I spend the better part of each Wednesday working as an ordinance worker in a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is busy and tiring and has a really steep learning curve, but it’s also pretty ding-dong amazing.
The temple is the MOST instructive place on the earth, and has taught me a few things, aside from the mega-insights inherent in the sacred ordinances themselves. Read on if you’d like to hear about my non-sacred-but-still-valuable lessons from being in the temple a whole bunch.
People With Special Needs Go First
Obviously this is the first thing I picked up on being in the temple. I mean duh. This is the sort of thing my parenting life has conditioned me to notice. And when I saw how the temple handles anyone who has special needs of any sort, I kind of wanted to stand up and loudly clap (except just in my mind, since the temple is a quiet place).
This is how they do it: workers are trained to watch for people who need accommodations or additional help, whether it’s due to physical limitations, first-time temple attendance, or speaking a primary language other than English. The workers ask the individuals how we can best help them. Then, those who help with the temple transitions are made aware of these people and their needs, and are enlisted to step in and assist.
Here is the part that I really love: when it’s time to complete the ordinance, THE PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS GO FIRST.
Guys. This is not a drill. No one makes the person with the special need feel “other” or “less than” or even like they’re causing problems for everyone else. They don’t have to wait in shame for all the “typicals” to go first. Instead, everyone else waits like 90 extra seconds until those who need a bit of extra assistance are set.
As Jack’s mom, I find this approach so completely beautiful. Jesus (and his army of proxy ordinance workers) sees the extra needs and rushes to meet them. And the people with distinct needs come first, before the ninety-and-nine, if you will.
We’re all occasionally the figurative “black sheep.” The temple teaches us how to approach and help each other when we are the one needing more assistance than everyone else. Basically, if you want to do as Jesus does, here’s how we can do it: we notice, we ask how we can help, and we offer that particular sort of help immediately. Can the whole world implement this approach? I mean seriously. K thanks.
A Culture of Positivity Accomplishes A Lot
I am currently being trained by two women who are veteran temple workers and basically extraordinary leaders. There is SO SO MUCH to learn in the temple, and Sister M and Sister B are making it joyful because they are patient, thorough, and incredibly supportive.
I’m seeing through this experience of memorizing the lots and lots and lots of words of the ordinances that people flourish when their mentors treat them with encouragement and love. There is some sort of magical, invisible strength that crystallizes when people provide a structure of real support in this way.
It’s essentially counterproductive to approach leadership in any other way. Sorry guys. I don’t make the rules.
I love my trainers and my fellow trainees, and we are just a little sisterhood of the traveling words of encouragement.
An Orderly Place is a Peaceful Place
Today we were learning about how to handle all kinds of exigencies—various rare situations which aren’t likely to arise, but if they do, there is a plan in place and now we know what to do. At one point, I commented, “This covers everything. It’s so organized,” to which my friend Carrie replied, “It’s a house of order.” Hahaha, exactly.
I think the lesson in this for me personally is that being mindful of possibilities and issues, and systematically preparing for them doesn’t make you boring and worrisome and predictable. It makes you peaceful, because you’re ready for whatever wild things come your way.
“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” Doctrine & Covenants 132:8.
This idea speaks to the concept of finding clarity in the calm, steady, peaceful, and enlightening habitat of the temple. Enlightenment is the opposite of confusion. God creates order, intelligence, and possibility, and gives us an open-ended invitation to come, sit with it, partake of it.
There is Power in Internalizing Sacred Words
Did you ever have to memorize a Shakespeare sonnet or a poem in school? I did, and now, all these million years hence I can still recite The Bard’s Sonnet 29 and Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” on command. Thanks, Mrs. Joyce Baskin, Honors’ English teacher of champions. Those lovely lines of verse are stuck in my memory.
I’m finding that the act of committing the words of Jesus Christ to memory has helped me think about them deeply. I’m examining the language and the symbolism. The promises afforded in the temple ordinances are spoken with gorgeous imagery, and now that they are lodged in my brain, they’re with me for good. I find myself mulling them over and drawing strength from them.
Memorize. Jesus’s. Words. Yo.
They’re powerful and they will build you up.
Revelation is Personal and Faith-Driven
Most of what I have learned in the temple isn’t spoken out loud. It happens internally when I’m in a quiet, entreating, devotional state of mind. It happens because I’m in a holy place and I’m asking, then listening.
This is the beauty of truth.
God will reveal it to you when you’re ready for it. It’s a personal matter. It doesn’t have to do with anyone else. It’s individual, and it happens in response to our belief that it will happen. This isn’t to say that understanding comes all at once, just because we want it to. Humans learn things line upon line, and in my experience, sometimes there are years between each of those lines.
I dwelt in a place of relative darkness for about a dozen years as Jack and I grappled horribly with the limitations and difficulties of severe disabilities. In recent months though, I’ve seen the complete accuracy of this verse of scripture, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” Doctrine & Covenants 50:24.
Light attracts more light.
Humility invites more instruction.
Understanding welcomes greater insight.
And it all turns on the hinge of the Holy Spirit speaking to our individual spirits.