"You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all our strength that God can give us… That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be.” - Winston Churchill
This is a lesson we latter day saints know very well. As Elder Holland put it one of his talks,
"On July 28, 1847, four days after his arrival in that valley, Brigham Young stood upon the spot where now rises the magnificent Salt Lake Temple and exclaimed to his companions: “Here [we will build] the Temple of our God!” (James H. Anderson, “The Salt Lake Temple,” Contributor 14,no. 6, Apr. 1893: 243).
The temple in Salt Lake would cover an eighth of a square mile, and it would be built to stand through eternity. Who cared about the money or stone or timber or glass or gold they didn’t have? So what that only a handful of seeds had been planted and the Saints were yet without homes. Why worry that crickets would soon be coming to eat up crops? ...And so would the United States Army.
The Saints just marched forth and broke ground for the most massive, permanent, inspiring edifice they could conceive. And they would spend 40 years of their lives to complete it...
The work seemed ill-fated from the start. The excavation for the basement required trenches 20 feet wide and 16 feet deep, much of it dug through solid gravel. Just digging for the foundation alone required 9,000 man-days of labor. Surely, someone must have said, “We don’t need a temple this big.” But they kept on digging. Maybe they believed they were“laying the foundation of a great work.” In any case they worked on, “not weary in well-doing.”
And through it all Brigham Young had dreamed the dream and seen the vision. With the excavation complete and the cornerstone ceremony concluded, he said to the Saints assembled:
“I do not like to prophesy much, … But I will venture to guess that this day, and the work we have performed on it, will long be remembered by this people, and be sounded as with a trumpet’s voice throughout the world.
But as Brigham Young also said, “We never began to build [any] temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt LakeCity: Deseret Book Co., 1961, p. 40). No sooner was the foundation work finished than Albert Sidney Johnston and his United States troops set out for the Salt Lake Valley intent on war with “the Mormons.” In response President Young made elaborate plans to evacuate and, if necessary, destroy the entire city behind them. But what to do about the temple whose massive excavation was already completed and its 8-by-16-feet foundational walls firmly in place? They did the only thing they could do: they filled it all back in again. Every shovelful. All that soil and gravel that had been so painstakingly removed with those 9,000 man-days of labor was filled back in. When they finished, those acres looked like nothing more interesting than a field that had been plowed up and left un-planted.
When the Utah war threat had passed, the Saints returned to their homes and painfully worked again at uncovering the foundation and removing the material from the excavated basement structure.
But then the apparent masochism of all this seemed most evident when not adobe or sandstone but massive granite boulders were selected for the basic construction material. And they were 20 miles away in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Furthermore, the precise design and dimensions of everyone of the thousands of stones to be used in that massive structure had to be marked out individually in the architect’s office and shaped accordingly. This was a slow, difficult process. Just to put one layer of the 600 hand-sketched,individually squared and precisely cut stones around the building took nearly three years. That progress was so slow that virtually no one walking by the temple block could ever see any progress at all.
And, of course, getting the stone from mountain to city enter was a nightmare. A canal on which to convey the stone was begun and a great deal of labor and money expended on it, but it was finally aborted. Other means were tried, but before the railroad came in the 1870's oxen proved to be the only viable means of transportation. In the 1860's always four and often six oxen in a team could be seen almost any working day of the year, toiling and tugging and struggling to pull from the quarry one or, at most, two monstrous blocks of granite of medium size.
During that time, as if the United States Army hadn’t been enough, the Saints had plenty of other interruptions. The arrival of the railroad pulled almost all of the working force off the temple for nearly three years, and twice grass hopper invasions sent the workers into full-time summer combat with the pests. By mid-1871, fully two decades of untold misery after it had begun, the walls of the temple were barely visible above ground. Far more visible was the teamsters’route from Cottonwood, strewn with the wreckage of wagons—and dreams—unable to bear the load placed on them. The journals and histories of these teamsters are filled with accounts of broken axles, mud-mired animals, broken sprockets, and shattered hopes. I do not know if these men swore, but surely they might have been seen turning a rather steely eye toward heaven. But they believed and kept pulling.
And through all of this President Young seemed in no hurry.“ The Temple will be built as soon as we are prepared to use it,” he said (Contributor, p. 266). Indeed his vision was so lofty and his hope so broad that right in the middle of this staggering effort requiring virtually all that the Saints could seem to bear, he announced the construction of the St.George, Manti, and Logan temples.
“Can you accomplish this work, you Latter-day Saints of these several counties?” he asked. And then in his own inimitable way he answered. “Yes; that is a question I can answer readily. You are perfectly able to do it. The question is, have you the necessary faith? Have you sufficient of the Spirit of God in your hearts to say; yes, by the help of God our Father we will erect these buildings to His name? Go to now, with your might and with your means, and finish this Temple”(Contributor, p. 267).
So they squared their shoulders and stiffened their backs and went forward with their might. But when President Young died in 1877, the temple was still scarcely 20 feet above the ground. Ten years later, his successor, President John Taylor, and the temple’s original architect, Truman O. Angell, were dead as well. The side walls were just up to the square. And now the infamous Edmunds-Tucker Act had already been passed by Congress dis-incorporating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the effects of this law was to put the Church into receivership whereby the U.S. Marshall, under a November court order, seized this temple the Saints had now spent just under 40 years of their lives dreaming of, working for, and praying fervently to enjoy. To all appearances, the still unfinished but increasingly magnificent structure was to be wrested at this last hour from its rightful owners and put into the hands of aliens and enemies... The very group who had often boasted that the Latter-day Saints would never be permitted to finish the building. It seemed those boasts were certain to be fulfilled. Schemes were immediately put forward to divert the intended use of the temple in ways that would desecrate its holy purpose and mock the staggering sacrifice of the Saints who had so faithfully tried to build it.
But God was with these modern children of Israel, as he always has been and always will be. The Red Sea parted before them, and they walked through on firm, dry ground. On April 6, 1892, the Saints as a body were nearly delirious. Now, finally, here in their own valley with their own hands they had cut out of the mountains a granite monument that was to mark, after all they had gone through, the safety of the Saints and the permanence of Christ’s true church on earth for this one last dispensation. The central symbol of all that was the completed house of their God. The streets were literally jammed with people. Forty thousand of them fought their way on to the temple grounds. Ten thousand more, unable to gain entrance, scrambled to the tops of nearby buildings in hopes that some glimpse of the activities might be had. Inside the Tabernacle, President Wilford Woodruff,visibly moved by the significance of the moment, said:
“If there is any scene on the face of this earth that will attract the attention of the God of heaven and the heavenly host, it is the one before us today—the assembling of this people,the shout of ‘Hosanna!’ the laying of the top stone of this Temple in honor to our God” (Contributor, p. 270). Then, moving outside, he laid the capstone in place exactly at high-noon."
Needless to say, there are hard things in life. But something I've been learning while out here on the mission is that nothing of any great value comes without great sacrifice and effort. This would include a successful mission, a successful education, career, and whatever else this life has to throw at us.
It's ben a pretty hard week, a baptism fell through, and we had a string of rotten luck, a "viento sonda" basically argentine desert's wind-storms, and it's been HOT, but really, at the end of the day, it's entirely up to us to decide how we react to what happens to us.
Marjorie Pay Hinckley uttered one of the most straight-forward ways to look at it-- "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache."
I really love being a missionary, and I really love this work. I hope you all have a great week, and choose to laugh rather than to cry!
p.s. I'd send pics but the comp is being weird with my camera. Next week for sure!