The Washington D.C. Temple has been an iconic sight on the National Capital Beltway since its dedication in 1974. In 2018, the temple closed for needed renovations and updating. As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepares to wrap up the open house for the newly renovated Washington D.C. Temple this week, Church leaders and others of influence speak of the importance of temples on this episode of the Church News podcast.
During the public open house, more than 250,000 people toured the historic temple. Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto of the Relief Society general presidency; members of the local temple committee and others are featured in this episode of the Church News podcast — which highlights much of what has been said about the Washington D.C. Temple.
Elder David A. Bednar
I think the members have had a great yearning to return to the temple, and our appreciation has been heightened because we’ve come to more fully appreciate how much the temple means. And it’s not the temple; it’s not the building. It’s what the ordinances and covenants teach us about Christ, His role in the Father’s plan and the Father’s plan of happiness. We often have the sequence of talking about the temple. We don’t speak as much about the ordinances and covenants and perhaps even less about the Savior. And that sequence, we should invert. It’s about Christ. It’s about the covenants and the ordinances. Oh, and those ordinances and covenants are available in the temple. So what people have missed is the connection to Christ; not the temple, but the connection to the Savior.
Sarah Jane Weaver
I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sarah Jane Weaver
As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepares to wrap up the open house for the newly renovated Washington D.C. Temple, we are all reminded of the importance of temples not just in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us. The Washington D.C. Temple has become an iconic site on the national Capital Beltway since its dedication in 1974. Members of the Church and those not of our faith have looked up to its spires for hope, peace and comfort in an increasingly divided world. In 2018, the temple closed for needed renovations and updating. A quarter of a million people have visited the temple in recent weeks during the public open house for the edifice. This episode of the Church News podcast features interviews with Church leaders and others who have participated in the open house.
Sarah Jane Weaver
We start our compilation today with Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who explains how joyful the opportunity was to visit the newly renovated temple with members and media representatives.
Elder David A. Bednar
Well, I don’t know if fun is the right word, but it certainly has been joyful. We’ve had the opportunity to visit with scores of media people from all over the world. They’re interested in learning about the temple and what we do. So, they’ve been very receptive, and it’s been joyful. It has a remarkable backstory in terms of how we got to the point that we had that experience with CBS. It was a real curiosity on the part of Ed O’Keefe from CBS and his crew, and it wasn’t an interview per se as much as it was a walkthrough and a very warm, congenial conversation about what a temple is and why we build them and what we do. It took a long time. We were there for a number of hours on the day of the filming, and it was fun to watch the reactions of all the crew members. One of them, the sound technician, as a 12 year-old boy had gone through the open house with his mother for the Washington D.C. Temple. And he said, “I remember being in the baptistry,” or we come to another part of the temple. So it was fun to see some of those personal stories from the people on the crew.
They were intrigued, because they normally have a number of different devices that they use to get the lighting just right whenever they’re trying to do a shot, and they didn’t really need those because the lighting in the temple seems to permeate everything. And one of the technicians just held up his hand and he said, “Look, there’s no shadow anywhere,” and they were impressed by the light. They noticed the discernible difference as you progress through the rooms of the temple and as you come to the celestial room, increasing light and they were very much aware of that and thought it was an instructive experience.
When you can take people on tours of a temple, one of the stops is in the celestial room and we specifically invite the people to not say anything, just go in, sit down. And we can discuss it after we come out of the celestial room, but we won’t speak in the room. The quiet in that setting with those people just reminds me of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” So we bring people through of all kinds of religious and professional backgrounds, but for a few minutes, regardless of who they are, where they came from, they sit in the celestial room and they are still. And I think that they are reminded that there is a God.
Sarah Jane Weaver
One emphasis of the Washington D.C. Temple open house has been an invitation for all to come and see the beauty of the temple. This includes not only members of the media and government and community leaders, but the leaders of other faiths, as well. One such leader is the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. He accepted an invitation from the Church to talk about the temple during a media day early in the open house.
