Speaking to two separate groups in southern California on Sunday, September 7, President Ezra Taft Benson underscored the importance of temple work to redeem the dead and missionary work to spread the gospel among the living.
Redeeming the dead is part of the Church’s greatest work, President Benson told more than twenty-three hundred temple workers and Church leaders in the solemn assembly hall of the Los Angeles Temple. The congregation had gathered for the sustaining of Jack B. McEwan as the new temple president, succeeding Allen C. Rozsa. Wayne A. Reeves and Glen H. Walker were sustained as first and second counselors, respectively. The meeting was conducted by Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy and North American West Area President.
President Benson related incidents from his past that emphasized the importance of temple work. He recalled living at the home of his grandmother when he was a freshman at Utah State University. His grandmother spent most of her time in genealogical research and temple work.
“I came home late one night from a party, and as I opened the door, I heard someone speaking in Grandma’s bedroom,” he related. “Drawing closer, I heard the voice more distinctly. I realized it was my grandmother, and she was praying, thanking the Lord for extending her life a few years after her husband’s passing so she could complete her temple work and see the last of her thirteen children married in the temple. This had been accomplished, and now she was ready to join her husband.”
President Benson noted that temples are the “gateways to heaven,” and added that temple work is an activity being pursued on both sides of the veil.
“It is not important whether we serve here or over there as long as we do it with all our heart, might, mind, and strength,” he said.
In conclusion, President Benson told his audience, “The Book of Mormon is for our day. Don’t ever forget that.”
Later that day, President Benson spoke to 177 missionaries from the California Anaheim Mission.
“The greatest responsibility placed on this church is to preach the gospel,” he told them. “Joseph Smith said that, and it’s true. That’s why you’re out here.”
The prophet noted the spirit of missionary work his father brought to his family and said, “I stand here today because my father thought enough to serve a mission.” He expressed gratitude for the young men and women of the Church serving missions and stressed the need for more young men in the mission field.
President Benson advised the missionaries to strive for the Spirit, have humility, love the people, and work. “Don’t be ashamed of the gospel,” he said. “There isn’t anything like it in the world.”
Two weeks earlier, on August 19, President Benson and his Counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, addressed new temple presidents and their wives at the opening session of the annual Temple Presidents’ Seminar in Salt Lake City.
The temple presidents and matrons were told that temple work is a great and consummate work of the Church and that it should be done with love and spirituality.
“This is part of the greatest work in all the world,” President Benson said. “I know it is as I know that I live, and I pray you feel the same way.”
He promised them great experiences and urged the temple presidents to stay close to their wives. “They are choice spirits and great souls,” he said.
President Hinckley noted that the Church is in the greatest era of temple-building in history and pointed out that “it has involved tremendous effort and a tremendous sense of urgency to make temples available to people across the earth.”
As the volume of temple work has increased, the volume of animosity against the work has also increased, he said, adding, “If it were not true, the adversary would pay no attention. … [But] the adversary is taking note of this people, and [because] he is, there must be something to this work.”
President Monson advised that “spirituality needs to be the underpinning of all that takes place in the temple. Spirituality can radiate from the president of the temple to every person.
“How far is heaven?” he asked. “It is not very far: in the temples of God, it is right where you are.”