Tag Archives: Genealogy and Temple Work

Hymn #290: Rejoice, Ye Saints of Latter Days

Rejoice, ye Saints of latter days,
For temples now in many lands,
Where Saints, endowed with pow’r from God,
May learn to keep the Lord’s commands,
May learn to keep the Lord’s commands.

There are a lot of temples in the world today (143 of them, with another 27 in various stages of construction), and it’s safe to say that they cover “many lands.” We build them because we are commanded to, but also because we can perform ordinances therein that bring us closer to our Father in Heaven. We can receive power from on high that helps us to carry on through our lives. We learn obedience by making covenants, and we learn joy by keeping them.

We are directed to sing this hymn “joyfully,” but with a stately tune and at a tempo of 72-88 beats per minute, it feels more resolute than exuberant. That’s fitting of our attitude toward the temple. We rejoice, and we we want to shout to the heavens for the blessings we can receive in the temple, but we do so reverently.

Consider the phrase we shout joyfully in the second verse: “All we are giv’n we give to thee. Accept our love; we will obey.” Not exactly something you’d shout at the top of your lungs. We feel joy, but it’s joy in sacrificing to One who has given us so much. We feel joy in helping our kindred dead, as we sing in the third verse, to receive “the fulness of the gospel’s joy.” That’s an exciting prospect, but when you consider that part of the joy we are helping our forerunners to feel is the joy of obedience, this sort of reserved joy makes sense. This isn’t a gospel of unrestrained fun and games. It’s not permissive, and it’s not easy. There’s work to be done, covenants to be made, and a harvest to be brought in.

We labor, as do those we bring into the fold, to ready the earth for the second coming of the Savior. Listen to the final verse and try to picture this restrained joy at His coming:

His earthly kingdom now prepares
To greet his kingdom from above.
Then will the heavens shout for joy,
And Christ descend to reign in love,
And Christ descend to reign in love.

I imagine there will be tremendous joy when the faithful are reunited with their long-awaited King. I’m excited to meet Him, assuming I live to see the day. But I don’t imagine the joy that we feel will be raucous. I’ve felt joy that has caused me to whoop with glee, but I don’t expect to hear hoots and hollers to greet the King of Kings. We will feel joy, and we will shout praise, but I feel like reverence will prevail. It will be a sacred experience, and not one conducive to loud joy.

It’s a tricky emotion to describe. But then again, maybe it’s not so tricky when you consider that it will be our natural reaction to seeing our Lord “descend to reign in love.” Our love will echo His at that day, so it’s not surprising that it will be powerful, but also meek. It’s the same love and spirit we can feel in the temple, and it’s certainly cause for us to rejoice.

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Hymn #287: Rise, Ye Saints, and Temples Enter

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Rise, ye Saints, and temples enter;
Seek the path that leads ahead.
Seal in everlasting circles
All our loved ones, quick and dead.

Maybe you’re a faithful, diligent Latter-day Saint who attends the temple regularly and who needs no introduction to the institution, but if you’re not, suffice it to say that temples are sacred buildings where members of the LDS Church meet to perform essential ordinances on behalf of the dead. Each of us needs these ordinances (baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost for starters, and later ordination to the priesthood for men, the endowment, and marriage and sealing) in order to receive all that the Father has to offer us. It doesn’t matter if we’re alive or dead, or whether or not the gospel was freely available when we were on the earth. Each of us needs these ordinances to qualify for all the Father’s blessings. None of us is exempt, and none of the ordinances are optional.

In order to make those ordinances available to all, we are counseled to go to the temple (and to go often) and receive those ordinances on behalf of those who are dead so that, should they choose, they will have the chance to receive those blessings. We search out our ancestors and bind them together through these ordinances, particularly through the sealing ordinance, which binds husband and wife as much as it binds parents and children. But that’s not to say that we can only perform these ordinances on behalf of our own family members who have gone before. As we uncover more and more names, we may find ourselves unable to manage all of those ordinances on our own, and so we help each other through frequent temple attendance. We act as a great army, carrying the blessings of the gospel to every one of the Father’s children.

Learn the plan of exaltation;
With His sacred laws comply.
Live to earn in binding cov’nant
Blessings of our God most high.

