This is a talk that I recently gave in a sacrament meeting on 20 March 2022.
The topic I will speak on today is about how through temple covenants we can be strengthened to face adversity and challenges.
To start, I’d like you to imagine that you are falling, falling from a great height, like out of an aeroplane. You are actually tumbling, this wasn’t something that you were prepared for, or that you wanted and it feels like you were pushed into this free fall. The air is rushing past your face so fast you can barely breath, you are somersaulting, and you are panicking. Then you see you have a parachute, you pull the cord, the canopy opens, you are pulled upright, you gain your perspective and even have a little time to enjoy the view from so high which you hadn’t really noticed before. Eventually you land safely.
There was a time in the history of the church when events moved very rapidly, I’m sure it seemed everything was in a freefall. June, summer, 1844 the Saints were settled in Nauvoo, however before the end of the month the prophet Joseph Smith Jnr and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered. I will be quoting from Saints, a history of the Church of Jesus Christ for this next section:
“In the autumn of 1844, the Quorum of the Twelve sent an epistle to all Saints everywhere. “The temple,” they announced, “necessarily claims our first and most strict attention.” They encouraged the Saints to send money, supplies, and laborers to speed the work along. An endowment of power awaited them. All they needed was a place to receive it. The Saints shared the apostles’ urgency.
However “state legislators … sought to weaken church members’ political power by repealing the Nauvoo city charter. [The] Governor [of Illinois] supported their efforts, and by the end of January 1845, the legislature stripped the Saints living in Nauvoo of their right to make and enforce laws and disbanded the Nauvoo Legion as well as the local police force. Brigham [Young] – president of the apostles – feared the Saints would be vulnerable to attacks from their enemies. Yet the temple was far from finished, and if the Saints fled the city, they could hardly expect to receive their endowment. They needed time to complete the work the Lord had given them. But staying in Nauvoo, if only for another year, could put everyone’s lives at risk. Brigham went to his knees and prayed to know what the Saints should do. The Lord responded with a simple answer: stay and finish the temple.”
Within 6 months, mob attacks began again with smaller settlements surrounding Nauvoo being set on fire. When the news reached Brigham, he called the Saints living outside Nauvoo to gather to the safety of the city. Hoping to curb mob aggression and gain more time to fulfill the Lord’s commandment to finish the temple, he promised Governor Ford that the Saints would leave the area by spring . With efforts redoubling after the October general conference, by December the temple’s attic was finished, and the apostles prepared it for the endowment.
On February 2, after thousands of Saints had received temple ordinances, the apostles announced that they would halt the work in the temple and instead prepare boats to ferry wagons across the icy Mississippi River.
When Brigham arose the next day, a crowd of Saints met him outside the temple, eager for their endowment. Brigham told them it was unwise to delay their departure. If they stayed to do more endowments, their way out of the city could be impeded or cut off. He promised they would build more temples and have more opportunities to receive their blessings out west.
Then Brigham walked away, expecting the Saints to disperse, but instead they climbed the steps to the temple and filled its halls. Turning around, Brigham followed them inside. He saw their anxious faces, and he changed his mind. They knew they needed the endowment of power to endure the hardships ahead, overcome the sting of death, and return to the presence of God.
For the rest of that day, temple workers administered the ordinances to hundreds of Saints. The next day, February 4, 1846, an additional five hundred Saints received their endowment as the first wagons rolled out of Nauvoo.
Sister Sarah Rich, one of the Relief Society sisters shared her experience and feelings of this time: (Daughters in my Kingdom, 2011, p30).
“Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing He would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out … in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced His gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”
From the dedicatory prayer for Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8) we read (verses 37-39):
37 ¶ If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;
38 What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) (Emphasis added).
Think on that – forgive, do, give – whatever happens in the land.
President Thomas S. Monson testified that the Savior’s promise of peace is realized in the temple. He taught: “As we attend the temple, there can come to us a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart. We will grasp the true meaning of the words of the Savior when He said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’” (“Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, May 2015).
In 1 Nephi 14 v14 we read:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.
