I grew up in Orem, UT near 1200 North and 1200 West. That stretch of road was being repaved in 2011. One of the later steps of the process is to drive a stream-roller over the newly surfaced road. On this occasion the driver of the stream-roller sensed that the road wasn't stable and had the wherewithal to jump from the vehicle just before the road buckled, swallowing the heavy steam-roller in an eight-foot deep cavern beneath what was thought to be solid ground.
Sewer pipes were damaged and many nearby homes had to be evacuated during the cleanup and repair operations. My parents were still residents in that area at the time and learned that there was suspicion of sewer pipes leaking over the course of many years, creating the open cavern under the roadway. Over time, the foundation of that part of the road eroded away. Then, when the weight of the steam-roller came, the road crumbled.
This story is, for me, a parable. There are evil influences which, if unchecked, will erode the very foundations of our faith. The foundation of a building or road is not easily inspected or observed. Are we ready for the weight of life's steam rollers?
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
I think it is safe to say that President Nelson loves temples. He began his presidency with a broadcast from the annex of the Salt Lake Temple. Temples have been a recurring theme in his ministry and travels. He has announced locations for 83 new temples since he was sustained president of the church in April 2018. That's an average of just over 20 temples per year, or 10 per general conference.
In 2002, President Nelson, then of the quorum of the 12 apostles began his general conference talk "How Firm a Foundation" with the following illustration:
About two decades ago when a temple was to be built in Mexico City, architects faced a great challenge. Because Mexico City is situated on a basin over water, some of its buildings settle and become tilted with the passage of time. Construction of a temple there required a special foundation. Two hundred twenty-one [18-inch thick], reinforced concrete piles were driven more than 100 feet deep into the ground. Onto those pilings, steel straps were anchored and fastened to a unit that can be adjusted if need be to keep the building level. With this unseen but sure foundation, that temple today stands steady and straight.
(A firm foundation isn't immovable--rather, it is deep yet flexible, able to bear shifting conditions!)
In the October 2018 General Conference, President Nelson announced:
...plans are now being made to renovate and update the Salt Lake Temple and other pioneer-generation temples. Details on these projects will be shared as they are developed.
As promised, President Nelson has since shared details and updates on the progress of the Salt Lake Temple renovation. It's been almost 20 years since he spoke of the foundation of the Mexico City temple. Now, in the most recent general conference President Nelson shared a pre-recorded video message from the very foundation of the Salt Lake temple, which was constructed from 1853 to 1893:
- If we examine the foundation closely, we can see the effects of erosion, gaps in the original stonework, and varying stages of stability in the masonry.
- The foundation of any building must be strong and resilient enough to withstand earthquakes, corrosion, high winds, and the inevitable settling that effects all buildings.
- We are sparing no effort to give this venerable temple, which had become increasingly vulnerable, a foundation that will withstand the forces of nature into the Millennium.
- In like manner, it is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures--perhaps measures we have never taken before--to strengthen our personal spiritual foundations. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.
I appreciate that he didn't use the cliche "desperate times call for desperate measures". The words were chosen more carefully.
Let's take a step back and ask why temples and temple work are so important. The General Handbook says it in about as few words as possible:
Uniting families for eternity is part of the work of salvation and exaltation (see 1.2). Temple and family history work is the means for uniting and sealing families for eternity (see Matthew 16:19). This work includes:
- Making covenants as we receive our own temple ordinances (see Isaiah 55:3; Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–23).
- Discovering our deceased ancestors and performing ordinances for them in the temple so they can make covenants with God (see Malachi 4:5–6; 1 Corinthians 15:29; Doctrine and Covenants 128:15–18).
- Going to the temple regularly, where possible, to worship God and perform ordinances for His children (see Luke 24:52–53; Doctrine and Covenants 109:13–14). The temple is the house of the Lord. Temple ordinances and covenants bless Heavenly Father’s children. Heavenly Father invites all of His children to qualify for and receive temple ordinances.
There's lots more information at temples.churchofjesuschrist.org.
