“A Joy to Be Needed,” Ensign, Apr. 1971, 19
Three nights a week Byron K. leaves the foundry early. He plans on a late supper and drives straight to a parking lot near the Salt Lake Temple. Alighting from his car quickly, he sprints up the sidewalk carrying a small suitcase.
Every weekday morning at about 5:00, Brother and Sister W. close their apartment door with a soft click, so they won’t disturb the other tenants. They are both seventy-three, and they live carefully on their modest pensions in three rooms near the business section of Idaho Falls.
They move silently down the stairs and then step out into the frigid morning air, mufflered and gloved against the biting cold. They walk for two blocks until they can see the temple lights, which serve as a beacon to their once bright eyes.
José G.’s car barely moves in the noon-hour traffic in downtown Mesa. The Arizona sun beams down a blistering 101 degrees. José is a real estate salesman, and he has shown two houses to prospective families already this morning. One looks like a sure thing. Later this evening he will be available to prospective home buyers at an open house.
A sudden break in traffic allows the young man’s car to move ahead more rapidly. Soon he turns down a tree-lined street toward his destination. Then he sees the temple glistening in the sun. It’s a welcome sight, a refuge from the heat, a place of peace, the house of the Lord.
Henry T. drops his cap onto a shelf, hangs up his jacket, and slips off his heavy work shoes. He leaves the wire baskets full of eggs on the porch—the last of many chores he has done this morning. All the while he worked, the strong Alberta wind pushed against him, slowing him down.
It is only 4:45 A.M. but his wife, Mary, already has a steaming breakfast laid on the table for the two of them. Today is Wednesday and there is some haste, because Mary and Henry are going to make the sixty-five-mile drive to the temple in Cardston by seven o’clock. They will do the same thing again on Friday.
What do all of these people have in common?
They are temple workers, and their stories could be repeated many hundreds of times around the world, with only slight variation. Without the dedicated spirit of these brothers and sisters, the temple ordinance work for more than six million names in 1970 (for all temple ordinances combined) could not have been accomplished.
What is their motivation for doing this kind of important work?
In their earnest desire to serve their Heavenly Father, they have discovered the unyielding truth of King Benjamin’s counsel: “… when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.)
John and Alice Chase are not typical temple workers—no one is—but their lives do tell us something about devotion and dedication to temple work. Brother and Sister Chase are a happy couple. They still have adventures and they smile easily.
There is a warmth and vitality in the Chase home, a feeling of purposeful living and anticipation that make of it a home instead of just a place where people eat, sleep, and find shelter. There is a distinct impression here of a couple who manage time well rather than allowing time to rule them.
With becoming modesty, the Chases are not wont to discuss their own accomplishments. They talk instead about their children and grandchildren, content to let their own good lives and actions attest to their desire to be honest Christians who serve their Heavenly Father well and who feel a responsibility toward their family and country.
During the greater part of John Chase’s life, his partner in any achievement has been his wife, Alice. As she talked about their life together, Sister Chase’s eyes moistened nostalgically. “It seems like only yesterday,” she said, “that John and I walked to Third Avenue in Salt Lake City and caught the streetcar down to the temple to be married; yet we just celebrated our forty-ninth wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it.”
Blessed with good health, the Chases live in the present and look to the future. “Keep busy by having more projects than you can do. Stay away from the rocking chair. Have a few business interests, but do the Lord’s work first.” This is Brother Chase’s prescription for a full and happy life.
The dedication of Brother and Sister Chase to temple work has been outstanding. Sister Chase has not missed an assignment at the Salt Lake Temple in sixteen years. And with the exception of a six-week rest as the result of a heart attack (before he learned how to slow down), Brother Chase has had a similarly enviable attendance record.
Sister Chase remembers how one day after she returned from a recent trip, the phone rang and, as she recalls, “I listened to the most beautiful words I ever heard.” The speaker on the other end of the line was Sister Dorothy Stone, the Salt Lake Temple matron, who said, “Sister Chase, we need you and want you to come back to work in the temple.”
While Brother and Sister Chase both like to travel, they do not want to pursue a life only of diversion during their retirement years. They gladly accept temple assignments and find a challenge in their commitment. Their present schedule permits them to drive to the temple together. On previous temple assignments, they had to leave and return separately, which wasn’t nearly so pleasant for a couple who enjoy each other’s company.
Meeting them as they leave the temple, one can’t help but be impressed by the peace and sweet contentment reflected in their countenances. Asked what his feelings are at that moment, Brother Chase responds, “You know, your problems just sort of dissolve here in the temple. There seems to be a great equalizing influence that helps to put things in their proper perspective.”
