Thursday, October 7, 2010

Temple Memories -- Washington DC

Fourth in a series of Temple Memories, inspired by the new Temples booklet which came as the October Ensign.

I was in high school when the Washington DC Temple was dedicated. Along with other primary children, I'd contributed change to help fund its building. I did not attend the dedication itself because of school conflicts, but I went within the year on my only trip to do baptisms for the dead.

My sisters and I made the five-hour drive with a family group sheet that included our grandparents as parents. We had misunderstood the policy and believed that we could bring that family group record to the temple and do the baptisms without having the names cleared first. I think it hurt the poor sister in the baptistery to tell us we couldn't do the baptisms than it hurt us. She did mention, however, that there was another group coming to do baptisms, and perhaps we could join them. We did join them.

I don't remember anything about the group, but I do remember the experience of being baptized multiple times, and of the repeated confirmations. The temple worker who performed the confirmations spoke very quickly as he said the prayer and read the names. On just one of the names he stumbled, and the whole process was over almost before it began. As I stood up to leave he told me that he wondered if when he stumbled on a name if it meant that person was not ready to accept the baptism and confirmation that had just been performed. I didn't answer him and thought to myself that maybe he'd just stumbled on the name because sometimes that happens. But I allowed for the fact that I didn't have any evidence either way, so perhaps he could be right.

I returned to the Washington DC Temple almost ten years later. Living again in Pittsburgh for graduate school brought us back to that temple district. Attending was not simple, since it meant sorting out child care, overnight arrangements and paying for the trip (we were hungry grad students, after all!). Fortunately my wife had an aunt in the area who was a great help on some of our trips.

On one occasion, in response to an invitation from our bishop, we prepared for a ward temple trip. The idea was that every ward member should somehow participate – preparing names, attending sessions, doing baptisms, or providing other service to allow others to participate. He encouraged me to invite my parents, who had since moved from that ward, to come with us.

I prepared names for my father's aunts and uncles and their parents and submitted them. On our day in the temple, baptisms were performed, we and other ward members did endowment work, and then at the end of the day, my parents, my sister, my wife and I found ourselves in a small sealing room where we sealed those aunts and uncles to their parents. Aside from my own sealing to my parents and my sealing to my wife, it was one of the choicest experiences I've had in the temple. My father, who knew these aunts and uncles when he was a boy, said he imagined his aunt Ethyl in the room embracing each of her siblings after his or her sealing to their parents. Through the experience we felt such a closeness to my father's grandmother Annie that we chose that name for our oldest daughter. And that tie to her has propelled us to do more research and more temple work on her line since.

On that day in the temple, my heart was turned not only to my "fathers" – the ancestors whose work we did, but also to my own father who was there in the room with me. I felt a spiritual closeness to him that new to me, and it was quite a gift in my life. Though he was ever faithful since his conversion to the gospel, he did not speak easily about spiritual things, but his sharing his vision of his Aunt Ethyl in that sacred place was a treasure.

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