Latter-day Saints encouraged to focus on the blessings of the temple during closures and reduced operations
About two weeks before a monthlong national COVID-19 lockdown began in England, President Paul D. and Sister Linda M. Martin commenced their service as president and matron of the Preston England Temple. The Martins succeed President Michael A. and Sister Carol L. Rigby who served from 2017-2020. Counsellors in the new presidency and assistant matrons are President Brian McKechnie and Sister Eileen McKechnie, and President Frank Hoyle and Sister Kath Hoyle.
At the time, the temple was quiet and functioned in ‘phase two’, limiting operations for live ordinances by appointment only. When tighter lockdown restrictions were announced, it was apparent that the temple would soon close. With this in mind, and not knowing when the temple would reopen, a few couples quickly moved up their plans to get married and be sealed the day before the temple closed its doors.
“We continue to pray that the temple will again fully open. The temple is a place where visitors and patrons come to feel peace and closeness to God,” said President Martin. “Even during this time of closure, we knew that people have missed coming to the temple, even to walk the grounds. We would see them come to the closed gates, spend a few minutes, and then leave.”
In his talk “Go Forward in Faith’ at the April 2020 general conference, Russell M. Nelson said, “Brothers and sisters, during times of our distress when temples are closed, you can still draw upon the power of your temple covenants and endowment as you honor your covenants. Please use this time when temples are closed to continue to live a temple-worthy life or to become temple worthy.”1
During their first few weeks, the Martins, McKechnies and Hoyles participated in virtual training with the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Prior to COVID-19, the training was held in person at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City with only temple presidents and matrons in attendance. Following the training, presidents and matrons would return home and share what they had learned with their presidencies, assistant matrons, and others.)
Sister Martin explained, “Being able to train together in this setting was a tremendous blessing. We were able to get to know each other … an opportunity that may not have occurred if the temple was fully-functioning and busy.” They felt a spirit of unity, she said.
In their training, they were reminded that the temple is a house of learning and love; a symbol of belonging to the family of God. The Martins learned that their primary responsibility as a temple president and matron was to watch over the spiritual well-being of the temple workers, the patrons, and the paid employees who oversee operations and take care of the building and grounds. The role of the counsellors and assistant matrons are twofold: to oversee the training and organisation of volunteer temple workers; and to attend to the spiritual well-being of patrons and workers.
“Our role is to create an environment of love, so that when people come to the temple, they feel the Spirit of the Lord,” President Martin said. “So, when they go out of the temple doors to go home, they want to come back.”
There are many unknowns for those going to the temple for the first time. President and Sister Martin are both first-generation members of the Church. Sister Martin joined the Church with her family at age 11 while President Martin was baptised when they were young marrieds. Sister Martin recalled that she was apprehensive and nervous the first time she attended the temple.
“I want patrons to know that this is a time to learn and we are there to help. It is an experience that should not be rushed,” Sister Martin said. “In the short time we have been here, I have learned that the temple experience is all about the one, and taking the time needed to see through spiritual eyes.”
“It is so important that we understand the ongoing learning process and to return to the temple often,” said President Martin. “The blessings of the temple have no bounds. Until the temple is fully operational again, I invite each of us to follow President Nelson’s counsel from his April 2020 general conference talk ‘Hear Him,’ and take this time to ‘increase [our] participation in family history’2 and prepare ourselves to once again attend the temple.”
President Martin comes from Plymouth while Sister Martin was raised in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. They met when she, a trained nurse, went to Plymouth for midwifery training. They raised their family in Plymouth where he was the payroll and pensions manager for a UK electricity-distribution network operator. The Martins have three children and seven grandchildren.
He most recently served as a counsellor to President David Hughes in the England Birmingham Mission. Prior to that, he served as a stake president, stake presidency counsellor, bishop and high councillor. Sister Martin served in Young Women, as a seminary teacher, as an assistant deaf coordinator, and an addiction-recovery facilitator.
Prior to their call to the temple presidency, President and Sister McKechnie attended the Pollok Ward, Paisley Stake. He was born in Scotland and lived in Canada as a child. Sister McKechnie was born in Donegal, Ireland and grew up in Glasgow. Both are first-generation members of the Church; he was baptised in 1968 and she joined in 1979. President McKechnie recently retired from the Church’s Family History department, and Sister McKechnie worked previously as a psychiatric and general nurse.
President McKechnie has served as a bishop several times, as a branch president and as a counsellor in stake and mission presidencies. Sister McKechnie has served in many roles in Primary, Young Women and Relief Society. They have six children and 12 grandchildren.
Both President and Sister Hoyle are from Littleborough, Lancashire. As young marrieds they moved to Western Australia for his job as a mechanical engineer. While there, they served in a branch of four members which stretched across 2,000 miles. Since that time, he has served as a branch president, bishop, stake Young Men president, and high councillor. She has served as a stake and ward Relief Society president. Sister Hoyle has a background in nursing.
The Hoyles have seven children and 25 grandchildren. Prior to their latest assignments, they served as full-time ordinance workers and shift coordinators at the Preston Temple. President Hoyle is also a sealer at the temple.
The Preston Temple is the 52nd operating temple of the Church. It was dedicated on 7 June 1998 by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008). The temple serves Latter-day Saints from 24 stakes located in Northern England, the Midlands, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.
It is the second largest temple outside of North America, with Mexico City being the largest. The temple complex, located on Chorley, also hosts the Preston England Stake centre, the missionary training centre, a family history facility, a distribution centre, patron housing, temple missionary accommodation facilities, and a grounds-maintenance building. It is the largest temple complex in Europe.