When I was born in 1964 there were only 12 operating temples in the whole world. By the time I left on my mission in 1984 there were just 31. Imagine how amazing it is that 33 temples have been announced this year. The 13 just announced in October general conference brings the total to 265 temples around the world, including temples in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei Taiwan, and now Kaohsiung Taiwan. I know members in Taiwan have hoped and prayed for many years to have the blessing of a temple and as I sit here, I can envision temples, even multiple temples, being built in every country in Asia. What an inspiring thought!
This feeling of hope and excitement seems at odds to the reality of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is still such a part of our lives. Across Asia we still face the ongoing challenges of a global crisis. It may seem like an unusual time to be focusing on building new temples.
In the fall of 2019 when President Russell M. Nelson and Elder D. Todd Christofferson toured Southeast Asia, I was invited to join a meeting held with local government officials in Hanoi, Vietnam, where President Nelson made an interesting comment that he also repeated in the Ho Chi Minh City devotional the next day and later in general conference. “In some respects, it is easier to build a temple than it is to build a people prepared for a temple.” He encouraged the saints in Vietnam to prepare themselves so that they would be ready for the day when the blessing of a temple would come to their land. They would need to have members who could work in the temple and prepare names of their family members so that they could take them to perform proxy ordinances in the temple. His counsel was that we shouldn’t wait for a temple, but that we should prepare for a temple!
With that prophetic counsel in mind, and the inspiring optimism of this recent announcement, it seems like the perfect time for us to consider carefully what we might do to prepare for the blessings which will soon be available in these new, wonderful temples.
“In some respects, it is easier to build a temple than it is to build a people prepared for a temple.”Russell M. Nelson
Joyfully Bound to the Savior
The ordinances and covenants of the temple allow us to better understand our Heavenly Father’s plan for us here on the earth; they help us maintain perspective and find hope as we face the challenges of each day; and they bless us with power to improve our lives as they point us clearly to the Savior.
During General Conference in October, Elder David A. Bednar taught us what the Lord meant when he said:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Elder Bednar added, “We take the Savior’s yoke upon us as we learn about, worthily receive, and honor sacred covenants and ordinances. We are bound securely to and with the Savior as we faithfully remember and do our best to live in accordance with the obligations we have accepted. And that bond with Him is the source of spiritual strength in every season of our lives.”
What can we do to prepare?
Years ago, when I served as bishop, our ward held a temple day every 6 months. In preparation we focused on 3 goals:
1. Assist each member to have a current temple recommend. As a ward council we helped members overcome obstacles that were keeping them from progressing toward the temple. This included each of the youth and young adults.
2. Work with every member to help them prepare to participate in any living ordinances they needed. We helped members who hadn’t yet been endowed or sealed to learn and prepare themselves to be ready to go to the temple on that date, including attending temple preparation classes, if needed.
3. Focus activities and opportunities on family history work to help each member of the ward have at least one ancestor’s name temple ready.
It was a great focused effort which brought enthusiasm and vision to our ward. When our temple day arrived, the entire ward would arrive early and spend the whole day serving and helping each other in the temple. We felt such love and unity as we served together in the Lord’s house.
Now is the Perfect Time
“Temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred covenants with God. Because making covenants with God is such a solemn responsibility, individuals cannot enter the temple to receive their endowments or be sealed in marriage for eternity until they have fully prepared themselves...”
It feels to me like this most challenging time is a wonderful time to remember our beloved prophet’s counsel to prepare ourselves for the temples that will soon be built in our midst. It is the perfect time to work as a ward family to prepare to partake of the blessings of the temple together.
Alma taught his sons “that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.”
May we all work together to help gather our families in the gospel on both sides of the veil and strengthen our foundation in Christ.
1. Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks,” 2019 October General Conference.
2. Matthew 11:29-30.
3. David A. Bednar, “With the Power of God in Great Glory,” 2019 October General Conference.
4. Gospel Topics “Temple”
5. Alma 38:9.