Personal Reflections: Light from the House of the Lord
I would like begin and center my remarks around a scripture, D&C 50:24. I get funny phone calls all of the time about my father, funny questions from people that I don't know. A lot of them are Primary presidents and they want to know his favorite food, his favorite color, his favorite dessert-dessert is a big one, I don't why-all sorts of questions that I have no idea how to answer.
One particular Sunday morning I had a frantic Primary president call and say, "I need to know where your father was baptized." I said, "I don't know." And she said, "What do you mean, you don't know?" I said, "I don't know." She said, "I have to know and I have to know in an hour." And I said, "I can't tell you right now." And she said, "Well I have to be at Primary and I have to know in an hour." She kept on going, and got testier. And I kept on saying I don't know. And finally she said, "What I need to know is, somehow every President of the Church before President Hinckley, no President has ever been baptized in a regular font in a church building." She said, "If he was, he would be the first." I said that I was sure that he was because I would know. I said, "Let me call you back in five minutes, and see if I can check." So I called up my father and I said, "Where were you baptized?" And he said, "Who wants to know?" So I told him the story and he said that he was baptized in a font. I said, "Don't tell me where, I can't have this kind of classified information. It's just too big of a responsibility." So I don't know where he was baptized, just that he was baptized in a font. But there is one thing that I do know because it's one of his favorite scriptures, and this is verifiable and true:
"That which is God is light; and he that receieveth light, and continueth in God, receieveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." (D&C 50:24)
It is a wonderful scripture, isn't it. I am watching you who have the light coming across you from the window. I know it is in your eyes, but I can't tell you what that path of light does when I look out and I see your faces lit up. "That which is of light cometh of God, and that light groweth brighter and brighter until a perfect day."
Yesterday was my birthday, and so I come to you a little older then I would have been last week. Birthdays for me have become very, very sweet events. The numbers themselves are curious things. They don't mean what they used to. When you turn five you can go to school, when you turn sixteen you can get a driver's license, when you turn eighteen you can vote. There isn't anything that I can think of that I can do today that I couldn't do yesterday. And so and the only way I notice the number is sort of being shocked that it is so big. What generally happens to me is that it gives me an opportunity to stop for just a minute and think back and be able to see some patterns, and some things about the road that I have traveled that I don't always notice when I am in fast forward. And so I did some turning around yesterday and looking. I experienced a flood of tender feelings of testimony that I feel compelled to speak aloud to you today. I hope you will forgive just an old lady's personal stories, because that is really where I am today. And I want to tell some stories, actually they aren't stories; but they are the recounting of several epiphanies in my life. And they have a common theme.
An epiphany, as the dictionary tells us, is a sudden, intuitive insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, and its usually initiated by some simple homely or common-place experience. That sounds like an eternal truth to me. I believe an epiphany is a literary way of talking about the operation of the Holy Spirt that enlightens your mind. You know, how suddenly a light goes on in your mind and you see the reality, the big picture of the eternal things that are important?
The first epiphany I want to tell you about occurred last Thursday. I was invited by some old friends to go to L.A. for a few days to see the Van Gough exhibit. I have never done anything like this in my life. But for some miraculous reason the arrangements were made and they all came together, and I found myself in the middle of just a wonderfully nurturing three--day R&R. On Thursday morning, the six of us decided to go to the L.A. Temple to do a session.
I have to backtrack a little bit and give you some history. In 1956 before my father was a General Authority he was working to produce the first films for temples. As part of that assignment he was on the temple dedication committee that deals with all the arrangements for tickets, etc. And he had to take down a number of things. He had to drive to California and so he decided that he would take the family to a dedicatory session, at least those of us who were old enough. I was eleven years old and it was my first experience inside a temple. This is the recommend signed by my bishop on March 5, 1956. And that accounts for the epiphany I had in the celestial room when we completed the session last Thursday. I have not been inside that temple in the intervening forty-three years since that March day in 1956.
There were only nine people in the company. The eight o'clock session in the Los Angeles Temple is quite sparse. Nobody faces the eight o'clock traffic in Los Angeles to go to the temple. So there were only nine of us, and we had an opportunity to linger in the celestial room for quite a few minutes. As I brought up the pictures that I remembered of that experience when I was eleven and the one that I was having then, it was as if I could see my entire relationship with the house of the Lord, its flow, its constant increase in power during the intervening forty-three years. It strikes me in virtually every case when I have found myself in a building that I'd frequent as a child but had not been in for a number of years, that it definitely appears much smaller, and less grand, than I remembered it. Not so last Thursday. I remember feeling awed by the floor-to-ceiling painted murals, and the wonder of that experience those long years ago. But it was nothing, nothing compared to my awe and wonder last Thursday.
