“Chapter 13: Priceless Blessings of the House of the Lord,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (2014), 167–78
“Chapter 13,” Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 167–78
“I am grateful to the Lord that my temple memories extend back—even to young boyhood,” said President Ezra Taft Benson. “I remember so well, as a little boy, coming in from the field and approaching the old farm house in Whitney, Idaho. I could hear my mother singing ‘Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?’ (Hymns, no. 58.)
“I can still see her in my mind’s eye bending over the ironing board with newspapers on the floor, ironing long strips of white cloth, with beads of perspiration on her forehead. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘These are temple robes, my son. Your father and I are going to the temple. …’
“Then she put the old flatiron on the stove, drew a chair close to mine, and told me about temple work—how important it is to be able to go to the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances performed there. She also expressed her fervent hope that some day her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy these priceless blessings.
“These sweet memories about the spirit of temple work were a blessing in our farm home. … These memories have returned as I have performed the marriage of each of our children and grandchildren, my mother’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, under the influence of the Spirit in the house of the Lord.
“These are choice memories to me.”1
The temple is the nearest place to heaven on mortal earth.2
[The] temple will be a light to all in [the] area—a symbol of all we hold dear.3
The temple is an ever-present reminder that God intends the family to be eternal.4
[The temple is] a constant, visible symbol that God has not left man to grope in darkness. It is a place of revelation. Though we live in a fallen world—a wicked world—holy places are set apart and consecrated so that worthy men and women can learn the order of heaven and obey God’s will.5
[The temple is] a standing witness that the power of God can stay the powers of evil in our midst. Many parents, in and out of the Church, are concerned about protection against a cascading avalanche of wickedness which threatens to engulf Christian principles. I find myself in complete accord with a statement made by President Harold B. Lee during World War II. Said he: “We talk about security in this day, and yet we fail to understand that … we have standing the holy temple wherein we may find the symbols by which power might be generated that will save this nation from destruction.”6
At a party at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, [California,] I had been asked by the President of the United States [as his secretary of agriculture] to greet the president of one of our newer republics, the president of eighty-eight million people scattered on some 3,000 islands a thousand miles long, a nation that had been in existence only a few years. As we sat there at this dinner, which was sponsored in large measure by the motion picture industry and at which many movie stars were present, I could look out a beautiful bay window. Down the avenue, on the elevation, I could see the soft floodlights around our glorious Los Angeles Temple, and I had the joy of pointing it out to my guests and to friends at our table and other tables. I thought, as we sat there, “Much of what goes on tonight is simply the froth of life. The things that endure, the things that are real, the things that are important are those things represented in the temple of God.”7
May [the temple] be a constant reminder that life is eternal and that covenants made by us in mortality can be everlasting.8
When our Heavenly Father placed Adam and Eve on this earth, He did so with the purpose in mind of teaching them how to regain His presence. Our Father promised a Savior to redeem them from their fallen condition. He gave to them the plan of salvation and told them to teach their children faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Further, Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God.
To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.
Because Adam and Eve had complied with these requirements, God said to them, “Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.” (Moses 6:67.)
Three years before Adam’s death, a great event occurred. He took his son Seth, his grandson Enos, and other high priests who were his direct-line descendants, with others of his righteous posterity, into a valley called Adam-ondi-Ahman. There Adam gave to these righteous descendants his last blessing.
The Lord then appeared to them [see D&C 107:53–56]. …
How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord?
The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings.
The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God—just as did Adam and Eve—to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.
If a couple are true to their covenants, they are entitled to the blessing of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. These covenants today can only be entered into by going to the House of the Lord.
Adam followed this order and brought his posterity into the presence of God. …
… This order of priesthood can only be entered into when we comply with all the commandments of God and seek the blessings of the fathers as did Abraham [see Abraham 1:1–3] by going to our Father’s house. They are received in no other place on this earth!
… Go to the temple—our Father’s house—to receive the blessings of your fathers that you may be entitled to the highest blessings of the priesthood. “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:22.)
Our Father’s house is a house of order. We go to His house to enter into that order of priesthood which will entitle us to all that the Father hath, if we are faithful.9
The blessings of the house of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples are really the gateways to heaven.10
The Lord’s desire is for every adult man and woman in the Church to receive the ordinances of the temple. This means that they are to be endowed and that all married couples are to be sealed for eternity. These ordinances provide a protection and blessing to their marriage. Their children also are blessed to be born in the covenant. Birth in the covenant entitles those children to a birthright blessing which guarantees them eternal parentage regardless of what happens to the parents, so long as the children remain worthy of the blessings.11
Is it not significant to you that today the Saints are scattered over the face of the world and, in their scattered situation, temples are being provided for them? By the ordinances that they receive in holy places, they will be armed with righteousness and endowed with the power of God in great measure.12
There is a power associated with the ordinances of heaven—even the power of godliness—which can and will thwart the forces of evil if we will be worthy of those sacred blessings. [Our] community will be protected, our families will be protected, our children will be safeguarded as we live the gospel, visit the temple, and live close to the Lord. … God bless us as Saints to live worthy of the covenants and ordinances made in this sacred place.13
The temple ceremony was given by a wise Heavenly Father to help us become more Christlike.14
We will not be able to dwell in the company of celestial beings unless we are pure and holy. The laws and ordinances which cause men and women to come out of the world and become sanctified are administered only in these holy places. They were given by revelation and are comprehended by revelation. It is for this reason that one of the Brethren has referred to the temple as the “university of the Lord.”15
No member of the Church can be perfected without the ordinances of the temple. We have a mission to assist those who do not have these blessings to receive them.16
Temples are built and dedicated so that, through the priesthood, parents can be sealed to their children and children can be sealed to their parents. These sealing ordinances apply to both the living and the dead. If we fail to be sealed to our progenitors and our posterity, the purpose of this earth, man’s exaltation, will be utterly wasted so far as we are concerned.17
It is not sufficient for a husband and wife to be sealed in the temple to guarantee their exaltation—if they are faithful—they must also be eternally linked with their progenitors and see that the work is done for those ancestors. “They without us,” said the Apostle Paul, “cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15). Our members must therefore understand that they have an individual responsibility to see that they are linked to their progenitors—or, as sacred scripture designates, our “fathers.” This is the meaning of section 2, verse 2, in the Doctrine and Covenants when Moroni declared that Elijah “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.”18
When I think of genealogy, I see people—people I love who are waiting for our family, their posterity, to help them gain exaltation in the celestial kingdom.19
Ours is the privilege of opening the doors of salvation to those souls who may be imprisoned in darkness in the world of spirits, that they may receive the light of the gospel and be judged the same as we. Yes, “the works that I do”—proffering the saving ordinances of the gospel to others—“shall ye do also” [see John 14:12]. How many thousands of our kindred yet await these sealing ordinances?