I had the chance to attend the temple with some of the youth of our local congregation last weekend. Our nearest temple is in Nashville (yes, it’s the picture above), and while it’s close to us, it’s still nearly an hour away, so it takes time and effort to get there. In order to make our 8:00 appointment, we had to meet up at our church at about 6:15, which seemed much, much too early for the 12-18 year-olds that were there. (One young man was falling asleep on his feet while waiting, slept the entire drive to the temple, then slept in the waiting room as others arrived.) They were sacrificing their Saturday, for many the only day of the week they get to sleep in, so they could spend the day in the temple serving those who had gone before.

It was a lovely experience. The Spirit was there as we performed baptisms that morning, witnessing that, even if those whose names we read didn’t choose to accept the ordinances, the doctrine we were practicing was nonetheless true. We were helping to tie families together, one ordinance at a time, and we were helping others to fully qualify to receive all that the Father has and is willing to offer to us.

Elohim, thou great designer,
Wilt thou heaven’s pow’rs bestow,
As thy faithful sons and daughters
Serve in temples here below.

I don’t know many of these youth personally, and if you’d asked me on Saturday what I thought they made of the trip, I would have told you that I thought many of them treated it as a social trip. They got a chance to spend time together, laughing, joking, and enjoying each other’s company. It was fun, if not spiritual.

The next day, however, some of them had a chance to share their experiences in front of the congregation, and it was clear that their hearts were touched. They felt the Spirit witness to them that they had been engaged in the Lord’s work that day. They knew that they were helping along the path those that could no longer help themselves. And they could feel of the Lord’s love for those dead and for themselves as well.

As we attend the temple and serve others, we not only provide blessings for our kindred dead, but also for ourselves. We feel the blessings of heaven come upon us and renew us spiritually. We are energized and are more able to face the challenges of life. The Father wants us to attend the temple not only to help others along the path to salvation, but to help us as well. As we turn our hearts to our ancestors, they are purified and become more in tune with the Lord, allowing the Spirit to more easily whisper to us and inspire us. And with more and more temples being built every year, it’s never been easier to attend, even if it requires a sleepy 75 minute drive to get there on a summer Saturday morning.

So rise, saints, and temples enter. Set aside some time to serve those who have gone before, and you will find that you will be blessed every bit as much.

Image credit: “Nashville Temple,” Wikipedia user Antipus.

Hymn #283: The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone

Sometimes the scope of the Gospel and the breadth of its reach astounds me. At baptism we covenant to follow Christ’s teachings and obey his commandments. As we begin to follow him, he invites us to join in his mission, to take His yoke upon ourselves. Where we started out seeking baptism in order to receive forgiveness for our own sins, it’s not long before we are serving and consoling and teaching those around us as Christ would do.

It doesn’t stop there, though. When we are able to enter the temple, we have the opportunity to participate in baptism for the dead, offering the same covenants and blessings to our own ancestors and others. Later, we can even help extend the blessings of the endowment and the sealing ordinances to those who have passed into the Spirit World.

Think of it! Just as Christ offers salvation and exaltation to all mankind, we offer these ordinances to our own ancestors, one by one. No longer are we simply seeking our own salvation through the grace of Christ; now we are actively taking part in extending it to others. We are participating in God’s work and his glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

What a blessing and an honor it is to participate in this work.

Today’s hymn is The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone. Its lyrics rejoice in this exact thing: the opportunity we have to participate with Christ in the salvation of the dead. Consider these passages from the hymn:

As Christ to spirits went to preach
Who were to prison led,
So many Saints have gone to teach
The gospel to the dead.

And we for them can be baptized,
Yes, for our friends most dear,
That they can with the just be raised
When Gabriel’s trump they hear;

Now, O ye Saints, rejoice today
That you can saviors be
Of all your dead who will obey
The gospel and be free.

There is an excitement in this hymn, an eagerness to participate in the work of the Lord. I hope we’ll partake of that eagerness and seek to apply it in our own lives.

Hymn #132: God Is in His Holy Temple

Mount Timpanogos Temple

A few weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. We decided to do something different this year—we celebrated it as our family’s birthday!

We first took our children to the temple where we were married. The oldest is only 5, so they’ve never been inside the temple. We walked around the temple grounds, looking at the flowers, the trees, and the beautiful stained glass windows. I pointed out the symbols of the sun, moon, and stars on the exterior of the building. We talked about the Angel Moroni on top.

After we’d walked around for a while, we took our kids briefly into the lobby of the temple, the small waiting room before the recommend desk. We taught our children about the sacred nature of the temple. When the oldest asked why everyone was so quiet there, we taught them that reverence helps us to hear the Holy Spirit and understand what our Heavenly Father wants us to do.

