This article originally ran on LDS Living in January 2015.
I enjoyed a very sweet moment one afternoon while participating in sealings in the Jordan River Temple. We were sealing members of families from our ancestry. My daughter and I had found them while searching old wills and censuses. Some questions arose in my mind as I sat there watching the uniting of husband to wife and parent to child. It was not the first time I had pondered these particular questions.
What were their relationships like in life? Did they carry pains inflicted upon one another or loving trust? Was there joy or resentment, peace or hostility? Had there been divorces, rebellious children, neglectful parents, cessation of contact and conversation, financial traumas, or was all in harmony, all gratitude for loving, supportive, relationships?
Pondering these questions this time was different. This time I received an answer.
I think there are no more beautiful words in all the ordinances of the Restored Gospel that can match those said in the sealing rooms of the temples when at the altars families are eternally formed. I love them so deeply. In regards to my own wife, when I knelt there for myself they represent the summit of this life’s happiness—the greatest moment of my life—the best blessing in a life of God-given bests.
What had mortality been like for my ancestors who were now more to me than a name on a census? The answer from the Spirit came so quietly and with a few very simple words. “There is much forgiveness here.” Perhaps they were the words of my own ancestors, for I have learned that I receive greater insights in the temple when doing work for my own family. That was a comforting thought. Perhaps in the relationships of mortal life there was alienation, but eternity offers the highest coming near.
The Living Waters
In the forty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel is a wonderful prophecy that teaches a profound and deeply beautiful lesson about the power and purpose of the temple. It also serves as an excellent illustration of the kind of symbolic teaching found in the House of the Lord. Of all the scriptural teachings on the temple, I love this one the most. Its power lies in its simplicity and in the beauty of its imagery.
Ezekiel saw in vision the temple that will one day be built in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. When the temple was completed, Ezekiel was brought to the east doors, where he saw a spring of pure water “issued out from under the threshold of the house” (v. 1). The spring formed a river, which began to flow eastward through the wilderness of Judaea until it finally emptied into the Dead Sea.
The wilderness of Judaea is a dead, sunbaked land where almost nothing grows, but Ezekiel saw that wherever the river flowed, life came to the barren desert. “At the bank of the river,” Ezekiel said, “were very many trees on the one side and on the other” (v. 7). The trees were “for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit . . . because their waters . . . issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (v. 12).
The river flowed into the Dead Sea, “which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed” (v. 8). Ezekiel describes the river’s impact on all it touches with these words: “And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live . . . because these waters shall come thither; for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh” (v. 9; emphasis added).
As we read these words, the Spirit seems to whisper, “What will literally be true, one day, of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem, is true now, spiritually, of all the Lord’s temples. From the doors of each one a healing, life-giving river flows.”
Latter-day temples are the source of a powerful, deeply refreshing river. We learn from Ezekiel that the water of the river does two things to everything it touches: it gives life and it heals. The life it produces will not “fade,” and that which it heals will live forever. The temple’s flowing water will heal and give life to our marriages. It will give life to and heal our families.
Michael Wilcox identifies the blessing that temple work brings to our everyday lives. He discusses the temple as a house of learning where we can understand the most powerful principles of the gospel and receive inspiration for our families and ourselves. He explains how the temple is a house of refuge where we can escape the trials and troubles of the world. He defines the phrase “house of order” and talks about how the temple as a house of glory, describing the wonderful experiences that come to those who serve there, and especially to those who labor for their kindred dead.