The Rev. Dr. Amos Brown
I had to come for this moment in time to be with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Church celebrates the rededication of the temple, but more importantly, as the Church acknowledges to the world that the temple dwells within and without, and that within, this means that, in my estimation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a superlative embodiment of spirituality in America in these times when we unfortunately are living at a period when we’re divided. There’s a lot of hate, violence and just outright misrepresentation of truth. Jesus said that truth shall make you free, and our nation in which you have censorship, you have an authoritarian mentality that’s afoot, the seeking to get a foothold. That’s dangerous. That’s disruptive, but under the leadership of President Nelson, you are being a superlative example of what the kingdom ought to be about and what Jesus meant for us to embody it, in the flesh, beyond the temple, out in the marketplace, in our academic halls of learning.
So, in history we recorded that there was a bright light, in the Church of Jesus Christ, to dispel the darkness as over this land. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, thy mind, soul and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s what we’re doing in the NAACP, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as decent human beings. And Christ was a master teacher. Christ was compassionate. Christ was inclusive and Christ has courage to take unpopular stance, even with religious hope. But we must get rid of this dichotomous thinking of them against us, us against them, and we need to master that one little pronoun. “We” are collective humanity, and we are partners with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make sure that young people will get it right.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Many young people have played an important part in the open house, volunteering their time to place protective foot coverings on those entering the temple. Mia Lattin is one of those youth volunteers. As a 16-year-old member of the Church, she has grown to appreciate the guidance the gospel and the temple have brought into her life.
Right now, I think being a teenager, there’s a lot of confusion, and you have a lot of questions and you’re constantly looking for answers and sometimes you don’t always know the right place to find them. And it’s easy to be distracted or misled on the internet and on social media and comparing yourself to others. So I think it’s really important to stay close to the things you know best and then also rely on your friends and family that are looking out for you and want the best for you and can really help you through hard times. When I’m in the temple I feel peace and calm. It’s a place where I can feel centered, and sometimes when life is hectic it’s a place where I can find resolve and relief from, like, my life. When I went the first time I remember it felt so warm and loving, almost like a big warm hug, and it felt comforting. So I was, like, I can breathe easier and there’s, like, a weight off my shoulders and I can really feel the peace and love of Christ. It’s meant a lot to serve in the temple. I’ve lived here for about six years, so it’s really nice to be able to help in this way for our temple here in Washington, D.C., and in such a small and simple way, just by putting foot coverings on, but it means a lot to me.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also participated in the open house media day. He shared with us how the temple has shaped the skyline of the nation’s capital and also given him a slice of solace during one of his visits.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan
I’ve been here my whole life, and so I graduated from high school in 1974 when the temple first opened, and I’ve been driving past it on the national Capital Beltway nearly every day for all that time. And so to have the opportunity to actually, to get inside; I think it’s wonderful that the Church is, you know, it’s good to have transparency. I think a lot of people just have, you know, always wondered about what happens inside the temple, and of course we understand it’s a sacred place for the members of the Church, but before the rededication to get people to get a chance to look inside I think is a wonderful thing, and it’s an honor to be here.
It just stands out as you come around the Beltway and you see these incredible spires reaching to the heavens. So it’s one of the most beautiful, you know, iconic sites in the Washington area. It’s a really, very special place, and in the kind of crazy world that we’re in with all of the problems, regardless of your faith, I think it’s just a place of peace and serenity. And being in that room and with everybody being silent, even members of the media, everybody, kind of there was this calming. You know, it’s the first time I’ve felt relaxed and calm in a while. So I kind of liked being in there.
Sarah Jane Weaver
The temple stands just 10 miles from the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. This city is a hub of policy, commerce and ideas. Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, explains how the temple has an international appeal as well.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto
Well I think that Washington, D.C., is a special place for this country. As we know, this is where the government is, but it’s also heard a lot of history in this country, and for us to have a temple, in Washington D.C., which has been here for almost 50 years now, shows that you want to have the temples where the community is, where the important people are, and that just having this temple here we know that it’s special for the community. I have been talking to people in the hotel and in restaurants and different places, and they feel that this is their temple. This is a landmark in this place, and for us to be able to open it today and to show, you know, our friends and the community what we do inside and how happy we are to have this temple to be ready to be dedicated again, it’s just a special blessing, because we have so many people coming to Washington, D.C., for many reasons, for work, either to work for the government or to represent their countries, so I’m sure that many, many thousands of people from all over the world, also the ones that have convert stories or have seen this temple that I’m sure that they have a memory of it, and for them is significant.
