure out the dates of these coming events from the sayings of Daniel and the other prophets. We know that the Lord will come when we are ready to receive him; that is when we have done the work he requires of us; not before, not later; but when the labor of the day has been accomplished, the present day will end and a new stage of action will be set. When the work assigned to the earth children has been done in accordance with the Plan of Salvation, the Lord will remember his promises, and the end of the earth, which is the beginning of a new day of advancement, will occur.

We who travel the earth journey are working out an eternal problem. An endless journey is ours; the earth life is a fraction of it; the purpose is unending.


It has been ordained that to follow the path God has laid out for us, we must have faith, we must repent, and we must show our obedience by going into the waters of baptism, and then as our great reward we shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some people, having obeyed these first principles, be-[p.55]lieve their work done. They have found entrance into the Church, they are members of God’s chosen people—what more need they? In fact, however, the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, is a promise of increasing intelligence, it is a beginning of things to be. It is a promise of larger, fuller knowledge, of something new, more wonderful, and vaster, in its intent and purpose than  anything that we have known before. It is a promise of growth into a larger life and a larger condition of life. In my opinion, the gift of the Holy Ghost which implies a promise of added intelligence is realized in part at least in the worship and ordinances of the temples of the Lord. The request of the soul, which leads a man into obedience to the first principles, is answered by one method through the institution of the eternal ordinances which all the faithful may enjoy.


Through obedience to the first principles of the Gospel, and a subsequent blameless life, a person may win salvation for himself. But in God’s kingdom are many gradations, which lead to exaltation upon exaltation. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and labor for the fulfillment of the promise involved in the gift of the Holy Ghost will advance farther than those who placidly sit by with no driving desire within them. Temple worship is an avenue to exaltation in God’s kingdom. god’s definition of a temple. God’s definition of a temple is given over and over again in this good book, the Doctrine and Covenants. A temple is a place in which those whom he has chosen are endowed with power from on high. And what is power? Knowledge made alive and useful—that is intelligence; and intelligence in action —that is power. Our temples give us power—a power based on enlarged knowledge and intelligence—a power from on high, of a quality with God’s own power.


The Ogden, Utah Temple

The Ogden, Utah Temple

This is accomplished through the various purposes of temples. A temple is a place where God will come; a place where the pure in heart shall see God; a place where baptisms for the dead are performed; a place where sealings for time and for eternity are done; a place where the endowment of the priesthood is given; a place where the keys of the priesthood are com-[p.56]mitted in abundance; and a place where many other wonderful things may occur and should occur and in fact do occur.

Communion of God and man. It is a great promise that to the temples God will come, and that in them man shall see God. What does this promised communion mean ? Does it mean that once in a while God may come into the temples, and that once in a while the pure in heart may see God there ; or does it mean the larger thing, that the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God? I think that is what it means to me and to you and to most of us. We have gone into these holy houses, with our minds freed from the ordinary earthly cares, and have literally felt the presence of God. In this way, the temples are always places where God manifests himself to man and increases his intelligence. A temple is a place of revelation.

"the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God"

“The pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God”

Baptisms for the dead. Baptism for the dead will be discussed in all probability tomorrow night by Elder Smith. The ordinance of baptism for the dead fits into the scheme of salvation It is an acknowledgment of itself that the whole plan is eternal, and that the past, the present and the future are parts of one continuous whole. Were the life of man discontinuous there would be no need of labors for the dead.

The Nauvoo Temple baptismal font.

The Nauvoo Temple baptismal font.

Sealings. Sealings, for time and for eternity, have the purpose of tying together father and son, mother and daughter, the living and the dead, from age to age. In addition it emphasizes the authority of the priesthood. No merely earthly power could accomplish a union of a condition of this earth with a condition beyond this earth ; a person of this life with a person of the life hereafter, or of the life before. When man contemplates the full meaning of the sealing ordinance—if I may call it an ordinance—he is overwhelmed with the boundless power that it implies and the weight of authority that it represents. The mere words of sealing may be easily spoken at the altars of the holy temples, but they are so full of meaning that any man with even a particle of imagination who witnesses or participates in the sealing ordinance must be overcome with the feeling of responsibility and opportunity and enjoyment that it carries with it.

San Antonio Temple sealing room

San Antonio Temple sealing room

The endowment. In the wonderful Section 124, of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord has described the work to be done in the temples, including the holy endowment.

