Psychologically, part of a vacation’s power to rest and refresh us consists of changing places. Less obvious, perhaps, is that the same power to rest and refresh also accompanies a change in time. The temple can change our time to eternity for a few hours.
Consider the power of that shift: we, mortal creatures whose bodies tick toward death and dissolution day by day, move into a sacred place and participate in the ordinances of sacred time—the great endowment that links us back to the beginning of the human family when Adam and Eve made their first covenants, back even farther into our own premortal existence. The sense of moving backward into timelessness is also accompanied by a movement forward, into our future when we will no longer be subject to time with its inevitable companion, death.
And the immense paradox of timelessness is not that it makes time less important. Instead, it focuses all of our two eternities on this moment, giving the short day of this life a significance that is clouded and cluttered without the contrast between time and timelessness.
To develop that sense of timelessness requires the development of a special sense—to see past modernity into eternity. Think of the spiritual effort it requires to sit on machine-produced chairs, wearing drip-dry clothes made out of synthetic fibers that did not even exist a century ago, sometimes watching a technicolor film in climate-controlled comfort—and to see the surroundings and products of our century as the least important part of what is going on.
It is an exercise in separating material reality from spiritual reality; and to the extent that we succeed, we experience the refreshing timelessness that can be found, embedded in each busy hour of time.
Heber C. Kimball, then a member of the First Presidency, counseled the Saints in 1863: “Think of your holy endowments and what you have been anointed to become, and reflect upon the blessings which have been placed upon you, for they are the same in part that are placed upon Jesus; he was the one that inducted his Apostles into these ordinances; it was he who set up the kingdom of which we are subjects.” (Journal of Discourses, 10:241.)
Being a subject in a kingdom is an idea associated with allegiance, loyalty, and time-transcending ritual—three elements that seem particularly appropriate to British Saints who attend the temple near London. Their nation’s rich heritage in symbol and tradition brings the past into the present. The very history of the temple site links the two. The property was first described in the Domesday Book, a record of a survey of England in 1086 made under William the Conqueror. A Roman road dating back to the first century of the Christian era lies under a modern highway, that runs near the temple. (Improvement Era, Nov. 1963, p. 455.) One of the oaks on the grounds is estimated to be 450 years old.
At the dedication on 10 August 1958, several speakers seemed to be aware of the creative tension between time and timelessness and of the role of the temple in harmonizing them. President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve united past and present by telling the assembled Saints: “For a hundred years we have been praying for a building of this kind, a house of the Lord where you could come to receive the blessings which could not be received in any other place.” President McKay united the living and dead with his quiet observation that “those on the other side of the veil, too, are rejoicing on this great occasion.” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1958, p. 784.)
The three-story temple is about the same size as the Swiss and New Zealand temples, with a floor space of approximately 34,000 square feet. The spire, sheathed in lead-coated copper, rises 160 feet above ground level. Edward O. Anderson, Church architect, designed the modern building in reinforced concrete and structural steel faced with white cement finishing stone. The paneling and doors are Burma teak; marble in the building is from Italy.—Lavina Fielding, Associate Editor