“And [I] will … set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. … Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezek. 37:26–27).
Around the world, in country after country and state after state, a visible miracle is unfolding. It starts when a piece of land is prayerfully selected and purchased. An announcement is made, and ground is broken and cleared. A foundation is poured. Walls go up, and then a spire. Pictures and mirrors are put in place, as well as carpets and chandeliers. On most, a shining angel is set atop the spire. A cornerstone is laid. A prophet voices a prayer of dedication. Before our very eyes—from Perth to Palmyra, from Nauvoo to Nuku‘alofa—the Lord is dotting the earth with temples.
Side by side with this extraordinary work, another work of building is going on—less visible, perhaps, but just as wondrous. It starts whenever a newly baptized convert learns that loved ones long dead can receive the saving ordinance of baptism or when dormant faith is rekindled and a longtime member begins to yearn for the blessings of endowment and sealing. It happens whenever a young man or woman is called to serve a mission or when a couple or a family plans to be sealed for eternity. It is a work of purifying and dedicating. It is the sacred work of building lives. And it is going on throughout the world wherever people are preparing themselves to do the Lord’s work in His holy temples.
Following are stories of some of these Latter-day Saints.
With the Houston Texas Temple under construction, the Friendswood Texas Stake set an ambitious goal: that every Church member, every family member, every friend would participate in some way in the new temple. Stake Relief Society president Maxine Pew took this goal to heart and explained in a stake leadership meeting how the Relief Society could help support the stake’s goals. First, she held up pictures of the Houston temple in various stages of construction, along with signs reading “Temple under Construction” and “Souls under Construction.” Then she explained that each soul is in its own stage of development and that all could participate in some way in the new temple. All, including nonmember spouses and friends, could attend the open house. Some, including new converts, could attend the dedicatory service. Still others could renew temple recommends. But every person could be invited, and each person could participate in some way.
Sister Pew then asked the Relief Society leaders to think about which women in their wards might be able to prepare to attend the temple dedication. “I asked them to think about those who might be receptive to visiting teachers, those who might be at a moment in their lives when they would say, ‘OK, I can get it together. I want to do this; I want to go.’” Even some people who are not friendly to the Church, she pointed out, might be curious enough to go to the open house, then feel the Spirit once there.
Sister Pew and both of her counselors also made a goal to personally invite a woman from each ward to go to the temple. On each of her visits, Sister Pew brought the sister a print of a painting of the soon-to-be-completed temple. “When I visited new converts, I would explain, ‘You can go there. You can do baptisms.’” One less-active sister thought that she could not attend the temple dedication because she had not been endowed. Her face lit up when she learned that if she could qualify for a recommend, she too could witness the temple dedication. “When people go to the temple and feel what is there, they want to go back,” says Sister Pew.
Nancy’s* journey back to the temple began with her journey back to church. After she and her husband were baptized in the 1970s, they moved so often that they never really felt connected to any ward. In the 1980s they were sealed, but they never returned to the temple. Within a few years she and her husband were divorced, and Nancy stopped going to church. But in Nancy’s memory, her first—and for many years, her only—temple experience was positive.
Then Nancy was married again. Although her husband took the missionary lessons, he was not ready to be baptized. As the years passed, Nancy sometimes considered returning to church, but she feared that her marriage would be damaged if she did. “My feelings for the gospel never wavered,” she recalls, “but I was not actively participating in church.”
Then, through a growing friendship with her Relief Society president, Nancy began attending some homemaking meetings. One night, her bishop was a guest speaker at homemaking meeting. He asked, “Would you be willing to give up your most important possession for the Lord?” Nancy knew that her most prized possession was her marriage, and at that moment she received an overwhelming assurance that the Lord did not want her to give up her marriage and that her marriage would be fine if she took the risk of returning to Church activity.
As soon as she returned to church, Nancy knew she also needed to return to the temple. She started paying tithing and stopped drinking tea. Still, she thought it would be a very long time before she would be able to go to the temple. “I had been through so much,” she explains, “I felt I somehow needed to make up for my past.”
Then her bishop called her in to extend a calling and, in the course of the interview, discussed with Nancy how her life was going. When Nancy asked him about how long it might take her to get back to the temple, the bishop replied, “I can interview you for a temple recommend right now.”
Nancy began crying. “I just couldn’t believe that that was the answer he was giving me,” she recalls. “It felt like a burden was being lifted off my shoulders.” When Nancy left her bishop’s office, she had her temple recommend in hand, and her false feelings of guilt and inadequacy had been dispelled.
Nancy’s deeply felt desire for belonging was fully satisfied when she walked into the temple. “I had such a warm feeling,” she says. “I knew that I belonged. I knew that I was loved.”
