Though he only served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nine months before his passing, Howard W. Hunter left a profound impression on members of the Church with his challenges to them to be worthy of the temple blessings. He commanded, urged, and begged all adults to be worthy to hold a temple recommend, whether or not they were in an area which granted them easy access to a temple. President Hunter understood the blessings the temple brings and wanted all members to have those blessings.
“And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, through the power and authority of the priesthood vested in me and by virtue of the calling which I now hold, I invoke my blessings upon you. I bless you in your efforts to live a more Christlike life. I bless you with an increased desire to be worthy of a temple recommend and to attend the temple as frequently as circumstances allow. I bless you to receive the peace of our Heavenly Father in your homes and to be guided in teaching your families to follow the Master” (Howard W. Hunter, “Follow the Son of God, ” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
His focus on the temple is evidenced by the fact that two more temples were completed and dedicated during his nine-month administration: the Orlando Florida Temple and the Bountiful Utah Temple. His desire for the Saints to be worthy to attend the temple preceded President Gordon B. Hinckley’s explosion of temple building in the following decade. As temples are finally being brought to the people, it is necessary for them to be worthy to enter the temple when it arrives.
In addition to his focus on temple worthiness, President Hunter urged those who had fallen away from the Church to return:
“To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say, come back. The path of repentance, though hard at times, lifts one ever upward and leads to a perfect forgiveness” (Howard W. Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises, ” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).
President Hunter also left a strong testimony of the work of the Church:
“My greatest strength through these past months has been my abiding testimony that this is the work of God and not of men. Jesus Christ is the head of this church. He leads it in word and deed. I am honored beyond expression to be called for a season to be an instrument in his hands to preside over His Church. But without the knowledge that Christ is the head of the Church, neither I nor any other man could bear the weight of the calling that has come”
“In assuming this responsibility, I acknowledge God’s miraculous hand in my life. He has repeatedly spared my life and restored my strength, has repeatedly brought me back from the edge of eternity, and has allowed me to continue in my mortal ministry for another season. I have wondered on occasion why my life has been spared. But now I have set that question aside and ask only for the faith and prayers of the members of the Church so we can work together, I laboring with you, to fulfill God’s purposes in this season of our lives” (“Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 7).
The urgency of being worthy to attend the temple is a message that is still shared by our leaders today. We can only be worthy to receive the blessings the Lord has in store for us if we are willing to meet the conditions He has set.