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Sarah Jane Weaver: What we can learn from temple closures about silver linings

President Russell M. Nelson: ‘Temples are a crowning part of the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ’

An inscription reading “The House of the Lord” on the Washington D.C. Temple

An inscription reading “The House of the Lord” is pictured on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


In November 2007, President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, traveled to Nuku’alofa, Tonga, where he rededicated the Church’s temple on the Pacific island nation.

Reflecting on the blessing of the temple to the local Church members, he explained that each temple in the Church “stands as a symbol of our membership in the Church, a sign of our faith in life after death, and a sacred step toward eternal glory for us and our families.”

Having a temple, then going without one — as Tongan Latter-day Saints did from June 2006 until the temple’s rededication Nov. 4, 2007 — is a hardship, he said. “You can’t get along without a temple for long without losing something. So this puts things back where they belong in Tonga.”

This weekend, President Nelson will rededicate another temple — the Washington D.C. Temple. The 160,000-square-foot temple, on 52 acres just 10 miles north of the United States’ White House, closed in 2018 so the Church could update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishings, and improve the grounds.

The rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Church’s first temple east of the Mississippi River, the Washington D.C. Temple closure — as was the case in Tonga — was a hardship. Local Latter-day Saints immediately felt the temple’s absence.

Crowds gather in front of Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple

Crowds gather in front of Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple Sunday Nov. 4, 2007. Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve rededicated the temple.

Church News archives

It is a lesson we all learned something about as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated across the globe in March 2020 and the First Presidency closed temples worldwide in response to growing restrictions related to the pandemic.

“After careful and prayerful consideration, and with a desire to be responsible global citizens, we have decided to suspend all temple activity Churchwide at the end of the day on March 25, 2020,” wrote the Church leaders in a letter with the same date. “This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen.”

Just a little over a week later — during general conference, on April 5, 2020 — President Nelson quoted words from his predecessor, President Wilford Woodruff, who “foresaw conditions such as ours” in his dedicatory prayer of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893: “When Thy people shall not have the opportunity of entering this holy house … and they are oppressed and in trouble, surrounded by difficulties … and shall turn their faces towards this Thy holy house and ask Thee for deliverance, for help, for Thy power to be extended in their behalf, we beseech Thee, to look down from Thy holy habitation in mercy … and listen to their cries.”

President Nelson reminded the vast audience that even during times “of our distress when temples are closed,” Latter-day Saints can still draw upon the power of their temple covenants and endowment.

His invitation was simple: Continue to live a temple-worthy life — or become temple worthy. “Temples are a crowning part of the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “In God’s goodness and generosity, He is bringing the blessings of the temple closer to His children everywhere.” 

The following month, in May 2020, President Nelson again spoke about the temple closures in a Church News interview.

“The purpose of the Church is to bring the blessings of God to His children on both sides of the veil,” he said. “So, only in our temples do we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for His faithful children. So, how difficult was it to make the decision to close the temples? That was painful; it was wracked with worry.

“I found myself asking: ‘What would I say to the Prophet Joseph Smith? What would I say to Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and the other presidents, on up to President Thomas S. Monson? I’m going to meet them soon.’ To close the temples would deny all for which all those Brethren gave everything, but we really had no other alternative.”

Temple closures are temporary, emphasized President Nelson.

“Temples will be opened again, cautiously and carefully, in stages. Even though temples have been closed, family history research and work has taken a huge leap forward; more names are being added. And remarkably, through all of this, the voluntary fast offerings of our members have increased.

“I’ve learned that even through clouds of sorrow, there can be silver linings found.”

View looking up at the Washington D.C. Temple with a tree with red blossoms on the front right and framed by blue skies with white clouds.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, is pictured on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C., have certainly experienced one of those silver linings.

Beginning in April, Church members in the area welcomed their friends to the renovated temple during the public open house — the first time those not of our faith were able to look inside the temple since its 1974 dedication. 

As media gathered Monday, April 18, to see the newly renovated temple, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answered three important questions about the temple: What is the temple? What do we do in a temple? Why do you build temples?

“We hope that what you’ll learn today is not just about this building, how it was constructed and how it was renovated,” he told local and national media representatives gathered in the temple visitors’ center. “For us, what is most important is how our hearts are changed as we learn about God and Jesus Christ, feel their love and serve our brothers and sisters.”

It is a lesson Latter-day Saints have experienced in recent years as local temples have closed for renovation and as temples worldwide closed for the pandemic.

As President Nelson reminded Latter-day Saints in Tonga 15 years ago: “You can’t get along without a temple for long without losing something.”

Because of that, this weekend’s rededication will put things back where they belong in Washington, D.C.

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