Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Temple Fast

“Surely we on this side of the veil have a great work to do. . . . We can see that the building of temples has deep significance for ourselves and mankind. . . . We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in life. . . .

“Yet there are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples. They do the best they can. . . .

“Let us truly be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. We should hasten to the temple as frequently, yet prudently, as our personal circumstances allow. . . Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate goal and supreme moral experience.”

                      - President Howard W. Hunter, “A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, May 1995

The Oakland California temple was an hour drive away from where I grew up. As a mutual group, we were usually able to go to the temple to do baptisms for the dead several times a year. In addition, we occasionally went to the temple grounds and Visitor’s Center for other events, like stake conferences, dance festivals, special concerts, and Christmas lights. I felt very blessed that the temple was a part of my life as a youth, but making the trip always took careful planning and was a big event.

When I went to college at BYU, suddenly the Provo temple was just five minutes away. I could walk there. I could even just go to the grounds just to read my scriptures, something that I had always dreamed of doing when I dreamed of living close to the temple. Although I could only do baptisms for the dead, I was very excited that I could go to the temple more frequently.

But college started all too soon and I was busy from the start with classes and adjusting to life on my own away from home. There wasn’t much time to hike up the hill to the temple when I had papers to write, tests to take, and other homework to do. I was also a little nervous about finding my way around the baptistery and only wanted to go to the temple if friends could go with me. Sadly, during that first semester—five minutes away or not—I only went to the temple once or twice.

Then the lesson began when the opportunity of temple attendance was ripped from me. Over Christmas break that year, I broke my leg in a sledding accident. I came back to college several days late and in a leg cast. I had to use a wheelchair and crutches to get around to my classes, and going to the temple, at a time when I was struggling emotionally as well as physically from my injury and the strength of the temple would have been a tremendous help, was impossible (you just can’t be baptized in a cast!).

The closest I could get to the temple that semester was in my Doctrine and Covenants religion course. The class covered the second half of the Doctrine and Covenants, and we talked about the temple a lot that semester because in many of those sections the Lord talks about the importance of building and worshipping in temples.

As we studied these commandments in class, our professor challenged us to write down goals about our temple attendance. I felt so sorry that I hadn’t taken time for the temple while I was able to go, but I could still make goals and did. I promised the Lord and myself that once I was out of my cast I would not take the temple for granted again.

Looking back, I call this time in my life my temple fast. As I waited for my leg to heal so I could walk again, I learned how much I missed the temple in my life when I took the time to appreciate it. Every time I start thinking about how going to the temple isn’t convenient in my scheduling or travel plans, I remember how much I missed it when I wasn’t physically able to go and try to remember to better appreciate the opportunity—and not a chore—that regular temple attendance is in my life.

Years later, one of my bishops talked about the time when the temple closes for cleaning in the summer or winter each year as a time of a temple fast. He would always encourage us ward members to go just before and just after the scheduled temple closing and during the few weeks without an open temple to think about our “fast” to help us recognize how much we appreciate the temple, but I after that first temple fast in my life I have always hoped that I can learn to appreciate the temple even while I live near one, and while it’s open, by attending frequently.

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