The temple was bigger, it was lighter, it was more beautiful, it was more full of peace, than any memory that I had of it in 1956. And as I contemplated that unique fact, the insight came to me that the glory of the building was not diminished for me, but conversely was greatly increased. Because as a seasoned temple worshiper I understood, felt and experienced so much more, than my eleven-year-old self had been capable of.
"That which is of God is light, and he that receieveth light and continueth in light and continueth in God receieveth more light, and that light groweth brighter and brighter until a perfect day."
As I dressed in my street clothes and returned my current recommend to my pocket, I was overwhelmed with the continuing light I have received, and so much of it in temples. The L.A. Temple was the twelfth temple in the Church and we now have, I believe, ninety-nine at some stage either announced or under construction. My desire for just the few minutes we have remaining is that you will have an increased understanding of the temple road that you are walking. But as I share some personal examples you will rehearse in your own minds your own temple experiences if you have had any yet. Or the ones that you contemplate having, or have resolved to have, down that path of light, even until the light grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
I won't forget walking through the dressing room of the temple following a session. For the year past my husband and I had felt great concern for one of our children. One of the things that concerned me the most was my deteriorating relationship with her. Lehi described himself once in the Book of Mormon as an anxious parent. And anxiety is just the thing that I felt I was overwhelming her with. Anxiety and fear rather than faith and love. But I was finding it impossible to break that cycle. As I walked to my locker the thought came clearly to my mind: She will be here one day. I went home with a new feeling of peace and read within the next little while the words in Alma 32. They had a new meaning for me because of the words that I heard in my mind during the temple visit.
"Then ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you."
I wish that I could say from that moment on my conversation with this particular child has changed completely. But I do know from that moment on there was a guarantee of fruit that I believed in at the deepest place in my soul. And the words pulled me forward as a light in the distance.
I heard Elder Lorin Dunn say on one occasion, "The temple trains you so you can hear His voice." Isn't that interesting training? You're being trained to do some things in the world of business. The temple trains so you can hear His voice.
I remember another day--this time I was eighteen or nineteen years old--and I had a summer job in an office downtown. The time I left home everyday was dependent on my father's schedule, not mine. He was the driver; I was the passenger. The office I worked in didn't open until eight o'clock, much later than most of his meetings, and so I often had an hour or more to kill. The only inviting place was a little corner in the old visitors' center on Temple Square. I love to read, and so it turned out to be quite a pleasant arrangement.
One morning I had been reading and grew a little restless, so I wandered out on the grounds to stretch my legs. I had only walked about twenty paces when I stopped and looked up at the temple. And one of those indelible moments occurred.
I found welling up in me a fierce commitment to go in that building one day. To do and be whatever it took to be worthy and able to go to that temple. So powerful was that promise to myself and to the Lord, I believe I can take everyone of you to that place on the sidewalk. I know exactly where it is; I know exactly where I was standing. And I can see in my memory to this day down that long road that morning and it looks like light to me, morning light.
Another day, shortly after we were married, my husband and I moved out of the state. There was no temple closer than the one in Salt Lake, and that was twenty-one hours away. He was in training and we only had one or two visits home during that time. They were at Christmas time. I think the temple was closed, or maybe we didn't inquire, I don't know. After several years we moved back, and I had a lots of little children by then, and I found it really difficult to get a babysitter for a extended length of time, so we didn't go to many sessions.
For many years, in fact, my attendance was largely a result of waiting until guilt feelings became heavier than I could manage. At that point I would go to the temple, and the peace I felt when leaving a session was largely due to that temporary lifting of guilt.
I kept on hearing about people who said that they learned something every single time they went to the temple. I wondered about that and I thought it sounded pretty good. So I began to go with a new attitude, looking and listening to learn. I tried to figure things out. What the multiple meanings of words might be, what the symbols might be standing for, what the order of things might signify. I began asking questions of myself and trying to find the answers. It was interesting, and I believe productive, because I began to go to the temple for more positive reasons than guilt. And looking back down the road there is light.
But the light grew much brighter one particular day. I was just too tired to keep my mind on every word. And a little discouraged about the fact that even when trying, there were times when I went to the temple and I didn't figure out anything that I hadn't known before. As I relaxed into the seat and let the session carry me as it were, I began to be filled, to learn in a way that I hadn't expected. I felt changes going on inside of me, but they weren't changes that I could put words to. It felt as if every cell in my body were just a little bit different when I left. Nothing that I could point to, but when I look back again, it is light.
