Elder William R. Walker
Emeritus Member, First Quorum of the Seventy
Elder William R. Walker was called as a General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2002. He served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy for six years. On April 6, 2008, he was named a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He served as the Executive Director of the Temple Department from 2007 to 2014. As Executive Director, he worked closely with the First Presidency in the oversight and administration of the Church's many temples throughout the world. In October 2014 he was released as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and was designated as an emeritus General Authority.
Elder Walker was raised in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, and served a mission in Japan as a young man. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. During his career, he held a number of executive positions with major firms in the securities and investment banking fields.
Elder Walker has served as the Area President of the Asia North Area in Tokyo, Japan. Prior to his call as a General Authority, he was president of the Japan Tokyo South Mission and also served as a stake president and bishop.
William R. Walker was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, on May 25, 1944. He married Vicki Van Wagenen in 1968. They are the parents of five children.
I am grateful for the invitation to speak at BYU-Idaho.
In 1966, I finished serving my mission in Japan, and I came to school at Ricks College. I loved it here, and know there is a wonderful Spirit here on your campus.
I am grateful to President Clark Gilbert for his warm welcome.
Today, I will speak about why the temple is so important to every Latter-day Saint.
The Great Plan of Happiness
Any observer of the Latter-day Saint culture will quickly conclude that the temple has a unique and very special place in the lives of our people.
Fundamental to our feelings about the importance of the temple is our understanding of the Doctrine of God's Plan of Happiness for us. Some call it the Plan of Salvation. Alma called it "the Great Plan of Happiness." (Alma 42:8)
Essential to our understanding of God's plan for us is to know that God lives, that He loves us, and that He provided a Savior for us.
Every Latter-day Saint believes that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father. Every Latter-day Saint believes that life is eternal.
Every Latter-day Saint believes that God's plan for us includes the provision that we can return to Him. Central to that plan, of course, is the fact that God provided a Savior for us. Through the Son of God, the Savior Jesus Christ, we can overcome the world and find our way back to Heaven.
The temple is essential to all of this.
The Prophet Joseph Smith - Temples and The Restoration
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught early in his ministry the importance of the temple and the temple ordinances. Joseph's teachings and doctrines were unique to the religious world of that day. When Joseph spoke of the need for temples and temple ordinances, those concepts were not subjects that were part of religious discussions of that day.
The Restoration, of course, provided that there would be a restoration of all things, including temples, temple ordinances, and temple worship.
These things were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He taught:
"We calculate to give the Elders of Israel their washings and anointings, and attend to those last and more impressive ordinances, without which we cannot obtain celestial thrones." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 362)
Joseph taught, "There must be a holy place prepared for that purpose." (Ibid. p.362)
As he continued to teach of the importance of building temples, Joseph taught that we needed a place "for men to be baptized for their dead", and where they "may receive their endowments and be made kings and priests (queens and priestesses) unto the Most High God." (Ibid. p. 363)
As you know, temples were built in Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois. Some of you may enjoy studying these matters in more detail in Sections 109, and 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and the first 55 verses of Section 124.
Look to the Temple as the Great Symbol of our Membership
President Howard W. Hunter was president of the Church when some of you were born. He died in 1995. When he was president of the Church he challenged us to "look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of our membership." (Conference Report, October 1994)
What a wonderful challenge he gave us. Probably many of you have already done this: You look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership in the Church. It is the Lord's Church. The temple is the house of the Lord. The temple should be a great symbol of our membership in the Church.
Every Latter-day Saint knows he is on his way back to God. We know that this life is temporary, although very important. We know that God gave us the temples as a means to find our way back.
What a blessing it is for us to live in a day when temples now dot the earth. With the recent dedication of Cordoba Argentina Temple, and the upcoming dedication of the Payson Utah Temple, we will have 146 operating temples throughout the world. It is marvelous time to be a member of the Church.
