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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Temples & Mormonism – 1979

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Temples, 1979.” You can view other years here.

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TEMPLES, 1979.

1979:  28 Mar.:  Quotas should never be used.

“28 March, 1979

To: Area Supervisors, Regional Representatives, Stake, Mission, and District Presidents, Bishops, Branch Presidents, and Temple Presidents in the United States and Canada

Re: Temple work in behalf of the dead

Dear Brethren:

On Page 356 of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith this significant statement is set forth, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”  Also, in the Doctrine & Covenants 128:15 we read:

And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation.  For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers–that they without us cannot be made perfect–neither can we without our dead be made perfect.

We are very pleased with the increase in the amount of work being accomplished in the temples and hope and expect this trend to continue.  However, we want to stress that while members should be encouraged to go to the temple, quotas should never be used.  Quotas sometimes cause people to go grudgingly and sometimes lose the spirit of the work.  The decision as to when to attend the temple must be left up to every person based on his own circumstances and desires.  A visit to the temple to do work for the dead should result in a happy spiritual experience.  This is possible only when patrons visit voluntarily without pressure from any source.

May you and those over whom you preside carry on this great work in a manner that is both pleasing and acceptable to our Heavenly Father.



Spencer W. Kimball

N. Eldon Tanner

Marion G. Romney

The First Presidency” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Office of the First Presidency, Salt Lake City, Utah, 28 Mar 1979)

1 Jun.:  Electronic marking of garments.



9900 Stoneybrook Drive

Kensington, Maryland 20795

TO: All Stake and District Presidents

Washington Temple District

FROM: Washington Temple Presidency

RE: Garment Markings

Many of the garments (with the exception of cotton garments) are being marked electronically. As a result, the material is not cut, nor is there a need for backing.

This procedure has been approved by the First Presidency, and members, when inquiring, should be assured that the marking is proper and that they have no need to communicate with the Relief Society Distribution Center.

We appreciate the opportunity to work with you and hope you will let us know whenever we can be of service. May the Lord bless and sustain you in your important assignment.



/s/ Wendell G. Eames

/s/ [Illegible]

/s/ Clyde E. Black”

(Letter from the Washington Temple Presidency to All Stake and District Presidents in the Washington Temple District; 1 June 1979; Bergera collection)

25 Jul.:  Improper issuance of temple recommends.

“There is an increasing number of instances in which local leaders issue temple recommends contrary to the express limitations in the General Handbook.  As a result, it becomes necessary to call these to your special attention:

1.  A wife whose husband is not endowed should not be given a recommend to receive her endowment (Page 54 of the General Handbook of Instructions).

2.  A bishop should not issue a temple recommend for endowment work to a newly baptized person until that person has been a member of the Church for one year (Page 55 of the General Handbook of Instructions).

3.  A couple, married in a civil ceremony outside the temple, is not to be issued recommends for the performance of ordinances in the temple, other than baptisms and confirmations for the dead, until after a year has elapsed since the civil ceremony (Page 6 of the General Handbook Supplement #3).

It is embarrassing when members arrive at the temple with improperly issued recommends and are denied admittance.

Accordingly, we ask that you counsel the bishops and branch presidents under your direction, cautioning them not to issue temple recommends to those who, according to the instructions, are not entitled to receive them.”  (First Presidency Circular Letter, 25 Jul., 1979)

1 Aug.:  The making of the temple movies.

“I [Gary Bergera] had a very nice interview with Spencer Palmer this morning (I am typing this immediately afterwards.)  We began about 8:40 a.m. and finished around 9:25 a.m.  I first introduced myself and background, then shared the Richard L. Evans material per ‘Fantasia’ etc. with Palmer; he enjoyed it and had a photocopy made.  Most of Palmer’s knowledge per temple films is limited to the one he participated in as the preacher.  He did say that to his knowledge, there have been a total of three different films made in English.  Films for other cultures are now using actors from the respective cultures.  Palmer assisted in writing the Korean and Chinese ceremonies to some extent–this information is covered elsewhere in this collection.  He seemed very willing to discuss his experience and said that despite the fact that he is approached at least once a day by individuals recollecting him as ‘preacher’, and is frequently asked

oddball questions and rumors such as ‘Did so and so really get excommunicated?’, etc., I am the first person who has ever requested a formal interview and sat down discussing the basic mechanics of the film production.  The following are the questions which I asked:

1.  HOW MANY MOVIES WERE MADE?  Palmer said that three English movies have been made.  The first was, in his words, ‘a failure.’  He qualified that by saying that this film was not a professional production–there was no real acting, no scenery, and no real sophistication.  The actors’ behavior was identical to that of a live endowment performance.  Palmer did not know when this first film was produced or where it was done.  He recommended that I speak with Lynn McKinlay who was an actor in that film for further information.  The first movie was shot, Palmer believed, with a blank wall for a background.

2.  WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE SECOND FILM?  After arriving home from service as a mission president in 1968, Palmer was called to make the movie around the beginning of Fall Term, 1969.  The production took two or three months (i.e., approximately October and November, 1969).

3.  WHO CALLED YOU TO PARTICIPATE, AND WHAT WAS THE BACKGROUND SURROUNDING THIS EVENT?  Palmer was fairly new in teaching at BYU in 1969.  He had studied drama a bit as an undergraduate student at the ‘Y’, but never did anything professional.  Early in the Fall Semester, 1969, Palmer received a phone call from ‘Judge’ W. O. Whitaker who said, ‘We’d like you to be in a film.  Can you come and try out?’  Palmer said, ‘No, not really.’  Whitaker then said, ‘This is very important–can you come tomorrow night at ten o’clock?’  Palmer was surprised at the late hour but indicated that he might consider it.  Whitaker then asked, ‘Do you have a temple recommend?’  This really surprised Palmer, but when told that his name had been ‘cleared by the brethren’ he said that he would do it.

4.  HOW WAS THE FILM PRODUCTION CARRIED OUT?  Palmer stated that the total period of shooting took place during two to three months.  This always took place after ten o’clock p.m. after all of the BYU Studio personnel had gone home.  To his knowledge, the entire production took place at the present BYU Studio which is located in the canyon between the BYU football stadium and the University Mall in Orem.  He is not aware of any footage taken at the LDS Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.  While activity never began before ten p.m., many actors arrived at the studio at different times, even as late as 11 or 11:30 p.m., because separate scenes were worked on different days.  Although the cast had occasional prayers together, there was no formal opening prayer due to the staggered arrival of actors each night.  Naturally, the entire cast and production staff had to have temple recommends, but they never had to be shown.  Everyone was previously cleared through their bishops who were all telephoned at the beginning.  Worthiness was understood.  The entire film was shot in one room within the studio, but Palmer was told by Whitaker that several rooms had been ‘set aside’ (this was never defined specifically as ‘set apart’ to Palmer) for the purpose of making the temple film.  These rooms were locked during the day so that nobody on the regular Studio staff could get in.  Every evening, the director would instruct the cast which part of the endowment would be worked on the next day.  This would provide the actors an understanding of which part of the ceremony they were to memorize.  Memorization was done in a glass-windowed room above the set which overlooked the production activity.  Actors could use small, black (missionary ‘IP’-type) books which contained the entire endowment script in single-spaced type to memorize their parts.  They also had the use of prompt cards.  None of this material could be taken home with them for study; it all had to be left in this upper room.  Shooting was a very exacting process, and many scenes had to be redone four to five times.  The actors and staff usually left after midnight every night.  W. O. Whitaker was the film producer, and also acted as a director from time to time.  The other director was Whitaker’s brother, Scott, who is now deceased.  Palmer was not aware of any formal dedication or setting apart of the BYU Studio for the purpose of making the film; neither is he aware of the film’s actual production cost.  He was made to understand, however, that his part in the film was a ‘calling’ or official ‘church calling’.  Whitaker had nothing to do with the third film which was released in 1975 or 1976.