We didn’t stay there too long; perhaps only 5 minutes. Then we went out, took some pictures, then went and got some ice cream as a family. But those brief moments in the temple stuck with our children; they’ve brought it up a few times since.

Today’s hymn, God Is in His Holy Temple, speaks of the reverence that prevails in the temple.

God is in his holy temple.
Earthly thoughts, be silent now,

One of the defining characteristics of the temple is how removed it is from our everyday cares. When we visit the temple, we are often able to let go of the pressures and concerns of everyday life and simply bask in the reverence that exists there. With nothing to distract us, we are able to recognize the guidance of the Spirit more easily. We can be taught from on high as we recognize this Spirit.

And yet, our constructed and dedicated temples are not the only temples of God here on the earth. Paul wrote: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth within you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)  While the first verse of this hymn focuses more on temples where we gather together in worship, the second verse opens with this phrase:

God is in his holy temple,
In the pure and holy mind,

One of the great blessings we receive upon joining Christ’s church is the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This gives us the opportunity to have the Spirit with us always… if we live in a way conducive to His presence. The same closeness to the Spirit that exists in the temple can be ours outside it too. But in this temple, there is nobody else checking temple recommends for us. Each of us is responsible for choosing what enters our own mind.

Let our souls, in pure devotion,
Temples for thy worship be.

Is my soul a temple for the worship of God? Is yours? What could you change to make your soul a more temple-like place? How can you invite the Spirit to be with you more constantly?

temple

Hymn #288: How Beautiful Thy Temples, Lord

temple

LDS temples dot the earth, with nearly 150 of them across the globe in 46 countries and six continents. Each has its own unique architecture, drawing from local culture, but no matter what they look like, each is beautiful. They are the houses of the Lord, and they are built to be worthy offerings to Him.

How beautiful thy temples, Lord!
Each one a sacred shrine,
Where faithful Saints, with one accord,
Engage in work divine.

Certainly the craftsmanship and attention to detail used in building these temples makes them beautiful, but they are noteworthy as much for what happens on their inside as much as for their outward appearance. Members gather to receive ordinances crucial for their eternal progression, but also to receive those ordinances on behalf of their ancestors who have since passed on, giving them the opportunity to accept those ordinances that they did not have the chance to receive during their lifetimes.

How beautiful some aid to give
To dear ones we call dead,
But who indeed as spirits live;
They’ve only gone ahead.

God could have devised any number of ways to allow those who died without receiving saving ordinances a chance to accept them in the hereafter. He chose, in His wisdom, a method that involves our direct participation. This not only gives us an incentive to return to the temple often, gaining a fuller understanding of the ordinances of the temple and opportunities to spend time in the Lord’s house, but it also helps us to forge and strengthen bonds with our ancestors. We seek out those who went before us and give them the chance to accept gospel ordinances, should they want to. They can seek us out too, prodding and inspiring us to perform the work here on earth that they cannot do in the spirit world. The hearts of the fathers are turned to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, as Malachi foretold.

How beautiful its faith and hope;
All mankind it would save,
Including in its aim and scope
The souls beyond the grave.

The Lord desires the salvation of every person, whether male or female, bond or free, living or dead. Each is precious to Him, and each deserves an equal opportunity to come unto Him. No one is punished for not having heard the gospel. He loves all of us, and the fact that He has prepared a way for each of us to partake of the gospel, and particularly one that allows us to help each other on that path, serves as evidence of that fact.

How beautiful thy promise, Lord,
That we may grow in truth,
And live, exalted by thy word,
In endless, glorious youth.

The external beauty of the temples reminds us of the beauty we find within. We remember that inside the temple, we can receive power from on high. We can be sealed together as families forever. We can receive those ordinances on behalf of our deceased ancestors, allowing them to partake of those same blessings. There’s an awful lot of beauty in the temple, both inside and out, and that’s because there’s an awful lot of beauty in the Father’s plan for us.

Image credit: Quetzaltenango Guatemala LDS (Mormon) Temple, flickr user Fersandh.

 

Hymn #11: What Was Witnessed in the Heavens?

clouds

If you remember this hymn for anything, it’s probably for the opening bars. We have plenty of hymns in which the men drop out, leaving the women to carry the melody for a moment, but here, the opposite happens. The men are left alone for the first eight beats of each of the first two lines, and if your ward is anything like mine, there’s a strange sort of silence as the men try to figure out what it is they’re supposed to be doing.

