Thursday night, my husband and I planned to attend the temple, seeking to commune with the Lord on some of our future plans. We got a late start and so 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. They proceeded to inquire of our plans. “Sealings, initiatories…?” “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. It was more upsetting than may have been anticipated to be so apparently barred from entering the House of the Lord. It was in this moment I realized that if our testimonies had been in a faltering or failing state, an experience like this could very well discontinue our efforts to attend the Church.
Gratefully, neither my husband nor I are in such a place. But that doesn’t mean the situation was sitting well with either of us. After a quick, confused moment I returned on my own to the front desk.
I explained that we had never been denied from entering before and was there 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 hastily offered for us to speak with the temple president. In my surprise, I agreed almost immediately.
We were promptly brought to the president’s office where we sat in counsel with him and his wife for a solid 15 minutes. He explained that while there is no error in wanting to commune with the Lord while not participating in the ordinances that it would not be conducive to maintaining a “house of order” to allow throngs of ponderers to the celestial room without them having performed some work first. He went on to describe, with obvious guidance of the Spirit, that while this desire was in no way wrong, we were not living up to our privileges by not participating in the ordinances. That there is a power that comes as we serve in that capacity that enacts the Holy Ghost and the power of revelation in an unparalleled way.
As the president spoke, I received an impression. A reminder of a previous impression.
Before we left the house, my husband and I had discussed our temple attendance and decided that we would just go to sit and ponder a short while. But I had received the impression then that we needed to participate in an ordinance. I asked my husband multiple times if he was sure he didn’t want to do work, and he replied the same each time. So I didn’t mention that I felt contrary. I aimed to support him in what he felt he needed and wanted. And in doing so, I prioritized him above even God.
I was instantaneously disappointed in myself. I strive to be worthy of the Spirit and his guidance – and I was worthy of it! But I failed to follow through on his instructions, and that is as good as not having the gift of the Spirit at all.
Sheepishly, I listened until the president finished his dialogue. I could have sunk into the floor. We had been thinking so selfishly, acting so immaturely. We should just be told to be on our way. It’s what we deserved.
But in his Christlike kindness, the temple president and his wife proceeded to teach us an incredible lesson.
They implored us to stay.
They offered to move us to the front of an initiatory group, or into a quick sealing session to accommodate our returning home soon to our children.
When we explained we hadn’t brought the proper clothing – not anticipating doing work – they didn’t even bat an eye as they offered to pay for our rental clothing.
The president and his wife escorted us personally up to a sealing room where we were blessed to participate in binding husbands and wives, children and parents, and where our own covenants seemed rejuvenated and powerfully enacted upon us again.
Our minds were pressed with the importance of the lessons this experience was teaching us.
- Christ first attends to our spiritual need, and then the physical – even when we only ask healing for the needs we see and feel ourselves.
We were undeserving of these blessings – of this complete forgiveness of our shortsightedness, pride and complete lack of consideration for anyone other than ourselves. Granted, our intentions had been good – to commune with the Lord in His house could not be wrong. But we fell short of understanding the invitation to do so and the sway it could truly have on our hearts and minds if we let it.
But that’s how the Savior works.
During His mortal ministry, Jesus had many afflicted souls come unto Him, asking for relief and healing. But how He responded to these is so revealing of His understanding.
First – Christ forgave them. This was what they were really, unknowingly seeking and He knew it. He met their spiritual need for sanctification and cleansing first.
And then – Christ healed them. Not because their being physically whole was essential to their salvation, which was His main priority, but because he loved them, completely.
This day in the temple, I felt like the blind man. I had come to the Savior, with good intent, to be healed of the infirmities I could see and feel. But He knew better. There were spiritual deficiencies that first needed instruction and correction – and then, in his Supreme Goodness and everlasting mercy, He proceeded to heal me. Despite how undeserving I had been in this instant. He took me completely as I was and made me more than even I expected.
2. The Lord requires we give something of ourselves, and then He gives us everything.
The Lord is the most absolutely gracious and generous being in all of existence. But that being said, He does not give something for nothing, ever. Even when he visited Nazareth with the intention of teaching and healing those who had been childhood friends and neighbors, “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13: 58).
He requires our faith, our whole hearts, our spirits, our desires, our sacrifice. In coming to the temple with the expectation only to receive, we fell dramatically short of where the Lord asks us to be before He will bless us abundantly. And yet, He met us where we stood and gently led us to where we needed to be. And then the blessings immediately and powerfully came, as they always will when we first give of ourselves. You see, we give something and He gives us everything.
My husband and I left the temple, with humbled hearts praising God. Only He can take experiences spawned by our disobedience, our stubbornness and imperfections and make them become memories of His hand in our lives.