Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I go to the Temple

It's been about 6 months since I've been to the temple. My recommend expired at the end of March, I didn't get it renewed until June, and then I just let summer get in the way. I've never been real consistent about my temple attendance. I like to think of myself as a temple-loving saint, but our impressions of who we are are often skewed by our intentions rather than our actions.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Our temple district is the Logan, UT Temple and it's about an hour and 45 minute drive from Cokeville. In all my married life, this is the farthest I've ever lived from a temple, even when we lived in Virginia. So I have that excuse, but honestly I only made it 2 or 3 times a year even when we lived close to a temple. I also use the excuse that it's hard to get a babysitter for 3 kids for what turns out to be an all-day affair. It's not high on the priority list as a couple activity with Dan, someday I hope it will be, but for now if we have a day where we can spend a significant amount of time together and pay for a babysitter, we choose different activities. Sad, but true.

I have been going solo for quite some time and because of the time commitment involved to go to Logan (2 hour session and 3 1/2 hours of driving, plus usually some shopping while I'm in the "big city") I've opted to just go to the temple when I am visiting my Mom and I can leave the kids with her. This was my first time attending the Logan Temple, my "home" temple, and I went away from it with a few epiphanies, especially in light of the post I put up yesterday.

The prophet and our local leaders urge us to attend the temple at least once a month, more if possible. And yet, it is one of God's instructions that I have a hard time following. Why is the temple so important? What is it about regular temple worship that makes all those old couples who work in the temple bear such strong testimony of its importance?

I've had some wonderful experiences in the temple. My very favorite temple memory is from when I was a newlywed. Dan and I were stake missionaries out in Falls Church, VA and I often went out on splits with the sister missionaries. One week they invited me to join them in a mission-wide (or maybe it was just a zone-wide) temple day at the Washington D.C. Temple. As usual, I was running late and missed the session that the sisters were in, caught the next one 30 minutes later. I figured I had missed everyone, but after completing the endowment session and rounding the corner into the Celestial Room, I was greeted by the most amazing sight. The room was absolutely jam packed with people in white, all smiling, the room aflutter with positive energy and joy. My favorite missionary, Sister Bolingbroke saw me and rushed to give me a giant hug and I was immediately struck by the thought, "This is what it's going to be like on the other side." Joyful faces, clothed in white, rushing to welcome you to the most serene place you could ever imagine.

But to be perfectly honest, the majority of my experiences in the temple are not as memorable. The endowment session is a place of instruction where you are taught about the creation, about your purpose on earth and in the next life, and where you make covenants to live a clean and Christ-devoted life. Because it is essentially a classroom, there is a lot of repetition and it is narrated by a single voice. Part of the endowment is a video presentation and I gotta be honest. You put me in a soft chair and turn down the lights, chances are I'm gonna need some toothpicks to keep my eyes open. No matter how much sleep I've gotten prior to going to the temple, I always struggle to stay awake. Which sometimes leads to guilt "I am not doing justice to this experience for the person for whom I am standing as proxy" or shame as I catch myself doing the head jerk and hope no one noticed. Sometimes I come away wondering if it did any good to go and doze off through any part of it.

But you know what? I have never regretted going. Not once. The information taught there has great value, of eternal consequence. And while I've heard it all before and I have a decent enough memory I could likely recall all the things I learned there without going for awhile, I never want to forget. I always want to be prepared to meet God and have the confidence that I can answer the inquiries from the angels who stand as sentinels to God's kingdom.

I often gain some kind of insight or wisdom as I listen to the familiar words with new ears. And sometimes it doesn't strike me until a day or two later, sometimes weeks later, but I usually find something that applies to my current challenges, some kind of direction or comfort that helps me as I strive to be a more complete person. But there are also times in my life when I'm not particularly seeking for anything when I go to the temple and I may not receive any great insights, but I still enjoy the quiet, the sense of being in a cocoon, a sanctuary away from the world. And that has tremendous value.

But you know one of the biggest reasons I keep going to the temple? To be obedient. Plain and simple. There is a peace found in doing what God asks you to, even if you don't have the vision to see all that He wants you to see at that time. We ebb and flow in our spirituality and in our sensitivity to the Spirit and sometimes we just aren't "feelin' it" in that department. But the Lord wants us to continue, to press forward, to strive even when we aren't in the mood. That's the whole idea behind enduring.

Because I want to be a doer and not just a hearer of the Word, I am committing anew to make temple worship a priority. Because of this busy time in my life, with small children requiring a great deal of my time, the best I am aiming for right now is to attend monthly. And perhaps sometimes I will not do an endowment session, but do some sealings or other ordinances which require less time. But I want to make it a priority in my life.

