Sunday, October 30, 2011

Worshiping in the temple

I've held a current temple recommend for most of the last decade but I haven't always made use of it.

I recently returned to the temple after an absence of a few years. I'm very grateful to a wonderful friend who invited me to join her. A lot of things went through my mind as I sat through that session. The thought that concerned me the most was that I didn't feel as close to God as I had hoped I would but I was also keenly aware that experiencing that special communion in the temple is something that must be achieved through regular attendance. I know that in order to feel closer to my Heavenly Father, I need to go back–often.

It was interesting to compare the experience of worshipping in the temple to worshipping at church on Sunday. The temple experience is largely consistent. Changes made to the endowment for the purpose of making the work more efficient over the years notwithstanding, one can count on their session in the temple to be outwardly identical to every other session they attend. Unlike Sunday school, Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, no one is invited to discuss or expound on what is being taught; thus there are no opportunities for members to try and shoehorn their favorite man-made philosophies into the lesson. No one trying to squeeze their favorite Cleon Skousen quote into the discussion; no spontaneous veneration of capitalism as a treasured gift from God that needs to be revered and protected. It is said that the temple is "The house of the Lord." A little piece of heaven on earth. It makes sense that earthly matters are expected to be left at the door and I am so grateful for that. And a little confused at how the chapels we enter every Sunday are also referred to as God's house and yet, we often fail to leave our earthly concerns and philosophies at home when we go into them. I imagine it's probably because Church is a much more social experience than the temple is.

This recent visit to the temple was the first time I had watched the endowment film since 2005 when I took in a session at the Atlanta Temple after my late mother's passing–for several years I attended the Manti Temple where the endowment is live. Every time I witness a live endowment, it's difficult for me to turn off my inner critic/producer/casting director. I know that the people presenting the endowment are temple workers and not actors but I'm just so hyper aware of the latter fact. I also can't help but think, "If I ever become a temple worker and do a live endowment, I want to play Lucifer." The bad guys are always the more interesting characters to play. ;-) For reference, the endowment session has often been compared to "passion plays" which means there's some acting involved–or at least recitation of written dialogue.

I love watching the endowment film. Being a filmmaker, I guess that makes sense. I remember reflecting on something I had thought as I attended a small film festival in 2010; The times that I have felt the most at peace and uplifted by the spirit have been in the company of others while watching a well-produced film. I felt it while watching the endowment film at the temple, I felt it at public screenings of independent films and documentaries, I've felt it at film festivals. It reminded me of Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Granted, not all attendees of film festivals and screenings are necessarily gathering in the name of Christ; but I certainly do feel a special connection to the people that I am with at those events. I feel genuine love for them as my spiritual brothers and sisters and that's what Christ wants us to feel all the time. Being in tune with the Spirit can make that happen, where ever you are, no matter who you are with.

I remember going home from a trip to the temple one day and visiting a friend as he attended a recovery meeting. I felt the Holy Spirit as strongly in that little room–among a group of people gathered together for the sole purpose of keeping each other sober–as I have in the Celestial room of the temple. One of the recovering addicts even quoted Matthew 18:20 in reference to the importance of the work they were doing.

As my first session in years came to a close, I stood before the veil for the last part of the endowment. We are instructed to be quite while we are in the temple and if we need to communicate, to do so by whispering. I tend to project my voice when I speak normally–I'm an actor–so I try to be very aware of the volume of my voice when I'm in the temple. I guess I was being too quiet because I was asked to repeat myself a couple of times. When the temple worker representing the Lord took my hand and brought me through the veil, he said to me, "Speak a little louder next time, brother."

That admonition really kinda threw me off as I entered the Celestial room. All of a sudden I was very self conscious at a time when I was trying to let go of myself so I could feel the spirit. It took several minutes but I eventually got over that distraction. In hindsight, I actually found the experience very amusing. I was reminded–even while I was in the temple–of the Proust Questionnaire. The version shared by James Lipton on "Inside the Actors Studio" ends with the question, "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?"

I want to hear, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

I seriously doubt that the Lord would say, "Speak up next time." :-)

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure if God would tell you to speak up, but I think the Lord would admonish many of his children to do so because He waits to bless us but because He won't usurp our agency we must ask. I can see now someone getting to heaven and asking God if He forgot him and yet they rarely pray. Or ask why He didn't do something for them they needed and He will say He was at the door. "Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened unto you."