Doctrine of the Temple

By J. Kenneth Doty

I am excited every time I go to the temple and every time I think about the temple. Since Sister Doty and I have been called to serve as supervisors of the sealing department of the temple we get to go there at least three times every week: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It keeps me very excited.

Last week we got an extra day there – on Tuesday. We had visitors from the Church Temple Department. These men are dispatched from Church Headquarters regularly to each of the operating temples of the Church. They review our procedures and monitor our performances. Their objective is to make certain that the ordinances are performed as nearly perfect as possible and with the appropriate dignity and reverence. And, of course, that these ordinances are performed uniformly throughout all the temples.

It was an interesting day. We are now working on implementing some of the suggestions made for improving the things we are responsible for doing.

The highlight of that day was hearing instruction from Elder Ted E. Brewerton, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, and our Area President. He spoke of the need to understand the doctrine of the temple. I found it most enlightening and I make no excuses for using some of the things he taught us last week.

It appears that members of the Church who are not regularly attending the temple are those who least understand the purpose and the doctrine of temples and temple work. The temple is the key to exaltation and eternal life. We are able to come unto Christ through the saving and exalting ordinances of the Priesthood and the Temple.

There are four saving ordinances. Baptism and confirmation are the first two. The other two are the Endowment and the Sealing. The last two are obtained only in the temple. Of course, for the brethren, we must add the fifth ordinance, that is, the Priesthood.

The Lord gave us His “mission statement” for His for his gospel plan in Moses 1:39: “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

The Atonement of Jesus Christ secured the resurrection for all men. But it requires the ordinances of the gospel, baptism and confirmation by the proper priesthood authority to gain immortality. Eternal life is obtained by way of the temple ordinances, which are the endowment and the sealing. These ordinances represent the fullness of the Priesthood.

We read in the Doctrine and Covenants section 131: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood (meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage); and if he does not he cannot obtain it.” Then follows the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants in which the Lord reveals all the blessings, glory, and attainments that are available to those who qualify for the highest degree of glory.

Too often, I believe, we consider temples and temple ordinances to be a product of Latter-day doctrine. We must understand that this is not true. These ordinances were a part of the gospel plan from the beginning. They are not new!

On May 17, 1984, there was a centennial celebration and a rededication of the Logan Temple. Speaking on this occasion, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to Adam and Eve from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by His own voice and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Adam and his posterity were commanded to be baptized, to receive the Gift of 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 fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the House of the Lord.”

Adam gathered his worthy children around him at Adam-ondi-Ahman just before his death and taught and administered these blessings and ordinances to them. They didn’t have a building as we have today, as far as we know, but they had the understanding and the authority to do what we are expected to do today, and that is to enter into all the saving ordinances in the Temple.

Enoch prepared his people to be taken to heaven by qualifying them to receive this Order of the Son of God, as we would prepare ourselves to receive the blessings of our temple.

Thus they became a great example for future generations to emulate. It was by the authority of the priesthood that ordinances of this order were performed. This priesthood was known as “the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid too frequent repetition of His name… the Church in ancient days called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:3-5).

Abraham explained that he received this priesthood from the fathers; it came down through the fathers to him. He sought for these blessings of the saving ordinances and the right to administer them (Abraham 1:2-4). This would be the equivalent today of qualifying for a temple recommend, receiving one’s temple blessings, and becoming an ordinance worker and a sealer in the temple.

Moses received this priesthood from his father-in-law, Jethro. It was Moses who sought to bring the Children of Israel into the presence of the Lord through righteous living. “But they hardened their hearts and could not endure His presence; therefore the Lord… took Moses out of their midst, the Holy Priesthood also” (D&C 84:21-25).

A further quote from President Benson, “Between Moses and Christ only certain prophets possessed the right to the higher priesthood and the blessings that could bring men into the presence of God.” One such prophet was Elijah. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Elijah was the last Old Testament prophet to hold “the keys of the priesthood, which are the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood,” including the power to seal in heaven that which is sealed on earth.

It was the Prophet Elijah who appeared to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration and gave to them the sealing power, which keys the Savior had promised Peter just six days before. Elijah also appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple, and bestowed upon them the same keys to seal in heaven that which is sealed on earth. This was also in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would again restore the keys of the sealing power.

Following the death of the Savior, Paul the Apostle taught in 1 Corinthians 11:11, “Never the less, neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” A simple explanation that the fullness of the priesthood is available only to man and woman together.

Considering all of this, can we not conclude that the temple and the priesthood are so closely yoked that without the priesthood the temple could not operate and without the temple there is insufficient purpose for the Melchizedek Priesthood to exist among the children of men? Such is the relationship between the higher priesthood and the temple, which we must perpetuate through diligent temple activity.

Hence the Gospel is the same. The ordinances are the same. The authority is the same. Only the individuals authorized to administer them change from time to time. And today we have buildings instead of mountaintops in which to perform them.

I am always humbled when I think that one such as I could have been chosen to receive the sealing power. To be charged to perform these sacred and exalting ordinances in our temple. It was conferred upon me under the hands of L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve. He, in turn, was acting under the delegation of authority and responsibility from President Ezra Taft Benson, who held all of the keys of the priesthood on the earth at that time.

I bear witness that the fullness of the Priesthood is upon the earth today and its blessings and saving ordinances are available to every worthy member of the Church.

Do not become weary in well doing at the temple. Go again and again, for therein is power, knowledge, peace of mind, and exaltation and eternal life for each of us and our kindred dead.

I know this work is real and that it is true. I know that God himself ordered and ordained it for our eternal progression. I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that angels attend our work in the temples. I so witness in the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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