The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World
By President Thomas S. Monson
The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.
09605_000_034 My beloved brothers and sisters, I extend my love and greetings to each of you and pray that our Heavenly Father will guide my thoughts and inspire my words as I speak to you today.
May I begin by making a comment or two concerning the fine messages we have heard this morning from Sister Allred and Bishop Burton and others pertaining to the Church’s welfare program. As indicated, this year marks the 75th anniversary of this inspired program, which has blessed the lives of so many. It was my privilege to know personally some of those who pioneered this great endeavor—men of compassion and foresight.
As both Bishop Burton and Sister Allred and others mentioned, the bishop of the ward is given the responsibility to care for those in need who reside within the boundaries of his ward. Such was my privilege when I presided as a very young bishop in Salt Lake City over a ward of 1,080 members, including 84 widows. There were many who needed assistance. How grateful I was for the welfare program of the Church and for the help of the Relief Society and the priesthood quorums.
I declare that the welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inspired of Almighty God.
Now, my brothers and sisters, this conference marks three years since I was sustained as President of the Church. Of course they have been busy years, filled with many challenges but also with countless blessings. The opportunity I have had to dedicate and rededicate temples has been among the most enjoyable and sacred of these blessings, and it is concerning the temple that I wish to speak to you today.
During the October general conference in 1902, Church President Joseph F. Smith expressed in his opening address the hope that one day we would “have temples built in the various parts of the [world] where they are needed for the convenience of the people.” 1
During the first 150 years following the organization of the Church, from 1830 to 1980, 21 temples were built, including the temples in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. Contrast that with the 30 years since 1980, during which 115 temples were built and dedicated. With the announcement yesterday of 3 new temples, there are additionally 26 temples either under construction or in preconstruction stages. These numbers will continue to grow.
The goal President Joseph F. Smith hoped for in 1902 is becoming a reality. Our desire is to make the temple as accessible as possible to our members.
One of the temples currently under construction is in Manaus, Brazil. Many years ago I read of a group of over a hundred members who left Manaus, located in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, to travel to what was then the closest temple, located in São Paulo, Brazil—nearly 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Manaus. Those faithful Saints journeyed by boat for four days on the Amazon River and its tributaries. After completing this journey by water, they boarded buses for another three days of travel—over bumpy roads, with very little to eat, and with nowhere comfortable to sleep. After seven days and nights, they arrived at the temple in São Paulo, where ordinances eternal in nature were performed. Of course their return journey was just as difficult. However, they had received the ordinances and blessings of the temple, and although their purses were empty, they themselves were filled with the spirit of the temple and with gratitude for the blessings they had received. 2 Now, many years later, our members in Manaus are rejoicing as they watch their own temple take shape on the banks of the Rio Negro. Temples bring joy to our faithful members wherever they are built.
Reports of the sacrifices made in order to receive the blessings found only in temples of God never fail to touch my heart and bring to me a renewed sense of thankfulness for temples.
May I share with you the account of Tihi and Tararaina Mou Tham and their 10 children. The entire family except for one daughter joined the Church in the early 1960s, when missionaries came to their island, located about 100 miles (160 km) south of Tahiti. Soon they began to desire the blessings of an eternal family sealing in the temple.
At that time the nearest temple to the Mou Tham family was the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to the southwest, accessible only by expensive airplane travel. The large Mou Tham family, which eked out a meager living on a small plantation, had no money for airplane fare, nor was there any opportunity for employment on their Pacific island. So Brother Mou Tham and his son Gérard made the difficult decision to travel 3,000 miles (4,800 km) to work in New Caledonia, where another son was already employed.
The three Mou Tham men labored for four years. Brother Mou Tham alone returned home only once during that time, for the marriage of a daughter.
After four years, Brother Mou Tham and his sons had saved enough money to take the family to the New Zealand Temple. All who were members went except for one daughter who was expecting a baby. They were sealed for time and eternity, an indescribable and joyful experience.
Brother Mou Tham returned from the temple directly to New Caledonia, where he worked for two more years to pay for the passage of the one daughter who had not been at the temple with them—a married daughter and her child and husband.
In their later years Brother and Sister Mou Tham desired to serve in the temple. By that time the Papeete Tahiti Temple had been constructed and dedicated, and they served four missions there. 3
My brothers and sisters, temples are more than stone and mortar. They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service.
