Fast forward several years, and I am not in the place I intended to be when I was 18. My time at BYU was a brief experience, I served a mission, I got married, and now my husband and I live uncomfortably close to aonde o Judas perdeu a bota. And I have to say, I'm infinitely glad that that Heavenly Father doesn't give us everything we ask for when we're 18 years old. What looked like poor planning, bad luck, and horrible execution on my part turned into exactly what I needed most in my life.
Thinking about that, I can see that I have a lot in common with this new temple.
Out of the 5 temples announced on that October day of my freshman year of college, the Philadelphia Temple is the one which is furthest behind in construction. After years of painful planning and bureaucratic negotiations, the construction had to be completely scrapped when they discovered the original site was contaminated. After purchasing a new site, enduring even more tedious procedure and catering to the contradictory capriciousness of various city planning councils, permission was finally granted to begin construction again. (Read more about the process here.)
After construction began, they began digging the foundation. Understandably, this is the part of temple building that takes the longest. It seems like most of the construction takes place on the foundation, and what comes after that simply shoots up overnight.
But the Philadelphia Temple only continued running into more setbacks. Fifteen feet beneath the surface, the construction crew hit bedrock. An enormous, solid granite slab--which incidentally is also surrounded by underground springs. At the same time they're trying to drill granite out for the temple foundation, the hole is filling up continually with water.
You can just hear the audible head smacking against a desk in frustration. Isn't that how most of us react to delays and setbacks? In a Church where we preach of the power to do miracles, and we've seen miracles in our temple building, wouldn't you expect there not to be so many challenges? Wouldn't you expect that if the Church were really inspired, these sorts of problems wouldn't happen? If God is really in charge, how can there be these types of obstacles to something He wants to have a accomplished?
I've thought that way many times about my own life, and you could easily ask yourself those same questions about the Philadelphia Temple, from start to finish.
But then I stopped and thought about this rock I got yesterday...
The Church is responding to these obstacles exactly the way I would expect, knowing what I know of their long-suffering and dedication. It's the Mormon way of solving problems--if we can't get rid of the obstacle, we turn it into a parable or an object lesson. We search for the meaning and purpose we cannot see immediately. We wait for the Lord's hand to be revealed, knowing that the answers will be given someday.
Instead of complaining about the six months of granite removal, missionaries on-site gather up granite fragments and give them away to families who come to visit the temple site. The word spreads, and now families from 10 different stakes are heading to Philadelphia to make sure they get their rock. Everyone wants their piece of the history, their ownership of a small piece of this new temple.
Now, instead of lamenting that the rocks have delayed the project, everyone will be disappointed when there aren't any more to give away.
|View of the Philadelphia Temple site taken from the rooftop banquet room of the Sheraton Hotel|
Everyone leaves the temple site taking something personal with them as they go. I see a building that represents something different to me than any other temple I've ever attended. In a small way, this temple is here because of my discipleship. By being baptized, I was part of the statistic that led to this temple being announced. My sacrifices have been seen of God, and my struggle was my contribution to His work.
Thinking on that lesson brings to mind a scripture I have read many times.
"...if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my [daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good...
Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."D&C 122: 7-9
And after visiting the site yesterday, I realize now I still have a role to play. Through my continued devotion, I build this temple as surely as the men on the scaffolding and on the ground.
I should be praying for the progress of the temple. I should be praying for the workers and the contractors who are working so hard to build this temple for my stake. I should be praying for them to have their hearts softened, so they can eventually join us there with their families. I should be doing my part to serve others--doing my visiting teaching and volunteering my time to serve in my ward. I should be helping other members in my stake to prepare their family names for the temple. I should be going to the temple regularly, and without fail.
It may seem strange to say that my actions have any impact on the walls creeping out of the dirt on Logan Square. But temples aren't just made of stone and mortar--they are made holy by the sacrifices of ordinary members. They are consecrated with every good deed we offer up in the name of God. These contributions and more allow us to build the temple "made without hands," as Jesus taught. (See Mark 14: 58) It is made without hands because it is built out of the faithfulness of His people.
Nehemiah of old resisted against distraction as he was helping with the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He said, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down." (Neh. 6: 3) I need to have that same determination and focus on my work. I need to help others recognize their role in the temple construction, and help others to bear up those burdens which are heavier than mine.
Had it not been for the bedrock, I never would have had the opportunity to reflect on any of these lessons. Had it not been for the invitation to come and take a piece of the obstacle, I may never have taken ownership of the temple building and decided to increase my offering. I can see the wisdom of God in the delays and setbacks, and I'm grateful that He was able to use them to change my perspective and deepen my faith.
May we all have the courage to thank God for the bedrock in our lives. I know that He lives. I know that He is aware of the challenges we face. I know He has a plan to help us be successful. I know that Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church. The temple is their house, and we can be together with our families forever. I leave you that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.