I read a talk later by Elder (F. Enzio) Busche where he described the temple as "the Lord's university." Of course, I thought, His university wouldn't be one where you figure out a number of right answers so that you could ultimately fill in all the blanks and pass a test. In His university you would gradually grow in a way that you were literally different, more like him. And that is what I recognized was happening to me that day in the temple.
Bishop Victor L. Brown said, "The spirit of the Lord distills upon one's soul in these holy houses. A new perception comes into focus of who we are, of what this life is really about, the opportunities of eternal life and of our relationship with the Savior."
Elder Perry at the dedication of the Los Angeles said, "Use this building to grow more like Him."
"That which is of God is light, and that light groweth brighter, and brighter, until the perfect day."
I also was aware, because I go to church and I listen to talks, that the temple is a place of personal revelation. And so I began to go there when I was in great need and wrestling with questions and problems that drove me in desperation to his house for answers. On one of those days I was in a session. I went with the idea that I would think and pray through the entire day. Nothing came, no ideas, no answers, nothing seemed relevant. In fact, my mind kept on going other places and I couldn't keep it focused on the problem. The place that it was going was just to a few words in the endowment ceremony. After that part was over I kept on going through it. And it seemed very, very unrelated to the problem. In fact, those words created a compelling call to action for me. Later, weeks later, I realized that it was the answer to my dilemma. I learned the lesson that the Lord thinks outside the box, and that His thinking and His answers are stunningly right, compared to what I thought were the answers.
This is from the dedicatory prayer of the Los Angeles Temple. I think that dedicatory prayers are remarkable documents and so inspired. This is from the Los Angeles Temple dedication. "We have felt thy presence, and in times of doubt and perplexity have hearkened unto thy voice. Here in thy holy house, in humility and deep gratitude we acknowledge thy divine guidance, thy protection and inspiration. If any with gloomy forebodings or heavy hearts enter, may they depart with their burdens lightened and their faith increased. If any have envy or bitterness in their hearts, may such feelings be replaced by self searching and forgiveness. May all who come within these sacred walls feel a peaceful hallowed influence."
The last experience I want to tell you about occurred just last December. I had been ridiculously busy, and hadn't had a chance even to think about Christmas gifts until the first week of December. And I went shopping one day with one of my daughters at which point I remembered that shopping is not that easy of a thing to do. I have eleven grandchildren, and I knew about it last December. When I got home from shopping I was just leveled because I thought I don't possibly have enough time left to think to buy the kinds of gifts I want to give. You know the kind of gifts that are just perfect for that person. That are just what they wanted, only they didn't even know they wanted it. And it will just be so useable that not just on Christmas Day will they open it and gasp with joy, but they will keep on using it and using it and using it through out the year. I saw the possibility that I would to be going through the mall pretty soon, buying anything, and I don't like that kind of gift giving. This occurred and I thought, boy, I have got to get busy. I have to focus in and do this. I have to really discipline myself. But then I realized the next morning I had planned to go to the temple with some friends. I had planned it a long time ago; it was on my calender. The idea of going to the temple right before Christmas had a lot of appeal to me. Anyway, it was a big debate--am I being responsible, or am I being spiritual--all of those kinds of things. I went to the temple.
I sat down and I looked at the name, and I don't think I will ever forget it. For one thing it is a beautiful name. Her name was Harriet Melissa Walker, and she was born on December 9, 163 years ago.
All the way through the session, I have never had an experience where I thought someone was with me, and I am not saying that Harriet was there with me. All the way through the session I just had a lightness of heart that Harriet was having her work done. When I finished and I walked out of the temple, I thought, "I have done the thing for Christmas that I should have done. This one is for you Harriet. I don't know how long you have been waiting for this, probably for over a hundred years. You will say, when you see this gift, 'It's just right; this is what I have always wanted. Only I knew I wanted it, and I will make use of it throughout all eternity.'" Because through that Christmas gift I had taken part in giving to Harriot, she was finally and completely woven into the covenant people. I felt that, and it was a wonderful moment where all of a sudden those eternities are important. What kinds of gifts really work and what kinds just go through the malls hoping they will work?
From the Los Angeles Temple dedication it says, "May all be assured who go to the temple that they have the gratitude of thousands, perhaps millions, on the other side. For whom the prison doors may now be opened and deliverance proclaimed to those who accept the truth and are set free."
