Friday, January 26, 2007

The Temple and Other Thoughts...



I attended the temple this week and it has triggered some thoughts - some good, some bad.

As I sat in the session, I was overcome with feelings of unworthiness. It wasn't that I had done something "really wrong" as much as that for the first time I didn't feel like I belonged. I was there more on assignment than on personal worship. In and of itself, this probably bothered me the most. But it was more than that... I really didn't belong there!

Some people feel like frequenting the Temple is a "social" thing to do. There are Ward Temple Nights, Date Nights to the temple, etc. I don't feel this way and yet that is what it has been reduced to in my mind. The sacredness was gone. I didn't feel anything other than fakeness. I wondered: Maybe I was the one that was fake!

I pondered why I was feeling so out of sorts. I started analysing my feelings and I realized I needed to be there. I wanted to be there. I was "worthy" to be there (yes, even with my various menagerie of gay thoughts) for the Lord knows all about my gay thoughts, gay struggles, and gay desires, and my efforts to do the best I can. So, judge me as you will - I was there "worthily". I am a card-carrying member in good standing despite my struggles and challenges - which are many.

It triggered my thoughts back to when I was interviewing a sister for her temple recommend. This was years ago when one of the questions went something like this: "Do you consider yourself worthy, in every way, to enter the House of the Lord?" She was a good and faithful sister, a very sincere woman of the Church. She looked at me and said: "No, I'm not!" As I explored this a bit, I realized that she was just being honest and truthful to admit that she was not worthy in every way. And in her context, NONE of us are worthy to enter the House of the Lord. It is interesting to note that the phrase "in every way" is no longer included in that last question of the temple recommend interview. The Church brethren finally realized how impossible it is to answer such a question honestly, right after being drilled about being "totally honest in our dealings with our fellow men". The irony is profound!

I explained to her that the Temple is not for "perfect people". In fact, it is full of "imperfect people". If we truly were worthy "in every way" we would be perfect. And of course none of us are... And so, here I found myself this week sitting in the dark feeling a bit "imperfect" and wondering if I should remove myself from such perfect people surrounding me - that I realized I needed to be there to offer service, to be part of something grand and "holy", something bigger than myself - imperfections, struggles and all...

But then, I'm reminded of the imagery used to portray heaven. Cold grey marble floors and steps with harsh, sharp corners, fiberglass Doric columns that support nothing, and wispy curtains flapping in the breeze. No furniture, not even a marble bench - being forced to stand all the time... I don't think it seems very heaven-like to me. As much as I love marble, it's not very comfortable. It's hard and cold, especially bare-footed! :-) I know it's all figurative and all, but I guess as I contemplated it more and more, I concluded that I'd much prefer the "Lone and Dreary World" as my heaven. I know it's my mortal eyes with finite vision, refusing to see the bigger picture here... and realizing that judgment day is much like that where we, ourselves, decide to stay where we are most comfortable... was all of this a sign that I'm really not "celestial enough" and that my natural man desires of gayness are getting the best of me?

And since I'm at it (preparing to be struck by lightening), I couldn't help but be caught up in thinking: "Now did Adam and Eve really live in Missouri?" I still have a very hard time with that one! I've been to Missouri numerous times (and no offense to my fellow Missourians) but I just plain don't get it!

Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to be sacrilegious (even though that's how I feel in my alter-ego that you know as "Beck")... as I've had amazing experiences of spiritual vividness in the temple where the veil has seemed very thin and I have felt much love, sustaining influence, and clearness of thought. I have seen my family brought together in harmony (which is a miracle in and of itself). I have created an eternal family, and I have helped my kindred dead in ways they could not do for themselves, and I have brought others to the temple for their own "spiritual gifts".

As much as I'm a visual person, I need to frequent the temple more performing service away from the film. It's a distraction at best! When I'm one-on-one doing the real work of the other ordinances, I feel better.

Maybe I should be zapped by a lighting bolt or two... or at least a good slap in the head!

10 comments:

santorio said...

nice look

i was in ecuador on a service project last year and found my way (an hour bus ride away) to the nearest lds church. got there early and was waiting at the door when the branch president, an ecuadoran, showed up, the first thing he did was to ask me if i had a temple recommend [i may have looked a little scruffy but it's not like i asked if i could sleep in the church overnight].

last year a stranger showed up in my ward and after the meetings found someone who was traveling to a distant city and asked for a ride. suspicious, the travelor asked the stranger for his temple recommend.

jan shipps, a mormon-friendly historian ['sojourner in the promised land,' among others]
has suggested that the church needs to come up another purpose for the temple; geneology, endowments, and temple marriages aren't enough, she reasons.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Nothing to say about your post, but I wanted you to know I like your new layout.

Beck said...

SANTORIO: I remember issuing a temple recommend to a 93 year old brother the day before he died. He wanted to be sure to "have it current" for the other side. You point out uses for the recommend I hadn't come across yet...

Moral of the story - always good to "have it current"!

Beck said...

CODY: I appreciate your poking around. I was tired of the old and I really still don't like the new. I wish I were better skilled to create my own backdrop and layout - but I'm stuck with these predetermined templates, even though they are more flexible now. Lot's to still learn...

Thanks for being around.

Loyalist (with defects) said...

The first time I went to the temple it was to a non movie session. I had just finished my degree in Theatre - I was horrified by the acting or rather the lack there of.

but it is a nice, quiet place to be.

Beck said...

LOYALIST: Sometimes the horrific acting, though, makes you hear the words in a different manner. And if you can get through the pain of the delivery, it actually makes you think about the words more!

At least that's my experience...

-L- said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-L- said...

The question of how and when to participate in ordinances that require a certain level of worthiness has always been a tricky one for me. As you know, I've had struggles of various kinds for many years. During that time I've wondered whether and when to participate in blessings, sacrament, temple, callings, etc. I finally decided (and this was endorsed by my bishop) that as long as I was actively struggling to repent and move forward in the gospel that I would benefit more from participating than from abstaining.

Not every time I've been to the temple has it been a monumentally spiritual experience. But I go to be faithful. And I find that service over the years has validated and improved my faith, and the temple has increasingly become a rewarding experience.

Nice post.

Beck said...

"I finally decided (and this was endorsed by my bishop) that as long as I was actively struggling to repent and move forward in the gospel that I would benefit more from participating than from abstaining."

I endorse this concept 100%. That is what life is all about. I'm not perfect... but I'm trying, and it's better to participate than to abstain in hopes of receiving "further light and knowledge".

Of course, we could both be deceiving ourselves... NAAH!

Thanks for the comment. It's helped me to re-evaluate some things.

Elbow said...

The temple is for learning. You are worthy to learn, you are worthy to enter and feel the feelings you did, because it's part of your earthly progression.

I do understand though. The temple for me is where I get hit the most with doubts of the Church and of myself.

I'm glad you posted this one.