5.  DID YOU ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE?  Palmer said that he was very honored and complimented to have been asked to help make the film.  It was a very demanding experience for him.  He was originally told that the film would be a ‘temporary’ one in use for three to five years; then it would be replaced by others, almost implying that a series of films would be produced.  Palmer said that he would have been less excited to do the film if he had known that it would last for ten yeras and that he would be stereotyped as ‘the preacher’ during this period.  Even if he had known this, however, he said that he would have done the film (because it was a calling).  As far as the other actors were concerned, Palmer said that there were two groups:  the professionals and the amateurs (of which he said that he was the latter).  Sometimes there was tension between these two groups.

6.  WAS THE SCRIPT CHANGED ANY?  IF SO, WHO AUTHORIZED THIS CHANGE?  Palmer stated that several phrases he made during the shooting were so carefully dubbed out that it is almost impossible to tell now that he said them.  He assumed than any changes were approved by the church Temple Committee (Gordon B. Hinckley, Richard L. Evans, maybe others higher up).  Satan was supposed to have been cast with black skin but this was changed after protest by several LDS Polynesians.  There was occasional tension between the Whitaker brothers (the ‘Whitaker Camp’ as Palmer called them) and the Temple Committee, as the Whitakers wanted to do the movie professionally, whereas the Brethren still retained a somewhat ‘anti-professional’ attitude.  Apparently Salt Lake was very pleased with the outcome of the second film.

7.  WAS METICULOUS CARE GIVEN TO PHYSICAL DETAIL OF SCENERY, MECHANICS, ETC.?  Not really.  For instance, Palmer felt that the Christ on Eloheim’s left scene was circumstantial and fortuitous–not at all planned.  He felt that the worst physical mistake of the second film was the plastic seam which may be seen on the apple.  Other than this flaw, the casting, spacing, and editing was excellent.  Of course the most meticulous care was given to the words said by the characters.

8.  WHY HAS THE SECOND FILM NOT YET BEEN PHASED OUT COMPLETELY?  Palmer has wondered the same thing.  Harold Clark, former President of the Provo Temple told Palmer once that he knew the reason:  too many people from ‘Salt Lake’ and other temple goers have commented that they like the second one better than the third film.  Of course, Whitaker had nothing to do with the third film, so the multitudinous casting errors of #3 were not his fault.”  

(Gary Bergera interview with Spencer Palmer, 1 Aug., 1979)

Nov.:  Restoration of blessings now by any GA.

“Excommunicated persons who have been baptized and who were previously endowed can only receive their priesthood and temple blessings through the ordinance of restoration of blessings performed by a General Authority who has been authorized to act by the President of the Church.”  [GHI-1976 said it had to be 1st Presidency or 12.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 10)

Nov.:  Temple sealings following excommunication.

“If an excommunicated person has been sealed to a spouse in the temple before being excommunicated, the act of excommunication does not automatically cancel that sealing, but places it in a state of suspension.  If cancellation is requested, it must be handled separately according to established procedure.

Any children born to excommunicated persons after the excommunication are not born in the covenant.  These children must be sealed to their parents after blessings have been restored or after the parents have been sealed to each other in the temple.

If a person who has been sealed to a spouse is divorced because of adultery and then marries the individual with whom he transgressed, no sealing can take place unless it is authorized by the President of the Church.”  [This used to be prohibited under any circumstances.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 10)

15 Dec.:  Two-piece garments authorized.   

“After due consideration the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have approved and authorized the Beehive Clothing Mills to manufacture two-piece garments for both men and women.  These garments will be in addition to the one-piece garments.  Distribution will be handled by the Relief Society through normal channels starting as soon as inventories can be made available which is now estimated to be around February 15.  The total price for both pieces will be about the same as the price for the one-piece garment.

As is now the case, each person who wears the garment is answerable to the Lord for properly wearing and caring for it.

Announcements in the ward or branch may be made by the bishop or branch president in Relief Society and Priesthood gatherings any time after January 1, 1980.”  (First Presidency Circular Letter, 15 Dec., 1979)