The first temple to be built in this dispensation was the temple at Kirtland, Ohio. The Saints at the time were impoverished, and yet the Lord had commanded that a temple be built, so build it they did. Wrote Elder Heber C. Kimball of the experience, “The Lord only knows the scenes of poverty, tribulation and distress which we passed through to accomplish it.” 4 And then, after all that had been painstakingly completed, the Saints were forced to leave Ohio and their beloved temple. They eventually found refuge—although it would be temporary—on the banks of the Mississippi River in the state of Illinois. They named their settlement Nauvoo, and willing to give their all once again and with their faith intact, they erected another temple to their God. Persecutions raged, however, and with the Nauvoo Temple barely completed, they were driven from their homes once again, seeking refuge in a desert.
The struggle and the sacrifice began once again as they labored for 40 years to erect the Salt Lake Temple, which stands majestically on the block just south of those of us who are here today in the Conference Center.
Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance. Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God.
Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.
Today most of us do not have to suffer great hardships in order to attend the temple. Eighty-five percent of the membership of the Church now live within 200 miles (320 km) of a temple, and for a great many of us, that distance is much shorter.
If you have been to the temple for yourselves and if you live within relatively close proximity to a temple, your sacrifice could be setting aside the time in your busy lives to visit the temple regularly. There is much to be done in our temples in behalf of those who wait beyond the veil. As we do the work for them, we will know that we have accomplished what they cannot do for themselves. President Joseph F. Smith, in a mighty declaration, stated, “Through our efforts in their behalf their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties.” 5 My brothers and sisters, the work is ours to do.
In my own family, some of our most sacred and treasured experiences have occurred when we have joined together in the temple to perform sealing ordinances for our deceased ancestors.
If you have not yet been to the temple or if you have been but currently do not qualify for a recommend, there is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple. Your sacrifice may be bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing. Whatever it is, qualify to enter the temple of God. Secure a temple recommend and regard it as a precious possession, for such it is.
Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.
Now, my young friends who are in your teenage years, always have the temple in your sights. Do nothing which will keep you from entering its doors and partaking of the sacred and eternal blessings there. I commend those of you who already go to the temple regularly to perform baptisms for the dead, arising in the very early hours of the morning so you can participate in such baptisms before school begins. I can think of no better way to start a day.
To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.” 6
Our children sing in Primary:
I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey. 7
I plead with you to teach your children of the temple’s importance.
The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.
Now, my brothers and sisters, may I mention one more temple before I close. In the not-too-distant future as new temples take shape around the world, one will rise in a city which came into being over 2,500 years ago. I speak of the temple which is now being built in Rome, Italy.
Every temple is a house of God, filling the same functions and with identical blessings and ordinances. The Rome Italy Temple, uniquely, is being built in one of the most historic locations in the world, a city where the ancient Apostles Peter and Paul preached the gospel of Christ and where each was martyred.
Last October, as we gathered on a lovely pastoral site in the northeast corner of Rome, it was my opportunity to offer a prayer of dedication as we prepared to break the ground. I felt impressed to call upon Italian senator Lucio Malan and Rome’s vice-mayor Giuseppe Ciardi to be among the first to turn a shovelful of earth. Each had been a part of the decision to allow us to build a temple in their city.
The day was overcast but warm, and although rain threatened, not more than a drop or two fell. As the magnificent choir sang in Italian the beautiful strains of “The Spirit of God,” one felt as though heaven and earth were joined in a glorious hymn of praise and gratitude to Almighty God. Tears could not be restrained.
In a coming day, the faithful in this, the Eternal City, will receive ordinances eternal in nature in a holy house of God.
I express my undying gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the temple now being built in Rome and for all of our temples, wherever they are. Each one stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that He desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless His sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth. I so testify.
My beloved brothers and sisters, may we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attend the temple and to have the spirit of the temple in our hearts and in our homes. May we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, that we might have eternal life and exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. This is my sincere prayer, and I offer it in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, amen.
Dark and lonely a trail
desolations of the plains
searching for the path
seeking for the light
out of never-ending night
away from Satan’s wraith
shaking off the chains
coming close to the veil;
Then feeling the light
knowing choosing right
winning now the fight
the Temple within sight!