“For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, mv Saints, rnay be baptized for those who are dead;

“For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me. * * * [p.57]

“For therein are the keys of the Holy Priesthood, ordained that you may receive honor and glory. * * *

“And again, verily I say unto you, How shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?

“For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was;

“Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices, by the sons of Levi, and for your oracle in your most holy places, wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor and endowment of all her municipals, are so ordained by the ordinance of my holy house which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.”

At first reading the full meaning may not be clear, yet in these few verses lie the germs of practically everything that belongs to and is done in the house of the Lord.

Ordinance Room, Manti Temple

Ordinance Room, Manti Temple

Dr. James E. Talmage, under authority of the Church, has also discussed the meaning of endowment, in the book called “The House of the Lord.” I will read a part of it.

The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.

“As will be shown, the temples erected by the Latter-day Saints provide for the giving of these instructions in separate rooms, each devoted to a particular part of the course; and by this provision it is possible to have several classes under instruction at one time.

“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be chari-[p.58]table, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.

“No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God. The blessings of the House of the Lord are restricted to no privileged class; every member of the Church may have admission to the temple with the right to participate in the ordinances thereof, if he comes duly accredited as of worthy life and conduct.”

In no part of the temple service is the spirit of the purpose of temple worship so completely shown as in the endowment.

Salt Lake City Temple Celestial Room

Salt Lake City Temple Celestial Room


I desire to leave with you as the next thought that the work done in temples brings to those of pure and sincere hearts the evidence of its veracity. This is said in view of the question so often asked, Is there anything in the temple ordinances themselves that speaks for their truth.

The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation, as taught from time to time by the leaders of the Church, and elucidate matters difficult of understanding. There is no warping or twisting in fitting the temple teachings into the great scheme of salvation. The philosophical completeness of the endowment is one of the great arguments for the veracity of the temple ordinances. Moreover, this completeness of survey and expounding of the Gospel plan, makes temple worship one of the most effective methods of refreshing the memory concerning the whole structure of the Gospel.

"The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation."

“The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation.”

Another fact has always appealed to me as a strong internal evidence for the truth of temple work. The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also Dr. Talmage’s The House of the Lord) fall clearly into four distinct parts : the preparatory ordinances ; the giving of instructions by lectures and representations ; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. The candidate for the temple service is prepared, as in any earthly affair, for work to [p.59] be done. Once prepared, he is instructed in the things that he should know. When instructed, he covenants to use the imparted knowledge, and at once the new knowledge, which of itself is dead, leaps into living life. At last, tests are given him, whereby those who are entitled to know may determine whether the man has properly learned the lesson. The brethren and sisters who go through the temple should observe all these things and recognize the wonderful coherence and logical nature of the carefully worked out system, with a beginning and an end, fitting every known law of God and nature, which constitutes temple worship.

The wonderful pedagogy of the temple service, especially appealing to me as a professional teacher, carries with it evidence of the truth of temple work. We go to the temple to be informed and directed, to be built up and to be blessed. How is all this accomplished? First by the spoken word, through lectures and conversations, just as we do in the class room, except with more elaborate care, then by the appeal to the eye by representations by living, moving beings; and by pictorial representations in the wonderfully decorated rooms (as any one may see in Dr. Talmage’s book.) Meanwhile. the recipients themselves, the candidates for blessings, engage actively in the temple service as they move from room to room, with the progress of the course of instruction. Altogether our temple worship follows a most excellent pedagogical system. I wish instruction were given so well in every school room throughout the land, for we would then teach with more effect than we now do.

For these reasons, among many others, I have always felt that temple work is a direct evidence of the truth of the work reestablished by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It may be that the temple endowment and the other temple ordinances form the strongest available evidence of the divine inspiration of the Prophet Joseph Smith.


Logan, Utah Temple

Logan, Utah Temple

I said near the beginning of this address that with any increase in temple activity we must expect a new and a vigorous opposition to temple work, from evil forces, which however will be wholly subdued if the work is continued. This opposition will not wholly come from without; some will come from within the Church. Unfortunately, that is also a natural law. Young people and sometimes older people, will question this or that thing about the temple service. “Is this or that necessary?” “Is this or that thing reasonable?” “Why should I do this or that?” Even though such questions should be needless, it is best to answer them, especially if they are asked by those who are [p.60] untrained and inexperienced, and therefore unable to think clearly for themselves.