Speaking about the dedication of their fellow temple workers, Sister Chase declared, “You can’t be here first in the morning; there’s always somebody here before you, ready to go to work.” Salt Lake Temple President O. Leslie Stone noted the same kind of enthusiasm when he spoke to a couple of early starters one morning. The couple told him that they had gotten up at 3:00 to complete their chores before coming to the temple that morning.
Dedication to service in the temple of the Lord is expressed in many ways by those who have been set apart as officiators. One devoted couple, in addition to their regular temple assignments, make sure that all of the live plants inside the temple are watered daily and given special nutrients. They even clean and wax the leaves of some plants periodically to preserve and enhance their beauty.
Who are the temple workers? They are bankers who leave the world of finance for a few hours each week to accept temple assignments. They are businessmen and others who arrange their work so that they too can take regular assignments at the temple. Each is a better person for it, and material prosperity doesn’t suffer from the division of effort. A great many of the brethren are accompanied by their wives, who also fill assignments at the temple. Other men and women go to the temple singly.
Respecting the sincere desire of one of his employees to fulfill an afternoon temple assignment, one Salt Lake employer, who is not a member of the Church, permits this employee to quit work an hour early each day so he can go to the temple. The employer may or may not realize the full import of his Christian act, but his willingness to help his employee do the Lord’s work is an example of the highest type of charity.
Many single persons and married couples working in the temples are of modest circumstances and live in apartment houses within walking distance of the temples. Some temple workers are retired; some are not. About one third of the workers assigned to the Salt Lake Temple hold full-time jobs and come after work to officiate at evening temple sessions. Businessmen and salesmen may arrange their work so that they can fill temple assignments either during the day or at night. Whether they be teachers, homemakers, doctors, farmers, policemen, city or state officials, or retirees—and there are many in each category—they realize that there is no more important, honorable, or satisfying calling than to have the privilege of laboring regularly within the sanctity of the temple.
Convinced that temple work prolongs lives, President Stone said, “The elderly temple workers are particularly grateful for the opportunity to serve their Heavenly Father in such a rewarding way. Retired persons can’t rest from rest, so they seem to find a new reason for living when they come to work at the temple. Knowing that they are needed is a tremendous incentive for them to get up each morning.”
The faithful devotion of some of these older workers is inspiring. One brother who officiates in the Salt Lake Temple hasn’t missed an assignment or had a substitute in over twenty years. And one of his fellow workers, who fills a regular temple assignment, is eighty-seven years old. Amazingly enough, such records of temple service, for both men and women, are not uncommon.
In response to inquiry, several temple presidents disclosed some interesting differences at the temples where they preside. At the Alberta Temple, for example, the majority of the 120 temple workers are not retired but hold full-time jobs. Many of the workers live quite a distance from the temple, as much as 150 miles in some cases.
The Arizona Temple has special sessions each month for Spanish-speaking members. And while most (70 percent) of the officiators are retired couples, many young businessmen manage to officiate during the day.
Most of the workers at the Idaho Falls Temple come from within a twenty-mile radius of the temple. Of the 150 to 200 workers, about half are retired. Extensive effort is made in this area to encourage large excursions to the temple from outlying districts. Vicarious baptism for the dead is given tremendous support by younger Church members at this temple.
The Salt Lake Temple, which does 30 percent of all temple work, has a daily work force of five hundred persons, in addition to maintenance personnel. Fifty others approved as officiators are ready on a standby basis. There are presently 105 supervisors and 72 sealers. On a single day recently, 125 marriages were performed in the Salt Lake Temple.
There is within the walls of each temple a pervasive spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, where outside status is of no consequence, where joyful service to God and man can be given, and where love and devotion reign supreme.
Of course the rewards and privileges of doing temple work are not reserved for assigned temple workers only. Others who are worthy and desirous may also share in the blessings of serving in their Father’s house, where they can participate in one of the most divine aspects of the gospel plan—salvation for the dead. Although temple ordinance work completed is increasing at the rate of 5 to 10 percent a year, there is an urgent need for a still greater number of Church members who can and will do the required ordinance work for the dead.
As to the magnitude of the temple work yet to be done, the late President David O. McKay said: “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances thereof. Nor is the term ‘all’ restricted in meaning to include only a chosen few; it means every child of a loving and divine Father.” And that is the justice of God’s plan, wherein all may come back into his presence if we who are here can provide the saving ordinances for those who are waiting beyond our view and are willing to accept them.