UMHLANGA, South Africa — Sisters Iya and Monica Makhatini and cousin Vuyo Tyukwana stood in line outside the Durban South Africa Temple in the intense summer sun prior to the temple’s first dedication session on Sunday, Feb. 16.
Ranging in ages from 8 to 11, the trio chatted excitedly while watching others gather near the entrance, around the bubbling water fountain or under palm trees in the plaza area between the temple and the nearby patron housing complex.
With them directly in front of me and the line approaching where volunteers help slip coverings over attendees’ shoes, Deseret News photographer Jeff Allred — who was with me to help provide Church News coverage of last month’s temple dedication — waved from a distance, wanting to take a photo of me with the three girls.
Soon, the trio held up their recommend tickets to attend the session for one last admiring glance. Looking over their shoulder, I saw what they finally were noticing. Bearing their names and their bishop’s signature, the tickets were maroon-trimmed recommends with words indicating use at local meetinghouses with the closed-circuit broadcast. Tickets allowing temple entrance for one of the three sessions were gold- or blue-trimmed with titles identifying temple access.
The reality dawned on them — they wondered if they would be able to enter the temple. Before I had a chance to speak to them regarding their recommends, a tall man — perhaps a father or relative and either a helper outside or member of the cornerstone choir — stepped up, confirmed their ticket type and quietly spoke words I couldn’t hear or understand.
Reluctantly and oh so close to the temple entrance, they stepped aside, likely to attend the session’s broadcast set up in the nearby patron housing complex, since there was no meetinghouse on the temple grounds or in close proximity.
I entered the temple and took a seat just inside the closest room, allowing me a quick, easy exit back outside to witness and report on the cornerstone ceremony, the day’s only public-facing event. With a half-hour remaining before the first session’s start, my thoughts revolved around the girls and their disappointment to not enter the temple.
I thought of gospel references to others not allowed entrance — the parable of 10 virgins didn’t work, because there was no foolishness, procrastination or unworthiness with these three girls.
I settled on thoughts of ancestors and others who have lived — or will live — on earth without a knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, able to return to His presence. Being a loving Father, He has provided the principles, powers, covenants and ordinances necessary for all of His children to learn of and to start along the covenant pathway home.
In mortality, we can make the covenants and perform the ordinances for ourselves; however, for those deceased without such opportunities, the ordinances are performed in the temple with mortal proxies. The deceased wait for the living — with their temple worthiness and their temple recommends — to enter the Lord’s house and to perform for them the much-awaited, much-anticipated temple ordinances of baptism, confirmation, ordination and sealing.
I likened the girls outside the temple — having anticipated entering on dedication day but instead waiting outside and missing a memorable experience — to our ancestors and others who wait for their temple work to be done by us.
Just minutes prior to the 9 a.m. session’s start, I was pleasantly surprised to watch a temple usher escort Iya, Monica and Vuyo to three of the room’s remaining seats. Rather than having vacancies during the dedication, individuals from outside were invited in to help fill the temple; the three must have been conveniently situated to be chosen.
Feelings of relief, happiness and satisfaction washed over me as I thought of Iya, Monica and Vuyo sitting in the Durban South Africa Temple, experiencing what I hoped would be an anchor childhood memory as they continued life along the covenant pathway.
And I thought of how the Durban South Africa Temple — the second in South Africa, the fifth on the African continent and the 168th operating temple worldwide of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — now provided additional temple-work opportunities for the living and the dead to continue their own covenant-pathway journeys, helping to alleviate the waiting and realize the hopes of many.