It was interesting for me to also hear that for people It feels like a peaceful place. You know, and if you think about it right now the world is in turmoil for many reasons. We’re just getting out of a pandemic after two years of uncertainty and fear and loss, because many of us have lost dear ones or friends, and also there is war. There’s all kinds of problems in the world, and someone said in there, “This feels like a peaceful place, a place of worship,” and so for us that is so significant that people can see that we come here to get closer to God and to feel peace, to feel hope, because we know that you know, yes, there are problems in the world. We cannot deny that. There are problems and many things that sometimes we could be filled with fear or uncertainty, but at the same time, if we look at our life and our existence from an eternal perspective, we realize that we can receive strength from God to go on and just face the problems of the world, and then we are changed, our heart is changed. The problems are still there, but we look at them in a different way and we can actually be instruments in the hands of God to go and do good for the people around us.
And so I think that’s one of the beautiful things, and it was impressive to see that people can actually feel that when they come to this open house, and it’s interesting how, you know, the Holy Ghost works differently for each person. I’m sure every person will feel something different as they go through, but I’m almost sure that they will always feel peace, because this is a place of peace and a place of worship and a place of learning for all of us. And we’re hoping that every person that comes to this temple will feel that.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Dan Holt, project manager for the temple reconstruction project, gave Church News a backstage pass into the intentionality of the renovation. He spoke of all that went into the design and construction of this important project.
I would say that the intention of the design and construction was to put it back to how it was originally designed, only 21st century, only mid-century modern, more modern, if that makes sense. So I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly the same or that it looks exactly how it was. There is a feeling of familiarity in the building, and, aside from a few finishes, the idea of the design was to put it back exactly how it was. So there wasn’t a space that we didn’t touch inside or outside. And that included the framing, the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, but it’s also just ready for, you know, another 100 years of maintenance and upkeep in the building.
The drywall, to me, is probably one of the most impressive parts of the building, oddly enough, drywall and plaster. Because in many designs you can hide mistakes in all sorts of places. You have details and you have, you know, add ons, you put in trim and different things like that that cover up maybe little details here and there that might be a problem. With the mid-century-modern type of design, you can’t hide anything. You’ve got a 200-foot run of just one straight line of drywall, and it better be straight, and if it’s not, everybody’s gonna know it. So there’s very simple lines in that building, which require the highest level of ability. We have plasterers and drywallers here that have done work on the Capitol building and the White House and the Smithsonian Institute and all these other beautiful buildings, and so we had a great group of people who were experienced and knew exactly what they were doing.
And the paint is this, I would call it a pearlized paint, that shimmers, almost, in the light, and you’ll see that throughout much of the building, which also kind of adds to that, the importance of the light and reflection in the building. When you walk through some of those spaces, you really don’t see any shadows, like everything is very even, you know, the lighting is so even and, and I would say, easy. And so when you walk through the building, you just feel a sense of rightness. It’s just right. It feels good. You don’t necessarily know why, because everything works together to just make it feel like you belong; it belongs. There’s nothing that draws your eye too much. There’s nothing that detracts from the rest of the design at all. And it, it just, it fits. I was also able to follow the CBS crew through their production of that piece, and they were amazed. They walked in and said, “We don’t have to set up any lighting in this space.” There’s no, you know, auxiliary light because everything’s lit from every angle. There’s no shadows, and they were just beside themselves excited.
But the thing that I love about that, and I never really thought about it until they brought it up, is that light comes from all sides of you, you know, the light of Christ is ever present in our lives and available to us and it hides nothing, right? It provides us with a path, you know, and a return to Him without any pitfalls that we are unaware of, that He can’t help us with. So it’s a great, I guess, reflection on the gospel, and it just feels right.
I worked for over two years on the actual construction of the project and there was a gentleman who worked for the drywall crew; he was a foreman for the company, and a very quiet gentleman. [He] had been working in this area, in the mid-Atlantic area, for about 40-plus years and this was one of his last jobs, and he came up to me at the end, and I said: “You know we love to have you guys on the job site. You guys are wrapping up.” He said, “In fact, this is my last day.” I thanked him for his work and all that he had done. They did a fabulous job for us, and he said, “You know, Dan, this project is different than any other project I’ve ever done,” and I said: “Oh yeah, it’s different. I mean, it’s unique,” and he said: “No, it’s not unique. I’ve been on every building in Washington, D.C. I’ve done really special projects from a unique design standpoint.” He said, “This this just feels different. Everyone is happy to see you when you walk on the job site. People hold their heads up. They say, ‘Hello.’ They work with you. They’re glad to see you, and it’s just a different feeling on this project.” And I, as a member of the Church my whole life, maybe didn’t recognize the difference in the feeling that you get when you come and work on a temple.
