It was March of 2019. My husband and I were living in Rexburg, Idaho, with our two young daughters. He was in college, and I was working at a local company as a supervisor.
On Thursday night, we had planned to attend the temple, seeking to commune with the Lord on some of our future plans. We got a late start and determined to just spend some time sitting in the foyer, as we had done a few times in the past.
At the front desk, we handed over our recommends, and the workers asked if we planned to attend a session. “No,” we replied. “Sealings, initiatories…?” they asked. “No, we just wanted to spend some time sitting and pondering.”
The workers appeared taken aback before encouraging us to enter the adjoining waiting room, where members and non-members alike typically sit as loved ones are sealed, and to do our pondering there.
My husband and I sullenly went to sit. We had never had an issue being allowed into the temple proper with the intention of only pondering before. After all, the temple is meant to be a refuge, a place of learning and revelation, where we can find peace in an otherwise chaotic world. Why were we so apparently being barred from entering the House of the Lord now?
After a moment, I returned to the front desk. I explained that we had never been denied from entering before and asked if there was some doctrine or principle that indicated it was inappropriate to attend the temple without participating in an ordinance? The workers were shocked and apologetic, and they hastily offered for us to speak with the temple president. We accepted and spent 15 minutes counseling with him and his wife. He explained the complications that would arise should they allow temple-goers to come without participating in an ordinance and recited temple policy. They were kind and loving, and contributed nothing to the embarrassment we inwardly felt.
In the last four years, I’ve been blessed to gain much more insight into this experience, and into the broader, eternal truths that govern the universe, and which the temple is patterned after. There IS a doctrine, a vital reason that temple worship requires participation in proxy ordinances and is not only a place for self-gratification of spiritual needs.
I don’t think it’s uncommon for us to approach the temple from this self-centered perspective. In this instance, we had been more interested in what we could gain from the temple - peace, direction, revelation - than what we could offer - an invitation to our ancestors, to act and eventually gain salvation and exaltation. It reminds me of a declaration of the Lord against some who had displayed selfish tendencies in a well-known apocryphal text. He said, “You should intercede for men, and not men for you!” (1 Enoch 15:2)
The pattern of the temple, and this of ascension and the eventual claiming of eternal life, is proxy work, by which we extend the offer of progression to those who cannot obtain for themselves given their current circumstances. This heavenly formula is the same one displayed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, who, by proxy, paid the price of sin for all those who would submit in obedience and sacrifice to all His patterns, commandments, and covenant relationship structures.
Through its symbolic representation in the temple, we learn something profoundly significant. It is that we, in our quest to become like our Savior, are meant to become saviors (with a little-s) ourselves. Indeed, this is the broader context of Obadiah 1:21, which prophesies of the future disciples, as they prepare the world for the Millennial state: “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion…; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”
Of course, we cannot offer the gifts of salvation and exaltation. But there is much that we CAN offer, and which the Lord will ask us to sacrifice in His name for our brothers and sisters. This radical obedience to the revelation we receive in regard to those around us is the very exalting force that allows the Savior into our lives, until we become a living temple to Him, and spiritually ascend nearer to His stature.
How would our lives look if we chose to apply this pattern in our daily lives, as we are most certainly intended to do? Would we pay more than lip service to the idea of being like our Savior? Would we wear out our lives in selfless service to others, taking no thought for our own desires, appetites, and passions?
As we approach temple service, and especially as we engage in our day-to-day living, I pray that we can fix our eyes single to God and His glory, to seek not our own, but rather to lose our own lives in seeking to be like Him - a savior, in whatever capacity He may require of us.
Meghan Farner, host of the Latter-day Disciples podcast, is a lifelong disciple and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is deeply devoted to the Savior and delights to be a tool in His perfect hands. Meghan and her husband met in high school and married after serving in missions in Japan and the Philippines, respectively. They now have three wonderful kiddos. When she has free time and isn't busy podcasting, writing, or preparing speeches, Meghan enjoys reading novels, working out, taking scalding hot detox baths, and watching Masterchef and the Voice. You can find her on Instagram @lddisciplespodcast, and at her sister entity, Honey and Lilies, for all things temporal prep @honeynlilies!
Rexburg Idaho Temple, courtesy of www.ldstemple.pics.