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Oct. 18th, 2009 at 12:17 pm
I haven’t been to the temple since January 2008. Bill and I quarreled because he wanted to eat dinner with his pals at Golden Corral and I’d been looking forward to a date night and dinner at Olive Garden. It wasn’t very fun, let me tell you. The beginning of a bad year for our marriage. I never lost my recommend, I didn’t use it. I was angry—at my husband, the church, and the world.
Things are better now. Not perfect, I don’t like my attitude, still, but I’m working on it. I never lost my testimony, I lost my spirit. Bill and I are planning a temple trip next week and have made a goal of regular attendance. This has proved to be dangerous in the past because Satan (I believes) uses these opportunities to sow contention in our home and often we’ve cancelled the trips because we’re not speaking. We finally just decided to go no matter what and that helped. Now, though, it’s a whole new ball game.
The temple has figured largely in my life, even when I had no idea what happened there or of the deep meaning of the covenants and lessons of the temple. I revered people who had been to the temple and somehow figured they had an “in” with God that the rest of us commoners did not. I thought they’d probably seen God face to face, that they were more perfect. I felt inferior to people who’d been to the temple. I thought I could never possibly be that good. I could have said righteous or worthy, but those words weren’t even part of my vocabulary back in the day. “Good” pretty much said it all.
My first temple visit was a complete disappointment. I’ve written before about my expectation of visiting the spirit world or seeing God or at least an angel and surely–surely, I would see my deceased husband and son. As I sat in the veil room, I believed with all my heart that I was going to temporarily visit the Celestial Kingdom. I thought I was going to be beamed up.
What a gyp. First, the temple was being closed for remodeling and it was swamped. The matron who was helping me was rushed and short with me. No joy there. Then, what? I didn’t see any dead people? And what was all this other stuff that made me feel uncomfortable?
I never said a word to the friends who’d accompanied me from Nevada or to my husband’s grandparents, temple workers who lived across the street from the temple. I was very quiet and wondering if I’d made a mistake. I sure didn’t feel any special spirit. Frankly, somebody—a lot of somebodies, including myself—fell down on the job when preparing me for the temple experience.
I went again. And again. And educated myself. That was in May 1974, just six months to the day that my husband had drowned and I’d done a 180—eschewing alcohol and loud obscenity-laden speech for a more righteous lifestyle.
I went to the temple in Manti with the grandparents to have David’s temple work done, six months later, and was married for a second time (a brief horrible mistake) in the temple. By then, I knew that those of us with recommends were no better than those without, except for our promise to live better lives and to commit our lives to service of the Lord. There was something cleansing about the promises I made, the many times I went back for the dead.
As a young single mother, I attended the temple every month. It was easy, then. I had time and I enjoyed my service there.
When Bill and I married, it seemed like the whole town of Cedar City came. That was in the days when they let a lot of people come. We were married first for time, because I was still sealed to my second husband. The love and joy in that room the day we took our vows was palpable. It was probably the happiest day of my life. Bill’s father-in-law, his former wife’s dad, was a sealer in the temple and he attended our wedding, tears covering his face. Bill hugged him after and his body shook with sobs, revealing the terrible anguish he felt that his daughter had abandoned her covenants and he’d lost the son-in-law he cherished. We stayed in touch with them until their deaths and included them always in our lives.
There were busy years, raising our kids, temple trips with carloads of other married people in our ward, going out to Sizzler or the hamburger place in St. George after, laughing and talking all the way. Sometimes I went to the temple with a heartache, seeking peace and answers to my prayers. I loved that moment when I stepped through the door of the temple and it felt like the weight of the world fell from my shoulders. One time, I went with two friends and we determined to do three sessions in one day. The first was pretty easy, the second, I sort of dozed through. We had lunch and went back and that experience was one of the most uplifting experiences in my life. I literally felt like I was floating. We all noticed the extra spiritual boost we got and felt closer to each other and to our God.
I ached to have a baby with Bill and was convinced there was a little girl waiting to be in our family. Once, at the temple, I could literally feel her joyous spirit dancing around me, begging to come and I had to say “Work on your dad, hon.” I believe that spirit was my Sarah, our Princess Buttgold.
Then James died. Boy, what a deal breaker that was for me. God was on my *** list big time, for a long time. I went to the temple, though. Any pain I’d previously felt at life’s trials was miniscule compared to that agony. I flew to Washington state alone on October 1, 1992, exactly one year after James died, to visit the military base where he’d died and attempt to get answers to my questions. I was afraid and traumatized. I had decided to spend that day in the Seattle, Washington temple (it’s really outside of Seattle, but close). I stayed in a nice little motel where they gave special rates to LDS temple-goers and felt a comfort there, homey and welcoming.
The Seattle temple grounds are beautiful, woodsy and green, almost like what you’d expect around a mountain cabin. As I entered, a sister came up to me and asked if I would be able to do initiatory work because they needed extra help. I agreed—I hadn’t done anything like that since that first time in the temple in 1974, so I couldn’t remember what it entailed, but I was agreeable that day. :)
Wow. I’d been beating myself up so badly that last year, remembering with terrible clarity the many mistakes I’d made with my son, the rages, everything that I could have done that had driven him to suicide. And here I was with lovely women in white, softly murmuring beautiful prayers of forgiveness and redemption, touching my body with feathery motions that comforted me in ways I’d never experienced. I began to weep, silently. They didn’t comment, we just did the initiatory work for hours in that place of peace. I’d forgotten what it was like, the initiatory.
God blessed me that day, surely. It couldn’t have been coincidental.
Later, I volunteered for a year in the kitchen of the St. George Temple. Maybe it wasn’t a whole year, I recall having to quit because I didn’t have the energy for the drive. But I did drive down regularly every Wednesday for awhile and learned about a whole other aspect of temple service. What I loved about that experience was associating with the people who ran and worked in the kitchen—their energy, enthusiasm and love of the Lord. Really good food! And we prayed every day before we started.
I waited to have James’ temple work done so that his friend could be the proxy. James had a lot of friends, but there were four neighbor boys who he was especially close to. Two fell away after he died, one never did graduate from high school and has had problems with the law. One joined the Marine Corps, working his way up until he was a drill sargeant in San Diego; he’s made the Marines his career. The other two boys have stayed active, served missions and married in the temple to darling girls.
I asked the one who went on the mission first to do James’ temple work. We drove down, he, his mother and I, (me?) and it was a wonderful day. I didn’t say anything, but I hoped he would want to be in the prayer circle. And he did! He stood and I felt I was doing that with my son that day. How grateful I am to that boy for his righteous decisions.
All the ups and downs of my life since 1973 are reflected in my temple attendance. And now, next week, hopefully! (pray for us LOL) we will go back again after a year and a half. An excrutiating time for our marriage. Hmm…I’m nervous. I had to brace myself to go in for the temple interview, but it didn’t go too badly.
Because I remember how I felt when I hadn’t been to the temple, when I was still making choices that involved breaking the commandments, I know it’s important for us to set an example for our kids and grandkids. We’ve made it painfully clear how flawed we are, now we will make our repentance and re-commitment to the Lord, the gospel, and each other. Big. deep. breath.
I would appreciate if you readers would share any special experiences you’ve had, perhaps your first time thrills or disappointments. Anybody see any dead people?