In the seven years since President Monson became president of the Church, he has overseen the dedication of 22 temples, the rededication of 7 refurbished temples and he has announced plans for another 27 temples to be built. Some are nearing completion and will be dedicated soon.
At April General Conference, President Monson thrilled the saints in the Ivory Coast, Haiti, and Thailand, when he announced a temple would be built in each of those countries. When all the temples that President Monson has announced are dedicated, we will have 173 temples throughout the earth.
Every Latter-day Saint knows that the ordinances of the temple are essential for us, and our loved ones, in order to avail ourselves of all the blessings that our Father in Heaven has in store for us. As I mentioned a moment ago, the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of "celestial thrones." That is what our loving Heavenly Father has in store for us.
Children and Temples
The temple is very important in the lives of Latter-day Saint children. As children, we identify with the temple. Why is that? I suppose in part it is because children innately feel close to Father in Heaven, and the temple is the house of the Lord.
As the poet Wordsworth eloquently wrote of our birth, with this expression: "Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home...."
Things of a spiritual nature are not so far removed from us in our early years. Children, who are not yet affected by worldly things, are more sensitive to the things of the spirit. Think how often Jesus taught that we must become as children.
At one of the temple open houses, a little boy was in his father's arms as the family visited the celestial room. After a few sacred moments of reflection for all of the family, the father and mother turned to leave. The little boy in his father's arms looked heavenward, smiled and then waved goodbye. It was a tender moment for me.
Years ago, the prophet Spencer W. Kimball suggested that every young Latter-day Saint ought to have a picture of the temple in their bedroom. Probably many of you had just such a picture - a picture of your favorite temple. It may have hung on the wall in your room, or sat in a strategic place on your dresser. It may have been the temple closest to where you lived, or another temple that had special significance to you, such as the temple where your parents or grandparents were married. Or it could have been a temple that you found to be particularly beautiful and inspiring.
You are here in Rexburg, attending university, and it could well be that the nearby magnificent and beautiful Rexburg Temple has become your favorite temple.
The architecture and the surrounding beauty of each temple may differ, but the ordinances are the same in every temple. Whether it is the Temple in Accra, Ghana, or the Temple in Seoul Korea, the ordinances and the promised blessings are exactly the same.
It is interesting to me that children, who may have never been inside a temple, can hold it in such high esteem and great affection. Latter-day Saint children sing the song: "I love to see the temple, I'm going there someday."
As a child I grew to love the temple. I lived in Raymond, Alberta, Canada. Our home was about 35 miles from the Cardston Alberta Temple. I loved to see the temple; I knew I was going there someday. Our family often stopped at the temple and took family pictures in front of the temple. Even before I was old enough to figure out very many things, I knew that the temple was very important to my mother and father and to my grandparents.
I remember sitting on the floor in the dining room and watching my mother iron her temple clothing. She would tell me that, "Tonight is temple night, and your father and I are so happy to be going to the temple." She was setting an important example for me.
I have been with President Thomas S. Monson at temple dedications when he has suggested that when little children come to see the temple, they go right up to the side of the temple, and actually touch it. He said: "When they touch the temple, the temple will touch them."
When you have children, you will feel the importance of teaching them about the temple. You will want to be an example, and go to the temple often. Your children will realize the importance of the temple in your life. Few things that you teach them could be more important.
President Boyd K. Packer taught:
"Point your children toward the temple. From the days of their infancy, direct their attention to it, and begin their preparation for the day when they may enter the Holy temple." (The Holy Temple, p.47)
As your children go to Primary, Sunday School, Mutual, and Seminary, they will be taught about the importance of the temple. You want your children to listen to those lessons, and have the feeling in their heart: "This is all good, and I already know how important the temple is to my mother and father."
Sister Walker and I have five children. When the children were little we had some exciting family home evenings. We found it helpful to keep lots of pictures of temples as well as Bible and Book of Mormon pictures to help in teaching lessons. We would bring out the big stack of pictures each family home evening.
