“Speaking Today,” Liahona, Aug. 2006, N9–N11
“You can’t touch family history work without receiving blessings,” President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said at a Brigham Young University family history fireside in February.
President Packer stressed that “temple ordinance work relies on family history work.” He added his testimony that “this work cannot be stopped, subdued, or slowed down.”
President Packer made his comments following an address by Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy that focused on the counsel given in D&C 95:8: “I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house.” Elder Koelliker, Executive Director of the Church’s Temple Department, discussed modern-day temple building around the world from the Kirtland Temple to the temples currently under construction.
Both speakers challenged members to redouble their efforts and faithfulness in temple attendance.
“Temple commitment isn’t a casual request,” Elder Koelliker said. “Every prophet since Joseph Smith has encouraged it.”
Elder Koelliker pointed to the Lord’s instruction to build temples, beginning with the Kirtland Temple in Ohio and later the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois. Though the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed and the Saints were driven west, Elder Koelliker said this did nothing to destroy the great work that began there.
Elder Koelliker also spoke of President Brigham Young’s inspired placement of the Salt Lake Temple, even though President Young did not live to see it finished.
“In my own heart, I feel that both he and Joseph were there on that date when they dedicated the Salt Lake Temple,” he said. Elder Koelliker quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley speaking after the completion of the new Nauvoo Illinois Temple in 2002: “Today, facing west, on the high bluff overlooking the city of Nauvoo, thence across the Mississippi, and over the plains of Iowa, there stands Joseph’s temple, a magnificent house of God. Here in the Salt Lake Valley, facing east to that beautiful temple in Nauvoo, stands Brigham’s temple, the Salt Lake Temple. They look toward one another as bookends between which there are volumes that speak of the suffering, the sorrow, the sacrifice, even the deaths of thousands who made the long journey from the Mississippi River to the valley of the Great Salt Lake” (“O That I Were an Angel, and Could Have the Wish of Mine Heart,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 6).
What started in rural Ohio has spread throughout the world, with 122 temples now open in 37 countries. Elder Koelliker cited numerous milestones in the process: the first proxy work done in the St. George Temple; the first temple outside the United States, in Alberta, Canada; the first translation of the temple ordinances into a language other than English, in the Mesa Arizona Temple; and the revelation to build smaller temples today. The design for the smaller temples first started with a sketch President Gordon B. Hinckley made upon receiving this inspiration.
“I’ve seen that sheet of paper, brothers and sisters,” Elder Koelliker said. “Just a simple set of lines. Now 58 of today’s temples are these so-called smaller temples.”
This has made temples more accessible to faithful members worldwide, he said, noting that temples multiply according to the faithfulness of the people.
“As we look to the future and anticipate the ever more confused and turbulent world in which we will live, I believe it will be essential for all of us to increase our capacity to seek learning by faith,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in an address to Church Educational System (CES) personnel in February.
In his address, Elder Bednar thanked CES religious educators for blessing and strengthening the rising generation, then continued on the topic of seeking learning by faith.
While he counseled the teachers to teach by the Spirit, he also said that no matter how well a message is taught, it can be received only if the learner’s heart is open. “Faith opens the pathway to the heart,” he said.
Using examples from the scriptures, Elder Bednar illustrated faith as a principle of action. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion—not just passive reception—and it reaches far beyond the mere retaining and recalling of information, Elder Bednar said. Learning by faith requires both “the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34).
Pointing to the example of Joseph Smith in his quest to learn which church was right, Elder Bednar discussed how the boy Joseph intuitively went into the grove with questions already formulated in his mind and felt in his heart—clearly prepared to “ask in faith” (James 1:6).
Elder Bednar read excerpts of these questions from Joseph Smith—History: “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (v. 10; see also v. 18).
“Notice that Joseph’s questions focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what he needed to do,” Elder Bednar said. “And his very first question centered on action and what was to be done.”
The implication for teachers, Elder Bednar said, is to incorporate these principles into their classrooms by reminding students to be worthy conduits through which the Lord can operate, to encourage class members to bear their testimonies frequently, and to challenge students to find answers on their own. Doing so will simultaneously strengthen the instructor’s faith, Elder Bednar said.
Life is short, no matter how long you live, Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy told young adults at the Church Educational System fireside in March. He added that their decisions now will have an impact on them throughout eternity.
“I want you to recognize the critical point in life at which you’ve arrived,” Elder Bateman said.
He examined the purposes of mortality in the Lord’s plan: to be enhanced with a physical body, to prove oneself and grow through experiences, and to begin an eternal family. Yet the process of returning to Heavenly Father hinges greatly upon the decisions made in youth—decisions such as whom to marry, which career to pursue, whether to be active in the Church, and so forth.
“I believe that the age spanning 18 to 30 is the riskiest and most challenging time of life,” he said. “Your choices now, active or passive, will impact the rest of your life and your life to come.”
Elder Bateman said that he felt strong during the youthful and exciting time of his life, just as many of those before him at the fireside do.
“You’re all near or approaching your peak, but just wait,” he said. “In due course, you’ll be over the hill.”
And to refute snickering, he displayed a life-curve projection on the screen, showing the body increasing in strength steadily up to age 30, then beginning a long, slow decline until death.
“Is it any wonder that all of life’s decisions are made while we are increasing in strength?” he asked.
Elder Bateman then showed graphs illustrating projected life paths to celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glory, showing that decisions made early on can set the course.
“Embracing evil lowers the trajectory of one’s spirit,” he said.
For those who have sinned, Elder Bateman listed the steps of repentance and encouraged their use. He bore his testimony that although it will take time to prove oneself, the Lord will restore virtue to the truly repentant and the Holy Spirit will return. Elder Bateman told the young adults that if they keep themselves clean, they can be quickened by a portion of celestial glory in this life.
To obtain celestial glory, they also must marry and be sealed in the temple, Elder Bateman said. He emphasized the recent attention given to the family as the most important social unit (see L. Tom Perry, “A Solemn Responsibility to Love and Care for Each Other,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Supporting the Family, Feb. 11, 2006; in Liahona, June 2006, 56), with nothing more precious (see Gordon B. Hinckley, “Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 97).
“The world’s view is different than ours,” Elder Bateman said, showing charts comparing cohabitating individuals, civil marriages, and temple marriages. In the eternal covenant of marriage made in the temple, a man and woman make covenants not only with each other, but also with the Lord. “The closer they come to the Lord, the closer they come to each other,” Elder Bateman said.