For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no church-built facility is more important than a temple. Different than chapels, where members meet for Sunday services each week, temples are sacred places where relationships are sealed together to last through the eternities. They're a place where earth and heaven meet and where we feel close to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
The Oakland California Temple commemorates its 50th year on November, 17, 2014. Ten years ago, I was called to serve as a missionary at the Oakland Temple Visitors Center, across the temple parking lot. Along with other 'sister missionaries' we would greet visitors, introduce them to the LDS faith and share testimony of Jesus Christ. Each day, as a new visitor arrived, we'd invariably hear something like, "I don't know why I'm here, but felt like I should come." Smiling in response, we invited them to learn about the temple or the Savior and they'd leave nourished with a greater measure of peace and hope.
In the summer of 1924, future church president, George Albert Smith met with a local church leader in San Francisco. Gazing across the Bay, President Smith "ceased talking and for several minutes gazed intently toward the hills above Oakland" before again speaking. "Brother MacDonald, I can almost see in vision a white temple of the Lord high upon those hills, an ensign to all the world travelers as they sail through the Golden Gate into this wonderful harbor. A great white temple of the Lord will grace those hills, a glorious ensign to the nations, to welcome our Father's children as they visit this great city." Those prophetic words were fulfilled 40 years later when President David O. McKay dedicated the Oakland California Temple in November 1964.
Last week, I attended a discussion with Jack Wheatley, the builder in charge of the Oakland Temple's construction. Local church members were called on to raise funding for the building project and contributed 40 percent of the costs. Quarried in Raymond, California (a three hour drive from Oakland), Sierra white granite was used to face reinforced concrete. Large 2 ton panels depicting Christ's ministry in the Holy Land and America, decoratively adorn the temple's north and south faces. These 35-foot sculpted panels were a challenge to attach because the artist requested that no metal drilled holes penetrate the friezes. Making the obstacle a matter of prayer, the architect sat in the back of his daughter's primary class and envisioned a sling pulley system that would solve the friezes' attachment problem. Grateful for God's tender mercy in providing the answer, the architect committed not to use the process for his financial gain in future projects.
The Oakland Temple became the Church's 13th operating temple 50 years ago. Today there are 147 operating temples across the world with an expected 170 operating temples in five years. Temples are houses of the Lord, places where faithful Church members learn eternal truths and receive sacred ordinances. After visiting the temple, many people comment about the peaceful spirit and clarity of thought they receive. Its a place that's been set apart from the cares and turmoil of the world. All areas of the temple are beautifully and carefully maintained to preserve a spirit of reverence.
As a member of the LDS Church, I'm grateful we have temples. I'm grateful that everyone in the world has the opportunity to make promises with God and can enter the temple. It is a place where we can prepare to meet deity, where we are changed and receive protection from negative forces in the world. When we leave casual living behind, we find there is power in the ordinances and power in the symbolism of living a consecrated life. Endowing these things with meaning, we find protection and clarity in a confusing world. Wherever we are in our lives, God teaches us what these things mean - there is power and peace in the temple and in the promises we make with God.