Monday, August 09, 2021

Thoughts on Temples

 There was a lovely lesson on Temples in Relief Society Sunday, and I was too tired to comment. But I had some thoughts, so I'm going to share them here so my kids can have them (and whoever else).

The first thing I remembered during the lesson was in response to the teacher asking, "Why do we go back to the temple? What makes us go?" And I remembered a very vivid dream I had years ago while I was a missionary at a Temple Visitor's Center. I dreamed that masses of people were standing in front of a huge set of ornate doors. An angel was there giving them instructions, and the last thing he said was, "And when you go through these doors, you will no longer be families." The vast majority of the people shrugged and said to each other, "I never really liked you anyway," and when the doors opened, they thronged through into a new world, sort of dimly lit. But a small family looked at each other in fear, and pulled themselves out of the throng--Mom, Dad, and two small children. They pushed to a room on the side of the doors, out of the masses, and found the angel standing there. They said, "But we want to stay a family! Please." And the angel replied, "Wait here," and gestured at a couch. And I woke up understanding that that is why we go to the temple again and again. Because amidst all the millions of people who don't care, there are little families like that, sitting and waiting so they don't have to stop being a family forever. In the temple, we help those people (as well as ourselves) be with the ones they love forever.
I also thought how we often wish that we could be closer to Jesus, But He seems so very far away and unreachable. But, in fact, we can go hang out at his house, like we hang out at friend’s houses. Like, that’s super super cool! But we say “The Lord’s House” so often that it stops meaning, “Hey, come hang out at my house” and starts meaning “edifice of straight faces and whispering.” But we need to not forget that the temple is Jesus’s house and we’re invited to come hang out there–in the grounds or inside. That’s so amazing! Even if he’s not always at home, we’re still welcome. His servants are there and will let us in, show us around, help us enjoy the activities. If we let it become a building of stone and lovely furniture, or a quiet spot to be alone with our thoughts, we're missing a major (and amazing!) aspect of the Temple: It's Jesus's and Heavenly Fathers house, and we're invited to come on over and be there. 

I also remembered the day I did some research on the actual coronation ceremonies of Queen Elizabeth as part of an online class I was taking on the clothing of royal Brits through history. There was a unit on coronation regalia, and that led me to reading more details about actual British coronations. Like, what's the actual ceremony that turns a person from being a person into being a queen? Turns out the very public crown-placed-on-head bit is only a tiny part of the ceremony, and not the most important part.

In fact, the girl becomes the Queen through a series of private (and they consider sacred) and public ceremonies that endow her with power and authority to lead England. During the ceremony, the queen takes an oath (which included multiple separate covenants), prays at an altar, and she's ritually washed with clean water and then anointed with sacred oil (on forehead, hands, and breast while wearing a white dress), to symbolically cleanse her and to give her power and authority to run the kingdom, and she’s made a queen of the kingdom and a leader of the church, and she has different items and clothings added to her at different parts of the ceremony--and also before and after--to represent things (The Order of the Garter, for example, worn by royalty represented by a blue sash on the left shoulder, across the chest, fastened at the opposite hip, and the Royal Victorian Order, which sash is worn on the right shoulder; the sash of highest ranking is worn in the ceremony so there are not sashes crossing the chest in every which way, but one, worn on the shoulder that represents the highest Order). Some of it happens in a very small, intimate setting and some happens in a more public ceremony that includes language that is supposed to help everyone--Queen especially--understand the change in status, role, responsibility, and behavior expected. Bible scriptures are read. The Bible is placed on the altar after reminding the new queen that she is to follow the law of the Gospel in her life and decisions. There are tokens of various aspects of her new life as Queen exchanged with the priests who have authority over those things in ritualized actions and words, explained and then given to the queen, who sometimes accepts them (like putting on rings) and sometimes gives them back after receiving them. There's a lot there--you can read up on it. 

All of this helped me understand the temple better. The purpose of the temple is, in part, to endow us with power and authority in God's kingdom and Church. The ceremony educates us and also provides covenants that help direct our outlook and behavior--help us understand and succeed in our roles. Like the queen at her coronation, we are symbolically washed, we are literally anointed with oil--for the same reasons the Queen is. We have symbolic clothing, action, and education. And the point is to make us leaders in the kingdom (which, of course, means servants, not bosses, in God's kingdom). The priesthood is, in fact, called the Order of the Son of God. 

And, like the girl becoming the Queen, the ceremony ought to give us a different view of ourselves and our place in the universe and the Church, and a sense of gravitas and focus in our daily activities and in our bearing and behavior, because we emerge different than we went in, just like the queen emerges different than she went in. Of course, one major difference is England wants but one queen, and God wants all queens. (And kings, of course.) Another is that God's power is real; the Queen's is mostly symbolic. 

Anyway, thinking about all those things during the lesson, and it was lovely to ponder. 

And I just finally got an appointment to go back. YAY!