My friend and former FARMS colleague Matt Roper has shared this prescient passage from a prayer that was given roughly 127 years ago by President Wilford Woodruff of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the temples all closed during the coronavirus contagion and with the Salt Lake Temple specifically closed for seismic retrofitting, President Woodruff’s prayer seems almost eerily appropriate:
“Heavenly Father, when Thy people shall not have the opportunity of entering this holy house to offer their supplications unto Thee, and they are oppressed and in trouble, surrounded by difficulties or assailed by temptation and shall turn their faces towards this Thy holy house and ask Thee for deliverance, for help, for Thy power to be extended in their behalf, we beseech Thee to look down from Thy holy habitation in mercy and tender compassion upon them, and listen to their cries. Or when the children of Thy people, in years to come, shall be separated, through any cause, from this place, and their hearts shall turn in remembrance of Thy promises to this holy Temple, and they shall cry unto Thee from the depths of their affliction and sorrow to extend relief and deliverance to them, we humbly entreat Thee to turn Thine ear in mercy to them; hearken to their cries, and grant unto them the blessing for which they ask.” (President Wilford Woodruff, Dedicatory Prayer for the Salt Lake City Utah Temple, 1893).
And, from President Woodruff’s successor, President Russell M. Nelson:
My dear brothers, sisters, and friends, I know that concerns about your health, the health of your families, the economy, and your own employment weigh heavily upon your minds at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect lives and disrupt normal activities. This is in addition to other challenges you are no doubt experiencing. The recent earthquakes in Salt Lake City are just one example of additional sources of stress that intensify our worries.These challenges are causing many to feel that the ground is moving beneath them. They wonder what they can really count on in this time of turmoil.
This reminds me of a conversation I had not long ago with a dear friend. This man was a senior government official in another nation, whom I have known for years. When I last visited him, I was surprised to see him being rolled into our meeting in a wheelchair.
This frail friend then spoke. “I’ve been very ill for a long time,” he said. “Most days I just lie in my bed, look up at the ceiling, and long to know what is true.”
During trying times, few things are as reassuring and comforting as truth. The Apostle Paul foresaw our day and prophesied that trying times would come. He added that MANY would be ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
What is true is that amid the gloomy darkness of a troubled world, the light of Jesus Christ shines ever brighter. He can speak truth to our hearts and minds as we seek Him and learn to hear Him.
In this regard, we look forward to the upcoming general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4–5, during which we will hear from Church leaders about the glorious Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how His gospel brings peace to our lives.
Because large congregations cannot gather at present, this conference will have a different look. But the truth that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer—and that the fulness of His gospel has been restored to the earth—will be taught as always.
I extend a warm welcome to all, regardless of your faith tradition, to join with us through technology and to rejoice in the comforting power of revealed truth. I love you. I pray for you. And I assure you that the Lord is watching over us during these troubling times.