It is well to ask, “Have I done all I can as an individual on this side of the veil? Will I be a savior to them—my own progenitors?”
Without them, we cannot be made perfect! Exaltation is a family affair.20
The veil is very thin. We are living in eternity. All is as with one day with God. I imagine that to the Lord there is no veil. It is all one great program. I am sure there is rejoicing in heaven as we meet [in the temple]. Our progenitors are rejoicing, and my hope and prayer is that we will take advantage of the opportunities now afforded us to come regularly to the temple.21
Those of you who have worked at your genealogies, who realize the importance of the work and have felt the excitement that comes from tying families together and learning of your noble heritage, need to share that excitement with others. Help them to see the joy and fulfillment you see in the work. We need to proselyte more of our members into this work. There is much to be done, as you all know, and there are many, many members who could do the work and who would enjoy doing the work if some of us—all of you—would just ignite that spark in them through your enthusiasm, example, and devotion.22
The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.
As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.
I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his [see Abraham 1:1–4].23
When your children ask why we marry in the temple, you should teach them that temples are the only places on the earth where certain ordinances may be performed. You should also share with your children your personal feelings as you knelt together before the sacred altar and took upon yourselves covenants which made it possible for them to be sealed to you forever.24
How fitting it is for mothers and fathers to point to the temple and say to their children, “That is the place where we were married for eternity.” By so doing, the ideal of temple marriage can be instilled within the minds and hearts of your children while they are very young.25
We should share with our families our love of our forebears and our gratitude to be able to help them receive the saving ordinances, as my parents did with me. As we do so, increased bonds of appreciation and affection will develop within our families.26
I believe the youth are not only willing and able to do genealogical research, but they are a good means of giving life to the whole program.27
God bless us to teach our children and our grandchildren what great blessings await them by going to the temple.28
I make it a practice, whenever I perform a marriage, to suggest to the young couple that they return to the temple as soon as they can and go through the temple again as husband and wife. It isn’t possible for them to understand fully the meaning of the holy endowment or the sealings with one trip through the temple, but as they repeat their visits to the temple, the beauty, the significance, and the importance of it all will be emphasized upon them. I have later had letters from some of these young couples expressing appreciation because that item was emphasized particularly. As they repeat their visits to the temple, their love for each other tends to increase and their marriage tends to be strengthened.29
In the course of our visits to the temple, we are given insights into the meaning of the eternal journey of man. We see beautiful and impressive symbolisms of the most important events—past, present, and future—symbolizing man’s mission in relationship to God. We are reminded of our obligations as we make solemn covenants pertaining to obedience, consecration, sacrifice, and dedicated service to our Heavenly Father.30
I promise you that, with increased attendance in the temples of our God, you shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your life as you bless those who have died.31
In the peace of these lovely temples, sometimes we find solutions to the serious problems of life. Under the influence of the Spirit, sometimes pure knowledge flows to us there. Temples are places of personal revelation. When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways.32
Do we return to the temple often to receive the personal blessings that come from regular temple worship? Prayers are answered, revelation occurs, and instruction by the Spirit takes place in the holy temples of the Lord.33
Let us make the temple a sacred home away from our eternal home.34
President Benson said that a temple is “a symbol of all we hold dear,” and he identified some truths that temples symbolize (see section 1). What do temples represent for you?
In section 2, how do President Benson’s teachings about the blessings of the priesthood apply to all family members? As you review this section, ponder your privilege and responsibility to help family members prepare to return to the presence of God.
As you read section 3, ponder President Benson’s teachings about the blessings we receive through temple ordinances. In what ways have you been blessed through temple ordinances? If you have not yet received temple ordinances, ponder what you can do to prepare to receive them.
President Benson said, “When I think of genealogy, I see people—people I love” (section 4). How might this observation influence your approach to family history? What can we do to help more of our ancestors receive the blessings of the gospel?
What are some things we can do to help children and youth prepare for temple ordinances and covenants? In what ways might youth give “life to the whole program” of family history? (See section 5.)
President Benson encouraged us to “make the temple a sacred home away from our eternal home” (section 6). What does this statement mean to you? Reflect on blessings you have received as you have returned to the temple.
“Often a lesson will contain more material than you are able to teach in the time you are given. In such cases, you should select the material that will be most helpful for those you teach” (Teaching, No Greater Call , 98–99).