Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Building the Temple... In Our Hearts

I wish I could go to the temple... I really do. There was a time when the thought of going to the temple really upset me. Frightened me. Made me feel anxious and guilty. But there were also times when I really enjoyed the peaceful feeling I felt there. My favorite part of going to the temple was after the endowment ceremony, when I could just sit in the Celestial Room and rest, and pray, and feel at peace with God and with myself. One of the tragedies of my life is that -- as a struggling student at BYU -- the one time in my life when I most desperately needed that, it was abruptly taken away from me. And I almost didn't survive that... And I've been in exile from the temple ever since. But now I've acquired a larger understanding of life that puts those parts of the temple ceremony that once frightened me into perspective. So I wish I could go there again now, and re-experience it with that larger understanding. What would it mean to me now?

This morning I read the Book of Haggai. It's only two chapters long, and probably one of the most ignored books in the Bible. But it should have special significance to Latter-day Saints, because it's all about turning our hearts back toward the temple. Haggai points out how we allow ourselves to get caught up in meaningless, worldly cycles; chasing after things that keep us busy, but that lead nowhere; pursuing wealth and status and material well-being that somehow ultimately vanish; the proverbial stashing of coins in pockets that have holes in them. Turn your hearts toward something that has permanence and meaning, cried Haggai. Turn your hearts toward the temple!

There are, of course, plenty of Haggai-like cries echoing throughout the world today. But it bears repeating that building a tabernacle with the words "House of the Lord" blazoned over the entrance does not a House of the Lord make. There are millions of false temples and idolatrous sanctuaries. There are everywhere supposedly consecrated buildings that merely provide religious window dressing for the shallow chase after wealth, power and status -- or, for bigotry and hate. But even a true temple, even a pure and holy temple becomes impure and false and unholy if our hearts are not steadfast. Haggai reminds us of this. Something true and pure is so easily corrupted. All it takes is a touch, a breath, an intention.

The true temple can only be built in one place: in our hearts. Everything else physical and material emanates from that. So this is what I remind myself as I prepare to return to the temple some day, as I prepare to find myself again some day in that place of peace and light: it is first and foremost in my heart. The temple was right here inside of me all along.

3 comments:

Beck said...

Thank you for encouraging me to rediscover and read Haggai again.

The temple for me is a sanctuary from the world - including its cares and worries. It is a place of renewal and recommitment, a place of communication and linkage with Heavenly Father. It is a place of revelation, especially alone in meditation in the Celestial Room. Many of life's decisions and revelatory moments have connected in the temple.

Yet, I've also found such clarity of thinking alone in the mountains, in the desert, in the "wilderness". Often, the temple as a beacon of light can be found in me when I can be alone and still and quiet and in tune. Though sealing priesthood ordinances are provided in a physical consecrated structure, the revelatory conduit is not found only there, but a consecrated heart.

Thanks for that insight.

J G-W said...

Beck -- Thanks, so much! Yes, Haggai is a little gem... After reading it this morning, I realize I will want to go back and read it again and again. I'm glad my post encouraged you to go back to the source as well...

It is hard for me sometimes when I am at church and everyone's talking about ward temple night. At this point, I basically just need to remind myself that I need to use this time in my life to prepare my heart. Perhaps some day the conditions will be right...

Part of that preparation for me is building a world in which the principles of the temple will become the governing principles of the world we live in... The kind of world where justice, peace and truth are the air we breathe, and where love is our light...

Bill McA said...

I know you will get back there someday, John.