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Some time ago a friend of mine shared a story with me that happened on her way to a temple in California. She and her husband were running late and wanted to be sure they made it to an endowment session that was starting shortly.
They sped into the parking lot, pulled into a spot, and then jumped out. Quickly they hurried toward the temple, where she noticed an elderly gentleman with a walker just making his way up the sidewalk. He had a crowd of people with him, all moving along as slowly as he was.
I’ve got to get to the front doors before them, she thought. Otherwise it would take forever for each of them to check in, and she’d be too late for the session. She and her husband sped up, scooting past the crowd, pushing ahead of them, and almost to the front doors when suddenly the doors swung wide and the entire Temple Presidency was standing there.
“Welcome to the temple, President Hunter,” one man said.
And my friend froze. Mortified, she turned and saw the prophet of God, heading into the temple with relatives to attend a family wedding.
She stood aside and let this majestic servant of God walk in with his family, utterly embarrassed to have been judging him and feeling irritated at his pace. I doubt many of us would have felt much else, except perhaps like fainting.
Few moments in life have the teaching impact of that fleeting instant, but several lessons were indelibly taught. First, we revere these great men as the prophets of God that they are, but shouldn’t we treat everyone with honor and respect, just for being sons and daughters of God? Should we ever push past someone because they are moving too slowly, especially when our lateness is our own fault?
Second, when going to the temple, how vital is it to prepare, to enter in the right frame of mind, not to try to race ahead but to approach it with the sacred reverence it deserves? This means allowing enough time so that we don’t have to rush, and making sure we don’t have a “let’s get this over with” attitude.
Last, let’s apply this to our lives, and ask ourselves if we ever “push past” our prophets and leaders, dismissing their counsel, taking for granted the living men who speak for God, who serve in our behalf. As another General Conference approaches, let us be grateful for the opportunity to drink at living waters, to learn how to overcome our personal weaknesses, and to draw closer to God in the process. Let’s never take these sessions for granted, but clear the decks of all activity so we can listen, learn, and grow.
I remember a few years ago when I was telling someone we have living prophets today and they said, “Really? What have they said, lately?” You could almost read his next thought: “Surely if you believe they’re prophets you listen to them, right?”
How negligent I would have felt if I hadn’t watched the last Conference, and couldn’t have answered that question. Yet, sometimes I think we take for granted that these men spend hours and hours in prayer and preparation to bring us God’s words. We have a precious gift, a priceless treasure, freely offered twice a year. Let’s slow down and pay attention, not look back and realize we missed an opportunity.