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In the Hands of the Lord of the Harvest

Audio: "In the Hands of the Lord of the Harvest"
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Hello, my beautiful friends!

It is a privilege and an honor to be with you today. I thank all who have participated up to this point. I thank you for your commitment in inviting the Holy Ghost to be present. President and Sister Meredith, we love you, we sustain you, and you are in our prayers.

If you are online, welcome! If you are returning this semester, welcome back. If you are new, welcome to BYU-Idaho. With our mission to “develop life-long disciples of Jesus Christ who serve in their homes, the Church, and their communities,” [1] we are a very unique institution. If you listen carefully, the Holy Ghost will daily invite you to look to Jesus Christ, [2] to learn of Him, [3] to learn from Him, [4] and to follow Him. [5] You will be reminded to practice and develop Christlike attributes through your commitment to keep your covenants by the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations that you agreed to live by; by the student living principles of love, shared responsibility, and mutual respect governing your apartment; and by and through your associations with your classmates, teachers, administrators, and ecclesiastical leaders. Rejoice in the spirit of it all, this truly is a great place!

Let me share a personal story with a principle that, if you allow it, will bless your life.

Before coming to Rexburg in 2006, Sister Riggins and I lived in San Diego, California. That had been our home for most of our lives. Our families lived there, we served in our ward and stake, I had a great job as the institute director at San Diego State University, we had great friends, it didn’t snow, it was rarely cold, and we were 12 minutes from the beach. We had no reason to come to BYU-Idaho except for the fact that the Spirit led us here.

When we were invited to join the religion faculty, we had to use our agency to say “yes” or “no.” Once we decided to accept the position, we again had to choose to use our agency. We sat down and said something like this: “No one is forcing us to move to Rexburg. We are doing it of our own free will. If we are moving there, we must decide once and for all that we will love everything about it. We will love the city, the people, their customs, the university, the students, our colleagues, and yes, even the weather!”

That decision paved the way for the joy, peace, happiness, friendships, service opportunities, and community connections of the last 18 years. We love this place! We love you! I invite you to consider how such a decision would mark your experience as disciples, students, roommates, ward members, and members of the community, and then make it. I promise you that making such a decision will bless not only your life here at BYU-Idaho but your entire life.

Over the years, we have learned what President Russell M. Nelson has taught: “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” [6]

We were blessed to serve as mission leaders in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with a temple in our mission boundaries. Many of our missionaries came to us from places where temples were not accessible. Some had received their endowment while attending the MTC, and in many cases, had only attended the temple once or twice. Knowing the challenges of life, a mission, and missionary work, we knew the importance that temple covenants would have in the life of our missionaries. Like the pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints crossing the plains, our missionaries needed the fire of the covenant burning within them.

In this most recent general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks taught, “We have the testimonies of many pioneers that the power they received from being bound to Christ in their endowments in the Nauvoo temple gave them the strength to make their epic journey and establish themselves in the West.” [7]

Elder David A. Bednar explained, “What was it that gave those early Saints such strength? It was the fire of the temple covenant that burned in their hearts. It was their commitment to worship and honorably hold a name and standing in the house of the Lord.” [8]

Because of this, Sister Riggins, myself, and our mission leaders decided that we would start each of our zone conferences in the temple. The temple president set us apart as ordinance workers and we led each session at 6:00 a.m. We would start our training at each zone conference by studying the available scriptures and words of the prophets concerning the temple. It was a remarkable experience!

My intent today is to walk you through some of those beautiful teachings with the hope that you may recognize that the temple is as much for you, the living, right now, as BYU-Idaho students, as it is for those on the other side of the veil. I know that obtaining your education will be hard and have its challenges. But I also know that you don’t have to do it alone. And like the pioneers, and my missionaries, the fire of the covenants needs to be burning in your hearts.

It is important to note that the early revelations that Joseph Smith received about the temple had nothing to do with the deceased; they had everything to do with the living! I believe that it’s fair to ask, “What will the temple do for me here and now?” Let’s answer that question!

