By Lionel Walters
When registrations closed for Devonport Australia Stake's November 30 temple trip, 110 members including 38 youth had signed up to attend. While this may happen routinely in large population centres, with a stake membership of just 1450 and an average stake conference attendance of 450, this commitment from Devonport Stake's active membership is a significant statement of support for the stake presidency's call to give service in the temple.
For the Saints in one of the church's least populous stakes, temple attendance requires more than a short local drive. These Tasmanian members rise in the wee hours of the morning to catch the first flight across Bass Strait to Melbourne, followed by a 50 kilometre bus ride across the city. After a few hours in the temple, it's back on the bus to retrace their steps home on the last flight of the day.
Stake President Scott Prebble said, “For the first five years of our presidency we have emphasised temple service and covenant keeping. Our regular temple days allow members to return frequently to receive, reflect on, and recommit to these sacred covenants.”
This success did not happen overnight. Under the stake presidency's direction, four temple days have been organised each year, with low cost flights promoted, and a stake sponsored bus provided from the airport to the temple. The temple days have become firmly established on the member's calendars as those attending relate the enjoyment and spiritual strength they gain by serving in the temple together.
This milestone of more than a hundred members participating came in response to an invitation from stake leaders for youth and their families to prepare to attend the temple together. Along with a challenge to save for the trip themselves, youth were encouraged to work with their parents and ward family history consultants to find one family name to bring to the temple. Matilda Page, 12, and her brother Gus picked blackberries and made jam to raise money for their plane tickets, then spent each Tuesday afternoon in November at their family history consultant's home searching for ancestors to prepare for temple ordinances.
“Family history is hard work but it's more fun than I thought it would be,” said Matilda, who attended the temple for the first time and was baptised for 13 of her ancestors. “I felt like there were people waiting for me to find them, and I felt the spirit so strong when I was baptised and confirmed for them.”
The youth conducted themselves reverently and respectfully in the temple and those who observed them were blessed by the spirit they felt. In a testimony meeting the following day, one sister commented that looking into the baptistry with all the youth and their families gathered together made her so proud of the youth and filled her with love and gratitude for the blessings of the gospel. Matilda, responding to this comment in her testimony said, “when we looked outside the baptistry and saw our leaders and others from the stake dressed in pure white looking in, we saw angels. It truly was the best day of my life.”
“As a school teacher, I can't imagine any other place or situation in the world where 38 teenagers would make such a sacrifice to spend hours away from digital distractions to perform service for people they have never even met. The feeling in the temple today was literally heavenly,” said President Prebble.
Sacrifice really does bring forth the blessings of heaven for these faithful, but somewhat remote Saints, who follow the vision and example of their stake presidency in temple attendance.