Welcome to the Temple


by Ileen Johnson

I looked forward with anticipation to the completion of the Mount Timpanogos temple, as this would be my first opportunity to attend a temple dedication. After I married and while we raised our children, we lived in the Midwest, great distances from any temple, so our temple trips were usually combined with infrequent visits to family members in Utah.

I was both surprised and delighted when my husband and I were asked to assist with security at the temple for an entire week during the open house. About a dozen brethren, young and old, and two sisters made up the group from our stake. We met at the Stake Center parking lot at 6 a.m. each morning for prayer and then car-pooled to the temple.

We sisters did not have specific duties, just be watchful and help anyone who may need our assistance. So I began my day in the waiting room just inside the temple
entrance; the other sister went upstairs near the Celestial Room.

Visitors gathered in large tents next to the temple, and at precisely 7:05 a.m. they stepped through the temple doors. In a steady stream, throughout the day and every
day of the week, came thousands upon thousands of visitors.

President Hinckley greeted the guests via video recording in his kindly and personable way.  “Welcome to the temple,” he began. “We are pleased to have you join us today. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the House of the Lord, the most sacred place on earth.” He explained briefly the purpose of temples and added his testimony. “I bear witness of the living Christ and pray you will feel a special closeness with him while you are here today.”

I had worked a late evening shift the previous day, and with nothing in particular to do, I had great difficulty staying awake that first day, so the next day I brought my scriptures. My eyes obediently moved over the pages, yet my mind comprehended nothing. I tried to read, but I could not ignore President Hinckley’s voice repeating over and over again, “Welcome to the temple.  . . Welcome to the temple.” Hour after hour his words thwarted my concentration until I finally gave up trying to read.

I began again to listen and observe. “Welcome to the temple. . .Welcome to the temple. . .” He really means that I thought. I was struck by the realization that Heavenly Father loves all his children and wants nothing more than to welcome them to His temple.  How diverse are our Father’s children! They came in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and backgrounds. They came as families dressed in their Sunday best; mothers walking hand in hand with sons; big brothers carrying little sisters; big sister leading little sisters, all in look-alike dresses; and fathers bouncing babies. Some came out of curiosity. A few were obviously tourists. All were respectful. Some walked quickly, gazing straight ahead; others lingered, casting eyes about, attempting to absorb everything.

Most notable were the children. One little girl about 2 or 3 years of age, with very blonde, almost white hair, stepped along fairly bursting with confidence and
energy. An 8 or 9-year-old boy had obviously outgrown his suit coat, for the cuffs of his new white shirt extended a good six inches below the suit completely covering his hands.

A wiggly little boy was so full of energy he was all over the floor, feeling and exploring everything within reach, but as soon as he entered the Celestial Room and
without prompting, he jumped up, folded his arms, and proceeded reverently.

For part of each day I welcomed the handicapped to the Celestial Room and was greatly impressed by the number of wheelchair visitors–the elderly, the handicapped, the infirm–all escorted by radiant young men and women.  On they came, the halt, the lame, the blind, the dumb.  Elderly couples came holding hands or pushing spouses in wheelchairs. Others carried canes or steadied themselves with walkers. A few trailed oxygen tanks.

I shall never forget the young man about 10 or 11 who passed by with his mother. He carried a white cane.  How could he, I wondered, appreciate the beauties of the temple without the gift of sight? Yet I could see the Spirit had touched his heart. He was crying as they left.

We worked security at four of the temple dedicatory sessions, and each time I received a witness that temples and family history work are a great blessing to both the giver and the receiver. I thought maybe after four sessions I could make it through the hymn, “The Spirit of God,” without getting emotional, but I couldn’t stop
crying, much less sing.

“Welcome to the temple. . . the House of the Lord, . . . the most sacred place on earth.”

 

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