Thursday, January 31, 2019

Elder John A. Widtsoe the sacred work of temples and divine help that will come

Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872-1952) was born in Norway. He was raised by his widowed mother who immigrated to Utah when John was 11. He was educated at Harvard and in Europe, and had formative roles in programs in several Utah universities including BYU. He served as an apostle from 1921 to his death in 1952.
"Sometimes we forget the greatness of this work. It is a glorious thought that you and I, ordinary men, may do work upon earth that will be, is, recognized in heaven; that we may be as saviors to those who have gone before us into the unseen world. The Lord came upon earth and, in our behalf, in behalf of the whole race of God's children, did work which will bring us eternal life and joy and blessings. So, in a humbler manner may we, each one of us, do work for the dead that will bless them eternally, if they accept our service. We, also, may become saviors — 'saviors on Mount Zion.' That is a glorious thought that should remain in the minds of Latter-day Saints. It certifies to the claim that mankind are equally the children of God. It extends the doctrine of brotherhood to the whole human race.
"The Savior gave of Himself, gave His very life that we might live. To sacrifice that others might be blessed was His word, His work, His life. Sacrifice is the evidence of true love. Without sacrifice love is not manifest. Without sacrifice there is no real love, or kindness.... We love no one unless we sacrifice for him. We can measure the degree of love that we possess for any man or cause, by the sacrifice we make for him or it.
"As the Lord gave His life to prove His love for His brethren and sisters, the human race, we may show the spirit of love more vigorously than we have done if we will make the small sacrifices necessary to seek out our genealogies, to spend time and money for the work, to take time to go to the temple ourselves for the dead. All such service may entail sacrifice, but sacrifice lifts us toward the likeness of God, the likeness of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ. If we Latter-day Saints have any great ideal, it is that of our Elder Brother. All that we strive for, and all that we have fought for, and all that we pray for, is to become more and more like Him as our days and years increase. As He gave His life, unselfishly for us, so each of us, extending the open door of salvation to the dead, most of whom are but names to us, may then by our unselfishness, claim in very deed to be followers of Christ.
"Temple work, in form and substance, reflects the fundamental principles and thoughts belonging to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must dig deeply to taste the sweetness of the gospel. We cannot merely move about on the surface to secure the full gift of the Lord's plan of salvation. Deep down in the eternal realities, of which temple work is one, lies the real meaning, message, and blessing of the gospel.
"These are trying days, in which Satan rages, at home and abroad, hard days, evil and ugly days. We stand helpless as it seems before them. We need help. We need strength. Perhaps if we would do our work in behalf of those of the unseen world who hunger and pray for the work we can do for them, the unseen world would in return give us help in the day of our urgent need. There are more in that other world than there are here. There is more power and strength there than we have here upon this earth. We have but a trifle, and that trifle is taken from the immeasurable power of God. We shall make no mistake in become collaborators in the Lord's mighty work for human redemption."
- John A. Widtsoe, in Conference Report, Apr. 1943, p. 39; see "The Way of Salvation," Improvement Era, May 1943, 277-79
Click here to read the full talk (search for "fellow-workers")

Elder Widtsoe gave us some of our most helpful and inspiring insights into temple worship and service—it was a cause he was deeply supportive of and spoke about frequently. This is a marvelous address with many insights, worth reviewing in careful detail. Some insights that touched me:

  • The Savior's work on earth was born from His love and sacrifice on our behalf. We join in His work of salvation, becoming "saviors on Mount Zion," as we participate in genealogical and temple work
  • Sacrifice is a divine principle that brings blessings, and is the way love for others is manifest. If we truly love others, we will sacrifice on their behalf.
  • We can make small sacrifices of time and money for research, and then for temple service, to help bring to pass great things
  • As we sacrifice and serve, we become more like the Savior; "sacrifice lifts us toward the likeness of God."
  • When we are serving in this way, we will find ourselves deep down in the essence of the gospel, and not skimming the surface
And then this thought was particularly inspiring:

When Elder Widtsoe spoke these words, the world was in the midst of a global war; certainly they were "trying days" fill of "evil and ugly" things.  But our times are no less trying, and our need for help from the eternal world is no less critical. This is a beautiful promise. It doesn't just mean that we will have help in doing our genealogical research or temple service, but that help can come in all areas of our lives. Why would we not rush to claim that blessing?

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

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