Since the history of the Church, why have so many ridiculed or tried to stop Latter-day Saints from building holy temples? Why does Satan move so forcefully against this work? President Packer answers these questions in his book The Holy Templewhile also explaining that there is no work that will promote godliness or bring the power of heaven like temple work.
Lehi told his son Jacob “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).
The Lord told Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith that “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet” (D&C 29:29).
Temples are the very center of the spiritual strength of the Church. We should expect that the adversary will try to interfere with us as a Church and with us individually as we seek to participate in this sacred and inspired work. The interference can vary from the terrible persecutions of the earlier days to apathy toward the work. The latter is perhaps the most dangerous and debilitating form of resistance to temple work.
When President Brigham Young announced that a temple was to be built in the Salt Lake Valley, many were afraid. They had experienced terrible persecutions and hardships. They thought another temple would be an invitation to call it all upon them again.
“Some say, ‘I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a Temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring.’ I want to hear them ring again. All the tribes of hell will be on the move, if we uncover the walls of this Temple. But what do you think it will amount to? You have all the time seen what it has amounted to” (Discourses of Brigham Yong, page 410).
“All the angels in heaven are looking at this little handful of people and stimulating them to the salvation of the human family. So also are the devils in hell looking at this people, too, and trying to overthrow us, and the people are still shaking hands with the servants of the devil, instead of sanctifying themselves and calling upon the Lord and doing the work which he has commanded us and put into our hands to do. When I was thinking upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people” (Discourses of Brigham Yong, pages 403-4).
“I think there is a work to be done then which the whole world seems determined we shall not do. What is it? To build temples. We never yet commenced to lay the foundation of a temple but what all hell was in arms against us. That is the difficulty now: we have commenced the foundation of this temple” (Discourses of Brigham Yong, page 402).
“The devil will fight hard to hinder us, and we shall not take an inch of ground except by obedience to the power of, and faith in, the Gospel of the Son of God” (Discourses of Brigham Yong, page 401).
Temple work brings so much resistance because it is the source of so much spiritual power to the Latter-day Saints, and to the entire Church. Elder John A. Widtsoe said:
“In view of this great temple activity, we may well prepare ourselves for opposition. There never yet has been a time in the history of the world when temple work has increased without a corresponding increase in the opposition to it. Some three or four years after the pioneers came to this valley, President Brigham Young said that it was time to begin the building of a temple; and some of the old timers here will probably remember that thousands of the Saints dreaded the command, because they said, ‘Just as soon as we lay the cornerstone of a temple all hell will be turned loose upon us and we will be driven out of the valleys.’ President Young thought that was true, but that they also would have if temple work were undertaken, a corresponding increase in power to overcome all evil. Men grow mighty under the results of temple service; until the devil has less influence than he ever had before. The opposition to truth is relatively smaller if the people are engaged actively in the ordinances of the temple (“Temple Worship,” page 51).
At the dedication of the Logan Temple, President George Q. Cannon made this statement:
“Every foundation stone that is laid for a temple, and every temple completed according to the order of the Lord has revealed for His holy priesthood, lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and godliness, moves the heavens in mighty power in our behalf, invokes and calls down upon us the blessings of eternal gods, and those who reside in the presence (George Q. Cannon, Logan Temple Dedication, 1877).
From the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, March 27, 1836, comes the following:
“For thou knowest that we have done this work through tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people” (D&C 109:5).
No one takes hold of this work without being susceptible to the blessings of the Lord. If you have problems with your own immediately living family, do all you can for them. Begin working in behalf of the Lord’s family and good things will start to happen. We should not shrink from trials and opposition. President Joseph F. Smith set the spirit for the Saints in this counsel to Church leaders.
“Leaders must be courageous. One of the highest qualities of all true leadership is a high standard of courage. When we speak of courage and leadership we are using terms that stand for the quality of life by which men determine consciously the proper course to pursue and stand with fidelity to their convictions. There has never been a time in the Church when its leaders were not required to be courageous men; not alone courageous in the sense that they were able to meet physical dangers, but also in the sense that they were steadfast and true to a clear and upright conviction.
“Leaders of the Church, then, should be men not easily discouraged, not without house, and not given to forebodings of all sorts of evils to come. Above all things the leaders of the people should never disseminate a spirit of gloom in the hearts of the people. If men standing in high places sometimes feel the weight and anxiety of momentous times, they should be all the firmer and all the more resolute in those convictions which come from a God-fearing conscience and pure lives” (Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966], page 155).
Opposition, as I have said, can be collective—directed at the Church—or focused on the individual. We must view the temple as the source of abundant spiritual strength.
For more incredible insights from President Packer, check out his groundbreaking work, The Holy Temple.