What I Learned On The Way to The Temple

Yesterday we took a trip to the San Antonio Texas Temple. We try to go about once a month, and we’ve gotten really used to taking the trip down there. Yesterday, as usual, we wanted to go to the 9:30am session so that we could get done in time to come back home and get our Saturday chores and activities done. It takes us about 2 hours to drive from our house to the temple, so we have to get up fairly early to make it on time and be ready for the session. Yesterday we got out of the house a bit late and were really in a hurry to get there on time. As we were rushing along the toll road headed to the temple, I started to notice signs saying that the new section of the toll road was open going to San Antonio! I knew that the speed limit on that new section was 85 mph and the thought crossed my mind that if we took that way we’d get to the temple faster. Faster speed must mean earlier arrival time, right?

I made a split second decision to take the new road. Not only was this way faster, but for this time it was free! How could it get better? We were driving faster and even had more beautiful scenery to look at than the crazy traffic and busy city that we usually saw on our normal route. As we drove along I admired the wide open sky and the green fields that seemed to stretch on forever. I watched the hawks and eagles soaring and marveled at the beauty of the earth that I was seeing.

As we got farther and farther along this new highway, however, my focus started to shift from the scenery and to the time. We were traveling very quickly, but I was realizing that I had no idea where this new highway connected to roads that I knew. The minutes were flying by much faster than I thought they would, and we weren’t seeing anything familiar. I really had no idea what roads to take now to get to the temple. The ultra-fast toll road that we had been on ended in a small town with much slower speed limits and I had to deal with bumpy back roads and stop lights. I had to make several guesses on what way to go. When we only had 5 minutes left until our session was due to start and we knew that we were going to be late, we still hadn’t found a main road that I could connect to the temple on. Finally, when we were already late, I found the highway loop that I recognized would take us to the temple. I was very discouraged. I had tried hard to make it in time and had thought that my decision earlier would help us be earlier, but instead it had put us very behind schedule.

We eventually did make it to the temple but weren’t able to attend our session. I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in other ordinances but was still disappointed that we had missed our original plan. We were able to enjoy the blessings of the temple but perhaps had missed out on an opportunity to feel the spirit and learn from our session.

The San Antonio Texas Temple

After we had finished our activities in the temple and were on our way home, I couldn’t help but think about how my experience from that morning could be an example for our lives. In life, we have an ultimate goal and purpose to get to the Celestial Kingdom. Sometimes on our journey through life, however, we get distracted by other roads that look like they might be shortcuts. The road is new and the speed limit is high. We sometimes fly along these roads enjoying the scenery and the speed but are completely oblivious to the fact that our beautiful vistas and breathtaking speed are speeding us away from our goal. When we realize our mistake, it can be too late. We are already off course and have to make major adjustments to our direction to get back on course. We have lost precious time and opportunities.

In my trip to the temple, I knew the right way to go. I knew exactly where it lead, and I knew that it would likely get us to the temple on time. In our lives, much like my trip to the temple, we should remember that we do know the path we should take. We have the direction of the Spirit and of prophets and apostles to keep us on the straight and narrow road to the Celestial Kingdom. Let us heed their counsel and teachings and avoid the seemingly attractive detours that life will present to us.

The Immediate Atonement

“Verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” How many of us have longed to hear those words? How many of us feel that we don’t deserve to have our sins forgiven? I know that I have felt this way in my life. It can often be difficult as a believer in Christ to understand the principle of forgiveness as it relates to the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I was taught that God loved me and that I could be forgiven of my sins if I repented. I was taught that repentance consists of recognizing sin, confessing our sins, making restitution for our sins to those harmed, and forsaking the sin.  Jesus has taught “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).

I know that this doctrine of repentance is true. I also know that forgiveness comes to those that repent. However, for a long time I struggled to feel that forgiveness and the resulting closeness to the Savior because of my continuing imperfections. I was also taught that the Lord has said

“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto the soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7)

I often used to feel that this scripture condemned us as imperfect humans to live in a perpetual state of lacking forgiveness because each time we made any mistake, all of the former mistakes we had made would return to us again. I imagined to myself a God who was anxious to pile the guilt and sin on me. Through personal experience and study I have gained a deeper, if not yet perfect, understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement and forgiveness.

I know that my Heavenly Father is a just God and “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16); however, I also know that God is merciful, kind, loving, and most importantly forgiving.

I believe that God is anxious to forgive us. He wants us to live free from the burden of sin. He wants us to overcome our weaknesses and come closer to Him. He does not want us to suffer. He wants to forgive us and allow us to return to Him quickly. The atonement of Jesus Christ enables all of these things to happen.

When we have made a mistake, we need not feel that we must suffer for some arbitrary amount of time before we seek the forgiveness of God. When we have made a mistake, the best thing to do is to immediately go to Heavenly Father in prayer and begin the repentance process. God is ready and anxious to receive us back into His presence when we have wandered astray.

This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. Recall that the prodigal was the son of a wealthy man who took his inheritance early and squandered it in evil, riotous living.  When his earthly pleasure was over, he realized that he had left the only source of goodness in his life–his father. He decided to return and become a servant in his father’s house. When we are as the prodigal son, desiring to return to God, it is important to remember the attitude and character of the father.

“But when [the prodigal] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. . . . the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:11-32)

The prodigal’s father was waiting for him. He saw him and ran to him while he was “yet a long way off.” Our Heavenly Father always has this attitude towards us. God always wants us to return. When we turn around a “long way off” and start to return to His arms, He will run to us and embrace us.

I know that the Atonement has the power to begin to heal us immediately when we decide that we need its power. The return journey may still take time, but the process begins immediately when we start to return to God.

The following scriptures illustrate this point further:

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)

“And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” (3 Nephi 10:5)

I know that God loves us. We are His literal children and He is anxious to bless and forgive us. I know that the atonement is real and literally has the power to cleanse us. I know that this power is immediately accessible by us when we begin to repent and return to God.

The Draper Utah Temple Open House

I had a chance this weekend to go up to Draper to see the new Temple that will be dedicated in March of this year. The temple is gorgeous. It is set up on a hill overlooking the entire Salt Lake valley and commands an awesome view. The temple itself isn’t as large as some of the others that are in Utah but its interior is beautiful and a peaceful feeling abides there. I was reminded while I was there of the sublime opportunity that I have as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to attend the temple and to participate in the sacred ordinances that are there to be had. I had my testimony strengthened. I know that God is our heavenly father and that as such he loves each of us individually. He wants us to succeed in life and he has given us all of the tools that we need to enable us to be able, one day, to return to His presence and live with him for eternity. I know that the sealing power, available only in the temples, enables families to live together in the life after this and enjoy the same love and joy that they experience here on earth. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church of God on the earth and that the leaders of the church hold all of the authority that the ancient prophets and apostles held. I am grateful for this knowledge and for the blessing to live so close to another temple of God.

[Header image By Leon7 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons]