Monday, July 21, 2008

My Own Temple Dress

I was very excited to go through the temple for the first time. Receiving my temple endowment at that specific time was a preparation for my temple marriage, but I knew that making covenants in the House of the Lord in the temple endowment was an important step on my personal spiritual progression as well as a necessary prerequisite to my temple marriage. I scheduled my first temple trip a few weeks before my wedding so that I could recognize receiving my temple endowment as its own special event and not just something adjacent to my marriage.


The day before my endowment session, my mom took me to the distribution center to buy my first temple garments. While we were there, I realized that I had always expected that my mom would buy me my own temple dress. I had hinted at this a few weeks previous, but my mom had said that it might be a few years until I purchased my own temple dress and robes and not to worry about it. As the attendant rang up our purchases, I peeked longingly into the room further in the store where they had racks of white dresses. I was too shy to ask my mom to buy them for me outright, but I hoped that she would notice that I was looking.


She didn’t. She finished paying for the garments and we left the distribution center. I felt like I had to drag my feet back to the car. This was silly. Why did I have my heart set on my own temple dress? Why was it such a big deal?


My mom pulled the car out of the parking lot and headed onto the freeway.


“We’re all set, right?” she asked. I think she noticed how quiet I was.


“Yeah, I think so,” I said, but untruthfully. We passed a few exits, and suddenly I felt like I was going to cry. Inside, I chastised myself. Why was I being so impractical? This wasn’t that big of a deal. Finally, I pushed the unsuccessful chastising voice aside and expressed my honest feelings.


“Mom?” I ventured, turning my face to my left, towards her.


“Yeah, honey?” she replied as she took a glance in the rear-view mirror to facilitate a lane-change.


“I think I really want my own temple dress.”


I stared at my feet, at the muddy navy-blue car mats. I felt like I was sinking in my seat because it felt like such a childish request, and yet it was really how I felt.


“Should we go back then?” my mom asked. I couldn’t quite tell what her mood was, but the question didn’t sound anywhere near angry or annoyed. I was relieved.


“Yeah. Mom, is that okay?” I asked, looking at her again.


“Sure. Let’s do it.”


She pulled back into the right lane, took the next exit, and turned us around to go back to the distribution center.


When we walked back into the distribution center the attendant was surprised to see us again so soon. I was embarrassed, but my mom simply said that we decided to buy a temple dress and robes today as well. I couldn’t believe it; my mom didn’t mind that having my own temple clothes really mattered to me.


We tried on different styles of temple dresses and chose one that my mom and I both liked. It was nice that she was there to help and be a part of choosing one. The distribution center also gave us a discount, which was very helpful, because it was my first time going to the temple. As we drove away the second time, I felt like I was filled to the brim with happiness.


The story of my temple dress taught me a lot about the love my earthly mother has for me and also taught me about prayer and the love my Heavenly Father has for me. Under “Prayer,” the Bible Dictionary explains that “the object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” The Bible Dictionary entry continues by saying, “Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” Like my earthly mother, who was very willing to give me a temple dress when she knew that it was something I really wanted, our Heavenly Father is willing to give us many blessings if we only ask for them in prayer.


Prayer is naturally an act of humility. As we kneel before our Heavenly Father and counsel with him (see Alma 37:37), we acknowledge his power and our submission to his will and purposes. Through prayer, we can commune with our Father in Heaven. In doing so we can show our love for him and our desire to draw closer to him as we also feel his infinite love for us. King Benjamin teaches that when we “humble [ourselves] before God” we can “[taste] of his love” (Mosiah 4:10-11). King Benjamin further counsels us to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God . . . and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come” (vs. 11). This counsel highlights the necessity of humility to prayer; both humility and prayer are necessary for our spiritual progression because they allow us to develop a personal relationship with God. By recognizing our dependence on God, we can draw closer to him and learn how to do his work.


Having my own temple dress when I received my temple endowment was not something that was an absolute need in my life, but it was a sincere desire of my heart. Turning the car around to go back to the distribution center to buy the dress was a striking example of the mercy of my mother. I certainly hadn’t done anything to even begin to deserve the gift that I desired, but she gave it, willingly, because she loved me. Likewise, there are many things that our Heavenly Father is willing to bless us with to satisfy the righteous desires of our hearts as well as our needs. All blessings, whether or not they are essential to our spiritual or temporal survival, are manifestations of God’s mercy. He blesses us before we ever draw close to deserving a blessing, and when we try to repay our debt to him by serving him, he immediately blesses us again, leaving us indebted to him “forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:24-25).


Because I had to ask my mom to buy me a temple dress in complete humility, having done nothing at all to deserve it, the situation turned into an opportunity for her to demonstrate her love and mercy towards me. This in turn gave me the opportunity to appreciate the debt I owe her and to spur me to want to be merciful and loving to other people as well. King Benjamin promises that when we humbly pray to God and remember His greatness and our own nothingness, “Ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true” (Mosiah 4:12). And, even further, we will begin to want to reach out to others, “to live peaceably,” to serve those in need, and to teach our children righteousness (vs. 13-16). Thus by humbling ourselves in prayer to God, “[calling] upon his holy name that he would have mercy upon [us]” (Alma 34:17) with our “hearts . . . full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for [our] welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around [us]” (vs. 27), we learn more of his love for us as we grow in love and faith towards him.


The story of my temple dress reminds me every time I see or wear it not only of the special covenants I made when I received my temple endowment, but also how the love and mercy of my mother demonstrated the love and mercy of the Lord and how by asking for our righteous desires in the prayer of a meek and humble child (see Mosiah 3:18-19) we can “learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God[--that] God is our Father, and we are his children” (BD “Prayer”).

2 comments:

RB said...

Jennifer,

You have so many beautiful, insightful and inspirational thoughts in your posts! I just clicked on a link that brought me to your post about shopping with your dad, and read all your posts down to the entry about getting your own temple dress. That is my favorite; I have experienced how tender and kind our father in heaven is toward us and your words have conveyed those feelings in a tender and humble way. You communicate both thoughts and feelings about His mercy. I'm glad I discovered your words today. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!

Marie Ricks said...

Special words from a special person who knows how to say the most important words in a very special way!