I’ve had others tell me that, when they come and work on a temple, whether it’s Washington D.C., Richmond [Virginia], Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania], they feel different. They feel a sense of duty to a higher power, whatever that might be for them, that they recognize the importance of the building and they really do give their best work, and it shows. It shows in the collaboration. It shows in the feeling of family and unity that there was on this project. It’s not often that a contractor can walk off a project and then come back for an open house and hug the people that he worked with and be excited to see them and rejoice with their families in the work that they did. That usually never happens. Usually, construction sites are almost the exact opposite of that. You know, people are just glad to be done and off and “I hope I never see you again” kind of thing. And a temple, at least the experiences that I have had, have been 180 degrees different. I have lived with a picture of the temple in my house my whole life. I’ve been to the temple. I’ve been taught about the temple, and it was a part of my, I guess, devotion and worship. But not until I got to walk a temple every day, for the last several years, that I really got to feel the importance of it, not only for myself, but for all of those around me both in the community, who see this as their temple regardless of if they’re members of the Church or not, all the way to members who have been living here and going to this temple their whole life and how important it is to them.
And so it really created a desire in me to understand it on a very personal level, and I have completely focused my, I guess, my life to be able to be here as often as possible. I get this feeling when I go through that: “Yeah, this is where I want to be. This is what’s truly important. This is where I’m happy. This is where I learn about and understand the things more fully that do make me happy and bring me joy,” and so I would say that it’s really created a deeper, not only desire, but appreciation for the temple itself and how important is to us.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Kisha Sogunro, assistant director of outreach in the Church’s North America Northeast Area, spoke about the little things in the temple that make all the difference to her. She started with the artwork.
The artwork has just been, to me, just amazing to watch how the diversity is represented, because the Church is truly a global church, and so when you see the artwork, you feel like, you know, even for me as [an] African American woman, that I’m represented in a temple. It feels like home. It feels welcoming. And so that is what we want to project out into the community as we do this open house, that they’re welcome and represented in the temple, that everyone’s a child of God, and I think the artwork does an excellent job of depicting that image. My message about the temple is to feel God’s love and feel peace. I think, living in the Washington, D.C., area, we can be very preoccupied, and it’s a very busy city, and so when you come into the temple as we’re doing the open house is that it’s an immediate peace that people can feel and that’s why it’s so important that we invite people to come and see; see for yourself, see how you how do you feel when you walk through those temple doors, and it’s been an amazing experience to see the temple come alive in others.
Sarah Jane Weaver
For Kent and Kathryn Colton the temple has always been a refuge from the world. The co-chairs of the temple rededication committee served in the temple from 2014 to 2018, and for them, the temple has always remained a landmark of peace.
When we were called to serve in the presidency, we actually began in November of 2014. We had the opportunity to serve, but then they began to think about, “Well, maybe we’ll do some remodeling while you’re here. We’ll close down for three months here. We’ll do it,” and then as they got into they said, “No, we need to do a thorough remodeling,” and so we actually extended for three months and were able to sort of serve and close down the temple, if you will. March 4 of 2018 was the last day for the temple before the remodeling began, and then they called us in November of 2019 to help do the open house, so we’ve had a lot of history with the temple and it’s been a real blessing to us. It’s a wonderful place. The blessing is the opportunity to be in the temple, essentially, almost part of every day and to feel the spirit of the temple and the love and, obviously, for us to work together and to work with the wonderful people and all the wonderful spiritual things that happen when you’re serving in the temple. We had the press conference to announce the open house in January of 2020, and it was going to be in the fall, and then almost a month and a half later the pandemic hit. So then you get into discussions, “Well, I think we’re going to need to postpone this,” and then the question is when, and the thing that was wonderful, because we thought about, “Well, maybe we can do it in the spring of 2021 or in the fall of 2021,” but the First Presidency, I think, really said, “We want to wait until we can do large gatherings again,” and it may never be as large as it would have been, but that made a lot of sense and they were the ones that really selected the spring of 2022.
And that’s now. We have the window.
