The first time I went to the temple I felt the Spirit. And I was also baffled. Stumped. Confused that the big mystery of temple worship was at once more simple and far more complicated than I had ever imagined.
I returned as often as I could before my mission and tried to figure out all the different layers of symbolism at once. This did not work. I returned after my mission and tried to figure out one thing at a time. Sometimes I would get a new flash of insight. Sometimes not.
As I became busier and less able to attend with the frequency I wanted, when I returned I tried to just feel the Spirit and receive revelation for needs in my life right then. This frequently succeeded. To feel the Spirit in the temple I had to take on faith that the endowment was real, and let it wash over me, absorbing what I could.
After over twenty years of attending the temple, I still don’t get it all. Or maybe I should say instead, I am still learning. But I want to share three ways that I have found myself in the temple.
You will not be with your students or your own children at the time of their temptations. At those dangerous moments they must depend on their own resources. If they can locate themselves within the framework of the gospel plan, they will be immensely strengthened.
I love this. Once I began to see the endowment through the lens of the Plan of Happiness, it made more sense to me. As I wrote in that post,
“every time I think the Plan is too easy, that I’ve heard it since Primary, I step back and find more depth there.”
2-The temple locates me in the context of the House of Israel and the Abrahamic Covenant
As President Nelson began to emphasize the gathering of Israel, and our role in that gathering, I felt a little… I don’t know. Embarrassed is perhaps not the right word. All the stuff about Israel seemed distant to me, and vaguely weird. Why do we need to believe that, when we could focus on a basic love your neighbor sort of gospel, which is much more user friendly and less hard to explain? Why does gathering scattered Israel need to be a thing we actively discuss, instead of a sort of quiet byproduct of Good Things We Are Already Doing?
And yet, rereading the Book of Mormon I’ve been paying more attention to the phrases “the House of Israel” and “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” which are repeated over and over. God has not forgotten His covenant with the House of Israel. And me, I’m a part of it too. President Nelson says:
That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. . . . When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
The more I ponder this the more humbled I become–in the latter days temple ordinances are available to every worthy member, as opposed to anciently, when they were available to prophets. I am part of the House of Israel, part of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Temples both place me in the context of those ancient and eternal blessings, and give me the opportunity to gather Israel on both sides of the veil.
3-The temple locates me in the context of my earthly and eternal family
This last one is painful, because earthly families are messy and challenging and hard. I almost don’t want to mention it, because I know so many people who are hurting. It hurts when spouses or children don’t keep covenants, and it hurts when you’re not able to be sealed in the first place, for so many reasons.
I have to acknowledge the pain.
I also need to witness my own truth, my own lived experience: I felt complete joy and peace kneeling opposite my husband on our sealing day. I feel that same joy performing sealings for family names. I don’t understand it, but I trust that the joy is real, that it is now and will eternally be more real than any earthly pain or loss.
I will continue to return to the temple, to find myself in the Plan of Happiness, in the House of Israel, and in my own earthly and eternal family.
How have you found yourself in the temple?