Monday, January 14, 2013

Not All Temple Experiences Are Wonderful, but It's Wonderful When They Are

One of my daughters went to the temple a couple of years ago, and there were a couple of really neat experiences during the baptisms. The following is what I wrote about it at the time:

1) One of the men in our ward had some family file names, and he really choked up when he baptized his daughter for the first person. I asked his daughter who that person was while she was waiting to be confirmed (while her father was performing some baptisms with his son), and she said it was her grandmother - her father's mother. I didn't have time to ask for clarification, but she said they had found the necessary information while they were in Cincinnati recently - which made me wonder if this is a "biological mother" of an adopted son, or some other unique situation.

I understand fully that it might have been nothing more than emotion, but it still was deeply touching to see a man who obviously cared so deeply about doing something for his mother - especially if it was a mother he never knew. (It also reminded me of how little we really know about many of the people in our congregations.) It also might have been a deeply spiritual experience, and it's important to keep that open as a distinct possibility. 

2) I was baptizing one of the other young women in the ward, and things were going normally. I have a decent short-term memory for names I read, and I know the prayer by heart, so I try whenever possible to take a moment and read the name, memorize it and then close my eyes and say the prayer in the same way we normally think of a prayer being said. I don't like the old rushed way of saying the prayer at a breakneck pace, so I slow it down just enough to articulate each word clearly - and I lower my arm and pause while reading the next name in order to make it a clear break between people being baptized. I then raise my arm and start again.

I baptized this particular girl for ten people, and it was a little difficult at first. She is 12, and she was going down into the water in such a way that she barely was getting immersed, so I whispered some simple directions on how to make it easier - but in trying to do what I had suggested, she ended up complicating it and making it even harder. After about the third baptism, she whispered something about contradictory instructions - and I realized I had complicated it for her with my attempt to help and started to make her frustrated. (There's a valuable lesson there for lots of things in the Church and life, I believe.)

I apologized to her and took a second while I looked at the next name to say a really quick, simple, silent prayer that she would have a good experience during the rest of the baptisms - then I started again. The next one went very well, as did the one after that. The next person had only a first name listed, and as soon as I said the words, "for and in behalf of Eva" - I got all choked up myself and literally had to pause for probably ten seconds just to get my own emotions under control. My voice cracked a little as I ended with, "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." That feeling disappeared completely as soon as that particular ordinance was over, and there was nothing out of the ordinary for the rest of the time I was there.

I believe that experience was more than just emotional - and I have no idea if it was to help that young woman and/or me. I just know it was a really neat experience - the strongest I've ever had in that situation, and one of only a handful for me like it over the decades in the setting of the temple.

Two things leaped to mind at the time, and another one came to mind as I typed this post:

1) It's important to experience the "normal" (the hundreds of times in the temple where I have not felt such an amazing spirit but, instead, merely was there physically or gained personal insight and revelation) in order to be there to experience the sublime.  Without the numerous normal, I wouldn't have been there that day to experience the singular sublime. 

2) It's important to pray for special experiences in the temple - of some sort, either specific or general. 

3) It's important that we not over-complicate the temple (and other ordinances / programs / activities / interaction / teaching) with a focus on "procedure" - even as it's important to try to prepare ourselves and others to participate and learn.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Great post. I also think it's important not to spread the idea that "I learn something new every time I go to the temple." I don't believe this is true for most people. All it does is make people feel like they are doing something wrong if they don't learn something new. I do believe that one can learn something new every time if they are prepared and in the right mindset, but that's not a reality most of the time.