Where did we go? Somewhere so inexpressibly important to me already, I feared that the day I get married would be the first time I would actually see it—and even that would be all right with me, so long as I finally got the chance.
The only thing I know about the place is that I want to be endowed and married there, and I’ve known that since I saw it for the first time. Until today I had never seen it in person before, and I couldn’t have asked for a better circumstance in which to finally do so. Two of the most important women in my eternal life were with me when I saw the temple I will likely be endowed and married in—something I never dared hope for, let alone ask of all involved. And yet… it happened. And I couldn’t be happier, and I know they can tell. The second we came close enough to see the temple above the trees, my face lit up and I got so excited. Temples are always exciting and beautiful, but this one… how can I explain it?
Only one word even begins to express the feeling: Home
I have no idea what it looks like on the inside. The rain was FREEZING cold, but I didn’t care. My mom drove me around the parking lot in probably a dozen circles so I could take plenty of pictures. She helped capture many of my favorites angles, and between what we were doing and what we were talking about, that line of demarcation that always seemed to be between us actually became thin enough to be unperceivable.
While I was happily snapping away, my mom said some things that will definitely stick with me over the coming months—how a close friend of our family (also LDS) told my mother, unbeknownst to me, that the reason she could not enter the temple with me was because she wasn’t “worthy” ; how my step-father is bothered—I’d even say hurt—that even if I have a ring ceremony like I plan to, I’ll still be married by the time he actually sees me. I got the chance to explain to my mother how much it hurts me to have to do that, but I honestly have no idea how to do damage control on the whole situation. The only thing I could think to say is that there are plenty of LDS people who aren’t worthy to enter the temple, so she shouldn’t take it personally. Perhaps that wasn’t the best way to deal with what I wanted to say—I mean, I’m more concerned with her thinking that LDS faithful are some kind of Pharisees doling out judgments, or that she isn’t worthy of God’s love if she isn’t temple worthy—because neither of those things are true. People who don’t obey the rules don’t have the spiritual strength (because obedience can be equated with strength, in my experience) to endure the presence of God. “Worthiness” is so much more complicated than this person made it seem when they were talking to my mother, and the remark didn’t help the situation. It hurt my mother’s feelings, made her angry, and made her think things that simply aren’t true.
Really, I should be grateful that my mother didn’t just say, “Screw you AND your temples.” In another stage of my life, I know that’s probably what I would have done. But no… she was there, helping me to take everything in. She may not understand everything I wish I could explain to her, but she understands that there’s SOME reason I believe in them so much, despite all of the repercussions for doing so. She said it was a beautiful building, and she’s amazed that it was built in the 1870’s. She gave me this experience that I wanted so much, and I’m just trying to take in that it actually happened.
What struck me about the Manti Temple was how close to home it actually was. As we drove through Manti it reminded me so much of my hometown. I kept joking that I would fall in love with a temple over 2,000 miles away from home, only to find out it’s in a town just as country redneck as the one I was running away from. I mean, just down the street from the temple in one direction were cows and the smell of manure, across the street was some kind of rodeo arena, and in the motel across the street there was an ATV parked outside. It was so much like the county I’m from in Maryland, I have to wonder if stepping into my future won’t be the escape I had hoped for—and probably with good reason. Running away is a temporary, and sometimes even a necessary solution—but I don’t think that’s really something I should do anymore. That’s part of what made today so special—that fact that everything was so open between us. After years of trying to hide things from my family, to be diplomatic, and to keep the situation sterile of any bad feelings by not addressing it at all, the thought of even approaching anything positive about the church with my family has become a terrifying thought. But after today, I see it doesn’t have to be.
I don’t know what else we’ll end up doing while we’re in Utah, but I know the day we leave she wants to do Temple Square before we fly out of Salt Lake City. I’m excited to go back to Temple Square because I haven’t been there since General Conference in October of last year, and I’d like to see the Joseph Smith movie again while I have the opportunity—especially if I can see it with my family. I’m not sure if my mother saw it when she went to the DC visitor’s center, and it makes me crazy that I wasn’t with her to help her to answer the questions I know she would have had, but this time there are TWO of us to handle the situation. Out of the mouths of two and three witnesses shall all things be established, right?
And no, it isn’t all about conversion here… but being able to face the idea is a definite plus, and I need to stop being afraid to believe in it. That’s a mistake I’m looking forward to correcting in the future… and by “looking forward to,” I mean “more terrified than anyone need quantify.”
All in all, it was a good day. I hope to have more like it in the future. I’ve been trying to plant seeds quietly and carefully over these past 2+ years, and now it’s time to reap the harvest. White fields, sickles, threshing, and all of that.