The Importance of Regular Temple Attendance

This week, I gave a talk in church in preparation for the Brigham City Temple Dedication on September 23rd. Since that took most of my time this week, I thought I would post the transcript of my talk. My wife said the beginning is pretty slow, but it got good towards the end. Of course, I didn’t read it word-for-word, but here it is as I wrote it. Let me know your thoughts.

Why should we go to the temple?

In just four weeks, we are going to have a marvelous opportunity that we get to have more often than most other people in the world. We will have the opportunity to attend the dedication of the Brigham City Temple.
This is a unique and powerful opportunity for us. The temple is a holy place, where we are sealed together. It signifies the culmination of the greatest blessings we can have here on the earth. There is much we can learn from going to the temple, and I have heard many men and women who have spent two of my lifetimes in the temple say that they learn something new every time they go.

President Uchtdorf said in his conference talk in April that “We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again.”

So, I am probably not going to say anything new today, you’ve probably heard it all before, but I hope that as you listen, you will be inspired with what it is that you personally need hear. Listen to the Spirit, because that is what will tell you what you need to know. Likely, it won’t be anything from my talk, but rather some thought that you have already been having. So, give the kids another bag of cheerios, and let’s dig in.

President Eyring said,

Melchizedek Priesthood holders who are fathers in sealed families have been taught what they must do. There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings. There is nothing more important than honoring the marriage and family covenants you have made or will make in the temples of God. “Families under Covenant”

There is nothing more important. How powerful is that? I think President Eyring has a good idea of what could be considered important. What does he mean by nothing is more important? That means your job is not more important, your hobby is not more important, you calling is not more important. That means that no matter, you should strive for and then protect the sealing blessings. You should strive for and then protect your marriage covenants you have made or will make in the temple.

Lawrence Kohlberg is a psychologist from the late 1950’s. His research exposes stages of moral development. There are three levels. His research helps us understand why we make good choices in life.

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

  1. Obedience and punishment orientation
    (How can I avoid punishment?)
  2. Self-interest orientation
    (What’s in it for me?)
    (Paying for a benefit)

In spiritual terms, we do things to avoid punishment or to get certain blessings. This is a perfectly normal and acceptable way to keep the commandments. The Lord isn’t so concerned about why we are keeping His commandments, just that we are.

Level 2 (Conventional)

  1. Interpersonal accord and conformity
    (Social norms)
    (The good boy/good girl attitude)
  2. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
    (Law and order morality)

I am a good boy, and this is what I think good boys do.

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)

  1. Social contract orientation
  2. Universal ethical principles
    (Principled conscience)

I go to church because I believe that is where I can be my best person. I go to the temple because it is the right thing to do.

What is the benefit for us?

I’d like to tell a story about how the temple has blessed my family. As you probably know, our daughter has down syndrome. The symptoms associated with down syndrome vary greatly among those who have. We have been blessed that she has not had to have any heart surgeries and has been relatively healthy her whole life. What we still struggle with most days are dealing with questions like where should she go to school and when should we have more kids and what will be best for her? Throughout her life, we have gone to the temple with these questions on our mind. The Lord has blessed us with answers. When you have a child with a disability, the extent of which you do not know, every question is magnified. When we are worthy of access to the temple, we are blessed and have our questions answered.

And then I would like to read to you what the Church says some of the great blessings are.

“I think there is no place in the world where I feel closer to the Lord than in one of His holy temples.”
—President Thomas S. Monson

“In addition to the closeness we feel to the Lord when we are in the temple, we can continue to receive blessings even after we have returned to our everyday lives. Attending the temple gives us a clearer perspective and a sense of purpose and peace.”

President Thomas S. Monson described temple blessings as follows:

“As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. The temple provides purpose for our lives. It brings peace to our souls—not the peace provided by men but the peace promised by the Son of God when He said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’”

This is a powerful promise. We really can have peace in our lives. And we obtain that peace through the temple. If any of you have experienced turmoil, pain, or sadness in your life, you understand the opposite of that, which is the peace the Lord promises.

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described additional blessings of attending the temple:

“When members of the Church are troubled or when crucial decisions weigh heavily upon their minds, it is a common thing for them to go to the temple. It is a good place to take our cares. In the temple we can receive spiritual perspective. There, during the time of the temple service, we are ‘out of the world.’

“Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly. At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can ‘see’ things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known.

“The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all of our affairs. Blessings of the Temple

The Temple is not a Destination.