I want to talk about these recommends for just a minute. Eligibility to go to the temple is a unique kind of thing. To those outside of the understanding that we have, they may think that it's like getting a degree in college that gives you the right to do something, a business license that gives you a right to set up a business. "Eligibility to go to the temple is based on consistent personal behavior, on the goodness of one's life. I stand in such awe of the economy of the Lord because he never, ever asks us to do something that only has one benefit. It seems like there are just multiple layers of benefits to everything."(President Hinckley, Ensign, May 1990.) As we meet the qualifications to get a temple recommend, those qualifications not only give us the ticket to walk in the door of the specific place, but even if we didn't get the ticket, our lives would be different. Everything about our lives would be different, and so he accomplishes multiple purposes. The things we do to receive a recommend also become the things we do to create a happy life. Each one carries within it its own blessing. For example, when we keep the Word of Wisdom, we enjoy the benefits of a health. Whether or not we walk inside the door of the temple, we protect ourselves from the terrible things that happen to those who do not obey the Word of Wisdom-the slavery, the loss of family and friends and livelihoods that can easily happen when people violate the Word of Wisdom and indulge in drugs and alcohol. Look at the example of morality. It has its own great rewards outside of entrance to the temple, doesn't it? Honesty, the payment of tithes, each of these things does so much more than qualify us to enter the building.
President Hunter, during his short term as the President of the Church, will be so remembered for his forceful and yet gentle way of urging us all to be worthy of holding a temple recommend whether we are able to attend the temple or not. Why would he do that? Because a recommend is much, much more that a ticket. Our worthiness brings light to every corner of our lives and helps keep Satan at bay. The things I do to get this protect me in very real and very significant ways from Satan.
Bishops have told me that of all the things that keep people from holding a temple recommend, it's often the payment of tithing. Very interesting, isn't it? And I want to talk about that for just for a moment, because the principle of tithing is so easy if you just learn to do it when you are young. It's apparently so absolutely difficult if you start to try it when you are older. I look at that and think that someone outside the church would say, "Oh really, the big thing about getting a recommend is just you pay money you get it." We who understand tithing don't feel that way at all. Has there ever been a time in the history of the world where there have been so many things that we all want? So many things that make our life more fun, and that are outdated immediately, and that cost money? I hate this electronic stuff. Every time you turn around you're outdated. And so it creates this need for more things, and that creates the need for money. Never before in the history of a country or of a people, has credit been so easy.
I have a daughter who is a college student who just got home from mission and didn't have a job yet, and somebody called her for a credit card. Somebody called to give her a credit card, and wanted to send her a credit card. And she said, "Oh, but I don't have a job." And they said, "Oh, well no problem. No problem, you don't have to have a job." And she said, "I don't think you're getting this. I don't have a job, I don't have any income, so what sense would it be to get a credit card?" The woman keep saying, "Oh, you don't have to be pre-approved or anything; we'll just send it to you." And there was this funny logic going on. My daughter thought the woman on the other line was saying whether you have a income or not makes no difference. Is that Satanic or what? It's Satan's really wonderful way of getting to you because the minute you've got credit card debt, or any other kind of pressing debt, do you know who doesn't come and hammer at your door, and throw you out of your apartment if you don't pay them? The Lord. So it's so much easier to let the tithing cover the credit card minimum so that you can keep charging, or so you can keep living.
If any of you are starting into that cycle, I just plead with you, don't do it. It may seem temporary to you, and maybe it is, but don't do it. Don't think that you need a stereo, CDs, televisions, that you need all those kinds of things to be part of the 1990s. You don't. But you really do need temple recommend worthiness and the habits that will allow you to go to the temple, anytime you want to.
Could I tell you what an incredible feeling it is to me to put my temple recommend in my pocket and anytime I want to I can drive right up to a temple, and park my car, and I can go in. To me that feels like what it must feel like to be the richest, wealthiest person in the world to say, "Oh, certainly anything I want I can have." That's the way I feel about my temple recommend; it's just this incredible feeling of wealth and abundance that anytime I want to, no matter what happens, I can walk into that temple. That's what I want for everyone of you. It may not be for you that tithing is a problem; it may be morality. Don't ever do anything that will keep you from always being able to have a recommend in your pocket and to experience that light. So that when you're my age, and you're older, you can just look down that road on a birthday, and you can see when it's all put together that there are just huge areas of light that filter out all the rest of your life.
I'd like to close with a quote from John A. Widtsoe. He said, "The power emanating from temples is far greater than we realize. Spiritual power is generated within temple walls and sent out to bless the world. Light from the house of the Lord enlightens every home within the church fitted for its reception by participation in temple privileges. Every home penetrated by the temple spirit enlightens, cheers and comforts every member of the household. The peace we covet is found in such homes. Indeed, when temples are on earth, the whole world shares measurably in the issuing light."
I pray that each one of you will add to that light as you go into temples and come out, that you'll have more light, and be more able to spread that light through the world.
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