When the London Temple was finished and dedicated by President David O. McKay in September 1958, it was the first temple in Great Britain, the second temple in Europe, and only the 12th operating temple in the world. Today there are 140 operating temples, 12 under construction, and 16 more announced. That's over a 1000% increase in operating temples in just over 50 years. Wow.
|The view of the London Temple from the Visitors' Centre at dusk.|
Back home in Utah, I think we tend to take temples for granted. From our house, we can be at any one of seven different temples within a 45 minute drive. From our house, two of those seven temples are only 10 minutes away in different directions.We could go to a different one every day of the week. And while we do take advantage of the great privilege and blessing of attending the temple, and Utah temples are generally busy, I'm not sure we always remember how very fortunate we are.
Around here, and in most of the world, getting to the temple takes serious effort and sacrifice - and we see examples of that every week. Many faithful saints here in our temple district spend a lot of time and money to come to the London Temple. They give up vacations (holidays). They take time off work. Often, they come long distances. Some come on public transportation, some have a six hour drive to get here, and some (on Jersey and Guernsey) have to take a plane. Many come on chartered coaches (busses) on Saturday. We love to see those coaches show up! Wards that sponsor coach tours to the temple tend to have close-knit congregations and great blessings that come to them.
Our temple district includes two stakes in Wales, one in France, a district in Limerick, Ireland, and twenty stakes in England. (And, by the way, a stake takes in a much larger geographical area in England than in Utah. You can travel from one end of the Corner Canyon Stake where we live, in Draper, to the other in ten minutes. Different wards - not stakes - in Great Britain are often two to three hours away from each other.) I don't know how to adequately describe the difference.
|A few of the coaches parked last Saturday|
at the London Temple and Visitors' Centre
Temple trips are often family affairs on Saturdays in England. Parents and children come together, all dressed in their Sunday best from the youngest to the oldest. One parent stays with the children in the Arrival Centre while the other one attends a temple session, then they switch places and the other parent attends the temple. During the warm months, on Saturdays, the temple grounds are covered with families having picnics on the grounds. During the colder months or when it rains, families congregate in the Visitors' Centre and the Arrival Centre.
Many couples and families come to the London Temple and rent a room in the Accommodation Centre for a few days. That way, one parent can watch the children in their own "hotel" room while the other one is in the temple. We love it when these families come to the Visitors' Centre to watch a movie or two, take a tour, or participate in our firesides and programs. Many members bring non-member friends or family members who cannot go to the temple, but who come to the Visitors' Centre to wait. We love this. It keeps our sister missionaries busy teaching.
Among some of our most faithful attenders are the members of the Lille, France stake. It is the only French stake in this temple district, and I'm sure they are anxious to see the completion of the temple that has been announced in Paris. In the meantime, though, they come to this temple often. Stake members come four times a year and stay from Monday to Friday. Youth also come four times a year and stay several days to do temple baptisms. They are diligent, they get along well together and help each other out, and they make the whole Accommodation Centre smell delicious when they are cooking their meals!
|The coach from Lille, France preparing to leave.|
Coventry Stake members came to the temple on the coach behind it.
All this makes me stop and think about what I and so many of my friends at home take for granted. How many hours/days do we have to sacrifice to attend the temple at home? How much money (including transportation and housing) does it cost us? When we have a couple of hours, do we think to hop in the car and take in a session or do some Initiatory work? Are we doing our part to make those ordinances available to our ancestors and others? Are we gaining all blessings from temple attendance that we could be?
Whether the temple is 300 miles or 3 minutes from home it always blesses our lives when we make the effort to attend. Last year, in April General Conference, President Monson said: "There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. The saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort. The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God." ~Pat~