Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Temple Covenants: The Ultimate Sacrifice

 This weekend in Logan I ran a little jump rope workshop for two days as a fundraiser with the Just Jumpin' jump rope team. The workshop was small but it was a lot of fun, as it always is with that team.

Friday evening after the workshop, Alyssa and I went on a hike with the Mickelsons, my wonderful adopted second family. Cache Valley is one of the most beautiful places I've seen and this hike was no exception. We put together a picnic and drove about 15 miles up Logan canyon to a trail that led to an old sawmill where the builders of the Logan temple cut the trees they used to construct the temple. The trail is 3.2 miles one way and leads along a beautiful creek lined with beaver dams and felled trees. We actually drove a bit further up the canyon, hiked over a meadow, and met up with the trail about halfway up which no one complained about missing the first part of the trail, especially after jump roping all day.

At the end of the trail lies a monument constructed to the workers who sacrificed so much to provide the wood for the construction of the Logan temple. At that site along the creek, devoted volunteers built a sawmill and a few other buildings used for worship services and housing. They lived up there year-round from 1877 at least until the temple was completed in 1884 and paid workers lived there until the mill was destroyed by fire in 1888.

Throughout the course of our adventure, the drive, the hike, the time we spent at the top, and the return trip, I thought a lot about what the experience would be like without the modern amenities of roads, KFC, watermelon, M&Ms, and good weather. In the heat of the summer or in the chill of winter (it's Utah and Cache Valley is higher in elevation than Salt Lake so the winters there almost without exception involve more snow and colder temperatures) these people walked the almost twenty-mile trail from the sawmill to the temple site and then back again for years, transporting wood that was needed to build a structure worthy to be called the house of the Lord. Although the mill had a few paid employees (making $2.30/hour which is actually about twenty cents more than my hourly at the Old Spaghetti Factory...I need a new job), most of the people involved were volunteers, driven by the desire to have a temple in which they could make eternal covenants with the Lord and be sealed to their beloved families for eternity. Honestly, although the hike was not hard or steep at all, there were places along the creek that were definitely not big enough for a wagon and I don't know how they navigated a wagon of trees down that canyon. Not to mention the other 15+ miles that are paved now; who knows what that terrain looked like back in 1880.

Many sacrifices were made to build the Logan temple, and the other temples of the time. Like the sawmill used for the Logan temple, the granite quarry for the Salt Lake temple was up in the mountains above Salt Lake City, which was a four-day journey from the temple site before the railroad was built. Remember when electricity was invented? Very small parts of New York City were barely tapping into commercial power at the time the first temples were being built in the territory of Utah. Not to mention that all the people who devoted their time and expertise had just walked across the continent with few possessions, started new lives in a desert, and had families to provide for. We could find as many incredible stories of sacrifice and devotion as there were people who helped build temples in the 1800's.

Why such sacrifice from these devoted saints? Why did they not wait until they had constructed their lives and had built houses, farms, and cities? Why did they need wood and stone of a better quality than that which they used to construct their houses, stores, barns, and sheds? Wouldn't the Lord understand that they were doing what they could with what they had been given? They had just escaped a death decree from their previous governor; lost children and parents and brothers and sisters in the plains of Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming and in the mountains of Utah; and left behind two other temples constructed in equal poverty--one of which was burned down by a mob just after its completion.

There are other stories of sacrifice by saints to get to temples and make sacred covenants, stories involving long journeys undergone and life savings spent to just attend the temple once to be sealed as eternal families. President Thomas S. Monson, prophet and president of the Church today, related a story of the sacrifices made by a pacific islander family to be sealed as together for eternity in the the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, more than 2,500 miles from their island home near Tahiti.

In the same talk, President Monson spoke of the sacrifices of the Amazonian members made to travel by boat and then bus for seven days and nights in order to get to the closest temple some 2,500 miles away. (See "The Holy Temple--A Beacon to the World," Ensign, May 2011, 90.) A temple in Manaus, Brazil was just dedicated this past Sunday for these devoted members.

Kiev Ukraine Temple
I could relate more stories for sacrifices people have made and continue to make in order to have a chance to make sacred covenants with the Lord in His holy houses and be sealed with their families eternally. In Ukraine where I spent two years as a missionary, the members used to save for years to make the 3-4 day journey to Germany to attend the temple. Now they, too, have a temple in Kiev.

Once again I ask: Why? Why did these wonderful disciples of Christ make such sacrifices to be able to visit the houses of the Lord? Why do the members of the Church today continue to make sacrifices of time and money to visit the temple as often as occasion permits?

The answer lies in the covenants made in these sacred edifices to God. In life, at the hand of civil officials, we marry until death do us part with no guarantee of being able to spend any more time than mortality with our loved ones, however long or short that may be. But in the house of the Lord, in His holy temples, we are sealed by the priesthood, the very power and authority of God, for time and for eternity. Through these sacred covenants and our continual efforts to live faithful to them, we are promised that our beloved relationships in this life will be perpetuated beyond the grave.

Think of this promise! To be able to live together with our families forever, for eternity. To live, laugh, and love in this life, knowing that death is not the end but merely another step in our eternal progression. I conclude with the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, living apostle in our day:

"If you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late." ("The Laborers in the Vineyard," Ensign, May 2012, 33.)

His words are to everyone, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or no. God's promises are to all, for He is no respecter of persons. Our ancestors understood the importance of making and keeping temple covenants and made sacrifices accordingly. May we each gain an equal understanding and make the necessary sacrifices in our day and in our lives that we, too, may have the eternal blessings our Father in Heaven wishes to bestow upon us.