As I was setting up the link about temples at the top of this post, I was so impressed at how clearly and succinctly the Church's website conveys all that I believe about the temple. I have a rock solid testimony that it is the most divine place on earth and that every person alive, no matter where you are in your current life, should strive to get there. The explanation of the temple bears sharing here:

Why These Temples?
by President Gordon B. Hinckley

Was there ever a man or woman who, in a time of quiet introspection, has not pondered the solemn mysteries of life?

Has he or she not asked, "Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my relationship to my Maker? Will death rob me of the treasured associations of life? What of my family? Will there be another existence after this, and, if so, will we know one another there?"

The answers to these questions are not found in the wisdom of the world. They are found only in the revealed word of God. Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sacred structures in which these and other eternal questions are answered. Each is dedicated as a house of the Lord, a place of holiness and peace shut apart from the world. There truths are taught and ordinances are performed that bring knowledge of things eternal and motivate the participants to live with an understanding of our divine inheritance as children of God and an awareness of our potential as eternal beings.

These buildings, different from the thousands of regular Church houses of worship scattered over the earth, are unique in purpose and function from all other religious edifices. It is not the size of these buildings or their architectural beauty that makes them so. It is the work that goes on within their walls.

The designation of certain buildings for special ordinances, as distinguished from regular places of worship, is not new. This was the practice in ancient Israel, where the people worshiped regularly in the synagogues. Their more sacred place was, first, the tabernacle in the wilderness with its Holy of Holies, and then a succession of temples, where special ordinances were performed and where only those who met the required qualifications could participate in these ordinances.

So it is today. Prior to the dedication of a temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites the public to go through the building and inspect its various facilities. But when it is dedicated it becomes the house of the Lord, vested with a character so sacred that only members of the Church in good standing are permitted to enter. It is not a matter of secrecy. It is a matter of sanctity.

The work that goes on in these buildings sets forth God's eternal purposes with reference to man—God's child and creation. For the most part, temple work is concerned with the family, with each of us as members of God's eternal family and with each of us as members of earthly families. It is concerned with the sanctity and eternal nature of the marriage covenant and family relationships.

It affirms that each man and woman born into the world is a child of God, endowed with something of His divine nature. The repetition of these basic and fundamental teachings has a salutary effect upon those who receive them, for as the doctrine is enunciated in language both beautiful and impressive, the participant comes to realize that since every man and woman is a child of Heavenly Father, then each is a member of a divine family; hence, every person is his brother or sister.

When asked by the scribe, "Which is the first commandment of all?" the Savior replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

"And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Mark 12:28, 30–31).

The teachings set forth in modern temples give powerful emphasis to this most fundamental concept of our duty to our Maker and to our neighbors. Sacred ordinances amplify this ennobling philosophy of the family of God. They teach that the spirit within each of us is eternal, in contrast with the body, which is mortal. They not only give understanding of these great truths but also motivate the participant to love of God and encourage him to demonstrate a greater neighborliness toward others of our Father's children.

Accepting the premise that each is a child of God helps us see that there is divine purpose in mortal life. Here again, revealed truth is taught in the house of the Lord. Earth life is part of an eternal journey. We lived as spirit children before we came here. The scriptures bear testimony of this. Witness the word of the Lord to Jeremiah: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).

We come into this life as children of mortal parents and as members of families. Parents are partners with God in bringing to pass His eternal purposes with reference to His children. The family, therefore, is a divine institution, the most important both in mortality and in eternity.

Much of the work that goes on within temples is concerned with the family. Basic to an understanding of its meaning is recognition of the fact that even as we existed as children of God before we were born into this world, so also shall we continue to live after death, and the treasured and satisfying relationships of mortality, the most beautiful and meaningful of which are found in the family, may continue in the world to come.

Marriage partners who come to the house of the Lord and partake of its blessings are joined not only for the period of their mortal lives but for all eternity. They are bound together under authority not only of the law of the land that joins them until death but also through the eternal priesthood of God, which binds in heaven that which is bound on earth. The couple so married has the assurance of divine revelation that their relationship and that of their children will not end with death but will continue in eternity, provided they live worthy of that blessing.

Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that their relationship might continue beyond the grave? Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not long for the assurance that their loved one would again be theirs in a world to come? Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it.

But all of this would appear to be unfair indeed if the blessings of these ordinances were available only to those who are now members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fact is that the opportunity to come into the temple and partake of its blessings is open to all who will accept the gospel and be baptized into the Church. For this reason, the Church carries forward an extensive missionary program in much of the world and will continue to expand this program as widely as possible, for it has the responsibility, under divine revelation, to teach the gospel to "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people."

But there are uncounted millions who have walked the earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered in the temples of the Lord?

