The first time I entered a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I felt an undeniable spirit. It was alien in the sense that it did not originate from within myself but it was at the same time familiar, as if I were home. I have experienced this same feeling every time I have entered the Lord’s house, from Hawaii to Buenos Aires.
While worshipping and serving in temples, it is as if worldly concerns dissipate. Do my problems and concerns go away? No, but in the temple, I am reminded of eternal truths, such as the purpose of life and my relationship to Deity. With this perspective, many daily concerns become trivial. I still need to address these issues but I am reminded of their relative unimportance. It is refreshing to step back periodically and recalibrate my priorities. It is as if my very soul becomes fully charged with each temple visit.
Shortly after my 41st birthday, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. There was no specific prognosis; MS doesn’t work that way. I only knew that I had new physical limitations, and these would likely worsen over time. I sought blessings of healing. Loved ones prayed for me and I prayed for myself. I hoped that my faith and God’s power would remove this disease.
Despite my faith and an aggressive treatment regimen, the MS worsened and my central nervous system became more compromised. My walking and vision sharply worsened, my voice began to malfunction and I fought daily bouts of disabling fatigue. I had to stop working and it all was very discouraging. Could attending the temple lessen even these problems?
Not surprisingly, the physical limitations followed me to the temple. Changing into white temple clothing was just as difficult for me as changing clothes at home. Walking was still hard. My voice was barely audible and I tired easily. However, it was in the temple that I recognized that this health challenge was not an “interruption” to my life; it was a foundational part OF my life. I began to understand that my response to this adversity would help define me, refine me, and, if I endured it well, would serve as a priceless blessing to me and my family. It is all about perspective. I left the temple that day with a liberating, spiritual self-awareness.
To be clear, the physical challenges did not slacken. In fact, they intensified for the next four years. I remember one day after completing my service in the Dallas temple, I sat in my changing area of the men’s locker room, temporarily unable to summon the strength to change back into my street clothes. I was very sad and defeated. Why did this have to be so hard? Was there no balm in Gilead? Would even temple service be forfeit to this capricious malady? Maybe. But maybe better days lie ahead.
But if not, if this was simply a downward spiral, remembering the perspectives that temple service had proffered, I resolved to give whatever strength and energy I could muster to my family, to my church, and to my God. I would just do the best I could. And I was at peace. That is all I needed. I did not need to meet a clothes-changing speed threshold. No one was racing me across the room. There was no quota on temple trips or service hours. And fatigue, although not enjoyable, only meant I was doing all I could, right? Everything would be OK. Perspective again rained down on me.
Twelve years have passed since then. My disease seems to be in a prolonged remission. I still have MS and a collection of now-familiar limitations, but I am doing much better than those early years of worry and discouragement. It is a beautiful truth that challenges can sometimes lessen but the insights gained from them can remain. I am confident that as I continue to attend the temple, I will be blessed with additional insights, to which I look forward with great anticipation.
Photo of the Los Angeles California temple by www.ldstemple.pics.