Near to Eternity

by the New Era staff

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    Jesus was found in the temple when he was 12. These Aussie families are following in his footsteps.

    You remember the story from your Primary days—how Mary and Joseph went looking for 12-year-old Jesus. Luke tells us “they found him in the temple” (Luke 2:46).

    Today in Australia, LDS teens who are trying to follow in the Savior’s footsteps can also be found in the temple. Many of them are also just 12 years old, accompanied by their parents. Others come in groups, some from great distances. Those who seek are finding peace and knowledge in the house of the Lord.

    Happy Birthday

    SYDNEY—It’s your 12th birthday. How are you going to mark the occasion? If you’re a Latter-day Saint, particularly in Sydney, your celebration is likely to include a first trip to the temple.

    The trip is usually a family affair—you, your parents, perhaps older brothers and sisters, perhaps grandparents. Dressed in your best clothes, you walk through flower gardens to a beautiful white building. Inside, you change into white clothing, symbolic of purity. Your parents and other adults may leave to participate in other temple activities. You may spend some time waiting for them in a quiet area that lends itself to thought, scripture study, and prayer.

    Finally, reunited with the adults, you go into a room where a large font, filled with water, rests on statues of 12 oxen, symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. You are here to be baptized for those who didn’t have that chance on earth. If you or your family have done the proper research, you may even be baptized for your own ancestors. You are participating in a sacred, holy moment, allowing others to make promises with their Father in Heaven, helping to open for them the doors of eternity.

    At the same time, you’re opening doors of understanding for yourself. Listen to what these youth from the Sydney area have to say:

    —“You start to feel what everybody else feels when they go to the temple, to understand why they feel it’s so important,” says Boz Komene, 12, of the Ryde Ward. “I’m settled down a little bit more since I went to the temple.”

    —“It’s fun going,” says Brandon Rigby, 12, of the Hornsby Ward. “The first time, I went with my dad and he baptized me a bunch of times, each time for a different person. I had this great feeling that I was helping lots of people.” Since then, Brandon has attended the temple at least once a month, sometimes every two weeks.

    —Susi Hayden-Smith, 12, of the Pennant Hills Ward, says that from the moment she entered the temple, “I felt really special, like Jesus was watching. One of the main things I was thinking about was that when I go to heaven, the people I was baptized and confirmed for will thank me. That’s a really special feeling.”

    Susi had a long talk with her father before she came to the temple. “He told me how grateful he felt when my brother was baptized for my grandpa,” she says. “He told me how blessed we are to grow up as members of the Church.”

    —And three cousins, Laura Walker, 12, of the Blacktown Ward; Rachel Alekna, 13, of the Baulkham Hills Ward; and Brooke Mauger, 13, of the Castle Hill Ward, explain how three generations have been brought closer together through the temple, right here and now.

    “Our grandfather is a sealer at the temple,” Rachel says. “He comes every Tuesday. Our parents come all the time. Now we’re coming, too.”

    “There are six of us who are cousins, all born within 12 months of each other,” Brooke explains. “Two times now, we’ve all come to the temple together. It’s great.”

    “You get used to coming to the temple,” Laura says. “You feel reverent, but you also feel comfortable. You start to think about coming here with your husband someday, to be married for eternity.”

    And you start to understand that the blessings of the temple are the blessings of forever, that by starting when you’re young, you can have their influence with you constantly.


    GEELONG—Anthony George, 17, lives in this seaside town southwest of Melbourne. “I actually got my testimony from attending the temple,” he says. “Before I started going to the temple, I didn’t really have much of a testimony. I just went along with everyone.” Then, a few weeks before his third trip to the temple, Anthony’s Sunday School teacher told the class that everyone needs a testimony. “So I started thinking about that.”

    At the Sydney Temple a few weeks later, Anthony was in the font. “I had already been baptized a few times, and they said the baptismal prayer and I was baptized again. I just had this really good feeling like the person was grateful for what I had done for him. I just felt that this was the right thing, and that going to church was the right thing.” Everything just came together “like a jigsaw puzzle the Spirit put together for me.”

    Nerissa Bielenberg, 16, also of Geelong, is willing to sacrifice quite a bit for trips to the temple. When she goes, she passes up a couple days’ wages from her job at the local Kmart. In addition, there’s the actual cost of the bus fare and food during the stay. But it’s worth it. “It’s just different from anything else,” Nerissa explains. You have an experience in there and you know you’re doing the right thing, and you want to keep that same spirit with you all the time.”

    A Place of Peace

    ADELAIDE—The Clements and McFarlane families live in the beautiful green hills above Adelaide. For them it’s a two-day drive to the temple with an overnight stop. If they lived closer, “I’d go all the time,” says Rachel Clements, 14. “You feel really spiritual when you come out of the temple.”

    Daniel Clements, 16, agrees that the temple gives you a boost—especially your testimony. “It makes it stronger because of the feeling that you get when you go there.” Twelve-year-old Jacob admits to being a little nervous when he went to the temple for the first time. But the temple workers made him feel at home.

    Over at the McFarlanes’, 14-year-old Matthew also admits to having been nervous his first time at the temple. But once he was there, “I had a warm feeling,” he says. When he got home, he told his younger brother Paul, “It was beautiful; you’ll enjoy it.” So now Paul looks forward to going when he’s 12.

    The Semmler family of nearby Christy’s Beach tries to go to the temple together once a year. Catherine Semmler, 16, says that in the temple, “everything’s perfect. Everything’s peaceful, and everyone’s happy and friendly.” That can make going back to school kind of a shock. But, still, the feeling of the temple stays with you.

    The Soinninens are another Adelaide family with a strong temple tradition. Erin, 12, is the most recent family member to go do baptisms for the dead: “You just feel special, that you are doing something really good.”

    Her sisters echo those feelings. Kate, now 17, first went when she was 12. “I thought it was kind of like a renewal, as if you were being baptized yourself.” Amelia, 15, repeats what so many of the others have said: “I felt the Spirit there.”

    Luke tells us that when young Jesus was in the temple, he amazed the people with his understanding. By following the Savior’s example, young Latter-day Saints who go to the temple are gaining wonderful understandings too.

    Aussie teens who go to the temple know that in the temple you can learn what the Spirit feels like, that you can learn what real peace is—the peace that comes from God. They know that in the temple there is reassurance that you are on the right course and that the Church is true. Great blessings—you can find them in the temple, even at the age of 12.

    Photography by Richard M. Romney and Larry A. Hiller

    Like Brandon Rigby and family (opposite), Boz Komene (left), Laura Walker and Rachel Alekna (top), and Susi Hayden-Smith and her father (below), all know the temple is a great source of joy.

    (Opposite) Anthony George and Nerissa Bielenberg, both of Geelong, find increased testimony and spiritual strength in the temple. (This page) Temple President Ian G. Mackie takes time to chat with youth who have come to do baptisms. Even the outside of the temple is a place of beauty and peace with its abundance of flowers.

    For the McFarlanes (right), the Soinninens (opposite, top), and the Clementses (below), temple blessings go beyond the sealing of husband and wife, parent and child. Temple going brings strength for day-to-day living. That’s why they make it an important tradition.