In March of this year, my wife and I had the privilege of taking some invited guests through the new Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple during the open house prior to its dedication.
As we stood in the beautiful temple baptistry, one of these guests asked an intriguing question. He said something like this: “In our tribal traditions, our ancestors are so important to us — how is it that you connect your families together through the generations?” It was a beautiful teaching moment as we then shared how in a gift of love and service, many faithful members of the Church perform vital ordinances, such as baptisms, on behalf of loved ones who have died. We then took him to the sealing room where we showed him the altar where families are united for the eternities and had him look into the mirrors which face one another — symbolic of the eternal links made between past and future generations.
This good man had many follow up questions and left the temple deeply affected by what he had seen and felt. He eagerly took a copy of the My Family booklet so he could collect names and stories of his own ancestors. With great sincerity he expressed gratitude for being in the temple and left with a new understanding of God’s plan for eternal families and the importance of sacred temples in that plan.
Another guest was so moved by the feelings of peace he had felt while sitting reverently in the Celestial Room that he asked: “I am a Catholic, but can I still come back to the temple to pray with your members because I have felt so good in this special place of worship?” We invited him to bring back his family as often as he wanted during the open house but explained that coming to the temple after it had been dedicated would require him to be a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A prominent politician also experienced a beautiful sense of worship in the temple. After we completed the tour, she literally shared her testimony of feeling closer to God while in the temple. She also said that she had a new understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She described how she had come to the temple open house with many misunderstandings about the Church and our temples but left changed and with a great appreciation for how temples bring people closer to Christ.
Earlier in the day, we had taken about a dozen reporters and members of the media through the temple. Each had come to cover the temple open house as part of their work obligations and had a busy morning setting up cameras and microphones and testing equipment for a media event to follow. So initially they entered the temple out of a sense of duty, with mild curiosity and perhaps a little skepticism as to why they should take the time when they had so much else to do. However, while we progressed from room to room, the curiosity gave way to respect and a feeling of profound reverence and peace. Before entering the Celestial Room, we invited them to take time to consider their personal feelings about God and if they wished, to meditate or pray. To our amazement, almost every member of that group of worldly professionals then sat in the Celestial room with heads bowed. A beautiful feeling came over all present. We felt impressed to share our personal testimony of how wonderful it is to come to the temple and leave outside the cares and worries of the world as we focus on the Savior and feel the presence of His Spirit.
Such are the blessings of the holy temple, that even these visitors not of our faith were able to feel and recognize the purpose of temples:
- To connect families together with eternal links through the sacred sealing ordinance.
- To allow us to perform selfless service as a gift of love for those who have died and cannot perform this service for themselves.
- To help us make sacred promises or covenants and draw closer to Christ.
- To help us leave the world outside and find a place of peace where we can receive personal revelation.
We rejoice in now having a second temple operating in the Africa Southeast Area. We invite all members to come and feel the love of God as they perform sacred service in His Holy House. Consider this beautiful promise from President Russell M. Nelson:
“Building and maintaining temples may not change your life but spending your time in the temple surely will… I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.”[i]
For those who have already received their ordinances but live too far to attend a temple regularly, we invite you to show your selfless love for others by preparing names of your ancestors to receive temple ordinances. And we invite every youth and adult to show your love for God by having a current temple recommend. This will be a constant reminder and symbol of your commitment to the holy purposes of sacred temples.
It is my testimony that all who come to the temple, whether now in Johannesburg or Kinshasa — or in the coming years in Durban, Nairobi or Harare — will receive the miracles our beloved prophet has promised. And that these Holy temples will be a light and “beacon to all the world”.
[i] Russell M. Nelson, Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints, Liahona October 2018