Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pioneer Day Tribute

Today I gave the sharing time lesson in Primary and it was on the sacrifices that the pioneers made for the temples. The lessons are only 15 minutes but it seemed longer and turned out better than I imagined.

I want to share with you some of the special thoughts and messages that I shared with the beautiful primary children today in tribute of Pioneer Day next week!

A millennia ago, the prophet Micah predicted the following:

Micah 4:1-2

“But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.

“And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Micah saw the Salt Lake temple and temple square - the place where saints from all over the world gather twice a year. It is also a temple that visitors from all over the world come to see all year long.

When the prophet

Joseph Smith was commanded to build a temple, he had never seen one before and did not know how it should look. There were no temples in his time. The Lord needed a place where his sacred ordinances could be carried out just as in the days of Moses and Solomon, Joseph wanted it to be pleasing unto the Lord. He and the first presidency prayed together and they were shown a vision of the Kirtland temple and how it should be built.

Prior to the temple's dedication the prophet Joseph Smith, his counselors and many other witnesses experienced marvelous visions inside the temple. One vision in particular, when Joseph received revelation about those who die before hearing about the gospel is as follows:

After all the men had been anointed, Joseph Smith testified that “the heavens were opened upon us” and he “beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof”( D&C 137:1-10) He saw “the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.” He “saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.” He saw “Fathers Adam and Abraham” and others who were then living, including his father (who was with him in the room), his mother (who was home in Kirtland), and his deceased brother, Alvin. He saw the twelve Apostles, who had been called the year before, and he saw Jesus standing in their midst. He also saw in the celestial kingdom all of the presidency and many others. Upon asking the Lord how Alvin, who had died before the Church was restored, could inherit the celestial kingdom, he received the remarkable assurance that “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, during this vision angels not only ministered to him but to others who had received their anointings. “The power of the Highest rested upon us,” he said, and “the house was filled with the glory of God.” His scribe, Warren Parrish, recorded his own experience at the Prophet’s dictation: “My scribe … saw in a vision the armies of heaven protecting the Saints in their return to Zion, and many [of the same] things which I [Joseph Smith] saw.”

Following this ordinance, says the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The visions of heaven were opened to them also. Some of them saw the face of the Savior, and others were ministered unto by holy angels.” He further testified that “we all communed with the heavenly host. … The spirit of prophecy and revelation,” he added, “was poured out in mighty power.”

The early saints (pioneers) had such a powerful testimony of temples that after the mobs drove them out of Kirtland, Ohio, to abandon the temple (that all their sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears went into), they would go on to Nauvoo, Illinois where they would again sacrifice to build a House of the Lord. The prophet Joseph Smith was martyred half way through the construction of the Nauvoo temple. Shortly after the temple was dedicated the mobs came and drove the saints out of Nauvoo and destroyed the temple. The pioneers watched their hard work and sacrifice burn to the ground. You would think that most people would say, "Hey, I've had enough. I give up - this just isn't worth it." No, not the pioneers. They made the long trek across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, many giving their very lives for the sake of what they held so dear. It was there they again sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to build the Salt Lake temple.

The Salt Lake temple is my favorite temple. It was where I was married and sealed for time and all eternity to my husband. Whenever I visit, I feel the testimony of those early pioneers. From the gold Angel Moroni mounted on top to the "Holiness to the Lord" engraved on the east side. They all are a visible testimony of those early saints.

The prophet Brigham Young had a vision of the Salt Lake temple years before it was built. Though he never lived to see it completed he was in attendance that day. On the morning of 6 April 1893, the prophet Wilford Woodruff entered the Salt Lake Temple through the southwest doors and proceeded to the fourth floor. At 10:00 A.M., with twenty-five hundred people in attendance, the first of a series of forty-one dedication services began. The dedication was the final step in a forty-year saga of sacrifice and labor surrounding the construction of the Salt Lake Temple.

“The Heavenly Host were in attendance at the [first] dedication [service],” President Woodruff told the congregation in a subsequent dedicatory service. “If the eyes of the congregation could be opened they would [have] seen Joseph and Hyrum [Smith], Brigham Young, John Taylor and all the good men who had lived in this dispensation assembled with us, as also Esaias, Jeremiah, and all the Holy Prophets and Apostles who had prophesied of the latter day work. … They were rejoicing with us in this building which had been accepted of the Lord and [when] the [Hosanna] shout had reached the throne of the Almighty,” they too had joined in the joyous shout." My great, great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Mills Oakden Whitaker was a little girl when she came with her family from Ireland to Nauvoo. She saw the Nauvoo temple built and later destroyed. She also witnessed the building of the Salt Lake temple. Her accounts from her biography are as follows: "Well, if you're going to write a book about me, I suppose I should go back to when i was just a little girl in Nauvoo, and they were building the Nauvoo Temple. I used to take my father's lunch to him every day and there I would see the prophet Joseph. My mother was an excellent cook, and she'd sometimes put in an extra piece of chocolate cake, or other dessert, and father would share it with the Prophet. Sometimes, that wonderful man would take me on my knee, there on the steps of the temple and stroke my hair and tell me how beautiful it was, and that I must always strive to be as beautiful on the inside as I was on the outside. "For," said he, "Jesus loves little children and he wants them to grow up pure and clean so they can come back to Heaven and dwell with him, forever. Did I tell you that my father was a professional tin-smith and that he made and mounted the hoofs, horns and bars of the oxen in the basement of the temple, that held up the baptismal fonts? I wasn't old enough then when the temple was finished to be baptized in it, but I remember that glorious building and how hard everyone worked and skimped and saved, to get it finished. It never was completely finished. My parents were permitted to go through it for their own endowments and sealing, December 13, 1845. It was opened only one day for living sealings, when the city was mobbed and that glorious Temple was destroyed by them. It was burned to the ground and as foretold in prophecy, 'not one stone was left on top of another'. This was after the martyrdom. " Account of the Salt Lake Temple "I remember when the Salt Lake Temple was finished and decorated. They opened it up and let everyone, outsiders and all, who wanted to go through it and see it for one whole week before they dedicated it. Oh, it was the most beautiful building west of the Mississippi." My great, great, great grandmother made great sacrifices. When traveling across the plains she was kidnapped by Indians. Her father later risked his life to go save her. I have other great, great grandparents who helped build the Manti, Utah temple. They too sacrificed much for the work. Many of the pioneers sold all they had to earn money to build the temples. They risked their lives, sold their belongings, and endured great trials to come to Utah. Here in Utah, would be a permanent refuge for the saints, where they could live in peace. "We are here! Thank the Almighty God of Israel!” exclaimed Brigham Young. The exodus to the west was very similar to that of Moses and the children of Israel. Instead of crossing the parted sea and wandering in the desert for 40 years, the saints crossed the plains and made their home in the desert of what is now Utah. I will forever be grateful for what my pioneer ancestors gave and sacrificed for they believed. It is because of them that I enjoy this beautiful valley, the gospel and the blessings of the temple. I strive each day of my life to live a legacy that would be pleasing to my pioneer ancestors and the Lord. I don't want their sacrifices to have been in vein. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that temples are a House of the Lord and allow families to be together forever. This is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Jessica Millis said...

Thank you for the information on your blog. I am also descended from Elizabeth Whitaker. My 9 year old is doing a class presentation on an ancestor who immigrated. She chose to focus on Elizabeth, but also on the aspects of church history related to her experiences. Since we live in Maine, I expect my daughter's report may be the first exposure her peers will have to LDS church history or the gospel.

Lindsey said...


That is so exciting! Do you have her biography? If not, I'd be happy to mail you one. Let me know. She was an amazing lady and endured a lot. Which of her children do you descend from?