“Chapter 11: Priceless Riches of the Holy Temple,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2011), 99–108
“Chapter 11,” Teachings: Harold B. Lee, 99–108
In March 1956, at the dedication of the Los Angeles California Temple, President Harold B. Lee repeated a father’s story about his son who had been assigned to fly dangerous missions during a war.
“[The] father said to him, ‘Son, how were you able to get back safely to your home base … ?’ The boy said, ‘Oh, that is easy, Dad, I just fly the beam.’ But the father pursued the question by asking, ‘Suppose you have lost the beam and something has gone wrong with that radio equipment by which the flyer learns to fly his course.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I would use my compass.’ ‘Well, suppose a shot has destroyed the compass; then what?’
“The boy [pondered] thoughtfully and then he said, ‘Dad, I would begin to fly my plane higher and higher above the smoke and fog and dust of the earth until I got up where I could see the stars, and when I had flown that high, I would chart my course by the stars. That never failed and I could always find my way back home.’”
President Lee continued: “Down here on the earth outside of His sacred presence there are the things that money can buy, there are the things that we call the honors of men and the things that we strive for and seem to think are most important. But [the temple] is where we climb high above the smoke and the fog of these earthly things and we learn to read by God’s eternal stars a course that will lead us safely back home.”1
We come [to the temple], as I think of it, to receive the fullness of the blessings of the Priesthood. …
We come here to this Holy House to learn, to know God as he really is, and just how each of us, for ourselves, might obtain an exaltation in his presence. …
It is here we begin to lay the foundation stones of an eternal heavenly home, for here in this Church is the power to bind on earth that the same might be bound in Heaven.2
Somehow we must get across the fact to all our people, young and old, that in our holy temples the temple endowment is the sure guide to happiness here and eternal life in the world to come.3
When you enter a holy temple, you are by that course gaining fellowship with the Saints in God’s eternal kingdom, where time is no more. In the temples of your God you are endowed not with a rich legacy of worldly treasure, but with a wealth of eternal riches that are above price.
The temple ceremonies are designed by a wise Heavenly Father who has revealed them to us in these last days as a guide and a protection throughout our lives, that you and I might not fail to merit exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where God and Christ dwell.
May you strive diligently and be guided to prepare yourselves to gain these priceless riches in the house of the Lord.4
We have two classes of revelation: There are revelations which might be said to be open revelations, like those written in the Doctrine and Covenants and elsewhere, which may be given to the world. And then we have what we might speak of as closed revelations. These are to be divulged and given only in sacred places which are prepared for the revealing of the highest ordinances which belong to the Aaronic and to the Melchizedek Priesthoods, and those ordinances are in the house of the Lord.5
As early as 1841, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that “there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood. …
“For I deign to reveal unto my church 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 124:28, 41.)
These revelations, which are reserved for and taught only to the faithful Church members in sacred temples, constitute what are called the “mysteries of Godliness.” The Lord said He had given to Joseph “the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed. …” (D&C 28:7.) As a reward to the faithful, the Lord promised: “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old. …” (D&C 76:7.) …
In the writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith there is found an explanation of these so-called mysteries that are embodied in what the Prophet speaks of as the holy endowment. He said in part:
“I spent the day in the upper part of the store, that is in my private office … in council with [then he names several of the early leaders], instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the Firstborn, and come up and abide in the presence of the Eloheim in the eternal worlds.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 237.)
President Brigham Young, at the laying of the cornerstone for the Salt Lake Temple, added this further enlightenment as to the meaning of the endowment and the purpose of temple building with relation thereto:
“… Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, … and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” [Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 416.]6
If the acceptance of the gospel is so essential to the welfare of man’s eternal soul, you may well ask what is to become of the millions who have died without a knowledge of the gospel or the Lord’s plan, by which the full effect of his atonement might be realized. If missionary work were to have been limited only to mortality, many souls would have been condemned without a hearing. Every one, good or bad, because of the atonement, will be resurrected, for “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.) But only those who repent and are baptized for the remission of their sins will lay full claim to the redeeming blood of his atonement. … Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the only means by which man can accept the gospel, is an earthly ordinance, and so in the Plan of Salvation, our Father, with equal consideration for all his children, has provided a way for all members of his Church and Kingdom on the earth to be “saviors on Mt. Zion” by performing a vicarious work in behalf of those in the world of spirits, “the prison house,” that they could not perform for themselves.
This work for the dead performed in holy temples by members of the Church does in reality make of them who do this work “saviors” to those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel, for thereby they may claim the complete gift of the Savior promised to all mankind through his atonement. Reference to that service that may be rendered for those in the spirit world, as it was undoubtedly being performed by the saints in the days of the Apostle Paul and which we can now perform for our own dead, was given by him as an argument in proof of the resurrection. Said he: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29.) Temples in this day have been built in which this work so essential to the work of salvation might again be performed.7
[The Lord] said that the gates of hell should not prevail against Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). Now, the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Lord’s work if there hadn’t been given the ordinances pertaining to the salvation of those who are dead. During those periods when the priesthood to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel was not upon the earth, there were millions who lived, many of whom were faithful souls. If there hadn’t been a way by which the saving ordinances of the gospel could be performed for those who thus died without the knowledge of the gospel, the gates of hell would have prevailed against our Father’s plan of salvation.8
[In our genealogical research] the Lord is not going to open any doors until we get as far as we can on our own. We have to go toward that blank wall and then we have to have enough faith to ask the Lord to help to make an opening so that we can take the next step. And there can be information given to you from sources that reveal the fact that heaven and earth are not far away.