It was definitely worth the wait, and it’s sort of a middle version, if you will, in terms of all the different things that we planned, but, the good thing is we’re flexible, and every day we perform a new audible in terms of making something work a little bit different because of the circumstance.
It’s really a special gift in this particular community. It’s a very intense community, with all the vital organs of government, national and international, here, and many of our patrons that come here are involved in positions that are very stressful, and as they would come to the temple, it was their refuge, really a place to find peace amid all of the turmoil of the world that they were aware of and involved in. I think this is truly a moment of people searching for who can heal this divide that we have in our country and in the world. We just see the softening and the hope that people leave with after they’ve gone through the progression of the temple. And we’ve been able to share the love of God that He has for all of His children. In God’s family, there is no divide, and we’re just trying to heal that divide and that our temple stands as a healing agent to be able to draw people together and to help us be one. And we see it in their eyes, particularly when they leave. They come perhaps with some skepticism and not knowing what this is, and we see them leave with a greater peace. And so I think we are very blessed to be in this moment to have the temple open so that everyone can come in and share in this view and this possibility of this hope.
A temple is a wonderful symbol of equality, and we’ve seen it in these tours. We are all God’s children and we are all equal in the sight of God. And when you go into the temple you take off your worldly clothes and you put on white, and the CEO is in a temple with somebody that may be working in the mailroom. But they’re all equal in God’s sight. And then you’re able to feel God’s presence and His love for us and that we all can have the opportunity to strive to become like Him, knowing where we came from, why we’re here and where we’re going. And so it’s peace, and it’s love and it’s connection, and you really feel that in today’s world, and I think people when they come they feel the peace, the love, the connection.
It’s the light on the hill, and it is a monument of peace. We knew that it had taken its place as a monument in Washington, D.C., when it first began on the traffic reports as, “The traffic is backed up to the Washington D.C. Temple,” and now it is simply everyone’s temple, so it’s, “The traffic is now backed up to the temple,” “THE temple.”
Sarah Jane Weaver
Anne Golightly, chair of public affairs for the open house committee of the temple, spoke of her gratitude to be able to hold a temple open house, which was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the temple has been a coming together for the community.
They’ve gone as well, if not better than what we expected. And I say that because the enthusiasm in the market for what we were doing and that this was an important event was very clear as we spoke to people over the past two and a half years, and it’s especially well-received because of people coming out of COVID, you know, kind of the fears and things that COVID had brought to us, particularly the last year, wondering when would spring come, and I think people really feel spring’s coming. And this temple open house is sort of a first sign of spring, meaning spring metaphorically as much as literally. I think all are looking for peace, and I think that is an important message and something people are seeking and hoping to find here.
So the most resonated message about this temple and why people have been willing to come, this is more of a public open house, but I think it applies, as I see our invited guests, is a feeling of connection — feeling of connection, wanting to feel connected. And I think that’s really interesting that you’re offering. If you’re, let’s say you think you’re just coming to a building, a beautiful building, a beautiful monument, a beautiful sacred building, wouldn’t you be coming because of the architecture or that sort of thing? Instead, people are coming to find a connection, and I think that is because of COVID and because of people feeling very unconnected over the last couple of years, and so that’s been a primary motivator for people to find connection.
Another important one has been community. It’s about community. And again, I don’t know that I would have thought that would have made people interested in coming, but we’ve said it’s about community and that’s another one that people have, that has resonated for people. And again, that to me says something about connection. People are looking, even though I think people are somewhat nervous about coming to a large event, after the years of COVID, being afraid, but we’re very focused on safety and public safety, and I think people feel that when they come. So, still, even with some masks on, and there’s probably 50% of our guests [who] have masks, there’s a sense of connection that we’ve missed.