Each child would select a picture to show during their part of the lesson. The children would often choose a temple picture and they would say: "This is the Salt Lake Temple. This is where Daddy and Mommy were married." Or, "This is the Idaho Falls Temple, we stopped there on our vacation."
One of the pictures in the stack was a picture of the Sacred Grove. One evening our son chose the Sacred Grove picture. I was very pleased, and thought our little guy would tell us the story of the First Vision. When he stood up, he said: "This is the Sacred Grove, This is where Joseph Smith chopped down the trees, and built a temple."
It was fun and we were able to gently straighten things out. We knew our children were learning. As the years went by, every one of them married in the temple.
An 8-year-old baptized member can attend a temple dedication, but generally, our youth are not able to be in the temple until they reach age 12. They are then able to go to the temple and perform the sacred ordinance of being baptized for their deceased ancestors.
This practice can continue throughout the teenage years and will be a source of great blessings for our youth.
The Spirit of Elijah
In a remarkable talk in General Conference in October 2011, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, challenged the young people of the Church to not just go to the temple to do Baptisms, but to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah.
Elder Bednar said:
"I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead." (Conference Report, October/2011)
In his wonderful message, Elder Bednar promised the youth of the Church these blessings if they followed his counsel:
1.Your Patriarchal Blessing will become more meaningful to you.
2. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase.
3. Your testimony of the Savior will become deep and abiding.
4. You will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary.
5. You will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.
Every member of the Church should want these blessings.
Sealings - Families Can Be Together Forever
We learn that families can be together forever. That is accomplished by living God's commandments and by making and keeping sacred temple covenants. A loving Heavenly Father would want his children to be sealed together for time and for all eternity. "Until death do us part" has very little appeal for those who love each other with all their hearts.
When a cousin of mine was killed in a tragic accident, my parents comforted us by teaching about the blessings of the temple, the significance of the sealing and how a loving Heavenly Father would make everything right. It still hurt, but not quite as much.
When a grandparent passes away, you wonder how the surviving companion is going to deal with the grief and loneliness. They realize that they have been sealed in the temple for time and all eternity and therefore they have the assurance that they will be together again.
This comfort and reassurance comes to every Latter-day Saint. I was blessed to be with President Gordon B. Hinckley in Korea in 2005, shortly after Sister Hinckley had died. In his talk to all of the Saints in Korea who had assembled in a special conference to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Church in Korea, President Hinckley spoke lovingly and tenderly of his wife. Everyone there was touched by his tender expressions of love for Sister Hinckley. He said: "We went to the temple, and we knelt at the altar, and we were sealed for time and for all eternity. She is mine and I am hers, and it won't be long until we are together again."
The Endowment - A Gift from God
The Temple is a Place of Revelation and Peace
The temple is important to us because of what we learn when we participate in the temple ordinances. We all know that "the temple is a place of revelation and peace." (Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, October 1994)
"As we attend the temple we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ." (Howard W. Hunter, ibid.)
As we attend the temple we are reminded of the beauty of God's creations. Many of the temples have magnificent murals, which depict the beauty of this world. We are reminded of God's plan for us, the role of the Savior in each of our lives, and we are reminded of the commandments and blessings that will come to us when we live righteously and keep the covenants that we make in the temple.
The endowment really is a gift from God. It keeps giving and giving, just as the traditional use of the word endowment implies.
We live in a hectic world, a world filled with influences that will keep us away from righteousness. Going to the temple is a way of stepping out of the world for a few moments, or a few hours. When we make time to go to the temple, we will be spiritually refreshed. If our life has lost important balance, being in the temple can help restore that balance.
Those who stay worthy of the temple, and who participate in temple worship regularly, are far more likely to stay spiritually balanced and live in harmony with the teaching of Jesus Christ. They are far more likely to manifest "godly walk and conversation", and they are more likely to be "walking in holiness before the Lord." (DC 20:69)
President Packer taught:
"It has been my observation that the temple transforms the individual and makes abundantly worthwhile any efforts made to get there." (The Holy Temple, p. 21)
I have a smart phone, which has an app that is a compass. Occasionally, the compass gets out of balance and needs to be recalibrated. The instructions tell me to take the phone and move it in a figure-eight motion, repeating several times - after which, the compass will once again work correctly.