In 2018 President Nelson invited us to approach going to the temple more thoughtfully:
"Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples." --Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson
Since the onset of COVID-19 and the closure and subsequent re-opening of temples, setting an appointment (and keeping it!) is now the only way we attend the temple! I doubt even President Nelson knew how prescient his prophetic suggestion was at the time. There's a more important underlying lesson here, well-stated best-selling author, Greg McKeown, in his book entitled "Essentialism":
"If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will!"
Getting out the calendar, scheduling an appointment, and keeping it are all very concrete ways to express our devotion to spiritual things. Doing so regularly will most certainly strengthen our spiritual foundation.
Current requirements for attending a temple appointment require us to be in good health and to be free of serious exposure to illness. What if your health is such that you can't make an appointment? What if you must cancel an appointment because of health circumstances? President Nelson has a practical and prophetic suggestion:
"Should distance, health challenges, or other constraints prohibit your temple attendance for a season, I invite you to set a regular time to rehearse in your mind the covenants you have made." --The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation
From the (Current Version of the) General Handbook:
Members determine for themselves when and how often to worship in the temple. Leaders do not establish quotas or reporting systems for temple attendance.
Each Church unit is assigned to a temple district. Organized ward or stake visits to temples outside the assigned temple district are not encouraged. Individual members and families may attend any temple they desire.
Entering the temple is a sacred privilege. Ward and stake leaders encourage all members to be worthy of and to have a current temple recommend even if they do not live near a temple.
A current temple recommend allows a member to enter all temples. Priesthood leaders ensure that members receive the correct recommend for their circumstances. There are three types of recommends:
- Temple recommend for unendowed members. These recommends are for unendowed members who are being sealed to their parents or performing proxy baptisms and confirmations.
- Temple recommend for living ordinances. These recommends are for members receiving their own endowment or being sealed to a spouse.
- Temple recommend for endowed members. These recommends are for members who have previously been endowed. They authorize a member to participate in all temple ordinances for the deceased. They are also used when an endowed member is sealed to living or deceased parents or children.
4 important points (rendering mine) from President Nelson:
- The temple lies at the center of strengthening our faith and spiritual fortitude because the Savior and His doctrine are the very heart of the temple.
- Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ.
- His essential ordinances bind us to Him through sacred priesthood covenants.
- As we keep our covenants, He endows us with His healing, strengthening power. (And oh, how we will need His power in the days ahead.)
Note the footnote in this paragraph:
15 And that they may
- grow up in thee, and
- receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and
- be organized according to thy laws, and
- be prepared to obtain every needful thing;...
22 And we ask thee, Holy Father that,
- thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and
- that thy name may be upon them, and
- thy glory be round about them, and
- thine angels have charge over them;
Of course, one can't just go to the temple without first being recommended by their duly ordained priesthood leaders. A 'temple recommend' is the document that we present at the temple that affirms we are coming in worthiness and by recommendation of our priesthood leaders.
Elder Rasband helps us understand the rich significance of acquiring a temple recommend:
A [temple] recommend is not a checklist, a hall pass, or a ticket for special seating. It has a much higher and holier purpose. To qualify for the honor of a temple recommend, you must live in harmony with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Your temple recommend reflects a deep, spiritual intent that you are striving to live the laws of the Lord and love what He loves: humility, meekness, steadfastness, charity, courage, compassion, forgiveness, and obedience. And you commit yourself to those standards when you sign your name to that sacred document. Your temple recommend opens the gates of heaven for you and others with rites and ordinances of eternal significance, including baptisms, endowments, marriages, and sealings.
Mercifully, Brother Brad Wilcox of the Young Men General Presidency recently taught us that "worthiness is not flawlessness".
41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
Moroni taught us how the Savior can help us overcome our weaknesses, even turning them to strengths!
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
He also helped us understand what it mean to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him"!
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
This week in our "Come, Follow Me" study Joseph in Egypt taught us that the Lord is with us, even when no else is, and that He fulfills all His promises to us.
President Nelson summed everything up beautifully in the last conference:
My dear brothers and sisters, when renovations on the Salt Lake Temple are completed, there will be no safer place during an earthquake in the Salt Lake Valley than inside that temple. Likewise, whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants! Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear.
3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.
The secret to happiness and fulfillment is found in the last verse of the Gospel of Luke!