Through living proxies who stand in behalf of the dead, the same ordinances are available to those who have passed from mortality. In the spirit world these same individuals are then free to accept or reject those earthly ordinances performed for them, including baptism, marriage, and the sealing of family relationships. There's no compulsion in the work of the Lord, but there must be opportunity.

This vicarious work constitutes an unprecedented labor of love on the part of the living in behalf of the dead. It makes necessary a vast undertaking of family history research to find and identify those who have gone before. To assist in this research, the Church coordinates a family history program and maintains research facilities unmatched in all the world. Its archives are open to the public and have been used by many who are not members of the Church in tracing their forebears. This program has been praised by genealogists throughout the world and has been utilized by various nations as a safeguard of their own records. But its primary purpose is to afford members of the Church the resources needed to identify their ancestors that they might extend to them the blessings that they themselves enjoy. They in effect say to themselves, "If I love my wife and children so dearly that I want them for all eternity, then should not my deceased grandfather and great-grandfather and other forebears have opportunity to receive the same eternal blessings?"

And so these sacred buildings are scenes of tremendous activity, quietly and reverently carried forward. They call to mind a part of the vision of John the Revelator wherein are recorded this question and this answer: "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? . . .

"These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

"Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple" (Revelation 7:13–15).

Those who come to these holy houses are arrayed in white as they participate therein. They come only on recommendation of their local ecclesiastical authorities, having been certified as to their worthiness. They are expected to come clean in thought, clean in body, and clean in dress to enter the temple of God. As they enter they are expected to leave the world behind them and concentrate on things divine.

This very exercise, if such it may be called, carries with it a reward of its own, for who in these times of stress would not welcome an opportunity to shut out the world and enter into the Lord's house, there to ponder quietly the eternal things of God? These sacred precincts offer the opportunity, available nowhere else, to learn of and reflect on the truly meaningful things of life—our relationship to Deity and our eternal journey from a premortal state into this life and on to a future estate where we shall know and associate one with another, including our own loved ones and our forebears who have preceded us and from whom has come our inheritance of things of the body, mind, and spirit.

Surely these temples are unique among all buildings. They are houses of instruction. They are places of covenants and promises. At their altars we kneel before God our Creator and are given promise of His everlasting blessings. In the sanctity of their appointments we commune with Him and reflect on His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who served as proxy for each of us in a vicarious sacrifice in our behalf. Here we set aside our own selfishness and serve for those who cannot serve themselves. Here, under the true priesthood power of God, we are bound together in the most sacred of all human relationships—as husbands and wives, as children and parents, as families under a sealing that time cannot destroy and death cannot disrupt.

These sacred buildings were constructed even during those dark years when the Latter-day Saints were relentlessly driven and persecuted. They have been built and maintained in times of poverty and prosperity. They come from the vital faith of an ever-growing number who bear witness of a living God, of the resurrected Lord, of prophets and divine revelation, and of the peace and assurance of eternal blessings to be found only in the house of the Lord.


Becky in Wyo said...

Thank you, my dear Susie. That was a beautiful post, and a wonderful talk by President Hinckley. I had just a beautiful experience when I went to the temple last week. I was more spiritually prepared than I have been in a really, really long time, and I felt the Spirit very strongly that morning. I had this overwhelming feeling that Heavenly Father was pleased with my effort, that my life is heading in a good direction, and that being in the temple was the best place to be.

When we go to Utah in a few weeks for Katie's reception, we should all go to a session together.

Gwen said...

I've had that same feeling walking into the celestial room. I was at the tail end, and so when I came in, all of the friends and family were there! I know just what you mean. Thanks for your post, if you don't mind, I'd like to link it to my "temple blog". Let me know.

Sue said...

Sure, Gwen. Link away!

The Dragonfly said...

Having just come off the end of a "year of baby", my temple attendance was severely lacking. But in the past three months I have been able to go three times, and I can tell you that for me, all the reasons you listed are true, specifically obedience, but mostly it's about having the peaceful, sanctuary that the temple gives for me to seriously think about my life's worries and struggles and then take them in that holy place to the Lord for help, review, advice and love. I always . . . ALWAYS leave the temple feeling so loved by Heavenly Father.

Angie & Willy said...

I love this post Sue. Beautiful, genuine insight. For the first time in my life (well, except for when I was on my mission) I live somewhere that there isn't an operating temple within half an hour of my home. I didn't realize how much I'd miss it. We've manged to make our way to the Kona temple twice while the Laie one is under reconstruction and after that extra challenge of travel to attend the temple, I do feel committed to going more regularly once our temple re-opens at the end of the year. I'm especially excited that my whole family will get to go to the Open House together and that two of my children are old enough to participate in the dedication. Exciting times!

Lori Gerten said...

One of the many reasons I admire you is your faith in the Lord. You have inspired me to be more thoughtful about my actions in everyday life. Thanks for sharing about your Temple experience.