Twenty years ago today, I was endowed in the Idaho Falls Temple. This temple was where my parents and grandparents had been endowed and sealed. My parents drove to Logan where I was attending Utah State University and brought me to Idaho for this mysterious rite. I was nervous about this for two reasons. First, I had no idea what was going to be required of me. The last thing I wanted to encounter was some silly activity that would somehow spotlight me. In other words, I dreaded that the temple would be like every youth activity I had ever attended. I am an eight-generation Mormon, but I grew up outside of the Mormon culture region. I spent my entire childhood moving all over the world in support of my father’s career as an Air Force officer. Church, for me, was just another gauntlet of unfamiliar faces and names and stares. Being an introvert, I came to loathe church. When it didn’t cause my anxiety levels to spike, it left me bored. So as I ran my hand along the icy railing of the ramp leading up to the temple’s entrance, I was expecting to be either humiliated or bored. Perhaps both.As soon as I was in the temple, however, everything in my life changed. I know that sounds dramatic and clichéd. But it is true. In the temple experience I immediately recognized an ally. It was a space where I could just be. I could think. I could marvel at the strangeness of it all and draw comfort from its paradoxical familiarity. In the temple, I found that I could map my life onto a mythos that was simultaneously cosmic and atomic. It spoke to the grandest of realities and to the seemingly banal elements of my life. I became part of the mythos. When I was sealed to my wife in the Manti temple, our family joined the play.
After I finished my undergraduate degree, I earned a Ph.D in the History of Religion from Indiana University. This experience shook my faith. I found myself having to make concessions and compromises. My view of nearly everything related to my ancestral faith had changed. Nearly everything became smaller and smaller. Nearly everything. The temple, which I never abandoned, continued to expand for me. It challenged me constantly. It empowered me. It made me believe, against every natural inclination in soul, that the world was not a pointless, cruel joke. The temple has ever been for me a fountain of living waters in a life that has often been, thanks to major depression, a desolate hellscape. I’m awful at missionary work, I will never be a leader, I hate home teaching. But I have a temple heart. It is, perhaps, the only thing I have—that I have ever had—that I know is genuine.
I know that the temple poses difficulty for some. There are sexist elements to the rituals that I hope with all my heart will be smoothed out and done away with. Others are bored, or disinterested, or confused. In the meantime, I want them to rest on my temple heart. Every time I attend the temple, I think of these brothers and sisters of mine. I dedicate a part of my temple heart to them. I go for the dead, but also for the living. And I pray that I can rely on their missionary hearts and their leadership hearts, and their home teaching hearts to buy me enough time to get better at those things. I rejoice in my God, who gave us each a new, but different, heart. I understand, to a small degree, what He meant when he said of these spiritual gifts that “To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”