As humans, we naturally organize and structure our lives in accordance with our perception of time. Different cultures understand, measure, and allocate time differently and time tends to function as a tacit regulator of daily activities and decisions. Western cultures tend to view time as linear and fixed. This understanding of time, compounded by the ever-accelerating pace of society and obsession with time efficiency, has catalyzed a widespread plague of anxiety and diminished quality of life and life satisfaction.

Society has come down with collective “hurry sickness”. Several years ago, I began to recognize symptoms of this epidemic in myself, and I did not like what I saw upon self-reflection. Over time, I had acquired a sense of falling and lagging further and further behind. It was not an actual lagging behind, but a constant and unrelenting preoccupation that I would. It felt as if the length of the 24-hour day was literally decreasing while the outstanding “to do” list items continued to grow longer and heavier. Life seemed unmanageable. I was displeased with myself at the end of every day. Moved by the gentle nudging of the Holy Ghost, I realized that I had become thoroughly encumbered by needless feelings of discontentment and inadequacy. Still today, I cringe at phrases such as “the early bird gets the worm” or “time is of the essence.”

While I do not disagree with these principles, such phrases seem to taunt that, despite all best efforts and intentions, I might never get the worm or be good and fast enough to achieve things of “essence”. I have come to accept that the phrase “better late than never” is a more realistic and suitable slogan for me. This amended perspective on time and revision of personal expectations has unclouded my vision of life, people and even the Lord. Through the process I have found increased comfort in the Lord’s acceptance of my efforts, increased faith in the Lord’s promises, more complete understanding of the Lord’s covenants, more realistic expectations of personal progress (for myself and others), and even a strengthened resolve to obey and endure hardship with patience. I have learned this blissful lesson in my own life: we are never too late or too far behind to follow the Savior. It is worth noting that some things on the covenant path do require timely responses. We should not, for example, procrastinate repentance or defer the prophetic call to hasten family history and temple work. For now, however, I am referring to other facets of life along the covenant path.

The course of the Lord is one eternal round. We love and worship a Heavenly Father whose course is described in our sacred scriptures as “one eternal round”. The covenants we make with the Lord are eternally binding. Promised blessings are eternal in duration and nature. Our transient time in mortality is an opportunity for learning and progression. Though our time in mortality is limited, the spiritual progress we make here will endure. It is not erased when we leave this earth, nor does it need to happen instantaneously. Holiness, righteousness and perfection cannot be achieved in a 10-minute car wash.  When it comes to accepting and following the Savior, “better late than never” and “slow and steady wins the race” are definitely viable strategies. In true and lasting conversion, quality is what counts and speed without stamina will be of little help.

It is never too late to change course. I was into my 30s when I heard the restored gospel for the first time. 32 years had given me plenty of time to make a pretty big disaster of my life. I was well aware that changing myself and my circumstances would be a lengthy and arduous process. More importantly, I knew that it could not be done without the aid of Jesus Christ. I had lived my entire life wandering the strange paths and wild fields of Lehi’s dream.

Had I been immediately and magically teleported safely to the trunk of the tree and its delicious fruit without incident or effort, I would not have appreciated the value of the fruit’s sweetness.  I knew and still know that I cannot be perfect in this life. We rely on the merits, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Flawlessness is not a requisite for receiving the Lord’s blessings. But I did and do need to strive continually to be better. I knew that perfection was not a possibility, but I also knew that I still needed to develop certain strengths and attributes despite whatever shortcomings accompanied them. Growth of this kind comes only through personal experience, usually in the form of prolonged and painstaking trials.

When it comes to development of Christlike attributes and attitude, time is “of the essence”, but in the sense that it takes a lot of it, not in the sense that we must hurry to accomplish the task. The development of patience by its nature requires time. Rest assured, however, that when we feel like the clock has run out on our ability to endure afflictions patiently, we’re on the Savior’s watch.

We will most certainly encounter things along the course that are outside of our control. Heavenly Father has crafted a personalized plan for each of His children with our best interest as the guiding priority. Successful navigation to our destination requires that we follow the example of Savior and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has his own timing, plan and will for each of us. He knows who we are and where we are (spiritually, emotionally, physically, circumstantially, etc). Our life will not always take the same shape as someone else’s or beat to rhythm that we want it to. We must trust that the Lord knows what qualities we need to develop or eliminate in order to make it back to our heavenly home. Our challenges are personal, and our stories are unique, reflecting personal and loving Heavenly Parents who want us to return to them. This also liberates us from the tendency to compare ourselves and our lives to other people or situations.

We make our way through the course in the Lord’s time. When I entered the temple baptistry for the first time to participate in vicarious baptisms, I was about two decades older than anyone else entering the baptismal font that day. It was during a stake youth temple excursion, and I was well past my youth. My age at the time, however, was immaterial, as this was an unforgettable and life changing “better late than never” moment for me. I could not believe that the Lord would let someone like me participate in such a glorious and magnificent work. I was so thankful that, after so many years of missteps and wandering, the Lord had blessed me to know these priceless truths and to be able to participate in something of such magnificence. The Lord’s timing was beautiful and perfect. Being almost twenty years “behind” the rest of the youth that day did not disqualify me from receiving blessings or offering service. There was, fortunately, no tardy box to check on the temple recommend.

