As a young boy, I thought the temple in my home country of New Zealand was the most beautiful building I could ever imagine. Like the Durban South Africa Temple, it stood majestically on a prominent hill and was surrounded by beautiful landscaping. At night it was bathed in white light and could be seen for miles. For many decades it has literally been a beacon drawing people from all over the islands of the South Pacific.
But what made the temple truly beautiful to me was what went on inside its walls. This is where I was sealed to my parents and family as a young boy, just a few months after the temple was dedicated. This was where I felt the Spirit as I was baptized as a youth for ancestors who had died. This was where I was endowed before leaving on my mission. The temple became a vital symbol to me of eternal links to family and a connection to heaven and the Spirit of the Lord.
So too, this magnificent temple in Durban will be a place of sacred memories for generations to come. Within these walls, vital ordinances will be performed for deceased loved ones that can be performed nowhere else. Of this unselfish work the Apostle Paul said, “that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect”.1
Here, nervous yet excited young people with mission calls in hand will receive their endowments before they go throughout the world to preach the gospel. In a dedication service like this two centuries ago, the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer included the inspired plea “that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them . . .
“And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings . . . unto the ends of the earth.”2
Within the walls of this temple is where eternal family units will be created. Couples will kneel across the altar in the most beautiful sealing room. I shall never forget the experience of gazing into my wife’s eyes without a thought for anyone else in the room while feeling such joy in knowing that in that moment we were committing to each other for the eternities. I invite all children and youth to make it your goal to be married in the temple. Let the Spirit of the Lord confirm for you that you will not settle for anything less than a celestial marriage.
Within the walls of the temple is where those we love will feel so close even if they are now on the other side of the veil. Here the glorious plan of salvation is revealed. Here we can come with our deepest concerns and feel peace and comfort as we turn our thoughts to Jesus Christ, whose house this is. Some years ago, I was wrestling with a deep concern regarding one of our children. It caused me many sleepless nights and much anxiety over many months. I decided to seek an answer to the question that was troubling me by going to the temple.
While there, in a personal and sacred experience, the word of the Lord came to my mind in the form of a simple scripture, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”3 I knew my question had been answered. This brought peace and comfort and has continued to guide me in the years since. I am a witness to President Nelson’s promise that as we joyfully keep our appointment with the Lord by being in His holy house, He will bring the miracles He knows we need.
Before we enter the doors of the temple, if we look upwards we will see the words “Holiness to the Lord”. Each time we come we are reminded of our covenant and promise to seek to become more holy in our personal lives.
We will also see the words “The House of the Lord”. This reminds us that the temple is not the Zulu temple, nor the Indian temple, nor the English, Afrikaans or Xhosa temple, but it is the house of the Lord to which Jesus Christ invites all who are worthy and seeking Him. In the temple our primary identity is no longer defined by our different races, our different cultures, or different languages. Whether we are the president of the Church or the newest member, we each dress in simple white clothing symbolizing equality before our Heavenly Father. We sit side by side without any distinction based on wealth or status. And each time we come to the temple we are taught our most important identity, our eternal identity as sons and daughters of God, coming in humility to make covenants and to participate in holy ordinances that will lead us back to our Heavenly Home.
What joy we feel together in knowing that the Lord is pouring out His blessings on his beloved children in this part of Africa. Just as this beautiful building will be a beacon of light to all who drive by, may the sacred covenants we make within the walls of this beautiful temple be a constant reminder of God’s perfect love for us.
S. Mark Palmer was named a General Authority Seventy in April 2016. He is married to Jacqueline Ann Wood; they are the parents of six children.