Thursday, June 7, 2012

A new endowment on the twin-tracked roller coaster of my life

Last weekend was delightful. My daughter was endowed, her next step in preparing to enter the MTC in just about a month.

Last weekend was awful. My 15-year-old son announced (again) that he no longer wants to attend church, that he does not believe.

I remember a year and a half ago when my oldest daughter was endowed. En route to the temple we learned another of our children was in the middle of a situation that we could neither prevent nor mitigate, but that has resulted in significant issues for him and for our family.

I remember the day of my own endowment. I went alone to the Provo Temple (well, not really alone; I was with my freshman roommate from BYU; we were both entering the MTC in a day or two). My parents were half a world away living in Nigeria (where my dad was on a foreign assignment for work). It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that he might have actually wanted to be with me on that special day, and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might have wanted to be with him, either. But upon reflection, I realize that conditions were not ideal.

I remember the week our family was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. It was just under a year from our baptism, and we drove the 1,800 miles to Salt Lake straight through. As we arrived in “the valley,” there were no roses blooming beneath our feet, and there seemed to be little love in that old blue station wagon; exhaustion fed bickering and sniping in the car.

They say that when someone goes to the temple that the adversary does what he can to disrupt the day. And I suppose that is true, though I suspect the adversary plants the seeds of destruction early and cares for them over time, rather than just trying to fowl things up on the big day. (That said, I have read a history of the Logan Temple, written for its centennial, which reported that early settlers of Cache Valley sai that they did better at getting to the temple if they didn’t announce their plans out loud. If they announced their plans, farm machinery seemed to break or cattle got out of pens and prevented attendance on the intended day. If they simply laid down their tools and went, they seemed to get there more easily.)

I don’t know why my life seems to be on diverging tracks of a roller coaster some days. Except for this: there must needs be opposition in all things. And the Savior has already descended below everything that I might endure in my life. It seems there needs to be that equal and opposite force in our lives. And the adversity of this life works for my experience.

And I know this: the peace that I feel in the temple –- from that first visit before I was 10, to my own endowment, to attending with my daughters for their endowments –- is real. And it is at the heart of my testimony of the gospel, come what may.

For some, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. If the Book of Mormon is true, they say, then Joseph was a prophet and the church is true. That is not my calculus, but I understand how some people make that connection.

For me, the calculus is similar, but different. The temple represents, according to President Hunter, the supreme mortal experience:

Let us truly be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. We should hasten to the temple as frequently, yet prudently, as our personal circumstances allow. We should go not only for our kindred dead but also for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety that are within those hallowed and consecrated walls. As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience (“A Temple Motivated People,” Ensign, February 1995).
Elsewhere, he taught that the temple is the great symbol of our membership in the church.

I have had enough spiritual experiences there to know for myself of the divine influence of that ritual. I have shared some of those experiences with a select few people in my life. Some I have shared with no one. But because of what I have felt and experienced in the temple, I can comfortably speak of knowing its divine roots and impact.

Like President Hunter, I wish that all members – especially my children -- might find the peace of the temple that I have found, and yet I know not everyone will (not even everyone who attends the temple will). And so I also hope that in His grand design, the Lord can sort this out in the eternities. And that hope is borne by my faith that He will.

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