I need to get something off my chest. I know a lot of people who have fallen away from the church. They were sold a bill of goods that was not correct. Many times we think, “Oh, we just have to get married in the temple and then everything will be great. If I can find someone I can get to the temple with, I will be happy.” That is a bunch of baloney! The goal is not to “get to” the temple. Let’s rephrase that falsehood and frame it the way the church really teaches it. “All I have to do is find someone who is willing and worthy to hold a temple recommend and attend the temple for the rest of our lives. Then, we will know we can withstand any trial that comes our way.” The fallacy is in thinking that the temple is a destination. We need to change our way of thinking. The temple is a way of life. If you are a worthy temple recommend holder, your life will not be perfect. You will have trials, tribulations, pain, anguish, and worse things than you can imagine. But, if you endure to the end, you will be able to withstand all those things.

For Elder Johnson up here, the goal for him is not to get on a mission, and then he will be happy. The goal is for him to endure to the end of his mission, and then endure to the end of his life. If he comes back and continues to improve his life regardless of what trials he encounters, and does that all the way to the end of his life, he can die a happy man. But if he even thinks for one minute that going on a mission is the end of a journey, he is gravely mistaken. It is truly the beginning. He will set habits and beliefs there that will hopefully carry him and his family through the rest of his life.

The temple is a way of life. When you say you have a temple recommend, you are saying that you live your life in a certain way. A temple recommend is an outward expression of an inward commitment to live life in a particular way. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

When we express our desire to do what is right, we are showing the Lord that we are willing to follow Him, both in public and private. He knows what is on our hearts, so the outward expression is more for us than for Him. The Lord shows us that he understands what is in our hearts in the calling of David to be king of Israel. David was a scrawny younger brother of more capable brothers. And when Samuel was sent to anoint the king, he was worried that David, the scrawny one, was who was chosen. But the Lord gave him some good advice. Samuel was looking at David’s strong, fit older brother, and thought, “Oh, yes, this is guy who will be king of Israel” As we read in 1 Samuel 16:7,

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

The Lord knows what is in our hearts, and when we carry a temple recommend, we know that what is in our heart is what the Lord wants.

While we receive major blessings for what we do in the temple, the real blessing is that we get regular preparation for entering into our Heavenly Father’s presence.

In the conference talk, “Coming to Ourselves, The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service”, Elder Robert D. Hales talks about the importance of holding a temple recommend.

“Worthiness to hold a temple recommend gives us the strength to keep our temple covenants. How do we personally gain that strength? We strive to obtain a testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the reality of the Atonement, and the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. We sustain our leaders, treat our families with kindness, stand as a witness of the Lord’s true Church, attend our Church meetings, honor our covenants, fulfill parental obligations, and live a virtuous life. You may say that sounds like just being a faithful Latter-day Saint! You are right. The standard for temple recommend holders is not too high for us to achieve. It is simply to faithfully live the gospel and follow the prophets.”

Let me repeat that last line again, “The standard for temple recommend holders is not too high for us to achieve. It is simply to faithfully live the gospel and follow the prophets.”

It is not too high for us to achieve. And it is simple. Don’t forget that. There are only a few questions that you need to answer. If you can answer them all correctly, you are doing exactly what the Lord wants, you are “faithfully liv[ing] the gospel and follow[ing] the prophets”.

Elder Russell M. Nelson counsels us,

“The attributes by which we shall be judged one day are all spiritual. These include love, virtue, integrity, compassion, and service to others. Your spirit, coupled with and housed in your body, is able to develop and manifest these attributes in ways that are vital to your eternal progression. Spiritual progress is attained through the steps of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, including the endowment and sealing ordinances of the holy temple.”

See how the “including the endowment and sealing ordinances of the holy temple” is added on there almost as a side note? Those are certainly important, but they are part of a larger call–to endure to the end. That is what the real purpose of our life is. “Everything will be great” when we endure to the end. Until then, we are going to have trials. Until then, we are going to struggle. Until then, we are going to have heartache and deal with pain, sadness, and loss.

What gives us the strength to proceed is holding a temple recommend.

Elder Richard G. Scott spoke about receiving the blessings of the temple. He says that

“Worthy character is best forged from a life of consistent, correct choices centered in the teachings of the master.”

via Receive the Temple Blessings – general-conference

If you do not have a temple recommend, please get one. You may be at a time in your life when you can’t attend the temple regularly for whatever reason. But, please, hold a recommend so that you can have the strength to endure to the end.