House of hte Lord

The objection is sometimes raised that a house is not needed for temple worship. ”Why should a house be required, when God is everywhere, the God who made the trees and the mountains and the valleys?” “Why should God require the poor Saints in Illinois and Ohio and Missouri, to build temples at tremendous expense?” Of course, the Lord does not need a house, and temple work may be done elsewhere than in a house. The Lord has specifically stated that under certain conditions the temple endowment may be given on the tops of the mountains, but as men multiply upon the face of the earth, it will be increasingly difficult to conduct temple worship, except in especially dedicated places away from the multitude and the chaos and the rattle and the disturbance of ordinary life.

The holy endowment is deeply symbolic. “Going through the temple” is not a very good phrase; for temple worship implies a great effort of mind and concentration if we are to understand the mighty symbols that pass in review before us. Everything must be arranged to attune our hearts, our minds, and our souls to the work. Everything about us must contribute to the peace of mind that enables us to study and to understand the mysteries, if you choose, that are unfolded before us. We would not give our family dinners out of doors, in the crowd; why should anyone ask us to do our most sacred work in the face of the crowd.


Some young persons do not like temple work “because the things done in it are secret, and we do not believe in secret things ; we want to stand in the sunshine.” In fact, there is nothing secret about the temple. I have found nothing secret in or about our temples ; I have found many things that are sacred. There is a vast difference between things secret and things sacred—the thing hidden away from the light, and the thing sacred, which plays in the light, and is protected from darkness and impurity and all unworthy conditions.

God has declared that He will not enter a defiled temple, whether that temple be the body of a man or a dedicated grove or a mountain top, or a house, like the temple on these grounds. The Holy Spirit will withdraw from a defiled place. People who have no faith in temple worship, who desire simply as tourists to inspect unsympathetically our holy house, in spite of [p.61] themselves defile it. We desire to present our temple ordinances to those who are believers. Moreover, visitors in temples would interefere with the procedure of the work. Of itself there is no reason why at proper times the temple may not be inspected.


Many young people object to temple work because, ‘*We must make covenants and promises, and we do not like to be tied; we want full freedom.” This objection arises from a misunderstanding of the meaning of covenants. Knowledge becomes serviceable only when it is used; the covenant made in the temple, or elsewhere, if of the right kind, is merely a promise to give life to knowledge, by making knowledge useful and helpful in man’s daily progress. Temple work, or any other work, would have no meaning unless accompanied with covenants. It would consist simply of bits of information for ornament; the covenant gives life to truth ; and makes possible the blessings that reward all those who use knowledge properly; or the penalties that overtake those who misuse knowledge. That knowledge of itself is valueless, and that its use or misuse brings about inevitable results are the a b c of every scientific laboratory. The electric current properly used lights this building; improperly used, it may go through the body of the man and leave death behind. Unused, the electric current is to the man as if it were not. Penalties and rewards hang upon the use of knowledge.


Salt Lake City Temple Terrestrial Room

Salt Lake City Temple Terrestrial Room

Others say that the temple ordinances are unbeautiful. Some young man ready for a mission, or some young lady just married, says, *’It is unbeautiful; I did not enjoy it.” Again, the misunderstanding. They have gone through the temple looking at the outward form and not the inner meaning of things. The form of the endowment is of earthly nature, but it symbolizes great spiritual truths. All that we do on this earth is earthly, but all is symbolic of great spiritual truths. To build this temple, earth had to be dug; wood had to be cut; stone was quarried and brought down the canyon. It was dusty and dirty work, and made us sweat—it was of this earth—yet it was the necessary preparation for the mighty spiritual ordinances that are carried on daily in this magnificent temple. The endowment itself is symbolic; it is a series of symbols of vast realities, too vast for full understanding. Those who go through the temple and come out feeling that the service is unbeautiful have been so occupied with the outward form as to fail to understand [p.62] the inner meaning. It is the meaning of things that counts in life.


Nauvoo Temple sunstone replica

Nauvoo Temple sunstone replica

This brings me to a few words concerning symbolism. We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. We make a few marks on a sheet of paper, and we say that they form a word, which stands for love, or hate, or charity, or God or eternity. The marks may not be very beautiful to the eye. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things which they represent. We do not quarrel with the symbol G-o-d because it is not very beautiful, yet represents the majesty of God. We are glad to have symbols, if only the meaning of the symbols is brought home to us. I speak to you tonight; you have not quarreled very much with my manner of delivery, or my choice of words; in following the meaning of the thoughts I have tried to bring home to you, you have forgotten words and manner. There are men who object to Santa Claus, because he does not exist! Such men need spectacles to see that Santa Claus is a symbol; a symbol of the love and joy of Christmas and the Christmas spirit. In the land of my birth there was no Santa Claus, but a little goat was shoved into the room, carrying with it a basket of Christmas toys and gifts. The goat of itself counted for nothing; but the Christmas spirit, which it symbolized, counted for a tremendous lot.

We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.


Many apostates have tried to reveal the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Some of their accounts form a fairly complete and correct story of the outward form of the temple service; but they are pitiful failures in making clear the eternal meaning of temple worship and the exaltation of spirit that is awakened by the understanding of that meaning. Such attempts are only words ; symbols without meaning. Is anything more lifeless than a symbol of an unknown meaning?

Such attempted improper revelations of temple worship have led in all ages to corruptions of temple ordinances. The fact that such corruptions of ordinances and ceremonies have always existed is a strong evidence of the continuity of temple worship, under the Priesthood, from the days of Adam. Sister Gates handed me this afternoon a quotation from a book that she had [p.63] picked up, in which it is related that Moses adopted a holy garment from Jethro, which he wore, and in turn communicated it to his brother Aaron, who adopted it, and who in turn communicated it to the priests of Israel; from whom in turn it was taken in some form by the priests of false gods. Such corruptions of temple worship are found everywhere; but they are poor, lifeless imitations, symbols from which the meaning has been wrested.


Gilbert, Arizona Temple

Gilbert, Arizona Temple

If we are correct in believing that the blessings obtained in the temples of the Lord are a partial fulfillment, at least, of the promise made when the Holy Ghost, which is a Revelator, is conferred upon man, it would be expected that temple ordinances would be in the nature of a revelation to those who participate. Certainly the temple is a place where revelations may be expected.

But, whether in the temple or elsewhere, how do men receive revelations? How did the Prophet Joseph Smith obtain his first revelation, his first vision? He desired something. In the woods, away from human confusion, he summoned all the strength of his nature; there he fought the demon of evil, and, at length, because of the strength of his desire and the great effort that he made, the Father and the Son descended out of the heavens and spoke eternal truth to him. So, revelation always comes; it is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working. Just so; to the man or woman who goes through the temple, with open eyes, heeding the symbols and the covenants, and making a steady, continuous effort to understand the full meaning, God speaks his word, and revelations come. The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it ; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service. The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest. I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will leave his problems behind and in the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and quite as large a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his [p.64] life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly, because it is a place where revelations may be expected. I bear you my personal testimony that this is so.

In temple worship, as in all else, we probably gain understanding according to our differing knowledge and capacity; but I believe that we can increase in knowledge and enlarge our capacity, and in that way receive greater gifts from God. I would therefore urge upon you that we teach those who go into the temples to do so with a strong desire to have God’s will revealed to them, for comfort, peace, and success in our daily lives, not for publication, or for conversation, but for our own good, for the satisfying of our hearts.


Colonel Willard Young said last night, in casual conversation, that we should give more attention to preparing our young people and some of the older people, for the work they are to do in the temple. He is undoubtedly right in his view. It is not quite fair to let the young girl or young man enter the temple unprepared, unwarned, if you choose, with no explanation of the glorious possibilities of the first fine day in the temple. Neither is it quite fair to pass opinion on temple worship after one day’s participation followed by an absence of many years. The work should be repeated several times in quick succession, so that the lessons of the temple may be fastened upon the mind.

San Diego Temple

San Diego Temple


The beginning and the end of the Gospel is written, from one point of view, in Section 2 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. If I read this section correctly, the work which in part has been committed by the Church to this Society is the keystone of the wonderful Gospel arch. If this center stone is weakened, and falls out, the whole arch falls into a heap of unorganized doctrinal blocks. It is a high privilege for young or old to be allowed to enter the House of the Lord, there to serve God and to win power.

I hope that temple worship will increase in our midst, that we shall have a finer understanding of its meaning, and that more temples may be built to supply the demands of the living and the dead, and to hasten the coming of the great day of the Lord.

May the Lord bless us in this work, I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Brigham City, Utah Temple

Brigham City, Utah Temple

Widtsoe, John A. “Temple Worship.” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 (April 1921), 49-64.

Temple photos mainly from ldschurchtemples.com.