Many of you have lived to a time in life where you have had loved ones who have gone on. You have had certainty of the nearness, sometimes, of those who have drawn very near to you. And sometimes they have brought to you information that you could not have otherwise had.9
I have a conviction born of a little experience to which I bear testimony that there are forces beyond this life that are working with us. …
I have the simple faith that when you do everything you can, researching to the last of your opportunity, the Lord will help you to open doors to go further with your genealogies, and heaven will cooperate, I am sure.10
If we were united in our temple work and in our genealogical research work, we would not be satisfied with the present temples only, but we would have sufficient work for temples yet to come, to the unlocking of the doors of opportunity to those beyond who are our own kin, and thus would ourselves become saviors on Mount Zion. Our failure to be united will be our failure to perpetuate our family homes in the eternity.11
In doing this vicarious work for the dead by those of us who are saviors on Mount Zion, the Lord wants it to be done as nearly as possible by those who are without blemish. Just as he wanted the animal sacrifice to be of animals without blemish, he wants us to come here pure and clean and worthy to do the work, the vicarious work, as saviors on Mount Zion.
And so we have counseled our bishops and our stake presidents to take meticulous care in preparing their people to be ready to receive a recommend and not to allow those to come here who have not repented of their sins, who have made mistakes, to come here unrepentant, and in so doing defile this holy house. I think there could be no worse hell on earth than for one to come here into this near presence to our Father with a sense of guilt and uncleanness still upon that person. It would be a devastating and a shattering experience.12
Perhaps the most sacred place nearest to heaven on earth is our temple, to the extent that we go there undefiled and to the extent that our bishops and stake presidents make careful examination of all who apply for recommends to see that, so far as is possible, they are living certain standards [so they do not come] there with any uncleanness that would defile the spirit that we wish to be there.
Remember that now. Remember our sacred responsibilities and our hope that we ourselves might begin to make sure that every time we go, we go with clean hands and with pure hearts and we teach this to others. [See Psalm 24:3–4.]13
We have a number of those who want to go to the temple soon after they have been baptized. It has been a long-standing rule … which says it should be at least a year. … The reason why we say at least a year is to hope that the bishops and stake presidents will interview carefully enough to make sure that they have been in the Church long enough to have their feet on the ground and that they know the basic doctrines of the Church before we expect them to understand the higher ordinances, the temple ordinances. The questions then for those going to the temple should not be only for worthiness but also for readiness to receive the ordinances of the temple.14
The receiving of the endowment requires the assuming of obligations by covenants which in reality are but an embodiment or an unfolding of the covenants each person should have assumed at baptism, as explained by the prophet Alma to the effect that “ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8–9). Any [people] who [are] prepared to assume those obligations declared by Alma and “who humble themselves before God … and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits … and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end” (D&C 20:37), need have no hesitancy in going to a holy temple and receiving, in connection with the covenants taken, promises of great blessings predicated upon compliance therewith.15
How must we prepare [to come to the temple]? A sculptor has written at the portals of the Cardston Alberta Temple that confession and thought by the late Elder Orson F. Whitney that we all should have in mind. He wrote:
“Hearts must be pure to come within these walls,
Where spreads a feast unknown to festive halls.
Freely partake, for freely God hath given
And taste the holy joys that tell of heaven.
Here learn of Him who triumphed o’er the grave,
And unto men the keys, the Kingdom gave;
Joined here by powers that past and present bind
The living and the dead perfection find.”
President Joseph F. Smith caught the secret of that perfection when he said: “It is not easy for men to give up their vanities, to overcome their preconceived notions, and surrender themselves heart and soul to the will of God which is always higher than their own. … When men and women realize they are getting into deep water where their footing is insecure, they should retreat, for they may be sure that the course they have been taking will lead them more and more away from their bearings which are not always easy to regain. The religion of the heart, the unaffected and simple communion which we should hold with God, is the highest safeguard of the Latter-day Saints.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 9.) …
Well, with that contemplation … , I feel I would like to bear my testimony to you through an experience I had. Only four weeks ago along in the early morning hours I was given a glorious dream. In that dream it seemed that I was in the company of brethren being instructed by the President of the Church, and while there were others there, it seemed that everything he was saying was just for me. … That dream came back to me, today—came back to me with a vividness that was overwhelming, for this was the message: “If you want to learn to love God, you must learn to love His children and to love serving His children. No person loves God unless he loves service and unless he loves our Heavenly Father’s children.”
And then it seemed that after the President had taught that lesson, which impressed itself so forcibly upon my mind, he said, “Brethren, let us kneel in prayer.” And I awoke after he had prayed, with the most heavenly feeling that I think I have ever had, wondering if I could continue until I could reach the high standard of love for service and love for the children of the Lord that had [been] impressed [upon me] in that dream.16
Thank God for the revelations by the power of the Holy Ghost, which bears witness to my soul that I know with all my soul that [the Lord] lives, that He is the Savior of the world. I know that [the temple] is a sanctified, holy place where He can lay His head because of the holiness herein. May you who come here come with sanctified hearts, with eyes and minds and hearts single to God so that you will feel His presence.17
In what ways has the temple been “a guide and a protection” to you?
How would you contrast worldly treasures with the wealth of eternal riches that are obtained in the temple?
Why is it essential that we participate as often as we can in temple worship?
What blessings have come to you as a result of doing temple and family history work?
Why must we come to the house of the Lord with clean hands and pure hearts? Besides being worthy, what are some other ways we can prepare to attend the temple?
Why is learning to love and serve others an important preparation for participating in temple blessings?