When I feel that my spiritual compass is a little out of balance, I have found the very best way to recalibrate is not to quickly run around in a figure-eight pattern, but to go to the temple. For me, it works every time.
Being in the temple will give us important perspective - spiritual perspective and eternal perspective. Our burdens will be lightened, not because they change, but because the spiritual strength and perspective that we gain will assist us in dealing with them.
Additionally, we are entitled to revelation and guidance from the Spirit. For me and many of our people, we feel an increased measure of direction from Heaven when we are in the temple.
Most devout Latter-day Saints want to go to the temple when they are faced with an important decision in life. Not because they will talk to anyone about it, but because they will look to Heaven for guidance and direction with the confidence that they'll receive important inspiration and revelation. We expect to leave the temple with feelings that will help guide us.
I heard of a cynical man who thought it was just incredulous that Latter-day Saints thought they could actually receive answers to their prayers, that God would actually communicate with them somehow. Well, I testify that revelation is real and available to God's children and we seem to receive an increased measure of that direction from Heaven when we are in the temple.
We all need to remember that when we were baptized, we were also confirmed and we received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Current Temple Recommend
I love the expression of Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, who said that for our children CTR is a reminder to Choose The Right, but for us adults, it should be a reminder of Current Temple Recommend.
Just as our youth are reminded to choose the right, we need reminders to keep our temple recommend current and to have the temple and temple worship be an essential part of our lives.
I once heard someone say that their recommend was "slightly out of date." I was astonished at the rationalization that led the person to feel that since it hadn't been long since their recommend had expired, that it was not so bad. An expired recommend is not a valid recommend regardless of how recently it expired. It would be a worthy goal for every one of us to never let our temple recommend expire - we ought to renew our recommend well before it has a chance to become "slightly out of date."
Many years ago, a man in my stake was dying from cancer. He was a good, faithful High Priest. His Bishop called me on the phone and said: "President Walker, Brother Bolyard is bed-ridden and near the end of his life. His recommend will soon expire and he would like to renew it. He can't come to the office, so I would like to go to his home to give him his interview. Would you be willing to accompany me?"
Gladly, I went to the man's home with the Bishop. In turn, we each asked him the temple recommend questions, and signed his recommend. When I handed it to him, he smiled and said: "Thank you, President. I'm going to put it right here on my night stand, so that when they come to get me, they'll know I have a current temple recommend."
I was deeply impressed with the faith and devotion of this wonderful man. Each of us would be wise to follow his example - always have a current temple recommend.
How Important? No Sacrifice is Too Great
When we consider how important is the temple in the life of every Latter-day Saint, I think it is wise to consider the words of President Thomas S. Monson.
In his General Conference message in April 2011, President Monson made a powerful and poignant expression on the importance of the temple in our lives:
"Those who understand the eternal blessings that come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive (our temple) blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort." (Conference Report, April/2011, p. 81)
Conclusion and Testimony
The temple is so important in the life of every Latter-day Saint, because we know it is what our Father in Heaven wants for us. The temple is so important because we know that Jesus Christ's atonement is paramount in each of our lives and the blessings that we receive through keeping our temple covenants will bring joy and happiness in this life and throughout eternity. The temple is so important because we know that the sealing in the temple truly enables Families to Be Together Forever.
May each of us make the temple the great symbol of our membership. May the temple help us to always remember Him. May the temple help us to love the Lord and to keep His commandments.
I know that as we make the temple more important in our lives, we will draw nearer to God and we will become more like Him. I express my love to each of you and appreciate you being here today. I pray God's most choice blessings for you, the blessings of the temple, the house of the Lord.
In the holy and sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.