As a police officer, Mark Kelly routinely drove around the Mesa Arizona Temple while on patrol, reflecting on his duties and responsibilities as a Latter-day Saint and the covenants he had made in that sacred edifice. He patrolled the area for the last time a year ago, at age 29.
On May 23, Brother Kelly attended the dedication of The Gila Valley Arizona Temple in a motorized wheel chair. Participating in the dedication, he said, strengthened his testimony of temples and eternal life. That testimony brings comfort while his body steadily declines from the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), diagnosed after he couldn’t hold his handgun at a shooting range.
“My doctor estimated I had two-to-five years to live. What was I going to tell my beautiful wife, Elizabeth, and our four boys? How do you explain to 8-, 6-, 4- and 1 -year-old boys that their father’s time on this earth is limited?” he said.
“As construction of the Gila Valley Temple progressed, so did the disease in my body. As we traveled to visit relatives in Pima, Thatcher and Safford, we watched the temple became taller and more beautiful. Within one year I have been confined to a wheelchair. I can no longer control my body or limbs, it is getting harder to breathe and my voice is now soft and hoarse.”
Mark S. Bryce, president of Eastern Arizona College, coordinator of the local temple committee and then president of the Pima Arizona Stake, arranged for Brother and Sister Kelly and their children to go on a special tour of the temple during its open house.
Brother Kelly said that on the appointed day, “everything was chaos,” and he and Sister Kelly considered not going. However, his mother helped organize everything and took them on the three-hour drive to the open house.
President Bryce met them in the meetinghouse located on the temple grounds.
“He bore strong testimony of the power of the priesthood, faith, healing of the sick and the will of the Lord,” Brother Kelly said. “While we were visiting, President Bryce asked if I had given my sons father’s blessings this year. I said, ‘No.’ President Bryce and my father in-law held up my arms and extended my crippled hands and fingers on top of each of their little precious heads. Each of them received what President Bryce called a wonderful father’s blessing. My wife, who is expecting our first baby girl in June, also received a blessing.
“I then received a powerful blessing from President Bryce, which strengthened and edified me. I felt the Spirit during and after the blessing. I was filled with love, joy and peace and I knew my Heavenly Father loved me and would take care of me no matter what the outcome of this trial is. A warm sensation rushed into my body and my skin was warm to the touch. This was unexpected because my skin is usually cold. The Spirit confirmed and testified that what I felt was true and a message from a loving Heavenly Father. After the blessing there was not a dry eye in the room and even the boys were quiet.”
The Kellys then toured the temple.
“The last two rooms on the tour were the celestial room and the sealing room. As I saw the celestial room and the beautiful white carpet, my first impression was, ‘I hope the wheels on my chair are clean.’ But as I drove around the celestial room I was reminded that my family was sealed for time and all eternity. No matter what happens to me, my family will be together forever.
“My children do not fully comprehend the seriousness of my situation, nor do they comprehend the everlasting ordinances in the temple. But watching them walk through the temple and marvel at its beauty brought me joy knowing that they will one day completely understand how sacred the temple is and take their loved ones to be sealed for time and all eternity.”
After Brother and Sister Kelly attended the first dedicatory session of The Gila Valley Arizona Temple, he said, “I had to fight back the tears.”
On their way to seal the temple’s symbolic cornerstone, President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy passed by the baptistry where the Kellys were seated. As the Brethren returned, Elder Holland happened to make eye contact with Brother Kelly. “He smiled and waved at me. That meant so much to me.”
Brother Kelly spoke about temples and their role in bringing families together for eternity.
“The only thing we take with us is our family,” he said.
“Our boys have witnessed my body deteriorate, and my voice is starting to go. I’m making a record of my life. My children will have a record of their father. I’m writing letters so that if I’m not here they will know my words for them as they are baptized, receive the priesthood, go on missions and marry in the temple. They will always know I am with them and that families are eternal.”