“Why didn’t you call me? You could have come with us!” My neighbor’s face was furrowed with concern, and mine was furrowed with confusion. It took me a moment to figure out what she was referring too—ward temple night. I had seen her, and many members of the ward, when we met together on Friday night to do a session at the temple. Flustered by her concern, I stumbled over my response: “I came straight from work; no, actually I picked up someone else and brought her but her husband took her home; um, well, I always go by myself.” She sighed and walked off down the hallway of the church, as baffled by my reaction to her concern as I was by her attempt to reach out to me. You see, I always go to the temple by myself. In fact, I prefer to attend alone and had almost not gone to ward temple night. I debated going for weeks beforehand, and I’m still not sure why I feel so uncomfortable being in the temple with people I know.
My first experiences with the temple were mostly solitary. I received my mission call in early May but did not need to report to the MTC until the end of August. My stake president counseled me to receive my endowment right away and attend the temple often before leaving on my mission. At the time my family was living in Maryland and it could take up to two hours in traffic to reach the Washington, DC temple. I still made a goal to attend once a week and managed to make it to the temple multiple times before entering the MTC. I would leave after work, fighting the traffic in my little un-airconditioned, stick-shift car—windows down to catch a bit of breeze and radio off to avoid distraction. I usually arrived at the temple a hot, sticky, stressed-out mess, but after a quick change in the lobby bathroom I felt presentable again. Two hours later I emerged from the temple into the cool evening air, at peace on the inside and outside.
After my mission I moved back to Utah and began dating a former elder from my mission. I enjoyed attending the temple with him, both before our marriage and after. Unfortunately, a short time after we got married, he stopped attending for a variety of reasons. I was back to going to the temple by myself, and for the most part I enjoy my own solitary retreat from the rest of the world. Sometimes I will go with a friend or two but I generally like the chance to be alone with my thoughts and the Spirit. When my marriage crumbled, I found strength and refuge in the individual covenants I had made in the temple. While there are some aspects of the temple ceremony that I am still pondering and making peace with, I will never deny the real power and love of God that I have felt poured out upon me while I am there.
However, I have talked to some other women who rarely attend the temple alone, or who feel like they can’t go without a friend or a spouse. Some of my friends have told me that the emphasis in the youth program on temple marriage, combined with their receiving their endowment shortly before their wedding, made it difficult for them to see the blessings of the temple for themselves as an individual. I think that one blessing of the lowered missionary age for women, and the subsequent increase in the number of sister missionaries, will be a greater emphasis on individual temple covenant making and temple attendance. I don’t say that to diminish the temple sealing ceremony in any way—marriage in the temple is still a crowning ordinance and a goal I still have for myself. But sometimes I worry that our emphasis on temple weddings means a lack of preparation for the endowment that comes prior to that wedding and that will be the focus of years of temple attendance after marriage. I am grateful that I had a solid foundation of temple attendance before my marriage because it made it easier to keep going once I no longer had a husband who shared my beliefs. I wouldn’t mind having a husband to go to the temple with again someday, but right now I really am all right with going alone.
What do you think? Do you prefer to attend the temple alone or with friends and/or family? What is the best way to teach our youth about the significance of the temple and the importance of life-long attendance?