A couple posts ago I mentioned that we spent a family day at the Mt. Timpanogos temple. February 14th, Valentine's Day, was exactly one year and one day after my Gram passed away.
Top: cousin Shawn Montmeny, cousin-in-law Jenn Pilch, cousin Josh Pilch, brother Don Garlitz, brother-in-law Zen Allred. Bottom: sister Becky Allred, mom Lois Ann Garlitz, aunt Jane Montmeny, aunt Elizabeth Cox, me. Not pictured: sister-in-law Lora Garlitz and niece Rachel Garlitz.
In the Mormon faith, we believe that families can be together forever, that marriages can last beyond "till death do us part." Special ceremonies are performed in our temples to seal a couple for time (earth life) and eternity (to infinity and beyond). Some people, like Dan and I, are sealed at the time of marriage. Others may get sealed later in marriage after learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ or after becoming worthy to attend the temple. Still others do not participate in the ordinances of the temple at all during their time on earth.
My Gram and Grandad Cox were both such genuinely good people. They believed in God and worshipped him in different ways, but even more significant than that was the hard work, respect, and goodness they showed to everyone. They were not members of the LDS church. They knew about it, as their three daughters all joined in the 1960's and have remained active throughout their lives, but neither Gram nor Grandad embraced it.
So how do I reconcile the fact that I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's church and that it provides a straight and narrow path back to God, with the fact that there are tons of good people who do not share that belief? The beauty of God's plan is that we all have the freedom to choose what makes sense to us. God understands each of our hearts and minds and He knows why we make the choices we make. While I acknowledge that God has requirements for us to live with Him again, I just cannot imagine that He would withhold any blessings from people who live a life of integrity, of being moral and true to what they believe.
The apostle Paul spoke of performing vicarious work for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29) in the bible. While this concept may seem strange and foreign to many, I find it to be one of the most beautiful parts of the gospel, something that bears great witness to the love God has for us. Should anyone be denied the opportunity to receive all of God's blessings just because they never heard of or believed in Jesus Christ, or eternal marriage, or they did not understand it during their earth life? No. He wants us all to have the opportunity to partake of His greatest blessings.
This is where the temple comes in. I believe that there is life after this one, a life full of learning and discovering our true nature and potential, and knowing the Father from whence we came. For those who do not receive the ordinances performed in the temple while they live on this earth, they can enjoy those blessings, if they so desire, as long as someone living performs that work for them by proxy in the temple. Not all will accept the ordinances performed for them. God will never take our agency from us. But as mortals, who are we to decide whether someone will want the work done for them or not? Some may reject the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ during their life, but we know little of heaven and how our minds will be opened once we are there. Some will desire to embrace it fully; others will feel the same as they did when they were alive. Who knows, and who knows how long the learning process is? Time to us is so finite, but to God, there is no time.
As a family, we wanted to make the blessings of the temple available to Gram and Grandad. There has to be a minimum of one year pass after someone's death before their temple work can be performed. Grandad died in 1990 and his temple work was performed in 1997. It is customary to have the permission of living relatives before performing vicarious work in the temple, and Gram supported us in taking Don's name through for his individual ordinances. One cannot know another's heart, why Gram would let us perform the work for Grandad, but not accept the gospel herself. But her comment to my mom was, "I'll have to wait and talk to Don about it."
Aunt Jane, Aunt Liz, Gram, and Mom outside the Mt. Timpanogos Temple on September 9, 1997 after Don's endowment was performed. Notice Gram is holding a Snickers bar, Grandad's favorite snack which he called a "shade break".
When Gram passed away, the three sisters determined that they would take her name through the temple the following Valentine's Day. It was somewhat symbolic that Gram died the day before Valentine's Day; she just didn't want to spend another year without her sweetheart. Gram and Grandad were so devoted to each other.
Don and Jeanette Cox's wedding day, May 31, 1942 at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Gram and Grandad, sometime in the 80's.
Our day in the temple was beautiful. For some, the concept of eternal marriage seems like a great big ball and chain, but I think for Gram and Grandad, it is something that they likely looked forward to with great anticipation. I got to be the proxy for Gram during the sealing and my brother Don was the proxy for Grandad, his namesake. There was a great feeling of peace and gratitude when the sealing was performed.
My favorite part of the day was before the sealing. The rest of the family went through the endowment session earlier in the morning while I stayed home to supervise the kids and nurse Mackay. I arrived before everyone else was finished with the endowment session, so I got to sit in the sealing room all alone for about 15 minutes. It was so peaceful and I was able to think a lot about Gram and Grandad, about my own sealing, and about God's love for all of us.
This is a picture of a sealing room in the recently completed Draper, Utah Temple. It's not identical to the one at Mt. Timpanogos, but similar, with an altar where you kneel to perform the sealing and two large mirrors mounted on opposing walls so you can look into eternity. Every temple has an open house before it is dedicated, where the temple is open to the public for viewing and anyone can attend. If you want to see more pictures of the Draper Temple, click here.
My Aunt Liz loves to go all-out for a party and she always has something clever to contribute. She made little heart tags for everyone to commemorate Gram and Grandad's sealing and the three daughters being sealed to their parents.
Together is the best place to be.