Copyright © 2011 – cji
Relief Society: A Balm in Gilead (September 1995)
President Elaine L. Jack
Relief Society General President
My message tonight is simple. Please know how I love Relief Society. I know the love and peace and unity that it brings into the lives of women of this church. Relief Society has been a source of strength in my life, it has helped me raise my family, it has been at the heart of my closest friendships, it has prompted me to learn and grow in the gospel. It has helped me keep my focus on Jesus Christ and what he would have me do.
When I was called as general president of Relief Society, I was given counsel by President Thomas S. Monson. I want to share with you just a little of what he said:
“This is a time of great change in the world and in the Church as we observe modifications in family style and family characteristics. We recognize that there are many single-parent families; there are other families where difficulties exist between husbands and wives, and furthermore, we find the encroachment of the drug culture and other challenges which cause stress in families. You at this hour of need have been called … to direct the organization which can provide that ameliorating influence, that balm of Gilead to unite all sisters in the Church.”
Tonight I want to talk about President Monson’s counsel. I want to talk about our families, about Relief Society, and how this great organization can be a balm of Gilead to all of us, particularly in helping us at home.
I know of two visiting teachers who had barely begun talking to a sister in her home when her two teenage daughters bounced in, announcing they were going to Young Women. Her husband, who also was leaving for an evening of meetings, detained their three-year-old son, who was determined to accompany his older sisters. Two other girls were arguing in the next room over which video to watch. When all the doors closed, the mother started to cry. It had been, she explained, a long week.
The visiting teachers wisely gave this very busy wife and mother a chance to talk. She discussed her week and how much she was missing her recently deceased mother. The three talked and shared their understanding of the gospel and the difficulties of every day application. The visiting teachers—one is single and has no children and the other is a single parent—praised their sister for all she was doing to raise her family well.
The mother felt better. The visiting teachers grew closer to each other and to this dear sister. They all felt better. In the true spirit of Relief Society, these visiting teachers strengthened this sister and her home. I feel better. Why? Because this story witnesses what I know—that Relief Society is indeed a balm that unites us, that helps us in our families. Sisters, I testify to you that one of our most important roles as Relief Society members is to strengthen each other, so all of us are better able to help our families. We come together. We learn from each other. We go home and strengthen our families. It’s that simple, yet how profound it is that we have this organization to be our balm of Gilead.
President Boyd K. Packer, in a talk to the women of the Church, quoted the First Presidency:
“We ask our Sisters of the Relief Society never to forget that they are a unique organization in the whole world, for they were organized under the inspiration of the Lord. … No other women’s organization in all the earth has had such a birth” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 111).
That divine direction continues today as priesthood leaders counsel with us, give us guidance, encouragement, and inspiration. I am grateful for our prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, and for the General Authorities of this church who reverence the work of Relief Society.
We honor the trust we have been given to show charity, to build individual testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to strengthen the families of the Church and focus on living the gospel. We do it in our meetings, in our homes, in our associations. This spiritual perspective is the balm of Gilead, that ameliorating influence spoken of by President Monson that brings peace to the soul. We carry this balm with us all the time, and it makes the difference.
Spiritual peace is in short supply these days. For many in the world this is a time of confusion, mixed signals, scrambled priorities. There will always be problems and pressing issues to draw our attention from the work of the Lord. Remember, Relief Society is the Lord’s organization for women. It is much more than a class we attend on Sunday. Service in Relief Society magnifies every sister. A sister from Virginia wrote:
“I have served in almost all of the callings [in Relief Society] and obtained a deep love for this auxiliary which has helped to educate me in several ways. I see those years as the most spiritual and enjoyable of my experience in the Church. Relief Society has taught me that I am a person of worth” (Loretta H. Ison, Big Stone Gap, Virginia).
In Relief Society we hold constant the virtues relating to women, mothers, families, and righteous living. At peace with this God-defined direction, Relief Society sisters can bring this balm of Gilead to troubled times. We have the spiritual resources of faith, hope, and compassion to apply as the balm.
In ancient days the balm of Gilead was an aromatic spice used to heal and soothe. Made from a bush or a tree that grew plentifully around Gilead, it was a popularly traded commodity, always in high demand. The strength of the balm is familiar to us through the words of a hymn:
There is a Balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole,
There is a Balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin sick soul.
