They don’t take VISA at the temple. I know this for a fact. It was mid December and I was knee deep in holiday preparations. I’d whipped out my trusty VISA debit card countless times during a week of serious Christmas shopping, so it was only natural that I would pull it out at the recommend desk of the temple—right?
When the white haired gentleman at the counter just smiled and gently shook his head, I glanced down to see if my recommend had expired, and realized my mistake. Sheepishly, I tucked the card back in my wallet and produced a current temple recommend. They do take those.
This incident had a tremendous impact on me. I was ashamed to admit to myself how casual I had become with my temple attendance. Hoping to squeeze my monthly endowment session into a jam-packed holiday schedule, I had charged into the lobby of the temple without a single thought for the sacredness of the experience that was available there. Years later, when I heard the following words from Elder David A. Bednar, I knew exactly what he meant: “There is a difference between church-attending, tithe-paying members who occasionally rush into the temple to go through a session and those members who faithfully and consistently worship in the temple.” (1)
My Temple Journey
May I share with you my journey to improved temple worship? Though my VISA “incident” was a motivating factor in changing my approach to attending the temple, it was not the only one. Several months after that experience, I was wondering how to access more wisdom and even heavenly intervention in behalf of one of my children. I learned that my brother, Robb, had volunteered to be an ordinance worker at the temple. Knowing how busy he was with his job and growing family, I felt some surprise that he would be willing to donate eight hours of his time each week. It then occurred to me that if a busy man like Robb was making this sacrifice, surely I could make the time to attend the temple more frequently. The Spirit whispered that this was a way to obtain blessings for my struggling child.
Around this time, as I sat in Sacrament Meeting, I heard a speaker quote a letter from The First Presidency, written several years before: “Where time and circumstances permit, members are encouraged to replace some leisure activities with temple service.” (2) Instantly, I thought of my circumstances: my children were all in school five days a week. I was not employed outside the home. What excuse did I have not to be in the temple frequently? There was none. I left the chapel that day determined to increase my temple attendance from monthly to weekly.
Sounds easy on paper, doesn’t it? Well…it wasn’t. I went to the temple on Friday that week. The following Thursday night as I prepared for bed, I realized that the next morning was my day to be in the temple again. Already? I confess that for the first few months I was rather hit and miss in my efforts. There was always a reason to postpone my next visit to the temple: I was too tired; I had the sniffles; the weather was bad; my children were out of school; it was too close to Christmas; I forgot to launder my temple dress; the temple was closed for cleaning (never mind that there were other temples within an easy drive). I used excuse after lame excuse, usually making it to the temple two or three times each month instead of getting there weekly. But after several months of increased attendance I noticed something—I was finding it harder and harder to justify my attempts to stay home.
A year after beginning this process, I realized that when I missed a week of attending the temple, I felt anxious to return. After several years, I admitted to myself that there was no excuse good enough for me to skip a week. When I finally made that determination, temple attendance became a pleasure. I began doing initiatory work alternately with endowments and found myself moved by the beautiful words of that ordinance. Call me a late bloomer, but finally—in middle age—I can say that I truly rejoice in temple service. I’ve even discovered that it’s actually not illegal to go more than once a week. Who knew?
Although it has taken years to reach this point, I actually began to feel the blessings of the temple flow into my life almost immediately after making the initial effort to increase my attendance. I have received insights in behalf my family, and deep spiritual comfort when I desperately needed it. But the blessing that I notice most often is that I have become “aware.” Every hour spent in the temple seems to translate into a growing awareness of my standing before the Lord, both in terms of progress I have made and in the ways I most need to change.
Nowhere is our true identity more apparent than in the house of the Lord. In no other place do we feel so equal to those around us. The more time we spend in the peaceful, uncluttered atmosphere of the temple, where modesty and simplicity prevail, the more we become aware of the contrast between the Lord’s ways and the world’s ways.
The Manna Principle
As I’ve reflected on the tremendous blessings that have come to me from increased temple attendance, it has occurred to me that it hardly seems fair that so many church members must travel significant distances to reach the nearest temple, and for some it is actually a once in a lifetime experience. After stewing over this for a time I’ve come to two conclusions. The first: I have absolutely no excuse not serve in the temple on a regular basis. The second: I think the “manna principle” applies here.
After Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, the people complained that they didn’t have enough food. The Lord told them that He would “rain bread from heaven,” or manna, for them to eat. Everyone was to gather just enough to use each day—anything leftover would actually have worms in it and stink. Seriously! But something surprising occurred every week. On the sixth day Moses’ people were to gather twice as much manna, and what was left over did not spoil as on other days, but provided their food for the Sabbath. (3)
What could that possibly have to do with the temple? Well, those who have easy access to a temple are able to gather spiritual manna there on a regular basis. For those who are farther away, but make the effort to receive their endowment and go back whenever possible, the Lord can make that nourishment last longer. I don’t believe that applies where people may have been to the temple but give it little thought afterward. But for those who frequently review their temple covenants in their minds and seek to keep them, who search out what the scriptures have to teach on the subject, and who study the words of living prophets in regard to temple worship—the manna they receive at the temple can last as long as it’s needed.
Everyone’s journey to true temple worship will be as different as our circumstances. Age, health, employment, family situations, and distance all have an effect on our ability to attend the temple. Sometimes it isn’t the frequency of our visits that needs to change, but the quality of our temple experience.
The Rest of the Story
Want to hear the rest of my VISA story? A few years after that embarrassing incident, I stood in the checkout line of my grocery store, ready to pay for a cart full of food. Without conscious thought, I fished the leather wallet out my purse and was halfway to handing the clerk my temple recommend when I realized my mistake. This time, however, I felt no embarrassment as I slipped the recommend back in its place and produced my VISA debit card. They do take those.
The clerk must have wondered about the silly grin on my face, but I offered no explanation. I was basking in the fresh evidence that my approach to worshiping in the temple had changed. No longer was the temple simply a place I visited—it was becoming a way of life for me. It had taken several years and much conscious effort, but I had progressed from a woman who stood in line at the temple recommend desk preoccupied by Christmas shopping, to one who stood in line at the grocery store thinking about the temple. (Okay, so sometimes I notice the candy bars too, but still…)
Lynne Perry Christofferson is an award-winning songwriter whose compositions and arrangements have been performed frequently in the Temple Square Concert Series, and at BYU Women’s Conference.
1. David A. Bednar, Ensign, May 2009, 98
2. Letter from The First Presidency, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 11, 2003, emphasis added.
3. See Exodus 16:2-25.