Salvation is to get from under the powers of sin and death, and live forever in the hereafter, growing in wisdom and in power, and becoming more and more like unto our Great Father, God. This salvation is obtained by obeying the principles of the gospel and performing the ordinances required therein. You all know what the first of these principles and ordinances are. One of the ordinances is that a person must be baptized by water for the remission of sin. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” said the Savior. This must of course be performed here on earth, and by a servant of God having authority to do so.
Now, by thinking about it a moment, you will know that there are a great many of the human race who have not been baptized with this kind of baptism. Millions there are and have been who never heard of the gospel or of Jesus Christ. Many others there are and have been who have had a kind of baptism but not performed by one with authority. What will then become of all these people?
Many religions of the day teach that there is no chance for people after they leave this life; if they are not saved when they die, they never can be afterwards. Can you not see what a cruel thought that is? Think of the millions who have not had a chance! Surely God would not punish people for not doing something they had no chance to do.
[Illustration: THE TEMPLE BLOCK.]
Now all this was made plain to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Lord told him that all those who died without repentance and baptism would have a chance in the next world. Christ, while his body lay three days in the tomb, went and preached to the spirits in prison. Likewise, many of the servants of God have, and are now preaching the gospel to the children of God in the spirit world. They can there believe and repent, but can not be baptized. That must be done for them by someone on the earth. This ordinance can be performed in any place that God directs, but he has commanded that holy buildings be erected wherein baptisms for the dead can be performed. This, then, is one use of our temples. Marriages, sealings and other holy ordinances are also performed in these buildings.
The first temple site was dedicated in Jackson county, Missouri, August 3, 1831, but, as you have been told, no work was done to erect a building. The Kirtland temple you also have been told about. After the Saints left Kirtland the building was neglected. Then it came into the possession of the Reorganization or “Reorganites,” as they are sometimes called, a religious body founded, and built up for the most part by apostates from the Church. The Kirtland temple is still standing.
Ground was dedicated for a temple at Far West July 3, 1837, but owing to the Saints being driven away, no work other than digging the foundation was done.
The next effort was at Nauvoo. This temple was begun April 6, 1841, and dedicated April 30th and May 1, 1846. You will remember how the Saints toiled to complete this building. It was a large, beautiful structure, one of the finest in the west, and cost about one million dollars. About two years after the Saints had left Nauvoo, the temple was destroyed by fire.