Saturday, June 13, 2009

Temples - Shelter from the Storm?

I loved JGW's post this week about the temple. I commented that I was grateful for his post reminding me that I should not take my temple recommend and ability to attend the temple for granted. I was looking forward to taking my daughter to the new Draper temple this week to complete the baptism for a family name while my father-in-law was serving in the baptistry. But she came down with the flu, and we saddly had to dely our plans...

I have always loved the temple. I was a child when "I love to see the Temple" was a new primary song and the Jordan River temple was being built. I enjoyed watching my children as they soaked up the beauty and excitement of attending the Draper temple open house a few months ago. We are excited to attend the open house for the new temple next Saturday with a part-member family in our neighborhood.

I loved temples as a youth and young adult--their beauty inside and out, what they stand for, the feelings I had when I was able to go inside and do baptisms for the dead. I collected temples--decorative plates, photos, drawings, and even rubber stamps. I have fond memories of driving the 7 miles to the Manti Temple grounds with my roommates when I needed a break from studying for finals at Snow College. Watching the lit temple appear and grow in the distance as we drove toward it was truly awe-inspiring.

I dreamed of being married in the temple, and was so pleased to accomplish that goal. Scott and I were able to walk to and attend the Logan Temple frequently during our first year of marriage (and my last year at USU).

It was awesome to do baptisms for the dead with our daughter in the Nauvoo temple just a year ago.

The strongest message I have ever received--that it was right for me to leave my job as a full-time mother and take a job as a high school teacher--came in the Salt Lake Temple. I also attended the temple for inspiration to call my counselors in the Primary presidency.

I distinctly remember one year when Scott had a sister that was married in her in-laws' home and then a brother that was married in the Manti Temple about a month later. The difference between the marriages and the spirit that was there was amazing to me. I could not imagine settling for the non-temple marriage when the temple marriage was oh so much more.

This list could go on and on...

But in other ways, the temple has not always been for me what other people say it is for them. Church members bear testimony of the temple and how they are able to leave their troubles behind, a peaceful place for solace and escape. When I go to the temple, it gives me quiet time to think even more about my troubles. More time to worry about being away from my children, or not having time to get done everything I have to do. I often feel anxious about receiving an inspired answer to a question, trying to understand how true inspiration feels and how to know what God's message to me really is. I have anxiety around people I don't know, so frequently I feel a bit anxious in the temple. And one of my worst emotional experiences ever happened in the temple when I reflected on the recent affair of someone in my extended family, someone very close to me, and the severe nature of covenants they had broken regarding the law of chastity.

So I don't always look forward to going to the temple. I mostly do it because I am told that I should. I go in the hopes that maybe I will get another moment of clarity like the one when I took my teaching job. But mostly I get tired and bored, or if I really try to pay attention, frustrated. Part of the temple ceremony is the story of the creation. And no matter how hard I try to pray and understand, I just don't understand why God commands Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil when it is actually necessary for them to do so to fulfill other commandments (like multiplying and replenishing the Earth) and to pave the way for the plan of salvation. Why give a commandment that you know will be broken, and in fact, has to be? It baffles me every time I sit through the presentation. And why is it Eve that partakes of the fruit first? Is it because she is less obedient? Or rather, is it because she is smarter and realizes that she cannot keep other commandments without breaking this one?

Likewise, how can I possibly keep the commandment from Christ himself to "Love one another" and "judge not lest ye be judged" without breaking the commandment to follow the Prophet? I am so confused.

Today I attended a Stake Women's conference, and the theme was Temples and how they are a shelter from the storm. When I first saw the theme on a poster and sitting on every table at lunch, I couldn't help but smirk and think briefly about the commercial from the National Organization for Marriage--oh no, a storm is coming! Run to the temples to protect yourself from the homosexuals!

Seriously, though, it was a momentary irreverent thought, and otherwise I understood the purpose of the theme and thought it was fine. After lunch, the first speaker talked about why we should go to temple and blessings we get from going to the temple. She had some great comments, my favorite being that the temple is a place where we can learn more about our Savior Jesus Christ so that we can try to be more like him. But the talk went on and on, and soon I started to tune her out.

Then a stake priesthood leader spoke. By this time, the meeting (on a Saturday afternoon, no less) had gone on long enough, and my attention span was spent. So I have to admit that I was not paying very good attention, not that I wasn't trying. I just was not capable. He said something about being careful to change what we do or say so that we do not offend people. He gave a hypothetical example of inviting neighbors over for a BBQ, neighbors that are maybe a little over-zealous on the word of wisdom, but leaving our Coke in the fridge instead of getting it out to have with dinner so as to not offend, even though it is our house and our right to drink and say what we want.