My daughter’s first experience participating in vicarious baptisms was during a very different stage of life. Because of her December birthday, she was able to participate in vicarious baptisms just weeks after turning 11. The first day in January that it was open, we went to the temple together with my husband.  My daughter, who is a brave and courageous soul, had chosen to be baptized at age 8, even after watching my family disown me for becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She has now suffered the same disownment.  I knew that the process of healing from this family rejection and pain would likely commence with her willingness to help our ancestors have the opportunity to receive the ordinances of salvation and the possibility of eternal family bonds. I brought her to the temple on the very first day she could possibly enter because I did not want her to have to live without the blessings and miracles of the Lord’s house for one day longer than she needed to.

Understanding her worth in our family as a loving servant and participant in their saving ordinances has been a source of great comfort, belonging and strength to her. That was the Lord’s time for her to receive those blessings. Living the gospel is not a matter of being late or early. Heavenly Father has a beautiful plan for each and every one of us, catered to our individual needs. He gives us these blessings when we are prepared to receive them. He was not late when I was 32 and he was not early when my daughter was 11. In both cases, the Lord was right on time. Even those whose mortal probation period on this earth has expired have a chance to accept and follow the Savior. Death cannot separate us from the love of our Savior, nor can it prevent us from acting in love towards those who have passed on before us.

Our awkward stumbles on the course will not impede Heavenly Father’s purposes or plan.

Miracles are not infrequent occurrences in Temples. I would like to share one personal experience that has stood out to me as especially tender and memorable. Sometimes the timing of an event is a miracle in and of itself.  On a day when, like most days, I was battling feelings of inadequacy as a person, wife, mother, you name it, I made an appointment for myself and my husband for vicarious sealings. I had to reschedule the appointment more than once because the day kept throwing unforeseen curve balls. Eventually, I rescheduled to the 8:30 PM appointment slot, which was the last available appointment of the night. I felt spiritually clumsy, like I could never seem to get the chaos of life under wraps. I thanked God for his patience and for accepting my disheveled but genuine efforts and went to the temple barely on time, flustered and all. We almost ran out of gas on the way and had to stop. I was embarrassed to arrive late to the last appointment of the day. I also knew that we probably should not leave my 11-year-old daughter alone to wait in the annex, but her regular sitter was unavailable, and I felt a very strong impression that we should go anyway.

The previous night I had printed some names from my reserved ordinances list.  I brought ordinance cards for four sealings to spouses (all part of one family) as well as four unrelated sons and six daughters. I did not know which of these we would do, since it was late and my daughter was in the waiting area unattended. I just determined to do what we could. When we entered the sealing room, there were two sealers and two adult couples. They were completing a few daughters to parents sealings from temple’s shared family files.  Moments before our arrival, they had completed the sealing of three brothers to their parents, which had also been from the temple’s shared family files. I handed my ordinance cards for spouses to the the sealer, but he asked if I had any child to parents sealing cards. He said we should take advantage of the extra patrons in the room, since they had to leave soon. I agreed and handed him the ordinances cards from my pocket. We proceeded, my husband and I as proxies for parents and another male patron for a son.

During the first sealing, I saw the other sealer (who was serving as a witness) look at one of my cards, reach for the temple’s shared family file folder and open it to look at the ordinances they had completed before we arrived. Between ordinances, the witnessing sealer told us to pause and remarked that we were about to be part of a very special night in the temple. He explained that one of the names I brought was the brother of the three brothers who had just been sealed to their parents a few minutes before my husband and I arrived. One of the cards (of a distant relative) which I had handed to the sealer belonged to the fourth son of these very same parents.

That night, after a century of waiting, these parents had the joy of being sealed to all four of their sons. Not only that, but these were actually my own shared family names that I had shared with the temple on FamilySearch. This was an answer my continual prayers to God. As the first member of my family tree, there are many thousands of ordinances available to complete. I have brought thousands of them to the temple myself, but the rest of them I share with the temple so their work can carry on.

I often plead with the Lord to send help for my many family members in waiting. I knew he had heard my prayers. The most astounding and moving miracle, however, was the sealing of this fourth son to his parents and his three brothers. My foibles and imperfections did not get in the Lord’s way of performing this miracle. I realized that had we arrived at an earlier session we would have been directed to a different sealing room. Had we failed to keep the later appointment, that family would not have experienced that miracle, and we would not have witnessed it. Interestingly enough, had my life been running smoothly (i.e had I been ‘on time’), I would not have entered that sealing room on that evening with that son’s card in my pocket.

The Lord knows that family. He knows these parents and he knows all four of their children. The Lord knew that those parents and their son’s names would be printed by faithful temple workers and brought to that sealing room at that time on that day in that temple. He also knew that I would arrive frazzled and feeling like a failure to that sealing room at the latest possible appointment on that same evening in that same temple. This experience has greatly impacted my understanding of the Lord’s patience and timing. The living make temple appointments and we work to the best of our limited capacities to assist in moving this work forward, but appointments are verily made and kept by the Lord. He does things in his timing, which is perfect timing. Sometimes, even our best is not really that great. As we are faithful and willing to serve, he is able to guide us to places we do not realize we need to be at times he knows we should be there. This family’s sealing was divinely orchestrated.

Only a God who knows all things and all people could synchronize such an appointment across realms and veil, among unsuspecting people in different locations, total strangers who have never met and who did not inhabit the earth during the same century. Every participant and witness to that sealing left the temple that night with renewed humility, joy and gratitude. I am certain that for those parents, who had waited a century (and whose last son missed the first sealing) this was a “better late than never” experience. The Lord is never late. He is never early. He is always right on time. When we are doing our very best to obey and serve him, he will make sure that we are always on time, too.