Gateways to heaven

General conferences of the Church are planned to bring spiritual focus to us, and to remind us of the need to remain committed to Christ and follow Him in our quest for eternal life.

Certainly the great conference just concluded accomplished such purposes and brought to us spiritual stimulation and righteous regeneration.But there was something else very special about this conference that will mark it in memory, for it not only looked back at a historic temple event, but it also looked forward to temples of the future.

One hundred years ago this week the magnificent Salt Lake Temple was dedicated after 40 years of struggle and sacrifice on the part of impoverished pioneers and persecuted saints.

How fitting it was that throughout the conference tributes were paid to those who planned and built the Salt Lake Temple, and that emphasis was also given to the purposes for which temples are erected.

Notable mention was given to both Presidents Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff who played key roles in the Salt Lake Temple.

On July 28, 1847, only four days after the first company of saints entered the Salt Lake Valley, President Young called the Twelve to a site just north of the base camp between two creeks and there declared that this was to be the site of a temple to be built to the glory of God.

As a member of the Twelve, Elder Woodruff concurred in the inspired selection and is said to have marked with a stake the spot where Brother Brigham stood.

Elder Woodruff participated when ground for the temple was broken in February 1853, and then in the impressive ceremonies where the cornerstones were dedicated on April 6, 1853.

Forty years later, as the 86-year-old president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1893 as THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.

A s smaller temples in St. George, Logan, and Manti, Utah, were completed and dedicated, Elder Woodruff also worked to enlarge the understanding of the saints on the importance of the work to be done in the temples. In 1880, speaking at a semi-annual conference of the Salt Lake Stake on July 3, he said:

"Our responsibilities are great; our work is great. We not only have the Gospel to preach to the nations of the earth, but we have to fill these valleys, towns, cities, etc., and we have among other important things to rear temples unto the name of the Lord before the coming of Christ. We have got to enter into those temples and redeem our dead - not only the dead of our own family, but the dead of the whole spirit world. This is part of the great work of the Latter-day Saints. We shall build these temples, and if we do our duty, there is no power that can hinder this work, because the Lord is with us; and certainly our aim is high."

Later in the same sermon he said: "I look at the temples that are being built; I see what is going on in the mountains of Israel, and I ask what is it? It is the work of God. I acknowledge His hand in it. This is the reason why we are inspired to build these temples. Why we labor to build them is because the day has come when they are needed. . . . And this is the great work of the last dispensation - the redemption of the living and the dead."

And this work continues! Who was not thrilled as announcements came of temples still to be built? Spain was added to the list of countries where temples will be built. And a specific location of American Fork was designated for a previously announced temple in Utah County.

This, surely, is only the beginning. President Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church, said:

". . . The time will come when there will be temples established over every portion of the land, and we will go into these temples and work for our kindred dead night and day, that the work of the Lord may be speedily accomplished. . . ." (Millennial Star, Aug. 31, 1899, p. 546.)

Our beloved Prophet Ezra Taft Benson's words were quoted in this conference, and fittingly describe the reason for the temple building zeal that has characterized the Church from its earliest days:

"I am grateful to the Lord for temples. The blessings of the House of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God's greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples really are the gateways to heaven."

May we take renewed determination from this great general conference to walk through those gateways.

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