Even after seven years, Bishop Ralph Gertsch still gets emotional when he remembers one of the first temple trips he made with the Spanish-speaking members of the Raleigh Second Ward, Raleigh North Carolina Stake. These members made up about 20 percent of the ward. They had arrived at their motel at 11:00 P.M., after a six-hour drive to Washington, D.C. While unloading their luggage, group members told Bishop Gertsch they didn’t want to go to bed until they had seen the temple. “At 11:30 P.M. we loaded everyone up and drove to the temple. We were surprised to find that the gates to the temple grounds were still open. When we stopped, the members walked right up to the temple and touched the doors. It meant so much to them.”
The next day, a newly baptized couple from the ward pondered the beauty of the temple grounds while the others attended an endowment session. They said, “Someday we’re going inside.” Later they did.
Many of the ward’s Spanish-speaking members sacrificed to make the trip to the temple even though it was a hardship, says Bishop Gertsch. “Their dedication to the temple has carried over to our whole ward.”
At the age of 13, Eva Walker of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, had a near-death experience that left her feeling dissatisfied with her church’s doctrine of the afterlife. From then on, she searched for a church whose concept of life after death fit her own. She found it years later when the missionaries gave her a Book of Mormon and taught her the gospel.
When Eva and her husband, Albert, were baptized in 1997, Albert was ill with cancer—so ill that a short time later the hospital sent him home to die. But Albert regained strength, and he and Eva were able to take temple preparation classes. Eva was also able to go to the temple to take part in baptisms for the dead. “I felt so happy in the temple,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to leave.”
Albert did live long enough that they could be sealed in the temple. Though ill on the day of the sealing, Albert was so filled with joy that Eva says that he looked like a different person. He was able to take part in several endowment sessions before his death in 1999. Now Eva is comforted by her newfound faith, for she knows that the next life need not be feared and that she and Albert will be together for eternity.
President Chris Waddell of the Del Mar California Stake encourages members to meet at the temple chapel a night before ward conference. Some members attend an endowment session while others—including new members, and those who have not received the endowment—participate in baptisms for the dead.
President Waddell recognizes that family history work is an important way of opening the door to the temple. Last year, each ward conference in the stake ended with a brief presentation dramatizing the fact that there are real people on the other side of the veil who are depending on us to do their temple work. After the presentation, family history consultants were ready to help members. Some helped members determine which of their first four generations of ancestors needed their temple ordinances completed. Other family history consultants suggested research goals to those who needed guidance. Still others used the TempleReady software to prepare the names for temple work. President Waddell says that when people become involved in family history work, attending the temple becomes a lifetime commitment rather than a short-term goal. “Everything we do to encourage temple work has a little benefit. Everybody is going to be touched by something different.”
When less-active Latter-day Saints Dan and Jennifer Taylor married, they moved into a ward in Spokane, Washington, that Dan says “hugged us until we came back.” As they returned to church, the Taylors began praying together. They began to feel closer to each other. And they also started taking temple preparation classes. “The classes helped us to understand more about the temple ordinances,” says Dan. “We learned about covenants and the blessings they would bring.”
When Dan and Jennifer were sealed, they had been married for four years and Jennifer was pregnant with their first child. “We’ve made a 180-degree turn and come 1,000 miles,” says Dan. “The spirit in our home has changed. It has increased the feeling of love in our house.”
When the Boston Massachusetts Temple is dedicated, young people, as well as adults, will be prepared. To help their families prepare, Church members are teaching family home evening lessons about the temple based on Church-produced materials.
Sister Christine Christensen, temple program coordinator for the Cambridge Massachusetts Stake, reports that young women in the area have made and embroidered white handkerchiefs for the temple dedication. Some young women have also made “temple boxes” in which they can keep mementos of temple-related events and journal entries chronicling their feelings about the temple.
Primaries in the stake are having special sharing time lessons and activity day programs to help them prepare. “I received the endowment and was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple,” reflects Sister Christensen. “But my children will probably be endowed in the Boston temple. I hope that my children will feel like this is their temple.”
And so it continues. Around the world, in country after country and state after state, temples are built, dedicated, and attended. And side by side with this temple building, Latter-day Saints are strengthened one by one through temple attendance. New members begin by performing baptisms for their deceased ancestors. Less-active Latter-day Saints make commitments to change their lives and prepare to be endowed and sealed in the temple. Latter-day Saints who renew their temple recommends year after year carry on the great work of providing temple ordinances for those who have passed on without the opportunity to be baptized, endowed, and sealed during their lifetime. Building temples does help build lives.