(Recreational Songs, 1949, p. 130)
As a presidency we desire that every sister in the Church recognize the significance of her service and be magnified in her work in the kingdom of God on earth. Sisters, ours is a sacred calling. As we devote ourselves to the purposes of Relief Society, we will see many of the problems reversed that are plaguing our homes and our communities.
The very name “Relief Society” describes our purpose: to provide relief. While we often have the desire and the natural tendency as women to fix what’s broken, we are not the “solution society.” We are the Relief Society. We understand the power and strength of the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Gal. 5:22; emphasis added). We can soothe a suffering heart when we can’t eliminate the trouble. We can bring reassurance and support, kindness, and calm.
When the Prophet Joseph Smith was suffering in Liberty Jail, he wrote of the balm he received from his friends. He said:
“Those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause … can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; … then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, … ‘peace be unto thy soul’” (History of the Church, 3:293).
Joseph recognized the role each of us plays in lifting, helping, and soothing so that the calamities of life can be stilled and the Lord’s voice can be heard.
This is the balm applied by the women of Relief Society today. In our worldwide church there are countless numbers of sisters who put their families first: women who read and ponder the scriptures, who follow the counsel of the living prophets; women who are serving in demanding callings, from setting up wilderness camps for Laurels to teaching the Articles of Faith to Primary children to greeting at the door of Relief Society on Sunday morning; and the world is blessed by their influence.
So much of our contribution is done in quiet ways, one sister at a time. It has always been so. I think of Mary who bathed Christ’s feet after his hot and dusty journey and then dried his feet with her hair before applying a healing ointment (see John 12:3). I think of Dorcas, sometimes called the Relief Society sister of the New Testament because her life through her good deeds prompted the women to weep and wail at her passing. They pleaded with Peter to restore her to life (see Acts 9:36–39). I think of Helen who works with me at the general Relief Society offices. Untiring, patient, accommodating of all, Helen is a source of peace. She gives me comfort because I know she is always there, even and fine.
I have been privileged to meet many of you. Thank you for the steadfast love you extend to one another, for your example, for your service. Thank you for putting your arms around each other and drawing each other into the circle of sisters that is the heart and soul of a branch, a ward, or a stake.
The fifth general president of Relief Society, Emmeline B. Wells, described the influence of the sisters when she said, “The sun never sets on the Relief Society” (“R.S. Reports: Alpine Stake,” Woman’s Exponent, Aug. 1904, p. 21).
I have been to Relief Society gatherings in many parts of the world, and I know that the Lord has no finer forces than the good women in these congregations. Our balm of Gilead takes many forms for we minister with both our hearts and our hands.
I remember receiving a report from a sister in Georgia assigned to survey the damage done to homes in her stake after severe flooding in their area. She went into the kitchen of one home sloshing through mud above her ankles, and opened a cupboard. Inside was coiled a water moccasin snake. She quickly shut the door and tried another cupboard where she was eye-to-eye with yet another snake. In consternation she ran up the stairs to the second floor where she met up with an alligator. I’d class that as heroic charity.
A mother in North Carolina who had been cared for by willing Relief Society sisters during an illness said, “The sisters have taught me a lesson about the worth of a soul and that even at the bottom, stripped of all roles, titles, and responsibilities, we are valuable to our Father in Heaven and to each other and that charity never faileth.”
Wherever we are, we can carry with us a reserve of our balm of Gilead and we can spread it around. It can be as simple as finding a seat in the room by someone who needs you. It may be a thoughtful comment in a lesson that answers another one’s prayer. It may be catching someone’s eye, lifting a child for a drink from a fountain, sending a note in the mail, reading the scriptures with someone. Or it may be visiting someone you’ve missed at meetings, someone you hear mentioned in your heart by the still, small voice. These little actions inspire us; they take the edges off our problems. Indeed, “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). The giver and the receiver are both blessed.
Our strength as Relief Society sisters in the gospel is most visible and most critical at home. Women are the heart of the home. Whatever your circumstance, you are the heart of your home. I call on you to sanctify your home, to make strengthening and nurturing your family your first priority.
My sister and I speak often about the family in which we grew up. We were born of goodly parents. My mother was a devoted member of the Relief Society in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. As I was growing up, I felt the influence of the Relief Society sisters in my ward. I realize now that they were one of the constants in my life. My dear father had an unwavering testimony, and at age eighty-eight he gave me his final priesthood blessing. Our grandparents lived just next door, something that doesn’t happen much anymore. My grandfather served as the stake patriarch, and I served as his transcriber. What a rich blessing that was in my life. My sister, Jean, and I have happy, peaceful memories of our years at home.