I know that as you do this, you will be blessed and have the Spirit of the Lord guide you.

Another Way to Find Happiness

The Good and the Bad

We all have our good days and bad days. What if you could find a way to make it so you had fewer bad days and more good days? Would you take advantage of that? Or do you think that things are how they are and there is not much that you can do about it?

In Moroni 7:12, we read,

12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Understanding where good things come from gives us some insight into how we can make our lives and the lives of others better. If we think back to the purpose of our Father’s eternal life it is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” Moses 1:39. If that is His purpose, and anything good comes from Him, and only Him, it is safe to assume that “good” things will get us back to Him, and will help others get back to Him.

Another tenet of the Savior’s life was that we should do to others what we would like them to do to us. If we are striving to be like our Savior, then our goal for others is to help them achieve immortality and eternal life. If we would like others to help us attain that lofty goal, we should help them achieve it as well.

How Full is Your Bucket?

In the book How Full is Your Bucket Tom Rath and Donald Clifton talk about the importance of positive (good) emotions and interactions. They state that negative emotions can account for a loss of at least $250-$300 billion a year, in just the United States.

The book is about how every positive interaction a person has puts an effectual drop in her bucket. At the end of the day, her self-worth is tied to the level of the water in her bucket. When that bucket is drained, so is she. When that bucket is full, so is she. The bucket doesn’t start at the same level every day. It builds a reserve of whatever emotions the person feels each day. Rath shares how his family’s persistence in filling his bucket saved his life when he found out about the rare form of cancer he contracted. Treatment requires twice-yearly MRIs and CT scans to identify cancer cells that could pop up randomly anywhere in his body. When he was growing up, his family focused intensely on filling his bucket, and when the life and death cancer diagnosis appeared when he was only 16, those positive interactions helped him survive the news, and the cancer.

In our interactions with others, we should have a ratio of five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Since negative interactions do more arm than positive interactions do good, we need to make sure that our positive interactions outweigh our negative. The ratio of 5:1 keeps our buckets filled sufficiently and helps those we interact with have enough positive emotion in the bank they can handle the negative emotions.

When we are dealing with other people, it is easy to let our own negative emotions cloud our vision and make us think they deserve a negative interaction from us. But this is where having an eternal view is important. If we understand that not only is this person a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, but he or she is also the subject of His focus to get them back to Him, it becomes much easier to have empathy and compassion for that person. We can more easily give him the benefit of the doubt, and find a way to have a positive interaction with him. It is not always easy, especially when someone is really bothering you, but it is almost always the right thing to do.

Rath talks about a study done in 1925 which looked at the success of students who were given positive praise about their test scores compared with students who were given negative feedback. The study showed that the group that received positive praise improved 71% on the next test, while those who received negative feedback improved only 19%. Those who were ignored completely, grew by 5%. If all it takes to make students (and those we interact with) successful is positive praise, then why don’t we do it more often?

The Beatitudes

In Matthew 5, we read about the Savior going from a vengeful, jealous God to a God of love, peace, kindness, service, and giving. What He teaches is what we want to learn and be able to do. The Savior tells us to go have a positive interaction with someone we are mad at before coming to Him to worship. He wants us to come to him with “positive emotions” (as Rath and Clifton would say it).

The rest of the Beatitudes are similar in that the Lord asks us to go to great lengths to provide for others before ourselves, to go the extra mile, and to forgive deeply.

The Lord also commanded us to treat others how we want to be treated. When we fill others’ buckets, our bucket gets filled as well. We may find that filling others’ buckets is the only way to fill our bucket some days.

The Upper Limit

There is one area where Jesus Christ and Rath differ, and that is on the upper limit of doing good. Christ says that we should forgive until seventy times seven times Rath and Clifton recommend bringing negative emotions in at a ratio of less than 13:1. They say it is quite difficult, however to reach that upper limit.

Most of us have grown up in a culture in which it’s much easier to tell people what they did wrong instead of praising them when they succeed. Although this negativity-based approach might have evolved unintentionally, it nevertheless permeates our society at all levels.

Good News

Those who believe in Jesus Christ’s Gospel, probably have the greatest reason to be optimistic and positive in their lives. We believe that the Gospel is “good news”. Being able to base our lives on the Good News, and then being able to focus on the good things the Savior provides for us, gives us every reason to have a nearly limitless supply of positive emotions.

We can use the ideas in the scriptures and in the book “How Full is Your Bucket” to help us lighten the loads of others, and also bring much happiness to our lives.

