Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking in the Branch

Paul and I were asked to speak in the Branch yesterday and it was a great experience. I spoke first and introduced us a bit and then talked a bit about preparing our ancestors to go to the temple. Before I finished what I had prepared, I felt impressed to just bear my testimony and sit down. We then sang a hymn that beautifully summed up my talk and then Paul got up and gave one of the best talks I have ever heard on preparing to go to the temple. Here it is:

"We teach in the church the importance of doing the work for our kindred dead. The first ordinances we do in the temple for our ancestors are the same ordinances you participated in when you became members of the church.
Ordination to the priesthood
However Our Heavenly Father has much more for us and our ancestors then just becoming members of the church. In Elder David A. Bednar's talk in the April 2009 conference he said the following.
“The process of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ that is commenced in the waters of baptism is continued and enlarged in the house of the Lord. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ordinances of the holy temple we more completely and fully take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.”

So what are these temple ordinances and how do we prepare to participate in them?
First: What are the temple ordinances? I would summarize this answer in 3 parts.
1. We perform the saving ordinances of Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination to the priesthood for our ancestors in the temple. When done for those that are in the spirit world these must be done in the temple.
2. Teaching. We often talk of the 3 questions of life
a. Where did I come from?
b..Why am I here?
c. Where am I going?
I like to summarize these three into one. Who am I? When you were taught the gospel in preparation for baptism, you learned the answer to these questions. In the temple you are taught these same things in more powerful, motivating ways. In the temple we call this an Endowment or Gift and it is truly a marvelous gift. As a part of learning these things we are also given the opportunity make covenants or promises with God. He in turn promises us marvelous eternal blessings.
3. Sealing Families. The temple work is focused on bringing Heavenly Fathers family back home from mortal life. Not just being resurrected, which all of us are promised, through the Savior's atonement. But exaltation or life with God and life with our family relationships.

Second: How do we receive these eternal blessings.
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides for all of us the opportunity to return to Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which the 1st four are Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
In order to receive the blessing of life with our families eternally we must prepare ourselves and go to the temple to receive those ordinances which promise those blessings. We must be endowed and then sealed as families.
How do we prepare for Baptism, or becoming a member of the Church?
1. We are taught the basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first principles and ordinances, the restoration, the commandments.
2. We learn what we are covenanting with God. Take upon us His name, obey his commandments, remember Him.
3. We have an interview where we express our faith, repentance, and commit to live the commandments.
Do we have to be sinless, perfect, No. We need to desire to do better and to work at it.
How do we prepare for going to the temple. Very similar to preparing for baptism.
1. Be a member for at least a year.
2. Learn as much as we can about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Demonstrate to ourselves that we are keeping our baptism covenants.
4. Interview with the Bishop and Stake President. This is much like your baptismal interview only now they are going to ask if we are keeping the covenants we made at baptism, chastity, word of wisdom, tithing
When this is complete we are given a temple recommend which authorizes us to go to a temple and receive our endowment and to be sealed to our families. This recommend is good for two years. Every two years we have an opportunity to again interview with our Bishop and Stake President and affirm that we are making progress in more fully taking upon us the name of Christ and becoming more like him.

I want to now discuss a different topic and tie it in.
What is Sanctification??
I will answer that question by contrasting it with Justification. These two concepts are many times discussed together because they are both part of the process by which we receive forgiveness and become like God.
Justification is the process by which we avail ourselves of the atonement of the Savior, and receive forgiveness for our sins. It is an integral part of the repentance process and all of us must become justified so that we may be able to return to our Father in Heaven.
Sanctification is a continuation of the repentance process. It is the process by which we become a changed person. We experience a change in our hearts. We no longer desire to do evil but to bless all those around us.
Let me read two quotes on the subject of Sanctification.
Helaman 3:35
35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifing and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
Dallin H Oaks speaking of the many experiences we go through in this life said the following.
Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become.

If those are reasonable definitions and distinctions between those two terms, let me now share an observation that Sister Sherwood and I have made in our lives. We have observed over many years of attending and serving in the Temples, that temple worship is a key part of the process that helps us become sanctified. We have seen that most of the people we knew that had the characteristics of becoming what Heavenly Father wanted them to be, were in the temple often. We first discussed this observation while coming home from the Denver temple one evening. We determined then that we wanted to be like them. This began our interest not just in going to the temple but serving in the temple. "

We truely believe that in serving others in any way we become more like the Savior and open our hearts more to becoming what Heavenly Father wants us to be. Serving in the temple as a patron or as a worker, opens our hearts even more as we participate in Heavenly Fathers's work of saving all of his children, and we become "saviors on Mount Zion" doing for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is really marvelous that Heavenly Father allows us to help him in this way and experience for ourselves the joy that is associated with this work. Our desire is that all of you will prepare yourselves to go to the temple often and learn for yourselves how much you are loved by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
To our Children: Talk about this in your families and set goals so that we can all be together in the Celestial Kingdom. We want no empty chairs! Love to you all.

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