And Elder Bednar, at last General Conference, October 2021, explained how this is our time, this is us – “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”
Now, I have a confession. For many years, I simply could not see it, I could not see how temple covenants were any greater or have more impact in my life than the covenant I made at baptism, to follow Jesus Christ, what could surpass that? I completely understood the necessity of temple work, the sealing of families, the vicarious work for those that had died, but I still couldn’t quite see how this was more than the icing on the cake. And although I completely accepted and trusted that temple worship would strengthen me through challenges, I could not really see or understand the how. To be honest, until the last couple of weeks that I have been preparing for this talk. So I hope that as I share my feelings now that you will listen with your hearts and I appeal to your sense of what is right and what is wrong so you will choose the right, especially if you are thinking that you can wait for temple ordinances and there is no urgency.
So here is what I have come to realise and it is actually very simple so I hope I can explain it without stumbling. I had simply not heard it explained in this manner though it is fairly obvious. We understand that there are 2 parts of the priesthood of God, as restored to earth, the lesser Aaronic Priesthood and the greater Melchizedek Priesthood. There are ordinances and covenants associated with each of these that we need. Aaronic Priesthood = baptism & sacrament; Melchizedek Priesthood = temple ordinances & covenants but also one ordinance outside of the temple, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
So what is the purpose of the Holy Ghost, in our lives? Yes, to guide, to comfort and to warn but also that ordinance is the baptism of fire, He is the sanctifier, He cleanses us, He purges us, if we allow Him, so we can become clean and through the grace of Christ, enter back into God’s presence. He will prepare us to enter into the Lord’s house, the temples of our God. And thereby progress to the other ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a progression. And all of this, this covenant progression, this covenant path, is actually the ‘new and everlasting covenant’ (see D&C 132 vv4-5). Joseph Fielding Smith concerning what is the new and everlasting covenant explained it “is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations.” And so, I came to understand that the covenants of the temple are so much more than simply ‘icing on the cake’ – they are actually the bread of life, the living water that we need to sustain us through mortality and beyond.
We live today in the last days when both priesthoods are on the earth. We need both. We are meant to have both in our lives, personally. We are meant to have these covenants and ordinances in our lives, we are meant to progress.
So, how does the power of God strengthen us through adversity? Well, I feel that is going to be very personal, according to our needs. However, here are some thoughts, again from my own experience:
In D&C 84 vv19-21 we read:
19 And this greater priesthood (i.e. Melchizedek Priesthood) administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh
Every ordinance provides the opportunity to remember Him and acknowledge His saving role in our lives. Baptism and the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost remind us that all people must be “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). The endowment ordinance teaches of the Savior’s role in the creation of the earth, of our absolute reliance upon Him to return to our heavenly home. The sealing ordinances offers the assurance that family relationships may endure forever. In the temple, we are constantly reminded that there is “one mediator between God and men”—the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus Christ is our perfect example. He showed us how to develop our relationship with God, how to forgive, how to persevere in the face of great difficulty, how to serve others, and how to find joy. For me, it is through the ordinances that the character and nature of God is revealed.
The temples of God are like a piece of heaven on earth. They can be that parachute when we are in freefall where we regain our perspective and can start to appreciate the view, the life that God has given us, though we are still falling, we are still living life. I like to feel that as we live worthy to enter into the temples of God, that we are entitled to a little piece of heaven around us. That we are actually being strengthened through adversity like Elisha’s young servant our eyes simply need to be opened (2 Kings chapter 6):
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
In closing, the temples of our God are where our lives need to be. I know this because we have been warned and forewarned by our living prophets for some time. We have been told by our living prophet, President Russell M Nelson in no uncertain terms globally within the last 6 months and for us in Europe we heard him and Elder Bednar speak concerning temples in January. At that time he said (and this is from my own notes): that each time a temple is dedicated, Satan’s power diminishes and that in the temple we are endowed with God’s power. From October 2021, the prophet said:
“whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants!”
And he gives us this counsel concerning temple attendance:
“Should distance, health challenges, or other constraints prohibit your temple attendance for a season, I invite you to set a regular time to rehearse in your mind the covenants you have made.
“If you don’t yet love to attend the temple, go more often—not less. Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation.”
If you are not sure where to start with going to the temple and making temple covenants, speak with your ministers or speak with a member of the Relief Society or Elders’ Quorum presidencies. You can do this, this is what we are designed to do and we can do it.
President Nelson said: “Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power. Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.”
I know this is true. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord’s true and living organisation here on earth and I am very grateful to be part of it. I know the holy priesthood of God is on earth again. I know that we have apostles and prophets on earth, led by Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ lives, I love Him and we can prepare for his return to earth. And we can all land safely from our freefall of mortality. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.