SSA

A Troublesome Topic

The idea of SSA, or Same Sex Attraction, is pretty much everywhere right now. There is much that is debatable about the issues surrounding homosexuality and SSA. Do people have SSA (as if it were a skin color)? Are people same-sex attracted? Are people born with it? Is it nature or nurture that “causes it”?

There are a few things that are not debatable. Matthew 22:37-40 says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

We are all children of our Heavenly Father. If there is no common ground between anyone, this is the common ground upon which to base all our discussions. We cannot forget that.

There is no room in this argument for hateful, vile speech. There is no basis for arguments which state that God does not love all His children.

I have a daughter with Down Syndrome. She is a wonderful little girl who brings joy to my life. She happens to have a chromosome disorder; she’s got an extra one. That means that she is different than my other kids. But they have things that make them unique also. She is different than many other kids. That also makes her the subject of jokes, ridicule, mean actions, and more. It also makes her an object of envy, hope, and acceptance. Because of her syndrome, I have learned a much greater compassion for all people, whatever strengths or weaknesses they have. She has taught me patience with myself, with others, and with her. She has taught me that every single person on this earth is a beloved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father first and foremost. And because we are all His children, we are also brothers and sisters. That knowledge makes it a lot easier to love and accept people the way Christ would have us love and accept them. There is no harm in loving others, regardless of our feelings towards how they behave, or what they do.

As we read in Alma 39, Alma’s son Corianton has forsaken his calling as a missionary and sought a harlot in another city. As we read below, Alma was incredibly disappointed in his son. Yet, you can tell as you read the next three chapters that Alma loves his son, and wants him to know that God loves him, too, despite his wayward ways.

7And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.
8 But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day.
9 Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.

Then, just a few verses later, Alma tells Corianton that even though Corianton committed almost the worst possible sin, Christ would come to save all men from their sins.

15 And now, my son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people.

Truly, Christ’s atonement extends to all men and women. All.

Our Heavenly Father loves all his children, and he commands that we do the same. This FairLDS conference presentation about homosexuality and desire really opened my eyes.

The gist of the presentation is that the Church stands against behaviors, which makes sense, of course, when we look at other behaviors, like adultery, alcoholism, pornography, etc. There is no problem having thoughts or feelings about something, but there is a problem acting on those thoughts or feelings. A person with SSA can be attracted to same-gendered people, but not act on it. Just like I was attracted to the head cheerleader in high school, and I never acted on it. Being attracted isn’t the problem. The problem is acting on those feelings.

I remember a quote from when I was in High School that went, “Satan puts many thoughts into our mind. It is our responsibility to get them out.” I don’t know who said that, but that is important to remember. We need to be aware of the dangers of letting sinful thoughts linger in our minds. It is just as wrong to covet our neighbor’s wife as it is to lust after a member of the same sex. God does not want us lusting after others. In this singular respect, there is really no differentiation between the sexes we lust after–we shouldn’t do it.

A More Real Problem for SSA Mormons

Johanson states that part of the problem he faces as a SSA-male is that he doesn’t want intimate relationships with other men, and is perfectly happy living in an intimate relationship with his wife, with whom he has a son. The agenda that is pushed by others seek to vilify him for going against what he is, or stating that he is being pressured in to living a lie. He claims that is just not true.

His presentation is a great read. It is quite long, but he goes into great depth about many of the issues surrounding SSA and being a Mormon.

Regardless of our stance on these issues, I go back to the idea that we are all our Heavenly Father’s children, and He will be the ultimate judge, with our help. Alma 41:7 shows that we are going to be our own judges:

7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that kendless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

Regardless of what “side” we are on, we will also be judged according to our desires.

3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame-mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption-raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other-
5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh. Alma 41:3-6

It is vital that as we strive to take a stand for what is right, we remember that the discussion is not one-sided, that even those who are attracted to the same gender have different beliefs about what constitutes happiness. As Johanson says clearly:

I am not tempted by females. I am tempted by males. Therefore I have SSA. However, desire is different. My desire is to be faithful to my wife and son. Elder Maxwell taught “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.” My will is mine and mine alone to give, and I decide where I give it. It was not predetermined at birth. The scriptures are filled with stories of people who have turned their will over to God. I am the captain of my soul, and no study on genetics, Supreme Court ruling, or media sound bites can take that away from me. I am here to act, and not to be acted upon. Johanson

Desires matter more than temptations. This is a touchy subject. I’d love to hear your comments on it.