“I Had Loved Her Before …”
Although I was baptized in 1949, my wife did not feel ready until four patient years later. When the Swiss Temple was dedicated in 1955, we had a family of seven, and the trip seemed more than our family budget could take. Maud and I knelt and asked the Lord to open the way for us, and about a month later, my employer called me in to say how pleased he was with my work and to give me a substantial salary increase. That summer we went to the house of the Lord for the first time.
I shall never forget the joy and happiness and determination to live the gospel that filled my soul after that first visit to the temple. I gained knowledge and insights relating to my eternal destination that I had never dreamed of before. The highlight was when our family was sealed together for time and all eternity.
I looked into my wife’s eyes across the altar and saw tears of happiness rolling down her cheeks. I had loved her before, but never so much as from that moment. She, a daughter of God, was the mother of my children! It seemed as if I had never understood that until then. Afterward our prayers were more meaningful, we loved the Lord more than ever, and we loved to serve him.
We continue to return to the temple because we love the work and the spirit there. Every time we return we are reminded of the covenants we have made, and this is the strongest motivation for us to continue to live the gospel way of life.
The Glorious Moments
My decision to enter the house of the Lord came as a surprise to me since I had no desire to enter this holy sanctuary until I married. However, something very important happened: my mother passed away before she could go through the temple to receive her own endowments and be sealed to my father.
While I studied alone in my room one evening, a small voice kept repeating: “The temple work for your mother must be done right away.” First, I tried to ignore the words, but they kept coming to me louder and louder.
Finally, I dropped my studies and began pondering seriously the message of this small voice. I felt worthy to enter the temple, but I feared I might not be able to remain true and faithful to the covenants afterwards. This fear sent me to ask the Lord for direction.
On my knees, I wept, not because of sorrow, but from the penetrating sweetness of the Spirit that came to me as I prayed. Fear vanished; faith and courage took its place. As soon as I got up from my knees, I was prompted to call my bishop.
Since Church policy recommended that single young ladies wait to enter the temple until their missions or marriage, I had to wait several weeks for permission. I spent this time preparing myself mentally and spiritually. I also filled out the necessary family group sheets for my mother’s work.
Then, after final instructions from my bishop and stake president, I entered the temple. What a glorious blessing to be inside that house! My eyes, ears, and heart opened wide to absorb its teachings. I felt the reality of each covenant I made within every fiber and bone of my body. I felt I was standing right in front of the Lord each time I made covenants with him. The influence of the Lord was so great that I had no desire to leave the temple after the session was over. It became real to me then that I was surely in the world but not of it.
Four weeks later, I went through on behalf of my mother. This was another glorious experience. I felt my mother’s presence as I went through the endowment session, and when the marriage sealing was performed for my parents, I literally felt their presence at the altar. The influence of the Holy Spirit in the room was so strong that I broke down in tears while being sealed to my parents. I truly experienced a reunion with them. Ever since that day I have felt their presence so close that it doesn’t seem real that they are gone.
Three years later, after attending the temple twice weekly, I became an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple. This has expanded my understanding of the sacred ordinances and covenants of the temples. These three years of service were, I feel, a special education, for in the early part of 1973, I was asked to translate the temple ordinances and ceremony into Samoan for the temple film.
This was the most terrifying assignment of my life. I might be personally responsible for any misunderstanding or misinformation the Samoan members received. But the Lord answered all my questions about proper Samoan terms, including two Samoan terms that had been misused in the first translation.
The temple is indeed a house of prayer and a house of higher teachings on the things of the Spirit. Whenever I have a question in my mind, I go to the temple to seek for the right answers. When I go inside the temple, I feel I am there to visit with my Heavenly Father; therefore, I must concentrate on what I am saying to him in my mind and heart, and I must listen carefully to what he is saying to me personally. I love and appreciate the temples for the blessings they have brought to me. There is no other place I would rather be on earth.
Blessing at the Swiss Temple
One of the most inspirational temple experiences I have ever heard comes from my missionary journal entry of February 12, 1955. At a district conference in Winterthur, Switzerland, William F. Pershon, then president of the Swiss-Austrian Mission, read part of a letter from Brother Jakob Ritter, then president of the Pratten Branch near Basel, Switzerland. In the letter, Brother Ritter detailed a spiritual manifestation that he received on the night of November 14, 1954, when President Stephen L Richards talked to the members and missionaries in Basel after the Swiss Temple cornerstone was laid.
President Richards, first counselor to President McKay, was 75 years old at the time and had come to Switzerland after conducting an exhausting series of Church business meetings in England.
He became very ill before the Basel meeting, so weak that he could hardly stand, and told President Pershon that he would be unable to attend the conference.
President Pershon opened the conference, asking that everyone offer a silent prayer that the Lord would give President Richards the strength necessary to deliver his message.
Brother Ritter, like many others, offered a prayer in his heart for President Richards. Brother Ritter is not a man given to fantasies, but is a man of great faith and is very strong in the gospel. As he sat in the audience, he saw tongues of fire above the heads of those seated upon the stand. It was made known to him that those tongues of fire would begin to rise, and at the moment they reached the ceiling, President Richards would arrive.
It happened just that way. As the tongues of fire reached the ceiling, President Richards walked into the room; and as he stood at the pulpit to speak, the Holy Ghost so filled Brother Ritter’s body that he trembled all over and tears gushed from his eyes.
I personally recall the talk that President Richards gave that night, and it was as if a direct revelation had come from the Lord to those people who needed to prepare themselves for the dedication of the first temple in Europe.
