With more than 100 temples in operation around the world and another score in various stages of construction, Latter-day Saints are realizing that work for ourselves and our kindred dead is taking on added urgency and meaning.
President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors released this statement during October general conference in 1902: "We hope to see the day when we shall have temples built in the various parts of the land where they are needed for the convenience of the people; for we realize that one of the greatest responsibilities that rests upon the people of God today is that their hearts shall be turned unto their fathers, and that they shall do the work that is necessary to be done for them in order that they may be joined together fitly in the bond of the New and Everlasting Covenant from generation to generation. For the Lord has said, through the Prophet, that this is one of the greatest responsibilities devolving upon us in this latter day." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 471.)
It is not the size of nor the architectural beauty that makes LDS temples so different from the thousands of other houses of worship scattered over the earth. It is the work that goes on within their walls that gives temples their unique character and function.
Before dedicating a temple, the Church invites the public to tour the building and inspect its various facilities. But after its dedication, President Hinckley reminds us, "a temple becomes the house of the Lord, vested with a character so sacred that only members of the Church in good standing are permitted to enter. It is not a matter of secrecy. It is a matter of sanctity. (Be Thou an Example, p. 129.)
The teachings set forth in modern temples give powerful emphasis to the fundamental concept of man's duty to his maker and to his brother, as contained in the two great commandments: to "love thy God with all thy heart . . soul and mind," and to "love thy neighbour as thyself." (See Mark 12:30-31.) Sacred ordinances amplify this ennobling philosophy of the family of God.
President Hinckley said, "Much of the work that goes on within temples is concerned with the family. Basic to an understanding of its meaning is recognition of the fact that even as we existed as children of God before we were born into this world, so also shall we continue to live after death, and the treasured and satisfying relationships of mortality, the most beautiful and meaningful of which are found in the family, may continue in the world to come."
Through living proxies, the same ordinances are available to those who have passed from mortality the uncounted millions who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel when they walked the earth. In the spirit world they are free to accept or reject those earthly ordinances performed for them, including baptism, marriage and the sealing of the family relationships. As President Hinckley said, "There must be no compulsion in the work of the Lord, but there must be opportunity."
He continues, "Surely these temples are unique. . . . They are houses of instruction. They are places of covenants and promises. At their altars we kneel before God our Creator and are given promise of His everlasting blessings. In the sanctity of their appointments we commune with Him and reflect on His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who served as proxy for each of us in a vicarious sacrifice in our behalf. . . .
"These sacred buildings were constructed even during those dark years when the Latter-day Saints were relentlessly driven and persecuted. They have been built and maintained in times of poverty and prosperity."
Now it is our responsibility to visit the temples as often as we can. It is to put forth the effort to do saving work for our ancestors and to ensure that our posterity catches the vision of temple work in these days.