While working on the translation of the Bible, and expanding missionary work to the western United States, Joseph Smith received a revelation that he was to stop translating, he was to strengthen the Church in Colesville, and then he was to move himself and the Church from New York to Ohio. The Lord’s reasoning was short and without much detail: “Behold, I say unto you that it is not expedient in me that ye should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio, and this because of the enemy and for your sakes.” [9]

I have often wondered if I would have gone. I have always been impressed by Emma Smith who at the time was pregnant with twins. Can you imagine the questions she must have had? Why do we have to move? Do you realize that it’s December? How will we get there? Where will we live? I don’t believe that the Lord’s reasoning provided much comfort, nevertheless, she went!

Of this experience, Saints, volume 1 tells us that “Joseph . . . felt an urgent need to get to Kirtland and meet the new converts. Although Emma was pregnant with twins and was recovering from a long bout of sickness, she climbed aboard the sleigh, determined to go with him.” [10]

Joseph’s desire to obey and questions from the members of the Church opened the windows for further revelation that would expand the Lord’s reasoning. (As a teacher, this is where I would ask you to remember those two simple reasons, write them down, and expand each one!) Just weeks after receiving the instruction to move, Joseph received this information:

And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high; and from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand. [11]

I don’t know if Joseph or the members in 1831 understood what the Lord had in store, but we know that in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord would have the Saints build the first temple of this dispensation. And in those three verses we begin to see the purpose of the temple for the here and the now.

  1. To escape the power of the enemy.
  2. To gather as righteous people without spot and blameless.
  3. To receive God’s law.
  4. To be endowed with power from on high.
  5. To prepare to go and gather Israel.
  6. To receive the necessary revelation as to what and how we should perform God’s great work.
  7. To save Israel.
  8. To be led on God’s path.
  9. To be protected from ungodly powers.

Think about this list. Would you now go to Ohio?

Three days after receiving section 38, the prophet received Doctrine and Covenants 39, where the Lord emphasized, “And inasmuch as my people shall assemble themselves at the Ohio, I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among the children of men, and it shall be poured forth upon their heads. And from thence men shall go forth into all nations.” [12]

God’s promise that in Ohio He would give unto them the law has multiple meanings. The heading of Doctrine and Covenants 42 states, “It was received in the presence of twelve elders, and in fulfillment of the Lord’s promise previously made that the ‘law’ would be given in Ohio.” [13]

In that section, the Lord provides what I consider to be one of the great promises of our day.

“Ye shall observe the laws which ye have received and be faithful. And ye shall hereafter receive church covenants, such as shall be sufficient to establish you, both here and in the New Jerusalem.” [14]

When I read this verse, I think of the Salt Lake Temple and all that they have done to provide it a solid foundation that will be sufficient to establish it “both here and in the New Jerusalem.” [15]

Having personally received those church covenants not known unto the children of men, and striving to live accordingly, removes all fear from the questions, “But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth?” [16]

At the end of 1832, Joseph was commanded to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio. [17] As part of that commandment, the Lord adds to our understanding of the purpose of the temple. Again, think about the here and now!

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” [18]

At the most recent conference, President Nelson said this about this verse, “This list of attributes is much more than a description of a temple. It is a promise about what will happen to those who serve and worship in the house of the Lord. They can expect to receive answers to prayer, personal revelation, greater faith, strength, comfort, increased knowledge, and increased power.” [19]

Joseph was reprimanded by the Lord on June 1, 1833, for failure to build the house of the Lord. In that revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 95, we receive further insights as to the purpose of the temple for here and now: “For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house; For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my strange act, that I may pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” [20]

Consider what you know about temples and temple work. The word “strange” may seem strange to us because we see it with limited vision or understanding. I love the definition given of this word in Webster’s 1828 version of the dictionary: “Foreign; Not domestic; New; Not before known, heard, or seen; Wonderful; causing surprise; exciting curiosity; Uncommon; Unusual; Unacquainted.” [21]

Those words describe the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the holy temples of the Lord, and hopefully, us as a people!

Of His strange work the Lord said, “What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse; That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered; That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and to perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.” [22]

While struggling with the issues taking place in Independence, Missouri, Joseph received a revelation, adding greater understanding of the purpose of God’s holy house. Again, brothers and sisters, consider how the temple is for you and me, right now, at BYU-Idaho!