That sounded reasonable. I like the idea of trying to be non-judgemental and accepting of others, making consesions where needed to form friendships.

Then, I must have phased out, because the next thing I know, he is talking about church leaders. Here is how I remember it to the best of my ability...

"It is imperative that we follow. The leaders of the church might not be perfect. I'm not perfect, and the general authorities that I meet with on a regular basis are not perfect. We are all just men. But we are still required to follow. It is not our place to step ahead of the Brethren. That is what Lucifer did in the pre-existence. That is not following. Remember playing follow the leader as a child? You might have not always liked what the leader did, but to play the game, you had to follow the leader."

He read some quotes, one from Herald B. Lee that I have blogged about before. He continued...

"I believe in the last days that things are going to be so confusing and so heart-wrenching, that the only way we will be able to figure our what to do--the only way we will make it back to our Father in Heaven--is to follow. We have to learn how to follow now so that we will be able to continue following when it gets even harder and more confusing."

"Attending the temple can help us learn to follow..."

I was sick to my stomach. I sat in shock at the words I just heard from the mouth of one of my stake leaders. It suddenly reminded me of Abelard's post a while back about Hilter and the Nazis that followed him. Words of inspiration are supposed to feel peaceful and comforting. If it is right, you will know it in your heart and your mind...what does it mean when you feel sick and anguish, the world crashing down around you?

The closing prayer ended the meeting, and I went quickly to my car, drove home, walked in the house, and told Scott I was sick. Due to the flu in our house, he thought I meant I was coming down with it. I clarified in what way I was sick, and we left to the bedroom to talk. I explained the meeting and then burst into tears. I can't do it any more. Just when I think I am back on my feet where the church is concerned, this Stake leader compares me to Satan. I told Scott in a fit of emotional illness that I am done. We have to find a new ward or church to go to. I can't let them keep tearing me down.

I don't know that we are really going to--right now I am angry and confused and hurt. We have missed 2 weeks of church, at least one or two of us will be staying home again tomorrow due to the flu, Scott is being released from his calling, anyone off the street could do my calling. It is just too tempting to throw in the towel and find some happiness by worshiping God in the peace of our own home surrounded by our friends who love and understand and accept us.

We need to start that MoHo ward right away. When should we have our first meeting? :D

And when is this incessant rain going to stop? Don't get me wrong--I love the cool temperatures and the green plants, but it certainly doesn't feel like we live in Utah any more.

I need a shelter from the storm. Please help!


HappyOrganist said...

she's smarter ;-)

HappyOrganist said...

Sarah, some of those meetings go on too long, don't they? Not to speak negatively. I can totally relate to the tuning people out (short attention span) thing. I'm on our RS Enrichment board, and that's my big thing "it can't go too long!" I usually just stay for an hour (for any Enrichment activity) and then leave. If it's not over yet, too bad.
am I awful? Well I just have a hard time staying beyond that. Plus they're not supposed to run so long in the first place, from what I understand.

You are not alone!


The Oquirrh Temple is lovely. We toured it recently. See my post a while back. ;-)

Very nice temple. It's kind of small. I guess the Draper is small, as well. We didn't go to the open house for that (had a new baby at the time).

p.s. That was a LONG post ;-D (looks like you're trying to be like me. I'm known for occasional long posts myself.) Anyway, that's cool. Nice to hear your thoughts ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have been having problems with going to church. I realized today though that the church is a tool to help us achieve exaltation. We don't live to serve the church though it does provide a means for us to serve each other. In the end at Judgement it will be us standing before the lord not the church. Our personal relationship with God is most important. We need to make decisions we are comfortable with and not let others ,even church leaders control us. What I am trying to say is the church exists to help us. We don't exist for it. In the end all things will fail,even the LDS church as it will have served it's purpose. charity or love will never fail.

Anonymous said...

You are a very smart and intuitive woman, Sarah. If you no longer feel comfortable at the ward you're in, trust your judgement. If you need shelter from the storm, don't wait until the lightning hits you or a loved one before you do something about it.
As you are a person who has unmeasurably helped me as well as a person I admire greatly, it pains me to see the emotional strain this is putting you through. I wish I were still in Utah to help you establish the MoHo ward, but I know you're capable of it. Good luck with everything, and if there's anything I can do to help, let me know.

Alan said...

This is a "money where your mouth is moment" Sarah. How much do you really believe that everyone is entitled to inspiration for themselves and must find their own path?

These words of your stake president were his own. They were not inspired, because they are not in harmony with what I have always understood the gospel to be. Every day brings him closer to being released. Fortunately your covenants are not with drill sergeants like him, no matter how well-meaning he thinks he is. Focus on the Savior and your family as you & Scott seek inspiration on what's best for all of you together.

