As our testimonies of the gospel grow and develop, and as we learn line upon line, the depth and breadth of the gospel are unfolded to us in marvelous ways. But having noted that, the simplicity of the gospel is what I love most about the teachings of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether it's a new convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who is learning the first principles of the gospel for the first time, or the experienced member whose temple attendance has been consistent for years; the teaching is beautifully intertwined. We go to the temple sometimes hoping to have the 'mysteries of God' unfolded to us, and in personal ways, they may be. Yet, I think the purpose of temple worship is to also return us to the basics every time we attend.
Consider the first principles of the gospel - faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and repentance. We know that all things done under the power of God are done by faith. Sister Aileen Clyde, former counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency declared, "Faith is the power in us and gives us the ability to do." President Nelson has done a wonderful work in re-framing the idea of repentance as change. In our home, we define repentance as 'change that brings us closer to Jesus Christ.' Joseph Smith was instructed by the Lord to "Say nothing but repentance." This doesn't mean that he went around condemning people. It means that he went around inviting all to use their faith to change in ways that would bring us closer to Jesus Christ.
So, how does this relate to the temple? The first covenants of the temple endowment ordinance are Obedience and Sacrifice. I've recently realized that Obedience and Sacrifice are in many ways synonymous with Faith and Repentance. There is nothing we do to be obedient and sacrifice which isn't founded on the principles of faith and repentance. Conversely, there is nothing that we do to exercise faith and repentance, which don't represent in their effort obedience and sacrifice.
We teach those learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time the first principles of faith and repentance. In the temple, the first covenants we make in the ordinance of the endowment are obedience and sacrifice. It's so beautifully simple - we find Christ, and then we make changes to come closer to Him. Whether it's putting off the natural man (from evil to good) in preparation to be able to attend the temple or whether it's becoming a saint (from good to better) in participating in the ordinances of the temple, our eternal progression pattern is the same.
It was over the past year that I first considered the correlation of the things mentioned above.
I was given a terminal cancer diagnosis one year ago, not knowing how long my life may be prolonged. With no real warning of this news coming, it was initially a lot to process and consider. By force, perspective on life and death started to become clearer, the purpose of life evaluated at a greater level, and the things that matter most heavily weighed.
The first thing that our family spoke about was an evaluation of our faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. This evaluation of faith, in many ways, is a question of whether we will 'let God prevail'...or, in other words, a willingness to be obedient to the things that He directs for our lives through personal inspiration and the commandments of His prophets on the earth. The second thing that followed was an introspection of changes in focus or effort that needed to be made on my part to make the most of any time that may remain: Some things that needed to be corrected, and some things that were good which needed to be enhanced even more. The principles of faith and repentance accelerated in my life. So did my efforts to keep my covenants of obedience and sacrifice (of course, my other covenants too). But those things did not seem like separate and disjointed gospel living. They were one and the same, simultaneously allowing growth and progress in my personal spiritual sanctification.
In the beginning, my cancer journey was about the cancer. As these things settled more and more on my heart, the journey became less and less about the cancer. I’m grateful for the miracles given to me and my health. I love the simplicity of the gospel and it will be one of the things that I will remember most in going through this personal trial and experience. It brings such hope, peace, love, and joy amidst all we do, especially in challenging times!
Photo (c) Richard Thrasher.