Your Sunday Brunch Special: Temple Dedication

I served a mission during the Vietnam War. This was a problematic thing on several levels. For one, the Church had wrangled selective service deferments and parsed them out to wards so that two ward members could be in the mission field at any one time, more or less. Our ward’s quota was in play, so that when I decided I wanted to try mission before war, there wasn’t much chance of doing so. After high school, I became a ski bum for a year, working in a ski shop, installing bindings, making adjustments, fixing skis, etc. As my 19th birthday approached, the bishop informed me that another ward had a free slot, and it was mine if I wanted it. I said yes.

I can’t say I had a huge drive to serve. My parents hoped that I would. My bishop did not push the issue, I think he had the idea that I was less than ideal as an ambassador of Christ and the Church. It was a question of avoiding change I think. I could get homesick sleeping overnight at my cousin’s house across town. We went through the usual prep (The instructions mailed from the mission said to buy a HAT.

This is close.

This is close.

I think they were written in 1940 and never updated.) I entered my week’s worth of mission training in the early spring. At this point, the mission training center was called the “mission home” and it was located very near the Salt Lake Temple.
No, not this far back people. Give me a break.

No, not this far back people. Give me a break.

Waking at 6:00am, we studied for 2 hours and then trudged over to the basement of the then Hotel Utah for breakfast. It was weird stuff, I can tell you. Then back to the mission home, where we were shotgunned by apostle after apostle, seventy after seventy (of the seventy, my most potent memory is of Bruce R. McConkie–it can only be described as shattering). After five days, I was seriously wondering whether this life was for me. That evening, I had a crazy idea. In my teenage mind I reasoned that if I was going to stick this out, I needed to know if there was anything to it. It’s hard to convey how troubled I was about it. What to do?

The solution seemed mad. This was a time of tension in Salt Lake City. Church security was high and temple square was a center of that. But I had the idea that I needed to get to the temple somehow. The doors of the mission home were locked at 9pm. I left my dorm room at 8:30 and went down the stairs and out the door. It was dark. I made my way to the north gate of temple square and went in. The security shack was empty.

Think opposite the nearest corner. No lights were on that night.

Think opposite the nearest corner. No lights were on that night.

I climbed the wall (I know, in a suit, right?) and walked to the temple walls, found a window niche and knelt down and prayed my heart out for nearly an hour. I thought if God was actually located someplace, the best chance of finding him in Mormon country was where I was praying then. It was material culture at its most firm. At first it seemed that my words were blocked by the ultrathick stonework surrounding me. But gradually I experienced what I can only describe as a kind of calm assurance. Rather like God was reminding me of something, but I couldn’t hear precisely what. Standing up, I made for the wall, thinking I would surely be arrested or at least be thrown in the stupid pen. But the place was empty. I jumped down(!) and walked out of the square. Back at the home, I wondered if I would be locked out. But no, the doors were open, no one waited at the counter. I walked upstairs and went to bed, my head full of a thousand trajectories that might be the future. None of them were right.

Fast forward to 2014. I had toured the refurbished (really rebuilt) Ogden, Utah temple, and now I was driving over to the temple rededication. As I entered the doors, I felt a change in the atmosphere. I felt a deep, penetrating, flowing warmth spread through me. It was more than comfort, but I won’t attempt to say more about it, except that it was something heavenly, sweet, powerful. It remained with me for the duration of the service.

This is the place.

This is the place.


I connected the two experiences almost immediately. It was as though the second was a fulfillment of the first. The whole thing is impossible to convey with any accuracy, but it was real, and perhaps because of these experiences (they are not the only ones) the temple artifact itself seems just as important as the rituals it houses. To me, it is holy.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this.

  2. I had a similar MTC experience–the first few weeks were so bad that, unless I got confirmation that I was supposed to be there, I was going to quit, despite the fact that I felt I’d be disappointing all my friends and family if I didn’t stick with it.
    I received the powerful spiritual confirmation to continue, although it took a few days. Without that, I never would’ve made it through the MTC, which ended up being one of the hardest parts of the mission.

  3. Awesome, in many ways. You’d probably get the stuffing kicked out of you for trying to climb that wall today. Somehow your experience strikes me as profoundly right.

  4. I feel great power in the temple, but, as a woman, the ceremonies feel like a glass ceiling. I skip the ceremonies.

  5. Tim, I hear you. Thanks, Kevin and Steve. ErinAnn I hope you keep finding that power.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    What Steve said. Exactly right.

  7. My wife thinks you’re awesome, and as for me, you’ll always be my hero.

  8. Thanks, J and Noah.

  9. That was astounding and moving. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. Hallelujah and a thousand amens! Thanks, Bill, for sharing these beautiful experiences with us!

  11. Bill, I just got to this. Sublime. Thank you for sharing something so deeply personal. It helps.

  12. This is great, WVS…like a punk rock Enos experience. Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. That is really, really powerful. Thank you for this testimony!

  14. Thanks all.

  15. I needed this, thank you.