See the crazy world going by in front of the LA Temple there? See the peace and safety the temple projects from atop its little hill out along Santa Monica Boulevard? Don’t you want that peace and safety in your own mind and heart and life? This is me encouraging you to do whatcha gotta do to get yourself there as often as possible starting now.
123 weeks ago last night, I attended the temple for the first time in more than two years. Coming off more than a year and a half of inactivity, I had just gotten my recommend signed by the stake presidency the evening before, and had at that moment given myself something of a goal: Could I go to the temple every week for the two years that the recommend would be valid? The answer ended up being yes, and then some. I’m now more than four months into a ‘new’ recommend after retiring the one related to that challenge, 104 weeks and 104 recommend desk scannings later. I have a temple habit, friends, and I’m here to recruit you to become fellow addicts.
Let me first say that making it to the temple every week for the past 28.5 months most likely would not be possible if I wasn’t single. As I don’t have my own car, it wouldn’t be possible without a roommate who feels similarly about the importance of the temple. It wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t live in Utah, specifically along the Wasatch Front, where there are about 10 temples within a 90 minute drive. A lot of stars have had to align in my life to make this happen. Thus, my suggestion is that you try to attend to the level that your own stars will allow. Spouses, kids, heavy callings, long distances, transportation issues…there are myriad valid reasons why one isn’t able to go to the temple very often. However, if the option presents itself, I ask you to choose it over whatever else is available…sports, movies, concerts, etc. often. Why?
The best way I can explain it is a refining of a certain set of senses. As you attend consistently over time, you become more adept at feeling things — changes, dangers, improvements, and the like — in your relationships with those you love (including God), and in the religious dimension of your life generally. The interesting thing is that this sharpening comes unbidden. Even if you go just to keep the streak going, you will benefit from having made that choice, though, of course, not as much as you would if you put greater consciousness behind the act. I have not wanted to go every week — not nearly. I cannot deny, though, that the cumulative effect of the consistent decision to go to the temple no matter what has made me more sentient of both negative and positive changes in my spiritual practices. If I have learned one thing, it is that the world is confusing, the temple is not.
An example of this increased spiritual sensitivity? Well, in recent months, I had gotten out of the habit of praying on my knees morning and night. I’d pray laying in bed before I got up/fell asleep, or pray in the shower in the morning. Having gotten back into the practice over the past week, I’ve already noticed a difference in how close to the Lord I feel. What?! A little thing like that actually matters?? I don’t know I ever would have thought so had I not experienced it for myself. My bet is that if I didn’t commit to spend at least an hour a week in His house, doing work for His children on the other side, that this blessing would not be mine. I would still be grasping at things to try and make the distance feel less…trying to overcome the mundane numbness that so often pervades my life. This, though. This is something! Why else would I know this if I wasn’t going the extra mile to make time for the temple often? It is the one thing I am doing that isn’t expected like prayer and scripture study or tithe-paying or church attendance. It is the one ‘special’ thing I’m doing, so it is interesting to feel that the Lord gave me some extra help…some extra insight…because I’ve chosen to put myself in a position, physically to begin with and spiritually thereafter, for it to be received.
Insight. That is another reason to make temple attendance part of your regularly scheduled programming. There was a moment during a session in the Brigham City Temple back in March of last year…a moment I hope to never forget. It’s a little bit too sacred to go into detail about here, but it allows me to testify that what you can feel and understand while in the temple is unlike what is available anywhere else. Better, clearer, purer knowledge. Stuff that sticks with you for a very long time afterward. Yes, it obviously comes elsewhere too, as my anecdote above testifies, but I’ve been zinged a lot more often in the temple than I have outside of it. I mean, if the same clarity were available ‘in the world’ that’s available in the temple, why have temples? Amirite? Whether the question or doubt or problem (or joy or gratitude or blessing) is well-defined or not, you can get help with it inside those walls. Somehow, some way that I can’t well explain, but which I can just call ‘real’ and leave it at that.
Have I often felt the presence of the person for whom I am doing a given ordinance? No. However, I have definitely felt the rightness of my doing it. There’s a line from “Chariots of Fire” that I love. Eric Liddell, the main character, is talking with his sister about running (his preference for himself) versus doing missionary work (her preference for him). He says, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Recently, I’ve thought of this quote while at the temple. It’s not a feeling of direct connection to the name on the card or slip of paper in your hand (and that is fine — it doesn’t need to be)…it is the feeling that God is pleased that you are where you are, doing what you are doing. Priceless, if you ask me. I guess that quote could be rephrased to something like, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also placed me in close proximity to a temple/to temples. And when I attend the temple, I feel His pleasure.” It is great to think that, among all the things at which I fall miserably short, there is at least one that allows me to feel I am doing well enough after all.
As I’ve stated, staying active in the Church has been and continues to be hard for me. However, because I don’t want to see this habit fall out of my life, I intend to continue doing what I need to do to remain temple worthy for as long as possible. The 2-year challenge definitely saved me from quitting while it was still going on. Now that I’ve re-upped for another two, I have to find other reasons to keep this practice. Maybe I wrote this post to remind myself of them while also hopefully opening some eyes and minds to what they can be for that individual reader.
There are so many reasons to make regular temple attendance a habit. I’ve only offered a few here in this post. It is not always easy to do…not always convenient to try and tuck into your schedule…but the benefits are, as they say, ‘out of this world.’ I sometimes think about the line of people for whom I’ve done ordinance work and look forward to the possibility of getting to meet them in the next life. I may have to put off validation of some of my life choices, particularly as pertain to marriage, until the there and then, but this is one that blesses me in the here and now, and if for no other reason than that, I will encourage others to take it up too. Next time you go renew your temple recommend, challenge yourself: can you go to the temple every week, every other week, or every month of its term of validity? Please try. The dead may well not be the only ones getting saved.