May 23, 2021: Through the years I have heard others speak of the opportunity to have a General Authority in their home for a meal. I had supposed that would never happen for us, but it did this week! Elder and Sister Walker come to our home and had dinner with us for FHE! As we conversed, I realized more than ever that they are just ordinary people who have been asked to do extra-ordinary things. Then because they were worthy and willing, they were given the Gifts of the Spirit necessary to accomplish it. It was delightful to visit with them one on one for nearly an hour. Elder Walker noticed the beautiful picture of Payson Temple hanging in our apartment that my brother, Kent took. He said, “I was on the temple board when that temple was built, and I have some stories about it.”
He later related that the Brethren were very aware that Utah County was rapidly growing and that a temple needed to be built there. Elder Walker and his committee studied the possibilities and were prepared to suggest some locations in northern Utah County. Prior to the meeting, President Monson looked over the agenda Elder Walker had prepared. Then out of the blue he asked, “Elder Walker, we don’t we have a temple in Payson?”
President Monson then gave Elder Walker the assignment to study the Payson area and come back in a week with some recommendations. He and his committee returned with four. At this point, the prophet and his counselors made a visit to see the sights. After seeing them all, he asked to return to the first. As he walked out onto the hill overlooking the sod farm, he paused and then said, “This is where I believe we should build a temple,” as he raised his arm to the square.
When it was time for a groundbreaking, Elder Walker returned to President Monson’s office to ask who he would like to take care of that responsibility. The Philadelphia Temple was at a similar point in its progress, so there was a need for someone to go to each location. The prophet called Elder Oaks to go to Payson and President Eyring to go to Philadelphia. After attending both groundbreaking events, Elder Walker learned that each had been assigned to oversee a temple groundbreaking in the city he was baptized in. When Elder Walker returned to report, he asked President Monson how he knew where Elder Oaks and Elder Eyring had been baptized. He smiled and said, “I didn’t know,” and then pointing up he said with a smile, but He did!”
I told Elder Walker I knew another reason Elder Oaks had come to Payson. I briefly mentioned that following the Payson Temple groundbreaking, he had visited my mother in her home and given her a blessing.
As a finale to our dinner together, we met with the other missionaries and were taught by Patriarch Bonnet. He is one of few authorized to give tours of AOA. He spoke about the past of this area and the future. This was the takeaway for me. There is adequate written on what is required to receive an invitation to the great sacrament meeting to be held here in the future. The righteous of all ages will be invited to participate. Qualifying for an invitation is a much wiser focus than speculating when it will be and supposing those uninvited can slip in unnoticed. Elder Bonnet mentioned the false notion that five of the ten virgins were “naughty” and five righteous. All ten had lamps and oil and were looking for the Bridegroom’s return. It is likely that all would have had temple recommends. But when the return was seemingly delayed and there was great darkness, five had been foolish and not kept their oil supply sufficient to light their way in such darkness. Their oil was gone. The other five were wise and continued to add oil in sufficient amounts to carry them through the darkness and still have enough to meet the Bridegroom when He came.
It occurred to me that a seeming delay during a time a great darkness easily parallels conditions today. Those who become lax in their efforts to take the Holy Spirit as their guide will be among those disappointed at His Coming. Those who cling to the iron rod or word of God, will have oil in their lamps. Elder Bonnet pointed out that all the sources that we consider to be “the word of God” only lead us to the ultimate source as described in John 1:1. Jesus Christ is the word of God and if we bind ourselves to Him by making covenants and intentionally, consistently keep them, the oil in our lamps will be sufficient to abide the day and receive an invitation to join the meeting originating at AOA. The Savior’s appearance at this meeting will be the first of three that will usher in the His coming when all flesh shall see Him together.
Elder Walker spoke to us following our fiesta dinner on Tuesday Evening. He shared some wonderful stories of his service as director of the temple department, but highlighted those associated with the Kansas City, MO. Temple. He and his committee had been asked to study the LDS population in the U.S and identify areas a temple should be built based on their findings. At the appointed time Elder Walker reported a large concentration of saints in the Kansas City area and suggested building a temple. The prophet asked them to consider land held by the Church in Missouri before the next meeting. Knowing there are dedicated temple sites in Missouri, speculation was high. At the meeting, it was suggested that they build a temple at Far West. The prophet responded that would be nice, but it wasn’t where the saints were. Another suggested a temple in Jackson County. The proposal was considered for about five minutes. President Monson felt certain it needed to be where the saints had easy access and it wasn’t long before the current site was selected and then announced in Oct. 2008.
Elder Walker reported that President Packer commented that a temple in Missouri was truly significant. Being a part of the open house convinced Elder Walker that was true. The governors of both Kansas and Missouri were invited to attend and accepted the invitation. Elder Walker had the privilege of giving each a private tour. As they stood in a ceiling room, the governor of Missouri asked if he could say something. He mentioned his feelings throughout the tour and how impressed he was with the beauty and peace he found there. Then he said, “Our people have not always treated your people as we should have.”
Wounds of generations are being healed. Hearts are opening as light from the temple is shed on misunderstandings, old rumors, and false traditions. The Kansas City Temple will be the first in the U.S. to enter phase three and the missionaries are planning a special trip down in June.
We’ve had measurable rain every day this week. That was a first ever for us. I don’t suppose that has ever happened in Utah. Darrel spent most of his time in rain gear attempting to mow ground that was soggy and slick. He helped install a new water fountain at the west restrooms, and lay sod around the new duplex. AOA has a sod cutter so the Elders harvest and lay it. Five history volumes have been digitized! Only 39 to go.
A bit of history: For our 45th Anniversary this week, we traveled to Lamoni, Iowa, to do some exploring and enjoy the day together. Lamoni was named after the Lamanite King that Ammon taught. It was the original headquarters of the Re-organized Church for many years prior to moving it to Independence, MO. Joseph Smith III’s home still stands as there, as does the school his children would likely have attended. There is a strong presence of the R-LDS, now called the Community Church of Christ in that area. We also found a strong “Old Amish” presence there as well. We met a delightful little family and commissioned some work from the father. We are excited to go back again and see them in the future.
- Elder Joe J. Christensen, who passed away this last week, served as a General Authority Director over operations at AOA for 12 years. (2006-2018)
- The history of the saints in Missouri began with the “Lamanite Mission” led by Oliver Cowdery in 1830. Later the saints from Coleville who were forced to leave Leman Copley’s farm, arrived to form the nucleus of those called to build Zion. In the summer of 1831, the Lord revealed that Independence was the location for the temple and the City of Zion or the millennial New Jerusalem. (D&C 57:1-5) It is interesting that this location is geographically near the exact center of the U.S. continent, east to west.
Today was my first day to lead the discussion in Gospel Doctrine. I find I don’t remember things as well as I used to, but I was reminded today, that with the help of the Spirit we can remember anything we have studied that may be needed. At the conclusion I felt the Lord’s love as well as the love of those serving here. That being said, I’m grateful to be team teaching so I don’t have to do it again next week. We’ll be thinking of home on Memorial Day and missing the people and traditions we love so much!