“The First and the Last Words,” Ensign, May 1982, 65
If we were to speak of the very center of spiritual strength in the Church, surely it must be the sacred ordinances of the temple of the Lord.
It is not generally known that almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph—the intent of the gathering and building up of the Church—and almost the last words of the Lord to the Prophet pertained to temple work.
After the wondrous First Vision of the Prophet in the spring of 1820, three and a half years passed. The next divine manifestation he had was when the angel Moroni appeared to him. He told Joseph about the Book of Mormon.
Because of the preeminence of this message, most people do not realize that Moroni brought another momentous message! First he quoted, with some variation, the prophecy of Malachi:
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
Moroni also quoted from Isaiah, Acts, Joel, and “many other passages of scripture.” (JS—H 1:41.)
The prophecy of Malachi concerning Elijah was treated differently from all other scriptures quoted by Moroni. It was considered of such unique importance that it now appears as section 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants.1
Moroni’s message signaled to the Prophet that Elijah soon would appear. The foreordained events pertaining to temple work began to unroll like a scroll. Less than a year and a half after the organization of the Church, the Prophet dedicated the site for the temple in Jackson County, Missouri (August 1831). But the Saints were prevented from building it.
Then followed a score of significant events pertaining to the building of the house of the Lord. (See chart at end of talk.)
The first temple completed was Kirtland—built under great difficulties. The dedication of this temple was accompanied by the visitation of angels and fire resting upon the temple. Some saw visions and experienced other glorious manifestations.
On the third of April, 1836, one week after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the monumental event occurred! The Savior appeared and accepted the temple. Moses and Elias also came. Then, Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled—for Elijah the prophet stood before them and said:
“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.” (D&C 110:14–16; italics added.)
That event occurred 146 years ago yesterday, on the day that the Jews were celebrating their traditional ritual. For more than two millennia the Jews have looked for the coming of Elijah. Even today, in connection with the feast of the Passover, they will reenact the scene as they have done for centuries: they will set a place at their table, reserve an empty chair, open the door, raise their cups, and rise as if to greet Elijah.
Elijah has returned! Thanks be to God! He bestowed his keys! Work could now commence in the temples to weld eternal links between husbands and wives, between parents and children, through the sealing power of God.
It is essential to obtain the sealing power of the holy priesthood so that whatsoever an authorized officiator shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (See D&C 127:7.) For in the sacred ordinances and through this sacred power come glory and honor and eternal life. (See D&C 128:11–12.)
It is by this power that husband and wife are sealed in a never-ending bond of marriage. It is by this power that a welding link is forged between children and parents. This is the holy power that is exercised in the temple. It is the power that validates all ordinances in the Church. This is the consummate authority in the kingdom of God.
Without the authority and use of that power, in all ages of the world, none of our Heavenly Father’s children can enter His presence or ever become like Him! And if this were not so, the whole purpose of existence would be useless. That is why the Lord said “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (D&C 2:3.)
Almost the last words of the Lord to the Prophet, so far as we can tell, also pertained to temple work. The Lord commanded the Prophet to build a temple in Nauvoo. The Saints set about to do it.
Prior to its completion, the Lord revealed His sacred ordinances, “things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 124:41.) The order of performing baptism for the dead was revealed. Also the Lord required that witnesses verify the performance of ordinances, “that in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven.” (D&C 127:7.)
Finally, the members of the Twelve Apostles were endowed and the sealing authority conveyed to them, thereafter never to be lost. They could now carry on the fulness of the gospel. These crucial things the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph only months before his martyrdom.
From this brief account of significant events in the life of the Prophet, it becomes apparent that his first and foremost duty was to build temples and restore the sealing power to perform sacred and eternal ordinances.
All the prophets since his time have likewise shown a concern for this work. During President Kimball’s presidency more temples have been constructed than in any other time. We are now truly taking temples to the people.
And now, brothers and sisters, I want to testify concerning this sacred work. I know that it is true. The principles are eternal. The ordinances are divine—they are eternal—framed before the world was. You and I are responsible to carry on this work. The Lord has no one else to do it.
Surely this is not an onerous burden! It is a privilege. A temple recommend is one of the highest accolades we may receive. To use it regularly permits us to participate in the choicest gifts within the keeping of the Church. Those who attend feel a special spirit there. Peace comes. I know that their service there assists a departed one to gain exaltation. And I know that they in turn qualify for blessings from the other side of the veil. And I know that blessings will follow you home from the temple.
God lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is the consummate work of the kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
20 July 1831
Temple at Independence, Missouri, announced. (D&C 57:1–3.)
1 Aug. 1831
Missouri and temple site directed to be dedicated. (D&C 58:57.)
3 Aug. 1831
The Prophet dedicates temple site in Jackson County, Missouri. (History of the Church, 1:199.)
Doctrines and principles of the new and everlasting covenant revealed, but not recorded until 12 July 1843. (D&C 132.)
22 Sept. 1832
New Jerusalem and temple prophesied. (D&C 84:1–5.)
27 Dec. 1832
Saints commanded to establish a “house of God” (temple). (D&C 88:119.)
1 June 1833
Saints in Missouri again commanded to build a temple, in which they will be endowed with power. (D&C 95.)
23 July 1833
Cornerstones of Kirtland Temple laid. (History of the Church, 1:400.)
2 Aug. 1833
Further revelation on temple in Missouri, which is to be built after “the pattern.” (D&C 97:10–17.)
21 Jan. 1836
Doctrine of salvation for the dead revealed. (D&C 137.)
27 Mar. 1836
Dedicatory prayer for Kirtland Temple recorded. (D&C 109.)
3 Apr. 1836
Elijah comes, sealing keys restored. (D&C 110:13–16.)
26 Apr. 1838
Saints commanded to build a temple at Far West. (D&C 115:7–16.)
8 July 1838
Tithes directed to be used for building temples. (D&C 119.)
26 Apr. 1839
Cornerstones of Far West Temple laid. (History of the Church, 3:336–37.)
19 Jan. 1841
Saints commanded to build Nauvoo Temple. (D&C 124:25–45.)
1 Sept. 1842
Saints instructed to keep a record of ordinances. (D&C 127:5–9.)
6 Sept. 1842
Saints instructed to have witnesses at ordinances; various doctrines and principles explained. (D&C 128.)
16–17 May 1843
Doctrine of Sealing expounded. (D&C 131.)