The past few weeks have provided some of our most rewarding experiences in Ghana. We have been privileged to accompany five local members on their first visit to the temple after they completed the temple preparation class that we taught, and have another sister slated to attend this weekend.
Last Wednesday, Jerome, Mary and Nicholas met us at the temple at 8am, along with their branch president. We were driving in about a quarter after seven and Mary called just to make sure we would really be there. She later told Michelle that she woke up at 3:30, she was so excited, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Jerome said he showed a lot more restraint and didn’t wake up until 4:00.
They went into the temple excited and they all came out beaming. Their branch president asked each of them to share their thoughts and feelings in sacrament meeting today. All three of them described how the temple felt exactly the way they envision heaven will feel, how this experience has added new depth to their testimonies, how much they want to return frequently and how much they want other new members in the branch to have that same experience.
Juliana, another of our class members had to work, but tells us she can’t wait until this coming Saturday when she is scheduled to be there with us. As we listened to them, Michelle said it’s like being proud parents all over again, watching people we have loved and worked with for a few months making great choices and reaping the blessings of peace and strength in the gospel that come from temple covenants.
A couple of weeks back, we got to accompany Philipine and then Fidel, who has since entered the local Missionary Training Center and is on his way this coming week for Lagos, Nigeria. With each of them, it has been a thrill to watch their desire and excitement grow as they locked in on making sure they were prepared in every way and worthy to enter the Lord’s house in order to catch the full vision of their purpose on earth and be prepared to make covenants that will open them to the fullest blessings that God has promised to his faithful children.
You want so much for it to be a great experience for them, and then when you see their faces glowing and listen to their witness, it is one of the greatest feeling imaginable.
I love the “how great shall be your joy” promise, and I resonate with the analogy that Ammon shared with his brothers regarding the “end game” of their very successful missionary labors. Of particular import, he noted that the sheaves, or converts needed to be gathered into garners in order for them not to be wasted. Looking forward to our time, he further stated that those gathered in the garner would: “not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.” (Alma 26:6)
In 1999, Merrill Bateman, then president of BYU, explained this process, noting that: “My grandfather was a farmer. I remember the garner or granary on his farm. After the exhausting task of harvesting the grain, the grain was transported to the granary for winter storage. The purpose of the granary was to provide a safe haven for the harvest, to protect the wheat and corn from the coming storms, from the rain and snow that could destroy it. In addition, the garner provided protection from predators who desired the harvest for their own purposes. As the grain entered the garner, it was checked for contaminants. It was also fumigated or cleansed as a precaution and certified as to its cleanliness.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained that the temple is a garner for Church members, a place of refuge from the storms of life and stressed that is critical for new converts to progress to the temple in order to be preserved.
Through temple covenants, members are endowed with power to protect them from the evil that swirls about them. Like the grain entering the garner, those entering the temple have been cleansed of contaminants through repentance, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, in the process of preparing themselves to enter the temple, they are certified as being clean and worthy of entrance. And they come forth armed with the Lord’s power, with his angels watching over them.
Although most of our weekdays are spent focusing on financial record-keeping, I am thrilled that the Area Presidency asked that all senior missionary couples in the Area Office get first-experience with the West African Miracle, encouraging us to work directly with the local saints here. So each Sunday, the medical and legal advisors, the PR and auditor couples each spend the day working with one of the nine Accra stakes, helping with teacher development, temple preparation classes, or whatever the stake president needs. And to a couple, we all love our Sundays the best.