Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Climb Up Jacob's Ladder

Several weeks ago I was asked to write about my personal journey with the temple, about how I felt the first time I went, how I have learned and progressed in my understanding and appreciation of the temple, and how I have handled questions or concerns about temple worship. This was really a beautiful thing for me to reflect on and I am excited to share my experience. I hope that you will realize that this is my personal experience and that everyone's temple experience and journey is going to be different and unique. I hope that by sharing mine you can feel my testimony of the temple and know that it is okay to not have all the answers. If you would like to more know about temples this is a wonderful introduction.

I went to the temple the first time when I was 12, to do baptisms for the dead. I remember walking into the Idaho Falls Temple and being astonished that not everything was white! I'd always assumed the temple would be completely white inside, just like it was on the outside. It surprised me to see paintings, murals, green carpet, and brown seats instead of the pure white I was certain I would find. Even though the temple was beautiful, it was very different from what I'd been expecting. I think it was then that I first realized that the temple would probably not ever be what I had imagined, but that it would most likely be for the better.

I had some powerful spiritual experiences as a youth during those baptismal temple trips that really helped me gain a testimony of the temple. I remember one time in particular when, as I was waiting for my turn to be baptized, that I felt the spirit of one of the women whose name I was going to do. I felt her like she was standing next to me and it was an incredible feeling. I realized that what I was doing, what I was participating in-- was real-- and that there were things happening in the temple that I could not see.

Over the next decade of my life I continued to attend the temple to do baptisms for the dead, was faithful about personal prayer and daily scripture study, and was active in all my church responsibilities. Yet as I neared my 20th birthday I began to have a hunger, a spiritual hunger, like I had never experienced before. I had so many questions and I felt like no one had the answers. I struggled with questions with women and the church, women and the priesthood, women in the scriptures, women in the world, women in politics, and just about every other topic you can think of to stew and worry over women. I'd done a lot of searching, studying, pondering, praying and crying about it but I felt like I was just not understanding things how I wanted. People kept telling me to put my questions on a "shelf" to wait patiently to have answered in heaven, but the problem was that my shelf was getting too heavy. I had so many questions.

I remember one night having a heartfelt discussion with my dad about the gospel, particularly about the story of Adam and Eve. The conversation ended with me exclaiming "Dad, I just feel like I am beating my head on a brick wall! There has to be more to understand and I just feel like I can't get at it. It is so frustrating." He, oh so sweetly, looked at me and just said, " Heather you are going to love the temple." In fact, the answer that I got to most of my questions, over and over again was, "You are going to love the temple."

And I did, but maybe not in the way that everyone expected I would.