Homes can be sacred havens from the world. Homes offer not only physical shelter but a feeling of security, a sense of belonging, a closeness with other family members. Families live in homes. Families are made up of mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers. They also have grandfathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and fathers.
Families bring us our greatest joys and sometimes our most wrenching heartaches. Families provide a learning environment, a schoolroom from which we never graduate but can always learn. In our families we learn to appreciate the spiritual peace that comes from applying the principles of charity, of patience, sharing, integrity, kindness, generosity, self-control, and service. These are more than family values, sisters; these are the Lord’s way of life.
The purpose of the Relief Society organization of the Church, stated in our handbook, is to help women and their families come unto Christ. This means bringing the influence of Jesus Christ into our homes. It means we focus on his gospel and we find joy in living his commandments. It means we reexamine our time commitments, and give emphasis to becoming a family that is united and at peace.
It’s no news to you that this is no easy job. All forms of the media comment on the fragmentation or even the demise of the family. Economic pressures force families to make difficult choices. We’re pulled in myriad directions, and yet we must hold gospel principles firmly in place. Our efforts may seem unnoticed and unappreciated, but sisters, they are worth it. Families are the framework of our lives here and in the eternities. That families are sealed together indicates their central purpose in the Lord’s plan. And women have a key role in the family. We set the tone in our homes; we set the pattern for daily living; we set the standards for how people are treated; we are teacher, counselor, confidante, advocate, supporter, and companion.
We have a long and significant track record in Relief Society for putting families first. The “Mother’s Class” was the first standardized lesson taught in Relief Society. Starting in 1901, these lessons were the original Mother Education course. The intent was to help sisters manage their homes, inspire their children, teach the gospel, and live exemplary lives. Just as we do now.
In our Relief Society today, we study one lesson a month and focus it on the needs of homes and families. But it doesn’t stop there. Homes and families are a central frame of reference in all lessons.
Because families are close to our hearts, they make us hurt sometimes. Take Lehi and Sariah as an example. How did they feel about the constant bickering of Laman and Lemuel? When Joseph was sold into Egypt, what did he think of his brothers? Did Queen Esther really want to hear from her Uncle Mordecai, “Who knoweth whether thou art come … for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14.)
Families signify responsibility to and for each other. This spring my seven-year-old grandson, David, called to see if I could come to his class’s spring concert because, he said, “I have a solo part.” It was on a Tuesday, my busiest day, but I promised I would try. On the day of the program, I was there, straining with his parents to identify our little David amidst the sea of faces framed by Mickey Mouse ears. David did have a solo; every child in the class had a solo. But the reward came at the end of the program when he bounded down the aisle saying, “Grandma, I knew you’d come.”
A friend spoke to me recently of her father, who had suffered a stroke. She faced a hard time of life as she tried to determine the best way to care for and support him and also consider her mother, who had good health and days still filled with promise and grandchildren. Then my friend spoke of the reverence she felt for this time. She said, “I am finding I enjoy learning from him, watching him deal with this difficult process of an aging body.”
At the most difficult times our families can hold us steady. We learn this well from one of the most wrenching experiences in the history of the world, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
We read in John, “There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister” (John 19:25). They were there as they had been throughout his life. My mind darts back to the early years as Mary and Joseph raised this most remarkable child. I can hear Mary comforting the baby Jesus with soothing words that come so naturally to us: “I’m right here.” And then at this most dramatic moment of all time, there was the mother, Mary. She couldn’t soothe his pain this time, but she could stand by his side. Jesus, in tribute, offered those grand words, “Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26–27.)
My sisters of Relief Society, we are the bearers of the balm of Gilead. May your Relief Society sisterhood soothe and bless you. May you know how I support you in all you do for and with your families. May you feel the ameliorating influence, the balm of Relief Society.
I leave you with my testimony that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his Son, and that his gospel has been restored in these latter days. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Providing warmth and love
sharing within soft service
cradling a childs small life
giving nourishment to all
never selfish or withdrawn
a Balm of Gilead to provide
soothing patience entwined
Sisters together doing such
Father’s Will guiding light
giving strength to others
while renewing each’s own!
Copyright © 2011 – cji