For many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is inseparably connected to their hearts, a vital vein that provides a life-sustaining flow of spiritual power that gives life to their spirits. With the November 22, 2015, rededication of the Montreal Québec Temple members in Canada also received counsel to rededicate themselves to temple attendance and to the work and covenants done there. Temple service becomes a lifelong commitment for many who have come to know the blessings that such service provides. For newly appointed president and matron of the Vancouver British Columbia Temple, President Thomas E. Walker and his wife Linda, the connection runs deep both in service and association.
President Walker’s long connection with the Vancouver British Columbia Temple began while presiding over the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Vancouver area as a stake president. President Walker received the first call about the possibility of constructing a temple for British Columbia. Working with other local stake presidents and Church authorities from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, President Walker helped facilitate the necessary events to bring the temple into existence.
Located on a picturesque hill in Langley, the Vancouver British Columbia Temple became the 131st temple and the seventh in Canada when it was dedicated May 2, 2010. It serves the members of the Church for most of British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington. Members living in the eastern part of the province attend the Cardston and Calgary Temples.
Once the temple was completed and President Walker finished his stake presidency duties, President and Sister Walker served for three years as counselors to the temple’s second president, Ronald W. Komm and his wife Jane Komm who served as matron prior to the Walkers. “It was good training that prepared us for this larger responsibility,” President Walker said. “We knew where to start when we had to train our assistants. However, the difference in being a counselor and the temple president is that I can no longer hang on the coattails of the president when decisions need to be made; I’m the final authority, now ‘the buck stops here’, now it ends with me.”
Like the Walkers, three other new presidencies and matrons and assistants received calls and training before beginning their service in November. Ellis Glen Stonehocker and his wife Glenda assume the responsibilities of the Calgary Alberta Temple. The Cardston Alberta Temple will be presided over by Clark Litchfield Hardy and his wife Deanna. Sidney C. Paulson and his wife Judy take the reins of the Regina Saskatchewan Temple
Presidents are called for three years to oversee all activities performed in the temple. Their wives as temple matrons mirror these responsibilities but focus mostly on the work for female patrons. “By working together with our husbands we can look at the running of the temple with two sets of eyes necessary to make sure all the work done here in the holy temple is according to order and doctrine,” Sister Walker says. “The temple is one place that typifies the important role of women in the Church, so much so that the Lord feels it necessary that there be a female component to it. It is significant to note that in the temple women administer the same ordinances and blessings for the female members as are administered to the men. Again, it gives a second pair of eyes, female eyes looking at everything from the cleaning of the temple, the care of the temple grounds to ordinance work and all of other aspects of our temple worship. In the holiest and most special place on earth to members of the Church the Lord has insured that it’s a man and woman partnership.”
“We actually have more women serving in the Vancouver Temple than men,” President Walker states. The Vancouver Temple requires about 300 volunteer workers to keep things running properly. “We need that many workers to help with ordinances, oversee and take care of the beautiful temple and to see that everyone who comes to the temple feels a relationship or closeness to their Saviour and to Heavenly Father. The temple offers a way to develop a personal relationship with our Saviour, getting to know him better and to do the work for our ancestors.”
The enormity of the calling to serve in a temple presidency is reflected in the special week-long training the new presidents and matrons receive in Salt Lake City from members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy. At this recent training 62 new president-wife teams received instruction prior to officiating in their new callings.
Except for Sundays when temples are closed, each member of the presidency and matrons spend three to four, eight-hour days per week in their overseeing capacity. “We serve 400-500 members a week in our temple,” Sister Walker says. “We all do it gladly, happily and see it as a privilege.”
Matters of the spirit are not the only concerns the temple president and matron have to deal with. “We don’t just oversee the sacred activities inside the temple; we are responsible to make sure the technical and mechanical things run properly, that the landscaping and grounds are clean and beautiful. Because we are a small temple all work is offered by members completely on a volunteer basis including all officiating, ordinance workers, cleaning, laundry and grounds keeping, except for one recorder, no one is paid, President Walker explains. ”Keeping the grounds and building in the finest condition is a paramount responsibility. The Church employs the highest quality of maintenance in the temples, even higher than our regular meeting houses.”
The exquisite workmanship and quality of the building and furnishings including everything from the baptismal font on top of the backs of twelve golden oxen to the celestial room, the sealing rooms and instructional rooms are geared to enhance the patrons experience. “Temples offer ordinances and blessings designed to join or ‘seal’ families together, not just for this life, but for time and all eternity. This represents the continuance of family ties and relationships after death on condition of keeping the covenants made. The work done in the temple leads to the greatest blessings available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Church, the meetings, the activities, the missionary efforts, the lessons taught and the hymns, all lead to the work done in holy temples.”
“Just as the building is made of only the finest materials and quality the temple helps members become more refined, honest, and Christlike, better Christians, so that when they go back out into the community they can add that type of quality to our societies,” President Walker says. Temples bind individuals and families to each other and with God. Those who attach themselves to the temple will find they are attached to God in the process.