Lesson 43: Howard W. Hunter: Focus on the Temple

, "Lesson 43: Howard W. Hunter: Focus on the Temple," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


Class members will better understand the blessings of the temple and its importance in their lives through the teachings of President Howard W. Hunter.


  1. 1.

    Prepare to display the following three pictures: the nearest temple or any temple that is familiar to the class members; Temple Baptismal Font (62031; Gospel Art Picture Kit 504); a newly married young couple outside a temple, preferably a couple that class members would know; or use Young Couple Going to the Temple (62559) from the meetinghouse library.

  2. 2.

    If it is available, prepare to show “Temples Are for Eternal Covenants,” selection 15 in Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277). This videocassette selection is 6:09 minutes long.

  3. 3.

    One week before giving this lesson, assign one or two class members to prepare to read Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4; 132:15–17 in class. Ask them to be ready to explain what the passages mean.

  4. 4.

    You may want to view Together Forever (53411), which is an excellent videocassette to help you prepare to give this lesson. However, it is 25 minutes long, and you will not have time to show it to your class.

Suggested Lesson Development


As President of the Church, President Howard W. Hunter gave inspired counsel to the members of the Church regarding the importance of the temple as a means of becoming more Christlike. Throughout his life, President Hunter had been especially interested in temples and temple work. As a stake president, he gave leadership to the construction and dedication of the Los Angeles Temple. One of his last official acts as President of the Church was to preside at the dedication of the Bountiful Utah Temple.


Show the picture of a temple and read the following statement made by President Hunter after he was sustained in general conference in October 1994:

“And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, through the power and authority of the priesthood vested in me and by virtue of the calling which I now hold, I invoke my blessing upon you. I bless you in your efforts to live a more Christlike life. I bless you with an increased desire to be worthy of a temple recommend and to attend the temple as frequently as circumstances allow. I bless you to receive the peace of our Heavenly Father in your homes and to be guided in teaching your families to follow the Master” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, p. 119; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 88).

President Hunter Asked Us to Make the Temple the Great Symbol of Our Membership

Read the following statement from President Hunter:

“I … invite the members of the Church to establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy” (“President Howard W. Hunter: Fourteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, July 1994, p. 5).


  • What is required of us for the temple to become the great symbol of our membership? (Becoming “temple worthy” should be included in the discussion.)

  • What does it mean to become temple worthy? (Explain that the bishop or his counselors interview all those seeking a temple recommend.)

Members seeking to enter the temple should have testimonies of Heavenly Father, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost. They should sustain the Lord’s prophet, the other General Authorities, and their local Church leaders. They should not sympathize with or be affiliated with groups or individuals who have apostatized from the Church and whose teachings or practices are contrary to the gospel.

They should be faithfully attending sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, and other Church meetings. They should be conscientiously carrying out their callings given through priesthood authority. They should be striving to keep all of the Lord’s commandments, including praying, paying a full tithe, being honest in word and deed, and abstaining from the use of tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful and habit-forming substances.

They should be living pure and virtuous lives and should be obeying the Lord’s law of chastity. They should be living in harmony with gospel principles in spiritual and physical relationships with other members of their families. They should not be involved in any spiritual, physical, mental, or emotional abuse of others.

They should be willing to confess their sins and forsake them. Serious violations of the above laws must be confessed to their bishop.


  • Why is each of these attitudes and behaviors important? (Bring out that the Lord requires that persons going to his house be striving to live lives of holiness.)

President Hunter taught that all adults should live to be worthy of and hold a temple recommend. He taught that those who live in areas where they cannot attend a temple should still hold a temple recommend. The Lord would then assure them of all the blessings that they would have if they lived where they could go to the temple.

President Hunter said: “I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it” (“The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 5).

President Hunter Helped the Saints Understand the Eternal Covenants Made in the Temple


If it is available, show “Temples Are for Eternal Covenants” from the videocassette.


Have a class member read the following statement by President Hunter:

“The temple is a place of instruction where profound truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God are unfolded. It is a place of peace where minds can be centered upon things of the spirit and the worries of the world can be laid aside. In the temple we make covenants to obey the laws of God, and promises are made to us, conditioned always on our faithfulness, which extend into eternity” (The Priesthood and You [Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, 1966], p. 293; see also Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 2).