Yea, let it be built speedily . . . a house built unto me for the salvation of Zion—For a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices; That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth . . . And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God. [23]

President Nelson has taught, “Education is yours to obtain. No one else can gain it for you. Wherever you are, develop a deep desire to learn. For us as Latter-day Saints, gaining an education is not just a privilege; it is a religious responsibility. The glory of God is intelligence. Indeed, our education is for the eternities.” [24]

Thus, part of your “ministry” is to gain knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and intelligence. Some of that you will gain here at BYU-Idaho. However, it’s in the temple where you will be perfected in the understanding of your ministry in theory, in principle, and in doctrine.

I’m going to move on, but just know, I haven’t forgotten the last promise in verse 16. I’ll come back to it!

It took the Saints almost three years to get the temple built in Kirtland, Ohio. The dedicatory prayer is recorded in section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Two weeks ago, President Nelson taught, “Joseph Smith’s dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple is a tutorial about how the temple spiritually empowers you and me to meet the challenges of life in these last days. I encourage you to study that prayer as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants section 109.” [25]

Let me just mention a few points from that section to help us answer the question, “What will the temple do for me here and now?”

“And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power . . . All those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom . . . And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing.” [26]

“And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth.” [27]

“We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity; That no weapon formed against them shall prosper. . . . That no combination of wickedness shall have power to rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house.” [28]

My dear friends, can you see why our dear prophet is constantly inviting us to make the temple a priority in our lives? He promised,

Nothing will help you more to hold fast to the iron rod than worshipping in the temple as regularly as your circumstances permit. Nothing will protect you more as you encounter the world’s mists of darkness. Nothing will bolster your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement or help you understand God’s magnificent plan more. Nothing will soothe your spirit more during times of pain. Nothing will open the heavens more. Nothing! [29]

Please consider what the Lord is offering you, claim the blessings, don’t leave them unused. I, too, invite you make the temple a priority, a place of learning, a place of revelation, a safe haven, a resort from the influence of the world, a place where you come to know you, and the place where you can come to know God.

Let me come back to that promise made in Doctrine and Covenants 97:16, “And all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.” When the Lord accepted the Kirtland Temple, He verified this promise: “For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.” [30]

President Nelson, too, verified this promise: “This significant promise applies to every dedicated temple today. I invite you to ponder what the Lord’s promise means for you personally.” [31]

I finish with the scripture from which the title of my talk is derived. Having made the temple the focus of our lives, Sister Riggins and I promise you that these verses are true. The Lord of the harvest wants you to know Him personally and intimately. He wants to reveal Himself to you and hold you in His hands.

And they shall be gathered in to the garners, [temples [32]], that they are not wasted. Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them. But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day. [33]

Of this I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] “BYU-Idaho Mission Statement,” BYU-Idaho,

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.

[3] Doctrine and Covenants 19:23.

[4] 3 Nephi 27:21.

[5] 2 Nephi 31:10.

[6] Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016.

[7] Dallin H. Oaks, “Covenants and Responsibilities,” Liahona, May 2024.

[8] David A. Bednar, “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009.

[9] Doctrine and Covenants 37:1.

[10] Saints, vol. 1, Gathered In, 111.

[11] Doctrine and Covenants 38:31–33.

[12] Doctrine and Covenants 39:15.

[13] Doctrine and Covenants 42, chapter heading.

[14] Doctrine and Covenants 42:66–67.

[15] Doctrine and Covenants 42:67.

[16] 3 Nephi 24:2.

[17] Saints, vol. 1, 15 Holy Places, 165.

[18] Doctrine and Covenants 88:119.

[19] Russel M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[20] Doctrine and Covenants 95:3–4; emphasis added.

[21] Websters Dictionary 1828; Online.

[22] Doctrine and Covenants 101:93–95.

[23] Doctrine and Covenants 97:11–16.

[24] Russell M. Nelson, “Will You Choose to Increase in Learning?,” New Era, Sept. 2014.

[25] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[26] Doctrine and Covenants 109:13–15.

[27] Doctrine and Covenants 109:22.

[28] Doctrine and Covenants 109:24–26.

[29] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[30] Doctrine and Covenants 110:7–8; emphasis added.

[31] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[32] David A. Bednar, “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009.

[33] Alma 26:5–7.