Yesterday, a non-Mormon friend of mine asked me: "I wonder if you could explain to me why Mormons don't allow non-Mormons into their temples? There must be some kind of theology behind it... I just find it kind of unusual, since where I go to church (the Episcopal Church) everyone is allowed to come into the church."
I explained to her that actually Mormons also have meeting houses where we gather for worship every Sunday, and that everyone is allowed to come into those meeting houses and join us for worship if they wish. But the temples were special.
"Well," she continued, "I'm still curious what the theology is behind not allowing everybody into the temple, because you were saying to me that you were not allowed to go into the temple."
I really liked the way she posed this question. I thought it was one of the most respectful ways I've ever heard this question asked. Because in acknowledging that "there must be some kind of theology" behind it, she was in essence saying, "Clearly Mormons have a good reason behind this rule, and I would really appreciate if you could explain it to me."
But I also found that the way she posed this question required me to think more deeply about this question. It wasn't enough to explain simply that this was a rule set by the Church. She wanted to understand the "theology" behind it.
My stab at explaining this to her was to say, "Well, Mormons regard the temple as one of the most sacred places on earth. One of the reasons we build temples is because we expect that these are places where the Lord can literally come to visit us."
Reflecting on my experience at the temple this past Friday night, I added, "When I was just recently at the temple, I can say that I literally felt Christ's presence there, even just in the waiting area outside the temple proper. I could feel his presence and his love and his embrace there."
"Because temples are so sacred, Mormons feel that only those who are making sincere efforts to follow Jesus Christ should enter. We don't have to be perfect, but we need to be obeying at least all the major commandments as a sign that we are loyal to him and want to follow him." She asked a few more questions about the mechanics of how that worked, so I explained the system of obtaining and regularly renewing temple recommends.
I guess I was unprepared for how powerful an experience it actually would be to visit the temple last Friday as part of my ward's temple night. The experience has continued to dwell with me throughout the entire weekend and into this morning. I've found myself revisiting the temple in my mind, and longing to go back. As we did some centering and meditation exercises this morning as part of my daily yoga, I found myself there again in my mind/heart/soul.
My sense of the presence of Christ there was so powerful. And it wasn't until this morning that I was able to put my finger on an adequate analogy to describe exactly how I experienced that presence. When I go to the doctor for my routine annual physical, I enter a kind of passive state. The doctor listens to my heart, he tests my reflexes, he asks me to cough. I do what the doctor asks, but in a passive state, allowing him to examine and determine the level of my physical health. I don't try to diagnose myself; I'm not in a position to do that. The doctor does it for me. I trust the doctor implicitly, and I do what he asks me to do for my own well being.
That feeling of trust is the best analogy I can imagine of how it felt to me to be there at the temple. I felt Christ's superabundant love for me, and I felt his power and his care for me. And I had no desire to do anything but to rest in it, and let it work in me. It was slightly unsettling to let go of any desire to evaluate myself, or make my own determinations as to what I need in order to be spiritually healthy. But I felt OK with that, because the tremendous peace and love of Christ that I felt there persuaded me that he knows my best interests, and how best to heal me and care for me, and if I trust him and let him, all will be well. Christ is my true physician, not just the caretaker of my body, but of my whole soul: body, mind and spirit.
I am so grateful for this. I never imagined it possible to feel the things I felt there and to experience the things I experienced. This was an unexpected gift, and I've found in my prayers since, I could only express tearful gratitude for the great love my Heavenly Father and my older brother Jesus Christ have for me.
I can't believe that this gift was given to me.