  • What do you think it means to make sacred covenants? (Bring out in the discussion that covenants are two-part promises: In the temple we are given the promise of great eternal blessings by covenant from the Lord. These blessings are conditional, however, based upon our part of the covenant, being faithful in keeping the Lord’s commandments.)

  • What covenants have you already made in your lives? (Most class members will have been baptized.)

Bring out in the discussion that baptism is a sacred and essential covenant. At baptism we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, and we promise to keep his commandments. After baptism we are confirmed by a person holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. With this confirmation we are given the right to the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we are worthy, this gift will guide and comfort us. We are promised that the Spirit of the Lord will be with us and remain with us as we live worthily. After baptism we are counseled to partake of the sacrament each week. As we worthily partake of the sacrament, we renew our baptismal covenants.

Picture and discussion

Some may have gone to a temple to be baptized for the dead. Ask those who have participated in these ordinances to tell of their experiences. (Show the picture of the baptismal font while the discussion is proceeding.)

Many people who have lived upon the earth did not have opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ or to be baptized. It is through the temples that the saving ordinances are made possible for the dead. Baptism is an earthly ordinance, and those who have died are now in the spirit world. We may be baptized for them in the temple. We call this “baptism by proxy.” The dead are free to accept or reject this ordinance as it is done for them.

Discuss how this ordinance is performed. (In the temple young people, or others, wearing white baptismal clothing go into a specially prepared font. [Show the picture again.] The person being baptized is acting as proxy for the person who is dead. The person acting as proxy is immersed in the water, just as we were immersed when we were baptized. Following the baptism the person acting as proxy is confirmed by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. This person lays his hands on the head of the proxy and gives him or her the right to the gift of the Holy Ghost for the person who is dead. This is the same way we were confirmed after we were baptized.)

President Hunter Counseled Youth to Prepare for the Sacred Covenant of Temple Marriage

Picture and discussion

Show class members the picture of the newly married young couple outside a temple.

  • What promises are given to a couple married in the temple that couples married outside the temple do not receive? For instance, why do you think it is so important that a couple marry in the temple? (Lead the discussion toward the promises of being together forever, of having eternal posterity, and of attaining exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Nothing on this earth can possibly compare to the great gifts Heavenly Father has prepared for his children. Emphasize how great each class member’s potential is. Each can become like God, our Eternal Father, if he or she receives all of the ordinances and then keeps all of the covenants made in the temple. Explain that couples who live where it is impossible to marry in the temple can live to be worthy of and can obtain a temple recommend. As their circumstances change and as new temples are built, they then will be ready to go to the temple.)


Have the two assigned class members read and then explain to the class what the following scriptural passages mean: D&C 131:1–4 and D&C 132:15–17.

President Hunter Counseled Youth to Be Temple Worthy

Temple covenants are of greater value than any worldly goods any of us may gain.

Example and picture

Have a class member read the following statement by President Hunter:

“It is pleasing to the Lord for our youth to worthily go to the temple and perform vicarious baptism for those who did not have the opportunity to be baptized in life. It is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to personally make our own covenants with Him and to be sealed as couples and as families. And it is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to perform these same saving ordinances for those who have died, many of whom eagerly await the completion of these ordinances in their behalf” (Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 5).

Refer again to the picture of the temple. President Hunter asked us to make the temple a symbol of our membership and told us how we can do this. Have the class member continue reading President Hunter’s statement.

“But to have the temple indeed be a symbol unto us, we must desire it to be so. We must live worthy to enter the temple. We must keep the commandments of our Lord. If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take His teaching and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be temple worthy, to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life, for we will be committed to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief” (Ensign, Oct. 1994, p. 5; italics added).

Testimony and Challenge

In summary, from the last paragraph that the class member read, read again the italicized phrases. Stress that these are the things we must do to be worthy to enter the temple. Bear testimony to the class of how important it is to keep the temple and temple marriage ever before us as the “symbol of our membership.”