Let me just say, I feel kind of over and over again, that I’m in the right place at the right time, and that’s sort of an unusual sense that we’ve had a number of people that have just shown up unexpectedly or that sort of thing, and I’ve been able to see them and see that they’re at a place where they really need something from this experience and I’ve been able to witness them get what they needed. I toured a group, kind of accidentally, two nights ago, where they just showed up at the temple with their invitation, but they hadn’t made a reservation, which we have, it’s clear on the invitation you’re supposed to make a reservation, but they hadn’t done that. So they just come and they just came with their baby and they were there and so I had the privilege of taking them through, and at the end they were particularly touched by the idea of connection to our ancestors and our mothers and fathers who are no longer with us. And I sensed a hope in them that they found confirmed by our belief that we are connected to those people we’ve lost. And I think they walked away feeling a bit of gratefulness to have a moment of that hope that we were able to share there.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not only as every temple open house is, but this open house is particularly notable, because of the influence the Washington, D.C., area has, not only on this region, but this nation and the world. So I think the Lord is really eager to make sure this open house helps His work move forward in a way that it couldn’t have without it.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also participated in the open house, taking the opportunity to reflect back on the legacy of temple work in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Quentin L. Cook
I think that there was a time when we sacrificed everything to have even a single temple. You look at that history in 1836 for the Kirtland Temple, and the Lord made it clear that they should really sacrifice to build that, and they had that built, and there were some special things that happened in there with the restoration of keys, and then the same thing with the Nauvoo Temple, and we saw people line up to be there. They couldn’t service them all. They just had to keep giving it, and those people had these sacred experiences and the sacred covenant-path commitments that they had made and that the Lord made to them that allowed them to cross the Plains and feel protected, and all their lives, many of them, that’s the only time they ever got to the temple was once in Nauvoo, and that was so precious.
Well, we’ve got almost 17 million members now and they need those sacred ordinances. And to have them within distance, have them so that you don’t have to make enormous sacrifices to go, and that you can go on a more regular basis, what a marvelous thing that is. That’s an enormous blessing, and it’s the faithful Saints who make this possible. And they want everybody all over the world to have that opportunity, and they sacrifice today in a different way and paying their tithings and that so that everybody else can have that special kind of experience. When you think about it, it is a wonderful willingness to sacrifice so that others can have sacred experiences and sacred covenants that are important to them.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the spiritual foundation that Latter-day Saints find in the temple. He spoke about President Russell M. Nelson’s emphasis on building temples across the globe, which he said is really an emphasis on building people across the globe.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
President Nelson talks about everything we believe and every promise God has made to his covenant people come together in the temple, and the reality of that you feel and see when you’re here. We hope that the miracle of more temples coming to more places to more people is very real for us, but equally real, is the fact that we’re understanding the temple in a maybe deeper way.
President Nelson is helping us to see our Savior, the ordinances, the covenants in an even more profound way as we build our spiritual foundation, not just to come, as important as that is, but to understand how it brings us to our Savior closer and closer and to each other. I think we’re building temples, but we’re building people. We’re building people of faith and people who understand covenants, and faith and covenants bring us to our Savior, or our Savior brings us to an understanding of them. So I think He’s preparing us for the Second Coming of our Savior.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and director of Latter-day Saint Charities, spoke about the connection between the temple and caring for the poor and needy.
Sister Sharon Eubank
We don’t always make the connection in the Church between the temple and caring for poor and needy people, but to me the connection is really strong. The promises that we make when we enter the temple, try to root out prejudice in our hearts, try to make us better people and try to point us outward, and then we walk out of the temple and we try to put that into practice in our very messy lives. And to me, this is the genius of the promises that we make to God in the temple. He gives us a laboratory to practice them, and that’s humanitarian work and ministering and all the other things we try to do. Anybody who has that desire in their heart to love God and to love their neighbor, they turn outward and then they look for opportunities to do things, and everybody is doing things in their own circles and lives that are very, very important, but there’s also a powerful thing that happens when we do something collectively. So when the Church collectively uses its humanitarian funding, or its volunteerism, or it sponsors something like JustServe, it allows people to do something with collective power, which I think is very, very important, because it magnifies what individuals can do to really tackle something big.
Sarah Jane Weaver
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered tours of the temple during the VIP portion of the open house. He spoke of how a focus on temple work is for both the inner person and for the world at large.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
The focus of the temple, for example, our faith, and I think religions generally, is the inner person. And working from the inside out, you could say, a change of heart, a greater heart, a greater loyalty and accountability, a sense of accountability to God. All these things that are fostered in religion, in the temple ceremonies, in our faith, change us over time for the better, and we begin to, over time, mature spiritually and become people that not only are better, but can help others more effectively, and want to. That’s one of the things of discipleship, Christian discipleship, is the desire to make things better for others, not just ourselves.
