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2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction offers council example, personal application

Elder Bednar, Elder Gong lead discussion with focus on sequences, being yoked to the Savior and personally relating to Lehi’s experience with the brass plates

From an emphasis on binding oneself to the Savior through covenants and ordinances to relating oneself to Lehi’s experience of being filled with the Spirit as the Book of Mormon prophet discovered records and genealogy on the brass plates, the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction broadcast provided plenty of personal applications.

But rather than outlining directives and courses of action, this year’s broadcast — released Thursday, March 2 — offered viewing stake and ward councils examples of counseling together and questions to prompt discussion.

“The yearning of my heart is that every person participating in this leadership meeting tonight, will come to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the blessings of making and keeping covenants with the Savior apply to him or her individually, personally and powerfully,” said Elder David A Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, led a panel of Church leaders in a council-type discussion — Primary General President Susan H. PorterSister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Family History Department.

The 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction features, from left to right, Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Primary General President Susan H. Porter; Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; and Elder Kevin R. Duncan and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, both General Authority Seventies. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Bound to the Savior through covenants and ordinances

Elder Bednar underscored the importance of understanding sequences, such as the sequence of key events of the Restoration of the gospel. The appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the priesthood provide a sequence of the Godhead, a witness of Christ and the authority to preach His gospel and perform the covenants and ordinances.

“Sometimes when we speak about temples,” he said, “we may not speak often about the covenants and the ordinances, and, unfortunately, we may may emphasize even less the Lord Jesus Christ.

“We simply need to invert that sequence. Focus first on the Savior, then on the covenants and ordinances that bind us to and with Him — the sacred ordinances and covenants in the temple.”

Elder Bednar’s question “What does it mean to be yoked to and with the Savior and how has that impacted you?” drew perspective from each panelist.

President Porter pointed out President Russell M. Nelson’s teaching that honoring covenants leads to a greater accessing of the power of Jesus Christ.

President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president, speaks during the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction broadcast, which was released Thursday, March 2, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“For me then, when I’m praying for needs I have in my life, I feel like I can approach the Lord with greater confidence, knowing not that I’m perfect but He is perfect, that I’m striving and I can have confidence in that covenant relationship, and that He will help me and I can draw His power and not have to rely on my own,” she said. “And that gives me a lot of joy.”

Recalling the scripture where the Lord says to Enoch, “Walk with me” (Moses 6:34), Elder Hamilton said: “As I think about the image of the covenant path, I picture the Savior next to us, yoked to us, bound to us, walking with us along that path through all the ups and downs and all the challenges of life. He’s right there.”

Elder Bednar cautioned against members getting caught up in the busy work of the Church and not focusing on Christ. “We testify of Christ, we preach of Christ, we rejoice in Christ,” he said, paraphrasing 2 Nephi 25:26. “Every leader should make a conscious decision on every occasion and in every circumstance to make sure there is an appropriate witness of the Savior in what they are doing.”

Said Elder Duncan: “Look for Jesus Christ in the ordinances — be it baptism or the sacrament or the ordinances in the temple — and then rely on Him. In between those individual events, rely upon His strength. … And when we have the opportunity to go to the temple, we can think of [our ancestors], we can think of what we’re doing on their behalf, as well as our worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and it just brings the whole ordinance together.”

The broadcast’s first section ended with viewers invited to pause the broadcast and counsel together regarding two questions:

  • How has being bound to the Savior through covenants and ordinances blessed your life?
  • What are some ways we can help members of our ward or stake bind themselves to the Savior through covenants and ordinances?
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Uniting families for eternity

Elder Gong shared what he called “the Lehi experience,” found in 1 Nephi 5:10-17. The reference describes Lehi taking the plates of brass and discovering both a record and the genealogy of his fathers — and then being filled by the Spirit.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, second from the left, relates “the Lehi experience” from 1 Nephi 5 during the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, while Church leaders on the panel listen and follow along with the verses. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Underscoring the sequence of records, genealogy and the Spirit, Elder Gong said: “We can each have a personal spiritual experience, like the prophet Lehi did, by going to 1 Nephi 5 and reading again the account of how when we have a record, we have a genealogy. We have a sense of how we’re connected to people, their stories, and as we connect in that way, we feel the Spirit because the Spirit wants to unite us.

“As we have that experience, we can share it. We have a modern way — a very practical, simple way to do this, that each of us can be part of,” he said, referring to FamilySearch online and printed resources. “It starts with the Savior, it comes to ordinances, then it comes to family.”

Panel members then turned to their smartphones, calling up Ordinances Ready on the FamilySearch app. “When you read those verses in First Nephi, my mind immediately went to Ordinances Ready, where you really see that you are connected,” Elder Duncan said. “It was just like our own personal fulfillment of what Lehi experienced.”

Sister Yee likened it to playing the piano and more easily understanding a note when considered in context of what came before and after it. “I understand myself better when I understand my people, my family before and eventually those who will come after,” she said. “I can understand my part in that place, and we’re connected eternally. There’s no separation, and this is how we can connect and allow each other to be connected to those eternal bonds.”

Elder Hamilton reminded those without ready access to a device or the internet that the “My Family” booklet has helped individuals and families worldwide in collecting, organizing and sharing names and information of ancestors that can be submitted through FamilySearch for temple ordinances.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, executive director of the Family History Department, shares a thought during the panel discussion of the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction broadcast, which was released March 2, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Church data shows that when ward leaders participate in submitting names to the temple, similar participation by ward members increased, he added. “One of the simplest ways a leader can actually help people come to the temple and participate is by participating themselves.”

Prompts at the end of the broadcast’s second section were:

  • Ensure that you have your own FamilySearch account (your own brass plates) to assist other council members as needed.
  • Help each other use Ordinances Ready on FamilySearch.org or the Family Tree app.
  • How can we help every member of our ward or stake have the same experience?

Area messages and invitation to act

The third and final section of the instruction broadcast began with brief videotaped messages from viewers’ respective area presidencies, with the panel members then offering final testimonies.

From left, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Gerrit W. Gong, also of the Twelve; and President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president, visit on the set of the taping of the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction broadcast, which was released March 2, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“I hope that each person has felt that this is something we can each do, that we can come to our Savior by covenant,” said Elder Gong, adding, “We naturally come to those we hold most dear and precious in our lives, and that there are things specifically we can do to unite our families, to unite them for time and eternity in the house of the Lord, and that each of us will find whatever the next step is for us and for those with whom we serve, to come to our Savior, by covenant and bringing our family with us.”

Elder Bednar added an invitation and blessing at the end of his testimony: “Elder Gong and I, in exercising the apostolic keys that we hold, invoke a very simple blessing upon you: that as you read in 1 Nephi 5, by the power of the Holy Ghost you will see yourself and your family in those verses.”

Next came a collection of 10 selected quotes — teachings, invitations, promises and blessings — from President Nelson on the Savior Jesus Christ, the house of the Lord and temple covenants. (All 10 are compiled and available on TheChurchNews.com

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“Because Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do in the temple,” he taught in April 2020 general conference, “as you think more about the temple, you will be thinking more about Him.”

Stake and ward councils and other viewers were then presented with two final questions:

  • What did the Spirit just teach you as you listened to this instruction?
  • What are our next steps as a council?
A panel of Church leaders in a council-like discussion are taped for the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction broadcast, which was released March 2, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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