It’s a shame when that happens, though, because we miss the call and response aspect of the beginning of the hymn. Listen to the first two lines:

What was witnessed in the heavens?
Why, an angel earthward bound.
Had he something with him bringing?
Yes, the gospel, joyful sound!

The angel we sing about was Moroni, as he appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, telling him the location of the Book of Mormon and teaching him about his role in the upcoming restoration of the gospel. The hymn is about the restoration, yes, but you’ll notice the tag “missionary work,” too. The men sing the part of someone who doesn’t know about the restoration, asking someone who does. That may not be apparent in the first verse, which feels more like exposition than genuine questioning, but it’s unmistakable in the second verse:

Had we not before the gospel?
Yes, it came of old to men.
Then what is this latter gospel?
‘Tis the first one come again.
This was preached by Paul and Peter
And by Jesus Christ, the Head.
This we latter Saints are preaching;
We their footsteps wish to tread.

It’s an honest enough question to ask. Don’t we already have the gospel? Isn’t the earth littered with Christian churches? What is this new gospel we’re talking about? It’s the same as we had before. It’s the same gospel we read about Paul and Peter preaching, and the same one we read about Moses and Abraham living as well. Jesus Christ stands at its head, and it was restored in its fullness to us today.

That’s an exciting prospect, if true. We claim a direct link to the church of Christ in His time. I remember learning about the Protestant Reformation in high school and talking about all of the branches of Christianity that came out of it. My teacher, knowing I was a Latter-day Saint, pulled me aside after class, showed me the chart with all the churches on it, and asked where mine fit. I drew a line off to the side from the top to the bottom and said, “This is our church. It’s the original church Jesus taught, restored in our day.” Nothing came of that conversation that I’m aware of, but the boldness of my claim has always remained with me.

It’s a bold claim that we make, and since it’s so bold, it’s our responsibility to make it often. And as we touched upon yesterday, we not only share the gospel with those we meet here, but those who have gone before without a chance to hear the gospel. “What became of those departed,” we ask, “knowing not the gospel plan?” The Lord extends an opportunity for them to hear and receive His teachings, too. The fullness of the gospel was gone from the earth for a long time (about 1700 years), so there’s a lot of catching up to do. We sing that as the angel said, the gospel is to go “to all men, all tongues and nations.” All doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. Everyone is entitled to know and share in those teachings. That’s a bold claim that we make, too.

Whether here on the earth or in the spirit world, everyone will have their chance to hear the gospel message and decide for themselves how they feel about it. “God is just to ev’ry man,” we sing, and it’s true.

Image credit: “Blue Sky and Clouds,” flickr user Sherrie Thai. CC BY-NC 2.0

Hymn #291: Turn Your Hearts

After the completion of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery took a moment to pray together in private. In response, they saw a series of heavenly messengers, each entrusted with restoring the keys for various aspects of the gospel. Moses, the prophet who led Israel out of Egypt, restored the keys for the gathering of Israel from the world. Elias restored the keys of the dispensation of Abraham, renewing that blessing to the posterity of Abraham. Elijah appeared, too, committing the keys of the new dispensation into the hands of Joseph and Oliver, saying, as was prophesied by Malachi, that he was there to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”

The gospel is timeless, existing from the foundation of the world, but this commandment is a relatively new one, and it’s a sign that the second coming of the Lord is “near, even at the doors.” Our thoughts turn to those who came before us. There’s no reason they should be denied the blessings of gospel ordinances simply because they lived in an era in which they were not available. We can perform those ordinances on their behalf – not to force them to receive them, but to give them the opportunity to do so if they want. As we strengthen ties to our ancestors, we can strengthen ties to our descendants as well as they seen our commitment not only to the principles of the gospel, but to our family.

This hymn tells that whole story. Malachi prophesies in ancient times, Elijah comes according to that prophecy, and our hearts are turned to our fathers and our children. It’s telling that it’s our hearts, not our minds that are turned. Family is something that is felt more than thought. It’s a central part of who we are. The third and fourth verses of this hymn make that clear to us. Listen to the third verse:

Turn your hearts toward your parents–
Generations gone before.
May you seek until you find them;
In the temple seal and bind them
To your hearts forevermore.

