For anyone who follows me on social media, you’ll see that I’ve been posting updates about the LDS temple that was being built in Hartford and know that it’s dear to my heart. The construction has been completed, and the Church is hosting an open house for the public in the area to come and tour our temple before we dedicate it to the Lord (you can reserve a space in a free tour here).
I had the opportunity to attend the open house tonight with my family, which I had been looking forward to for months. It was first announced in October of 2010 that Hartford would be home to a temple, a sacred building dedicated to the worship of the Lord where members of the Church make further covenants with Heavenly Father and go to learn.
I remember the day it was announced like it was yesterday. It was my first General Conference away from home – I’d been at Southern Virginia for just over a month and was watching the sessions from the little chapel in Buena Vista. Because we have a temple in Boston and another in Manhattan, I wasn’t expecting an announcement for one to be built in Hartford, despite the fact that one had been announced decades earlier (and the plans had fallen through). President Monson announced that a temple would be built within the boundaries of my home stake during the first session that weekend.
And I bawled.
I was overcome with gratitude, love, and excitement.
And the poor recently returned missionary boy sitting next to me looked at me, nonplussed, before handing me a tissue and a handful of animal crackers, patting me awkwardly on the shoulder with the hesitation and discomfort of a guy who had just come home from two years of “lock your heart” talks.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around the announcement of such a beautiful and sacred building being built in what was practically my backyard (in the New England sense, anyway). I was overjoyed, ecstatic, and the temple totally consumed my thoughts, prayers, and studies.
The week before I reported to the Missionary Training Center before my mission, I was able to watch the ground chosen for the temple be dedicated by President Monson, the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During my mission, I received numerous emails and letters detailing the progress of the temple, and even a little jar of the dirt from the grounds from the groundbreaking ceremony (thanks, Mama Bird. No one could understand my excitement over a little tiny jar of New England soil, but it meant the world). Upon returning home, the first thing I wanted to do was go see the progress for myself, which meant braving the New England cold and snow just days after coming home tanned and warmed by the California snow. My heart was as full as the day our temple was announced.
I was bowled over tonight by those same feelings as we approached the temple just as the sun was setting (after being stuck in wicked Hartford traffic wherein I only hollered at one person, thankyouverymuch). I was so grateful, so excited, and was hit with a wave of joy that I can’t properly express in a few sentences.
I love the temple – it is my favorite place in the world to be. I go to the temple to draw closer to my Savior and to learn more about my Father in Heaven. I go seeking peace and the answers to many questions and concerns. I go because it is a reminder that this earth is a temporary home, and that my eternal home is with my Heavenly Father.
It was such a blessing to be able to introduce my family, who aren’t members of the Church, to the feelings of the temple – the sacred peace, the currents of joy, and the majesty of the House of the Lord.
To see my family walk through the rooms and corridors of the temple was incredible. I was able to quietly explain, along with presentations from members throughout the temple, what each room was used for, to point out my favorite paintings and the scriptures behind them, and to tell them my favorite parts of the temple. It was a blessing to see Tori’s face light up as she peered into the baptistry at the twelve oxen (she whispered to me, “is the whole temple like this?” her blue eyes wide with wonder) and to see my family reflected in the mirrors of the celestial and sealing rooms, glimpsing a symbol of eternity.
(Tori, as we were walking back to the car, boldly told her mom, “You can’t disbehave in the House of the Lord ’cause it’s sacred, and if you do, you automatically go to hell!” – no, I didn’t teach her that, and yes, it did make me nearly cry with laughter. Kerri promptly told her we are now going to show her a picture of the temple whenever she ‘disbehaves’ as a reminder to behave.)
I felt like walking through the temple gave my family a better understanding of why I love it, of why I do what I do and believe what I believe. The temple and the covenants made there are such a huge part of who I am and who I strive to be, and I feel that the open house gave my family a better grasp of the ‘what’ behind my love of the temple. And it was also an opportunity to share the feelings of the temple that can’t be done justice through description.
It was also heart-warming to be walking through the temple with our little tour group, only to be surprised by men, women, and youth I have known since I was a youth myself, as well as members I’ve met since moving into the Norwich ward. It was a reminder that we’re all family, that the temple is about community and connection in Christ, that our similarities in the eternities transcend the differences we find in mortality.
(And it was such a sweet experience to see one of the sisters who was my young women’s leader when I was younger for the first time in years as I walked into one of the instruction rooms!)
So I guess this post is my formal invitation for my loved ones in the New England area, and to those who ever have the opportunity* to attend a temple open house:
Come to the temple.
Take the time to walk through the House of the Lord and feel the peace that fills the rooms and hallways, to learn about what we believe, and to feel the love of the Lord. We’re not going to shove you in the water of the baptismal font and declare you a member-under-duress (because we believe in agency, ya’ll). There’s nothing to make you uncomfortable. There’s no pressure. There’s only things to learn and questions to be answered and peace to enjoy. There’s nothing like it, and I want everyone to have experienced that peace and overwhelming joy at least once in their lives.
Come to the temple, my friends!
*If you don’t have the opportunity, or have questions, please feel free to ask! I’d be more than willing to answer questions, have a conversation, or point you in the direction of answers! (Contact info in the ‘contact me’ section of the blog)