First Presidency Message

Temples and Temple Work

Gordon B. Hinckley

Temples and Temple Work

Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are an affirmative expression to all the world of the faith millions of Latter-day Saints have in the immortality of the soul. All of the activity carried on within these sacred edifices is based on the premise that all mortal beings who have been on earth are in reality immortal. Yet this temple activity is based upon more than a premise, for a premise may be only an assumption. To those who frequent these sacred houses of the Lord, the validity is a fact, and a matter of strong and compelling personal conviction.

The millions of dollars spent in constructing and maintaining temples would be of no avail without such conviction, nor would the countless hours of service performed within their walls.

Of course, others believe in the immortality of the soul. Every Christian who accepts the resurrection of the Savior as fact must so believe. Likewise, many non-Christians teach the eternal nature of life. From the beginning of time, death has been the great mystery of the human race. Men and women of all ages have pondered in their hearts the question framed by Job: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14.) In answer are the teachings of the Savior and his prophets, whose declarations of eternal life shine like the noonday sun. The Savior’s words to the sorrowing Martha have become a pillar of faith to the believer:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26.)

Likewise, the words of Paul have testified through the centuries of the divine redemption:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.)

Truly, salvation has come to all mankind through the Son of God, who gave his life that all might live.

But there is a goal beyond the Resurrection. That is exaltation in our Father’s kingdom. It will be achieved by obedience to the commandments of God. It will begin with acceptance of him as our Eternal Father and of his son as our living Redeemer. It will involve participation in various ordinances, each one important and necessary. The first of these is baptism by immersion in water, without which, according to the Savior, a man cannot enter into the kingdom of God. There must follow the birth of the Spirit, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then in succession through the years will come, for men, ordination to the priesthood, followed by the blessings of the temple for both men and women who are worthy to enter therein. These temple blessings include our washings and anointings that we may be clean before the Lord. They include the instruction service in which we are given an endowment of obligations and blessings that motivate us to behavior compatible with the principles of the gospel. They include the sealing ordinances by which that which is bound on earth is bound in heaven, providing for the continuity of the family.

These are beautiful experiences for those who participate in them in behalf of their own welfare. But it is because their consequences are eternal that they are unique among all religious ordinances.

A temple is a house of God, and he is Everlasting. It was he who required that special houses be built in which to administer these eternal ordinances. There is no adequate substitute on all the face of the earth.

But all of this would be a limited and parochial thing if such blessings were afforded only those relatively few eligible to come to the temple among the billions of our Father’s children who have been on earth. Out of his great love for his sons and daughters, our Father has provided a way whereby all eventually may have the opportunity of accepting and benefiting from these temple ordinances.

This reality is the burden and the blessing of the great vicarious labor that goes on in the Houses of the Lord. What a remarkable and wonderful thing it is that those who are living may administer the blessings of earthly ordinances in behalf of those who have gone beyond and who lived without an opportunity to hear the gospel or accept it. There is no compulsion on the other side to accept on the part of him or her for whom the ordinance is performed. But there is a compulsion laid upon us by Him who provided the plan, to extend the opportunity to those who have left this life. The work so performed is both remarkable and singular. It is a great work of love, freely performed and freely offered.

As I contemplate the millions of Latter-day Saints who serve in the temples of the Lord as proxies for the dead, I marvel and give thanks to the Almighty that he has provided a way to bless all of his children and there bestows the faith required to perform this selfless service.

Those who perform such remarkable service neither expect nor receive thanks. It is true that there have been expressions from those on the other side made to those in mortality. But these are the exception. Those who labor in the temples do not anticipate such expressions. Acting in faith and from a knowledge and conviction that come by the power of the Holy Ghost, they labor as a people day after day and year after year. Every other type of work of which my mind can conceive carries with it some element of reward, of compensation for service rendered. While there may be some expectation that in a time to come, when he or she who labored here in the temple will be thanked in another sphere by those who became the beneficiaries of that service, that expectation is in no sense the motivation for the hours spent in the House of the Lord by faithful and devoted men and women.

Think upon the wonder of this labor! It approaches the spirit of the Christ, who gave his life for all men as well as any other service of which I can conceive. The motives of those who labor in the temples are of the very essence of selflessness. If there is any attitude more needed in this world than that, I am at a loss to imagine what it might be.

But, as in all of the Lord’s work, there are the blessings, mortal as well as eternal. Well has the Savior said of all who labor lovingly and devotedly in any part of his work: “He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (JST, Matt. 10:39.)

Ideas for Home Teachers

1. Relate a personal experience about the blessings of temple work. Ask family members to share similar experiences or feelings.

2. Are there some scriptural verses or other quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

3. In what ways do the ordinances performed in the House of the Lord affect the possibilities for exaltation of our Father in Heaven’s children?

4. How are “the motives of those who labor in the temples of the very essence of selflessness”?

5. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house?

[photo] The Manti Temple, a beautiful 19th-century House of the Lord.

[photo] A newly-married couple pose outside the Hawaii Temple wherein they were married for eternity.

[photo] Baptismal font of the Swiss Temple where baptismal work for the deceased is performed.