Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just some milk before meat

So this last week has been absurdly busy, and I guarantee this next week will be even more so. Ahh, such is the last week of class and the following exam week. Today's question: What should this post be about?

I've considered a few topics, like my thoughts and feelings on the new Vancouver temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith's martyrdom, and.. well, mostly temple-related topics. I have several posts in the works, they just require some citations and clean-up before I'm ready to post them. The topics? The purposes of temples, excommunication, the PBS documentary "The Mormons," and receiving answers to our prayers!

So with my assurances that there are some intense posts coming up, I'll go ahead and write up a bit on my thoughts about the temple.

Last week I had the opportunity to go through the temple on a tour with my mother, younger brother and friend. Since then I've been working hard at getting some of my friends from high school to come along. Turns out it's harder than I thought! I've discovered that if you invite five friends to do something, odds are you'll get just two to come along. Such was the case tonight, as I actually got back from the temple a couple of hours ago.

So, last week was my first time going through any of the Lord's temples, although it was just a tour. It's interesting when I consider how it felt.. I heard someone saying on Sunday how intensely they felt the Spirit. After hearing that I felt, ashamed? Something along those lines, because when I went through the temple I recognized the Spirit was there, but to me it felt, compared to how a dedicated temple feels when I'm in one, like it was just another building - maybe along the lines of another chapel or even the Conference Center in Salt Lake. So I kept thinking through the tour, "This is just like any other building.. for now." In hindsight, I'll say I'm both right and wrong on this. I'm right in that it's really just a shell of what it will be as soon as the May dedication rolls around. I'm wrong in that it is the House of the Lord, dedicated or not, and therefore is unlike any other building on the Earth.

Now, mostly I was concerned about how the experience was for my mother and brother, especially since the purpose of temples is to bind families together, and both of those members of my family are in a position where they may not want to, or cannot be bound to someone for eternity in a temple. My mother is also of the opinion (last I talked to her about it) that if she were to receive her endowments in the temple, she'd have to be a "Molly Mormon."

It seems reasonable and silly to me that I'd be going through the temple my first time and worrying about how someone else' experience is going, rather than concerning myself with my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Silly in that it was my first time, after all, so shouldn't I trouble myself with my own relationship with the eternal? Reasonable in that they're my family and I love them and I want us all to be in a place where we can be tied together for eternity, and also that I'm not too worried about my own spirituality (not meaning I'm allowing myself to be lulled into a false sense of security) and more concerned about theirs. To illustrate this point, I've often wondered over the question, "Would you die for so-and-so?" My answer, at least in theory, has always been "Yes," no matter who "so-and-so" happens to be. This is because I feel it's important to be as prepared as possible for that time when we meet our Maker. If the option was to allow someone who hasn't received the Gospel to die, or allow myself to take their place, that gives them all the more time to prepare, so I'm OK with that.

OK, so aside from worrying about whether the tour-guide was explaining things well, or clearly enough, so that my mother didn't think I was nutty for wanting to receive my endowments/get sealed in the temple, I had a pretty good experience. The temple is, of course, gorgeous and breathtaking - that sort of goes without saying. I loved looking for symbolism while I was wandering through, and I took particular interest in the artwork, it being in the area I specialize in (realism). I enjoyed taking in the serenity in the waiting room, walking through the baptistery, and then going through the rooms upstairs; it has actually made me more excited for when I go through the temple for myself. Of course walking through the bride's room and then later into the sealing room cracked open a part of my mind reserved for "The Future," but I most enjoyed the Celestial Room.

So, why did I think this room was my all-time favorite? Well, Celestial rooms in LDS temples are meant to reflect heaven. As they do on these tours, before leading their group into the Celestial room, tour guides will explain the room and then invite the group to remain in silence to contemplate their relationship with God, and things eternal in nature. Going through the first time, the day was quite slow and as such we weren't being herded through the temple with other groups at our heels. For this reason we stayed in the Celestial room for quite a chunk of time - or maybe it just seemed that way. After I took in as much of the room as I could, I found myself staring out at the patterns in one of the windows. During this time it occurred to me that since I had been introduced to sealings I've been excited about the prospect of seeing my family after I'm dead. But I had always really just pictured some form of future family. This might have something to do with the fact that I think my family is demented and like most people, there are times when I'd rather not be related to some of them. But these things aside, I found myself really wanting to be with them forever. It felt revelatory.

So, if you've ever got the chance, go to a temple open-house. I dare you.

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