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What President Oaks and Elder Gong taught youth on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple’s rededication


MESA, Arizona — In a special youth devotional broadcast the evening before the rededication of the Mesa Arizona Temple, President Dallin H. Oaks expressed gratitude that local Latter-day Saint youth are personally making the holy temple a “beacon of light on the covenant path.”

“A temple is a house of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I testify that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, are pleased when we come to the temple to worship Them and to serve Them through representing our fellow man in the eternal work of His house.”

Youth and adults watch a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Youth and adults watch a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Addressing youth in the Mesa Arizona Temple district as part of the Dec. 11 devotional, President Oaks spoke of President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to participate in the work of salvation and gather Israel by offering the blessings of the gospel to God’s children on both sides of the veil.

“You must have accepted that invitation or you would not be here tonight,” said President Oaks. “I’m grateful that so many of you have already come to the temple with your family and friends during the open house, that you’re preparing family name cards to represent ancestors in the work of salvation and exaltation. …

“President Nelson has called you extraordinary youth — and so you are.”

Panel discussion with Elder Gong

In preparation for the devotional broadcast, President Oaks asked Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, to visit with six teens who represent the youth of the Mesa Arizona Temple district.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, speaks during the Mesa Arizona Temple youth devotional, which was taped on Nov. 14, 2021, and broadcast on Dec. 11.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, speaks during the Mesa Arizona Temple youth devotional, which was taped on Nov. 14, 2021, and broadcast on Dec. 11.

Credit: Screenshot, from Mesa Arizona Temple Youth Devotional

“We want to know what the temple means to you,” President Oaks said. “We want to know your feelings and testimonies as you prepare for tomorrow’s rededication of the Mesa Arizona Temple. We want to know how you feel as the temple draws each of us closer to our Savior.”

The discussion was taped when Elder Gong and the teens met at the Mesa Arizona Temple and Temple Visitors’ Center on Sunday, Nov. 14.

Also participating in the panel discussion were Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department, and his wife, Sister Nancy Duncan; and Elder Paul B. Pieper, a General Authority Seventy and president of the North America Southwest Area, and his wife, Sister Melissa Pieper.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, visits with youth outside the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, visits with youth outside the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021.

Credit: Screenshot, from Mesa Arizona Temple Youth Devotional

Seated in front of a large window framing the Mesa Arizona Temple, Elder Gong asked the teens how they prepared personally for the temple and its rededication.

Sixteen-year-old Daniela Quilantan of the Paradise Valley Arizona Stake said she had prayed to know who she should invite to the temple open house. Quilantan’s friend accepted her invitation and, after touring the temple, felt the desire to begin attending Church again.

Hearing this experience, Elder Gong responded: “You prayed. You listened to the Spirit. And the temple has already changed someone’s life.”

Daniela added that she learned from this experience that “Heavenly Father loves all His children, and He doesn’t give up on them.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets with Jacob Vazquez before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast for the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets with Jacob Vazquez before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast for the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Elder Gong and the panel shared temple experiences and feelings, including:

  • Temple covenants and ordinances point individuals to the Savior and draw them to Him;
  • Temples connect families and generations in time and eternity;
  • Temples are for all people in every nation, kindred and tongue;
  • Temples can help one while in the midst of life’s storms and can also be a blessing throughout one’s life.

Elder Gong asked the youth what the temple means to them and how it helps connect families. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Farar of the Scottsdale Arizona Camelback Stake said his parents were sealed in the temple, but his father passed away when Thomas was only 7 years old. “It gives me comfort that we can be a family together again,” he said.

Alyssa J. Pooley, 16, of the Mesa Arizona Flatiron Stake, said: “I bear my testimony every time I invite someone. I feel that is one of the most real ways to get people to understand that I am serious about how much I do love this temple and how much it really has impacted and changed my life for the better.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, visits with youth at the entrances of the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, visits with youth at the entrances of the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021.

Credit: Screenshot, from Mesa Arizona Temple Youth Devotional

Elder Pieper said the youth had been invited to do four things to prepare for the temple rededication — have a current recommend, prepare family names for temple work, invite friends to the open house, and do acts of service.

One religious leader in Mesa accepted Elder Pieper’s invitation to the temple open house. This leader had felt excluded by members of the Church during his teenage years but, after touring the temple, said, “Thank you so much.  It felt so good to be included today.” 

Added Elder Pieper: “Healing had happened in his heart from something that had happened many years ago.”

Elder Duncan explained the Mesa Temple had originally been dedicated in 1927, and then again in 1975, but was being rededicated after the recent renovations. “The purpose of dedication and rededication is the same,” Elder Duncan explained. “The sacred ordinances that will take place in this temple after it is dedicated are so special that it requires apostolic keys to dedicate this building,” he said.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talks with Liam Wheeler, 12, right, before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Damon C. Wheeler is center.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talks with Liam Wheeler, 12, right, before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Damon C. Wheeler is center.

Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Elder Gong pointed out that beginning in November 1945, ordinances became available in Spanish in the Mesa temple — the first temple and the first time temple instruction and ordinances were available in a language other than English.

“It shows how much He loves all His children” said Ben Tejada, 15, of the Phoenix Arizona Stake.

Providing temple ordinances, instruction and worship in Spanish extended blessings to Latter-day Saints across the southwestern United States and Mexico and into Central and South America. Everyone on the panel knew Spanish-speaking families or friends who had sacrificed to come to the House of the Lord in Mesa. And likewise, the panel recounted how Church members in Mesa welcomed Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters with open hearts and open homes during their time at the temple.  

Elder Gong asked the youth, “How does the temple draw you closer to the Savior?”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, second of the left forefront, with his wife, Sister Susan Gong, enjoy a moment with the youth on Nov. 14, 2021, after taping the Dec. 11 youth devotional broadcast for the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication. The youth are, from left, Melanie Montague, Ben Tejada, Alyssa Pooley, Thomas Farar and Daniela Quilantan

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, second of the left forefront, with his wife, Sister Susan Gong, enjoy a moment with the youth on Nov. 14, 2021, after taping the Dec. 11 youth devotional broadcast for the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication. The youth are, from left, Melanie Montague, Ben Tejada, Alyssa Pooley, Thomas Farar and Daniela Quilantan

Credit: Jill Adair, for the Church News

Ben said walking through the temple “definitely shows us what the Lord wants for us.”

Calling the temple “a blessing of the Lord in our lives,” Elder Gong asked the youth how the temple can bless them every day.

Sixteen-year-old George Liddle of the Paradise Valley Arizona Stake said: “I think in the temple, when you have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, you’re able to have personal revelation that can give you clarity for trials in your life and tough decisions that you don’t know how to deal with.”

He added that one of the things that makes the temple special to him is the proximity of it. “I’m grateful we can come to the temple often and experience those ordinances.”

Mylee Redford, 15, of the Payson Arizona Stake said four or five generations of her family were sealed in the temple, and she believes that being sealed there is “just the start of eternity.”

Lucy Driggs, Brynlee Jones and Dax Clark watch a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Lucy Driggs, Brynlee Jones and Dax Clark watch a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the eve of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Sister Duncan, when asked to share her feelings, said: “The more I go to the temple, the more I want to go because you do feel a difference there. To me, it’s an expression of God’s love for us.

“This life and this world can be a hard place sometimes,” she added. “But He gave us His house here, away from our heavenly home, where we can still have a little ‘getaway,’ where we can ponder on the things of eternity and remember our eternal potential.”

Sister Pieper referenced a quote by President Nelson and urged the youth to “remember what we are learning and will never forget.”

Sister Gong said sometimes in this world, it can be “easy to become deeply concerned about some very superficial things.”

She added: “Focusing on the temple is a way to [move] our gaze away from the selfish concerns to more important things. In the temple we come to choose Christ, to choose family, to serve others — the temple is a gateway to selflessness.”

Elder Gong concluded by saying the Mesa Arizona Temple is “sacred ground.”

“This is true if we’re a first-generation convert, now with opportunity to unite our family on both sides of the veil. It is true if we are an eighth-generation descendent of the first pioneer company that entered this Mesa area 143 years ago. First or eighth, each of us can be a strong link in our family generations.”

He added: “A temple rededication is a natural opportunity to rededicate ourselves to our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, and to strengthen our faith and make firm our spiritual foundation.”

Reflections from the youth

Daniela Quilantan, 16, left, with her parents, Nelly and Juan Quilantan, pause for a photo in front of the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021, after she and five other youth taped a segment for the Dec. 11 youth devotional broadcast prior to the temple’s Dec. 12 rededication.

Daniela Quilantan, 16, left, with her parents, Nelly and Juan Quilantan, pause for a photo in front of the Mesa Arizona Temple on Nov. 14, 2021, after she and five other youth taped a segment for the Dec. 11 youth devotional broadcast prior to the temple’s Dec. 12 rededication.

Credit: Jill Adair, for the Church News

Following the panel discussion, the teen panelists paused to reflect on their experiences of the day — standing with an Apostle at the temple’s entrance, under the words “Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord” and the witness of the Spirit as they discussed the temple for the youth devotional broadcast.

Thomas said he learned it’s very important to research family names and take them to the temple. “Family history is definitely a big part of the temple.”

Added George: “It was a really great experience. It was calming and reassuring to hear Elder Gong speak, and it certainly reinforced my testimony of temples and also a testament of God calling apostles in His Church.”

Other youth participants included Robert Lees, who conducted the meeting, and Junior Saint-Cyr and Melanie Montague, who offered the invocation and benediction, respectively.

— R. Scott Taylor of the Church News contributed to this article.

Simeon Hutchinson meets with Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the even of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Simeon Hutchinson meets with Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, before a screening of the youth devotional broadcast on the even of the Mesa Arizona Temple rededication at the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake center in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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