He spoke with great enthusiasm, insight, and inspiration. When he had finished giving his instructions to the Saints and missionaries, he was physically drained and had to be taken immediately to the mission home. It was a testimony to us to see how the Lord would answer prayer by giving his servant the strength to come to that meeting and deliver his message.
Testimony from a Nonexperience
Sometimes I think the things that don’t happen in the temple can be just as helpful to the growth of a testimony as the things that do happen.
In 1965, missionaries in the French East Mission were privileged to go through the Swiss Temple. Having worked hard since my arrival a year earlier, I guess I went feeling it was about time for the Lord to grant me some tremendous spiritual manifestation. (For a long time I had been waiting for such a “clincher,” thinking it would be the capstone of my testimony.) I was sincere in preparing myself in every way I knew how, and I had thoroughly worked myself into what I considered an appropriate spiritual attitude.
No manifestation occurred. Nothing—except the usual quiet, peaceful, information-packed temple ceremonies.
Afterward, in response to the questions in my prayers, I realized why the Lord kept the veil drawn that day for me. I’ve had to learn, and I’m still learning, how the Lord’s communication differs from my own subjective mental and emotional states. Had any manifestation been given that day in the temple, I probably would have ended up questioning it, because I had been expecting it so much.
By saying “no” to my sign-seeking, and later by manifesting his power through priesthood authority on many other occasions when it was necessary for purposes other than my own desires, and by sending the Holy Spirit’s prompting, often unsolicited and unexpected, the Lord has proven to me that he is an entity outside my mind; that this is his work and he directs it as he wishes; and that he loves us enough and is merciful enough not to let us misuse his house.
Saga of Sacrifice
What sacrifices would you be willing to make to go to the temple? Would you sell your car? Jeopardize your home? Give up your job?
These thoughts nagged at the mind of young District President Donald W. Cummings of Perth, Australia. The mission president had challenged the Australian Saints to attend the New Zealand Temple dedication, just four months—but 4,000 miles—away. Perth was the farthest district from Church headquarters—so far that if you went any farther you would be heading back to Zion.
The mission president’s challenge kept ringing in his ears. “If you have a righteous goal and pray about it, the Lord will help you achieve it.” President Cummings reviewed his finances. He was struggling to purchase a home for his burgeoning family; he earned only a modest salary; he had no money in the bank; he drove an old car. The price of going to New Zealand was 600 pounds ($1,200 U.S. dollars). He set his jaw and picked up the newspaper to look in the classified section for loans.
Several years earlier, every Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the district, including Donald Cummings, had driven 3,000 miles round trip, much of it on primitive dirt roads, in two battered cars, to see President David O. McKay during his historic visit to Adelaide, South Australia. Now President Cummings was 26 years old, a convert of 10 years and district president for eight months over an area that encompassed the entire state of Western Australia, nearly one million square miles.
He began preparations for their temple trip. He borrowed money on his furniture, the last loan of that type granted by the company. He sold the car and started walking, riding buses, even hitchhiking. And, during the next 18 months, he never missed his visits to any branch. He recalls, “Yes, it was hard getting around, but my wife and I remember this as one of the happiest periods of our lives. We had discovered the joys of sacrifice for the Lord. We appreciated walking all the more.”
Even after selling the car and mortgaging both house and furniture, he was still $200 short—with no other funds in sight and only a few weeks to go. President Cummings had to give his company notice, for they would not hold his job open for six weeks.
With less than a week to go, a relative who was not a member of the Church met him on the street and surprised him with a gift of $100. With one day left before departure, another nonmember relative drove in from the country and pressed the final $100 into his hands. President and Sister Cummings both knew that “the Lord had intervened. He had touched the hearts of those closest to us.”
The 8,000 mile round trip started with a 2,000 mile, four and a half day train ride across the width of the Australian outback. In Sydney, the family delightedly met with the other Saints who had also arranged passage on a boat bound for Auckland.
To their wrenching disappointment, the boat had just been damaged in hitting the wharf, but remarkably, they were able to charter an airplane without any excess cost. They all flew to the dedication and witnessed this sacred event as President David O. McKay presided and prayed. President Cummings spoke in the spacious auditorium of the new Church College adjacent to the temple. The family was blessed to attend the first day of endowments; they were also members of the first company to do work for the dead.
The Cummings family planned to lodge in tents, for their funds were so meager. But at the last minute, arrangements were made for hotel accommodations. They could pay later—but they were never billed, nor could they discover whom to pay. Too poor to tour, they rejoiced in working in the temple for several weeks. Then, filled with the spirit of their new blessings, they traveled home with $10 in their pockets, no job, no car, and mortgages on their home and furniture. But they were rich in rewards that only a temple can provide: they were sealed together for time and eternity.
President Cummings went back to his old employer and, to his astonishment, was hired as a sales manager with an increase in pay. But he would not get paid until the end of the week, and their money had run out completely. There was nothing to eat. One of his wife’s country relatives paid a surprise visit and dropped off enough fresh garden produce to sustain them until payday.
When Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve organized the Perth Stake in 1968, Donald W. Cummings became its first president. He had seen the kingdom of God swell from a handful to a stake, but he never forgot the promise of his mission president: “If you have a righteous goal and pray about it, the Lord will help you achieve it.”
Many Perth Stake members have since heard this same challenge. As a result, more living endowments per capita are performed in the New Zealand Temple by the Perth Stake than by any other Australian stake. One year the Perth Saints performed more endowments than all of the other six stakes in Australia combined. At present, every member of the Perth Stake high council, bishoprics, quorum presidents, and every other stake officer has been through the temple.
A fitting tribute to determined Saints blessed by the Lord for their perseverance.