Set in Stone

by Janet Thomas

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They are so serious about their promise that it’s sealed in the cornerstone of their temple.

In Alaska, LDS teenagers who live in the towns of Wasilla, Palmer, and Eagle River look at the Anchorage Alaska Temple and know that something of theirs is safe inside. They were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to make a promise, sign their names to it, then have those pledges sealed inside the cornerstone of the temple at the dedication.

The promise they signed was quite short. It said simply: “As I prepare for marriage and a mission, I will live the standards of worthiness for entrance into the house of the Lord.” It was a promise that many of them were willing to make, but now that the promise is literally encased in stone in the temple and sealed with mortar, these young people have taken it very seriously.

“This was a goal I had previously made,” says Katie Green of the Eagle River Second Ward, “but had never put on paper. When I was given the opportunity to do so, I jumped at it. I didn’t just sign it; I pondered it. To me a promise is a promise and cannot be broken, especially with our Father in Heaven. Living the standards of worthiness doesn’t mean just not crossing the line. It means that we must live as far away from that line as possible.”

Making it personal

For Amie Uscola of the Wasilla First Ward, making a promise like this one is very personal. “Having my name in the cornerstone of the temple is like an agreement on a personal basis with the Lord. It is like a possession of His, and if you broke it, it is more personal. I actually do think about it every time I come here.”

These teens are thrilled to have a temple so close to their hometowns. Before the Anchorage Alaska Temple was built, these teens only rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to travel to a temple. The trips were expensive and often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Now they have many more opportunities to do baptisms and to go through the temple for their own endowments before leaving on missions or being married. Ryan Rampton of the Eagle River Second Ward said, “With something as sacred as doing temple ordinances, now I won’t have to go to another state. I can do it in the place I grew up. That actually means a lot to me.”

Having signed a pledge that is now permanently in the temple’s cornerstone makes coming to the temple even better. “The feelings I get whenever I enter the temple,” says ShaLene Grover of the Palmer First Ward, “make the desires of my heart stronger to be a better person. This makes a difference in my life, to always be worthy to go to the temple, so I can always feel the peace I feel when going there.”

Keeping the promise

Just exactly what can these teens do to keep the promise they signed?

Katie Green’s friends know she has standards that she lives. They even know about the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that outlines and explains just what those standards are. And they like it that when they are with Katie, they have a friend who will help them be a little bit better instead of a little bit worse.

Attending Church meetings and seminary makes it easier. Christy Kendall of the Eagle River First Ward explained how she received an answer as to how she was supposed to act. “It was a lesson when I was a Mia Maid that said you need to make a decision now so that when evil things confront you, you will have a definite answer ready. From then on, For the Strength of Youth became my handbook. It wasn’t just words to me because now I knew that was how I needed to act. Those were my answers that I needed to say when confronted.”

And staying worthy of a temple recommend also prepares these young people to serve the Lord. “The promise I made with my Heavenly Father,” says Austin Wallace of the Eagle River Second Ward, “has influenced my life. I strive to live worthy to enter the temple. I know that if I am temple worthy I am also mission worthy.”

Austin has always followed the good examples set by his friends. He says, “My friends are still the people I look up to. Their testimonies shine through me because I’ve emulated them in all they’ve done.” Austin’s best friend is serving a full-time mission, and Austin is preparing to serve also. “I’ve just loved the Church so much. Now that I’ve seen the choices my friends have made, it’s part of my own personal choice to do the same.”

A constant reminder

The Anchorage Alaska Temple is not large, but its light-gray granite walls catch the light. It’s easy to see from one of the main highways. Tim Miner of the Palmer First Ward sees the temple when he has to go that way to get to work. And he remembers his promise.

And Tisha Harman of the Wasilla Second Ward remembers her pledge. She even remembers where her name was among the dozens of other signatures on the sheet.

Dené Christensen of the Eagle River Second Ward says, “When you really think about it, having your name sealed in a cornerstone in the house of the Lord is just amazing. You don’t want to do anything wrong. You don’t want to tarnish or damage any part of that temple. Then I remember that my name’s in there.”

Even though these teens were the right age and at the right place to sign a pledge to remain worthy to enter the temple, Emerson Fry of the Palmer Second Ward reminds us all, “Whether or not you sign a paper, I hope that everyone makes the same promise to themselves and to God.”

President Spencer W. Kimball

“We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise” (Salt Lake Institute of Religion Devotional, 10 Jan. 1975, 2).
—President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985)

“Signing this promise was simply a unique way of recommitting ourselves on a more personal level, much like renewing covenants every Sunday in sacrament meeting. This promise offered me a new chance to recommit myself to the standards I may have faltered in obeying. It redefined the covenants I’ve made and gave me renewed purpose to become prepared to enter the temple, go on my mission, and get married.”
—Ryan Rampton, 16, Eagle River Second Ward, Wasilla Alaska Stake

“I was able to sign the pledge that is placed in the cornerstone of the temple. By signing I was able to make a promise that I will always be worthy to enter the temple. Just to think that one day I will be able to enter the temple knowing that I have been worthy brings me joy and happiness.”
—Crystal Eriksson, 17, Wasilla Second Ward, Wasilla Alaska Stake

Photography by Janet Thomas