For many of us, our parents aren’t difficult to find. They’re in our homes, or at least a presence in our lives. For some of us, we do have to seek our parents out to get to know them, but even those of us who don’t still need to make an effort to draw near to our parents and families. It takes effort to build up a strong relationship. We show our love by sharing our time and attention. We seek until we find each other, and we are sealed and bound in the temple, not only in the gospel sense, but in the sense of having our hearts knit. Our shared experiences and shared memories make us one.

Turn your love to all your children–
Generations yet to be.
May your deeds of gospel giving,
Temple service, righteous living,
Bless them all eternally.

Here, we sing not only about our children that live in our homes, with whom we play, laugh, and so on. We sing about generations yet to come. As we give righteous service, we are blessed, of course, but those who come after us are blessed as well. This isn’t just a vague sense of our descendants being blessed through our strong example, although I’m sure that has a real effect. This is a case of the Lord promising to bless those who come after us because of the choices that we make. As we turn our hearts to our fathers, the Lord blesses our children.

We may have felt, at times, that we have received blessings we haven’t deserved. The Lord is good, and He blesses us when He sees fit, but I wonder if those blessings aren’t as random as they may see. I wonder if we aren’t the benefactors of those who have come before us. We can find out as we search our those ancestors, learning of their righteous acts and lives. And we can repay them by living righteously ourselves, bringing blessings to those who will come after.

Hymn #54: Behold, the Mountain of the Lord

We are often reminded of Mormon’s admonition that we should seek Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith and Charity are easily understood, but I’ve found that many people don’t have a solid understanding of what “Hope” means.

During my teenage years, I thought that maybe Hope referred to a stronger faith in the Gospel. If Faith is not to have a certain knowledge of things, then I thought perhaps Hope meant that not only did we believe it was true, but we really wanted it to be true. We “hoped” it was true. While it’s nice to hope that the gospel is true, this is not the Hope that the scriptures urge us to seek.

Hope is the feeling of anticipation we have for future promised blessings. Hope is the opposite of despair—it is the belief that things will be wonderful in the future, and the excitement we have for arriving at that future time. Mormon taught us to seek Hope because God has made lots of promises about the future, and some of these are conditional upon our obedience. As we gain greater understanding of the blessings to come, we will have greater strength to resist temptation and overcome difficult times.

God has promised us resurrection. He has promised us eternal life, if we will make and keep the covenants he has set out for us. He has promised guidance through the Spirit. He has promised forgiveness, and strength in overcoming our weaknesses. He has promised us peace in this life. The gospel is full of promises. This makes sense, of course; why would someone choose to follow the guidelines and restrictions imposed by a religion if there were not some promised benefit for doing so? Hope grows as we begin to understand how much God loves us, and how much he desires to bless us.

So what does all of this have to do with Behold, the Mountain of the Lord, today’s hymn?

This hymn describes the conditions that will exist during Christ’s Millennial Reign. While many people seem to be afraid of the calamity preceding the Second Coming, I’ve never felt that way. I figure that if it’s going to happen while I’m around, being afraid isn’t going to change anything. Instead, I choose to look forward with Hope at the prophesied conditions during the millennium. Here are just a few of them, mentioned in this hymn:

Behold, the mountain of the Lord
In latter days shall rise (verse 1)

The rays that shine from Zion’s hill
Shall lighten ev’ry land (verse 2)

[Christ's] judgments truth shall guide;
His scepter shall protect the just
And quell the sinner’s pride. (verse 2)

No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds
Disturb those peaceful years (verse 3)

They’ll hang the trumpet in the hall
And study war no more. (verse 3)

These promises give me hope—hope that the increasingly perilous conditions that exist now will not continue forever. Hope that if the destruction preceding the Second Coming does come in my lifetime, it is not the end. Hope that if it does not come in my lifetime, my descendants will someday see a time when these promises will be fulfilled. There is yet glory and peace and justice ahead, and there is reason to rejoice.

We really do believe the Christ will reign personally upon the earth. We really do believe that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. We do not know when it will happen, but we know that “the world is being prepared for the Second Coming of the Savior in large measure because of the Lord’s work through His missionaries.” (Elder Neil L. Anderson, April 2011). Our work right now is in preparation for that exciting event, so how important for us to have Hope in that time. We are not preparing the world for destruction; we are preparing it for the peace and joy and beauty that follows.

The final verse is a fitting conclusion to this hymn. It repeats the same words twice, a reminder that gospel-oriented hope should inspire not daydreaming but action.

Come, then, O house of Jacob, come,
To worship at His shrine,
And, walking in the light of God,
With holy beauties shine.