While I don't offer this as a prescription for you, I will say that for me personally, a balance of the LDS Church and the Episcopalian works well. The LDS theology resonates best with me and I attend Sacrament meeting enough to qualify as "active," but today's corporate church with its dumbed-down insistence on obedience at the expense of the exploration and growth which characterized Church programs just 50 years ago is often stifling, so when I really want to focus on the Savior and being spiritually uplifted and reverent, I go to the Episcopal cathedral for services too, and for a warm welcome I and my family don't as consistently receive in our own ward. For us this balance works well. I hope you will be able to find a solution too.

HappyOrganist said...

Wow, interesting comments.
Sarah, I finally finished reading that post (short attention span. apparently mine is shorter than yours). oi

Sarah, speaking on behalf of all of us at church (all of us. I can speak for everyone; you know that - right?) You can't leave. We need you!
I don't care what your calling is. We don't need you for that; we need YOU.

I feel like I should close this the way I would a testimony..

But, that would be kind of weird. Just know that I'm being sincere - and I bet you a dime that if you spoke with half the people in your ward, they would probably express a similar heart-felt sentiment.

For heaven sakes, don't leave! Am I going to have to get out my proselyting frying pas? Don't make me.. You know I will.
When I care enough, that's just the kind of thing I do.. (it never seems to work, however). weird ;-(

Stick with Scott. Do your best. It'll all work out. eventually.
We're all slow, ok?

I don't like the 'mindless following' that some people think we believe (I don't think we actually believe in that sort of thing). I like the thoughts that have been expressed about the Most important thing being your own relationship with the Savior and HF.
He knows your heart. And He is the one who will judge. Don't judge yourself too much (and don't let anyone else judge you). You be you. And go eat some cheesecake.

and Sarah, I really enjoyed your stories about your kids the other day. ;-D awesome.

HappyOrganist said...

oh - proselyting frying pan

Scott said...

Happy Organist said: "I don't like the 'mindless following' that some people think we believe (I don't think we actually believe in that sort of thing)"...

The problem is, many members of the Church actually do believe this sort of thing--though they would deny it if you accused them of it.

I can't tell you how many personal accounts I've read (in blogs, etc.) from members in California that say, more or less, "I voted for Prop 8, even though I felt in my heart that it was wrong, because that's what our leaders told us to do." I'm sure I've read dozens of such statements, and the number could easily be a hundred or more, and that's just the members who are sharing their views with the world through their blogs and are actually bold enough to admit to even thinking that something they were told to do by the Church was wrong.

If "doing what our leaders said to do, even though it feels wrong" isn't blind obedience, then I don't know what is.

I wasn't at the Relief Society meeting today, obviously, so all I have to go on is Sarah's memory of what the SP said, but assuming her memory is correct, I have to vehemently disagree with his counsel.

An easy example on the local level (as apparently he included local leaders in the group of those we are supposed to follow even if we disagree):

When someone outed me to our bishop and he called us in for an interview, he gave me some rather direct and specific counsel that I should work to overcome my attractions, through therapy or whatever other means were available. According to my understanding of our SP's talk this afternoon, the proper response would be for me to obey my priesthood leader and follow his counsel, but I know without a doubt in my mind that what God wanted me to do was to accept myself as I am and to stop trying to change something that was an inherent part of my being. The most powerful spiritual witness I have ever had in my life testified that that was the case, and on the strength of that experience I told my bishop that I had no intention of trying to change. I refused to play "follow the leader", choosing instead to play "follow the Spirit".

... and here I've gone on a bit of a rant, haven't I? Happy Organist also suggests that Sarah should "Stick with [me]", but truth be known, to at least some degree my church attendance and activity is due to the fact that I'm sticking with Sarah. If she decides she's done, whether it be with our ward or with church attendance in general, I'm with her, and we will decide together where we need to go from here.

The Wife said...

I have to thank you for your blog. I've been reading it pretty much non-stop for the past few days. I appreciate all you've shared and your perspective on things. In some of your posts you have mentioned how you think you are weak...your words prove otherwise. Your experience and your actions have shown how truly strong you are.

And just so you know, I have always believed that members of the church should not blindly follow their leaders--even before I knew about my hubby's SSA. Isn't that part of gaining a testimony is to know for yourself the doctrines of the gospel? When Pres Hinckley died, I was afraid I wouldn't accept Pres Monson as the new prophet. But when I heard him speak in Conference for the first time, I felt that confirmation. And so it should be for each gospel principle.

Anyway, thanks again for your blog! It's nice to know I'm not alone out there!

Public Loneliness said...

Sarah, my heart goes out to you and your family. It has to be hard I'm sure!

On the other hand, I'll attend your Moho ward! :)

Hugs, pl