At the 2013 Seminar for New Temple Presidents and Matrons, President Thomas S. Monson quoted from the Old Testament, telling temple presidents and matrons that they will receive "a new heart … and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 36:26) as they serve in their assignments.
President Monson and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, addressed 53 new temple presidents and matrons on Wednesday, Oct. 16, during the first session of the seminar, which was held in the chapel of the Salt Lake Temple.
President Monson identified three aspects of the temple spirit: a spirit of love, a spirit of reverence and a spirit of service.
A spirit of love. Encouraging the new temple presidents and matrons to show kindness to those who will serve under their direction and the patrons who will attend their temples, President Monson said, "My brothers and sisters, let all that takes place within the House of the Lord be done in a spirit of love."
A spirit of reverence. President Monson spoke with fondness of those who helped him understand the sacredness of the temple as he prepared to attend for the first time, and of how the workers helped him feel reverence in the temple. "As we speak of sacred things, let us remember too that people will reflect the goodness they feel from you in the Lord's Holy House," he said.
A spirit of service. "Some of you may have heard the phrase, 'An organization is the lengthened shadow of its leader.' Our leader is the Lord Jesus Christ, and our temple service should be a reflection of His life and mission."
President Monson told of an article he read in the Church News some years ago about a 70-year-old man who went to the Dallas Texas Temple for the first time. "He was a large man, not particularly handsome. He was also blind," President Monson said. "He had waited years to attend the temple, for he had never felt well about being in a large group of people. After going through the session, he spoke to the temple president and told him that all his life he had been treated as an outcast, but for that one day everyone at the temple had treated him like a king."
President Monson related that as the man and some members of his family were returning home, the man suffered a heart attack. As his family rushed him to a hospital, he told them that he knew it was his time to go. "He said he had asked the Lord to spare his life just long enough to go to the temple and to thank all who made this the most beautiful day in his life. He died less than an hour later," President Monson said.
"What a good lesson for those who serve in the temple to remember — namely, how special the first visit, and every visit, to the temple can and should be. I admonish you to make certain that as your workers serve, they go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated. In so doing, they will be reflecting the love of the Savior."
President Monson quoted words on a card he received from a friend who had a remarkable experience in the temple in Bolivia: " 'As a boy, Jesus was found teaching in the temple. He teaches there still.'
"Of that truth I bear witness, and you and I and all who come within the doors of the temple will be the recipients of the truths which He teaches, the love which He shares and the Spirit which He brings," President Monson said.
President Eyring told the new temple presidents and matrons that their success in this sacred service will depend in large part upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "The capacity of patrons to keep sacred covenants will require revelation," he said. "They will need revelation to know that the promises they make are with a living God. They will need to know that the promises they receive are sure because they have a sure witness of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"For your patrons to receive revelation, the Spirit will be determined largely by the faith and the goodness of the workers who serve with you."
President Eyring described the kindness with which he was met when he entered the temple for the first time and the feeings of spirituality he had that day and in subsequent visits to the temple.
"You must find ways to help your workers invite the Spirit into your temple. That will take your personal revelation because no two temples, nor temple presidents, nor matrons are exactly the same."
President Uchtdorf encouraged the new temple presidents and matrons to cultivate harmony in the temples in which they serve.
"Of all places on earth, the temple must be a place of serenity, holiness and peace," he said. "Whenever there is disharmony, make it your responsibility to listen and resolve it. The temple is not a place of competition. There is no room for jealousy or envy.
"The temple is a house of prayer and a house of harmony.
To that end there should be no animosity among those who enter or serve in the temple. Be gentle and kind."
President Uchtdorf paraphrased a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants, which, he said, can be a guide for temple presidents and matrons: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained [in this temple], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned. By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile" (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 41-43).
The seminar continued through Friday, Oct. 18, with instruction and training given by President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Neil L. Andersen, both of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy, who serves as executive director of the Temple Department.
Also participating in the seminar were Elder Kent F. Richards, Elder Bruce A. Carlson and Elder Joseph A. Sitati, members of the Seventy who serve as assistant executive directors of the Temple Department; Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy, who is the executive director of the Family History Department, and Bishop Dean M. Davies of the Presiding Bishopric.