On March 25, 2020, the First Presidency announced all temples would temporarily close in an effort to curb the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last year, the majority of Latter-day Saints haven’t been able to attend the sacred buildings often deemed the highlight of their worship. Members around the world anxiously await the day when temples will reopen to full activity and try to understand the lessons God would have us learn.
We’ve had time to more fully appreciate the temple. We’ve had time to find our ancestors through family history work. But as contention and pride continue to engulf modern society, could we potentially be missing one of the most important lessons of all?
In August 2020, I had the opportunity to return to the temple. For the past seven years, I’ve served as an ordinance worker and shift coordinator. I was blessed to be one of the workers called to serve as Phase 1 of the temple reopening plan began. As I sat in the chapel of the Provo City Center Temple for our first training meeting, we discussed the sacrifices we’d need to make to stay healthy and meet the standards to keep the temple open.
Since that meeting, I’ve thought a lot about if we as a people are showing the Lord how important temples are to us through our actions and the humble sacrifices we’re willing to make.
Covenants of Sacrifice & Consecration
In the temple, we specifically make covenants to sacrifice and consecrate. Sacrifice involves giving something up, especially for a higher purpose. Consecration is both the act of devoting something exclusively to a purpose and the act of making something holy or sacred.
We can connect to the temple, even if we’re unable to go inside, by making our temple covenants more present in our daily lives. We can increase our awareness of how we are living our covenants and how they affect our choices.
Especially because temples are closed, we have a chance to show our Heavenly Parents what temples really mean to us. It’s not just about our desire to be in the temple and what we hope to gain when we enter through those sacred doors. It’s about the work and glory of God and the gathering of Israel. How we sacrifice and consecrate our lives so temples can reopen shows God how we feel about His work.
An Example from History
We can learn about these principles from the early Saints. On September 25, 1890, President Wilford Woodruff published “The Manifesto,” a document officially announcing that the Church would no longer practice plural marriage.
For Latter-day Saints, the sacrifices made to live plural marriage were deep and real. From 1862 to 1889, laws enacted by the United States continually infringed upon the rights of the Saints; many were fined, thrown into prison, or forced into hiding. In the midst of intense persecution, the Saints were determined to follow God.
Everything changed in May 1890 when the Supreme Court decided to uphold the Edmunds-Tucker Act. This meant the United States Government had the right to seize all Church property over $50,000, which would include the temples of the Lord. There was no longer any legal means to seek redress.
President Woodruff prayed diligently to know how to protect the temples and the work done therein. He received revelation from the Lord that the time of plural marriage was at an end. President Woodruff said, “The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. All the temples [would] go out of our hands. God has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it.”
Many Church members faced great pain and a decades-long period of transition as they were now suddenly asked to sacrifice the principle they had so long fought for. Zina D. H. Young, the third Relief Society general president, said on the day the Manifesto was announced, “Today the hearts of all were tried but looked to God and submitted.”
This experience from Church history is a reminder that nothing is more important to the Lord than the great work of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil, including what the early Saints believed to be their liberty and right to live the practice of plural marriage.
We are blessed not to face the same persecutions as a Church or a people. However, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us in our time of the importance of temple work when he said:
The Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
A Lesson to Learn
What lessons can we learn from our history and modern-day experiences? We can do everything within our power to protect the work of the Lord. We can strive to follow the counsel of a living prophet to do all we can to continue to safeguard ourselves and others from the COVID-19 pandemic. We can the counsel of a prophet who authorized the following statement:
As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees, and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs.
We can ask ourselves, what is more important? My personal feelings or the guidance of a prophet? My comfort and convenience or the work done inside temples?
I believe the Lord is both watching over and watching His people. He is watching to see if we will come together as a Zion people to declare, through our actions, what we hold most dear. Our individual actions may differ based on personal circumstances, but can we be confident in our response as a people to the last year without the temple?
It is my earnest hope and prayer that we will ask ourselves that question and, if found wanting, do all within our power to change. This period of testing is nearing an end, but the way we were changed by it doesn’t have to be.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.