So I believe that focus of working from the inside out and changing the person, who then changes the world over time with their efforts, is the right approach and that is the religion’s approach. With faith, with religion, with the values we teach, people do a lot to govern themselves. This was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s famous statement that he teaches correct principles and the people govern themselves, and that’s the role of religion, I think, to teach correct principles. People govern themselves. They voluntarily, as some have said, do things that can’t be coerced, but for the good of others and for the good of the society as a whole.
Without a willingness for self-control, I don’t think you end up with a successful society, if you could say it that way, you don’t end up with order. You don’t end up with peace. You don’t end up with opportunities for people to prosper. I like the phrase in “America the Beautiful,” “Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.” I don’t know who had that insight, to lead to the poetic expression, but I like it. I think it says something very important. And again, religion’s role of faith in people is to be willing to be enough or self-sacrificing to the degree necessary; not to deprive you of your own happiness, but to contribute to others; that there’s a kind of aspiration on our part toward greater holiness, as it says, on the entrance, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD,” that that’s an honest, very sincere desire on our part and there are considerable efforts made in that direction as part of our temple worship. They would see that’s what we care about. We care about those things, but I hope overall, they would see that temple as a monument to Jesus Christ and our faith in Him, because without His Atonement, without His grace, without His Resurrection, the temple really wouldn’t make sense, that is, what we do here wouldn’t have purpose.
If our existence is measured only between birth and death and there’s nothing before and nothing afterward, what’s the point of what we’re doing here? This temple is a testament to our conviction that life is eternal, that we go on even after death and immortality. Resurrection and immortality are assured and that the things that we do here that look toward both this life and the eternity that follows are real, and without that, again, there would be little purpose in what we do here. So I would hope they would see with the efforts being made, the time dedicated, the investment of time and money and everything else that makes up a temple and its functioning, a real commitment to the Savior and a belief that is not just a personal belief but one that leads to some real action and sacrifices to accomplish what we’re about here; that we are committed and consecrated to that and then we care about those things.
So if they’re going to tell, I hope they would tell something of that and that our commitments are sincere, that they’re real and that we’re a trustworthy people, that we, if we want to be friends or they want to be friends, it’s worth being friends. We’ve got something to offer and we believe everybody does and want to share this life and eternity with everyone who at all has any interest in the kinds of things we care about.
Sarah Jane Weaver
We close this episode of the Church News podcast where we started, with the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He speaks about how the temple can ultimately connect us to the Savior Jesus Christ. He shares with us, as a special witness of Jesus Christ, what he knows now after participating in the temple rededication.
Elder David A. Bednar
I think the members have had a great yearning to return to the temple, and they need to be patient. We operated temples at a greatly reduced capacity, and as we begin to open them up we don’t immediately go to full capacity. So we have to gradually open the pipeline, if you will, because we have learned a great lesson in the need to close the temples, and we don’t ever want to have to do that again. So I think our appreciation has been heightened, because we’ve come to more fully appreciate how much the temple means.
And it’s not the temple; it’s not the building. It’s what the ordinances and the covenants teach us about Christ, His role in the Father’s plan and the Father’s plan of happiness. We often have the sequence of talking about the temple. We don’t speak as much about the ordinances and the covenants, and perhaps even less about the Savior. And that sequence we should invert. It’s about Christ; it’s about the covenants and the ordinances. Oh, and those ordinances and covenants are available in the temple. So what people have missed is the connection to Christ; not the temple, but the connection to the Savior.
There’s one other element I would add, and that is this temple is large in size, and if you consider the pattern now of many of the temples that are being announced, they’re not as large. And I think some people in various parts of the world may think, “Well, those smaller temples are secondary temples.” A temple is a temple. The building is not the issue. There’s no such thing as a small temple or a big temple. They’re all temples, and the reason we have temples is because of the covenants and the ordinances and the connection to the Savior. So I think one of the instructive lessons is, as big and as magnificent as this temple is, all temples are magnificent, but they don’t need to be this big.
I think of the experience I had at the rededication of the Oakland [California] Temple. I attended the original dedication in 1964 as a 12-year-old boy. I went with my mother. I went with President Oaks more than 50 years later for the rededication. It’s a remembrance of so many things that provided a foundation of my life, and for me that experience was a commitment and a recommitment to continue to build upon that foundation. So I think the rededication, for me, is in the very term itself, to again focus on those fundamental basic things that are so important and to renew that commitment.
Sarah Jane Weaver
You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News Editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast, and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, my producer KellieAnne Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the church on thechurchnews.com.