Eight Years

Eight years ago today, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember vividly the day I made that decision, because it happened the first time I ever attended Church.

The first time I went to Sacrament Meeting is a day I'll always remember. It was a cold Sunday in January and I had just turned 16. Before the meeting even started, I felt a difference the moment I walked inside the building. The peace I felt was immediate. It sank deep into my heart, and I felt like God was genuinely close to me for the first time in my life.

That feeling continued throughout the rest of the meeting. As the speakers gave their talks and bore their testimonies, I could feel God speaking to me through the words they said. I'd never experienced anything like it before.

I had been searching all my life for the place where God truly was, and I had never been able to find him. I had come home at last, and I didn't want to leave. I didn't want that feeling of closeness to go away, but I didn't know what to do to make it stay. When the meeting ended, I confess I panicked and almost started to cry. I never wanted it to end. I prayed to God and begged him to tell me what I had to do to stay with him.

Sitting in Sunday School with a Book of Mormon in my lap, I flipped open to a random page and read got an immediate answer.

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.
Alma 32: 16
I needed to get baptized. I didn't understand what baptism was, but I knew to the very core of my soul that it was what I needed to do. I wanted to be baptized, but I had no idea how to go about making that happen. I didn't know at the time you needed missionaries in order to be baptized. The branch where I attended Church didn't have missionaries. And even if they did, my mom never would have let me meet with them.

Eventually, I fell through the cracks. For about 2 months I didn't go to Church anymore. When Easter Sunday came around I realized I had made a terrible mistake. I went back to Church and committed myself to staying. I would finish what I started. I would be baptized, and no power in heaven or on earth was going to stop me.

Special arrangements were made with the Philadelphia Mission president at the time for me to be taught by the branch mission leader and his wife. By the end of the summer I was ready to be baptized.

My baptism was on a Saturday morning. I was incredibly nervous. I knew I was prepared. But was I ready? Was I ready to promise God to follow him forever? Was I ready to promise to be like Jesus? Was I ready to live up to what God expected of me? Could I really be what he wanted me to be?

I didn't have perfect certainty when I stepped into the baptismal font. I don't know that anyone who is baptized ever does. But when I went under, all of those doubts stayed in the water. That was what the Lord was telling me in Alma 32: 16. There's no way to know what's going to happen in the future. You can't see all the different ways you could screw up. But you can trust the Lord to help you, and trust that he really will forgive you if you do mess up.

Baptism isn't about knowing everything. It isn't even about knowing enough. It's about trusting, even though you don't know everything, and you can't see the future.

That decision has carried me through the rest of my life. When I decided to stay active in the Church as a new convert, when I moved 2000 miles away to go to BYU, when I left BYU to serve a mission, the entire time I lived in Brazil, when I was sealed to my sweetheart for time and all eternity--that trust is what ties all of these experiences together. In each one, I had to trust God to help me with everything I didn't know, and everything I couldn't see coming. My ability to do that has made all of the difference in my life.

I know that God our Father lives. I know that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to save us from sin and death. Jesus gave us the perfect example of what we have to do to live with our Father in Heaven again. An essential part of that example is being baptized. I know that baptism is what we have to do to be saved. I know baptism washes away our sins, and keeping our covenants helps us to become like Jesus. If we remain faithful throughout our lives and repent of our sins always, we will live with our Father and his Son again.

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's true Church. He restored it to the earth through a living prophet, Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. We have a living prophet on the earth today in Thomas S. Monson. I leave you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

"Let Your Gratitude Continue": The Meridian Temple Site Dedication

The Meridian Temple site dedication was a beautiful occasion. It was broadcasted to the various local stake centers in western Idaho and eastern Oregon, which is where I had the privilege of watching it.

Program of the Meridian Temple site dedication

The program of the Meridian Idaho Temple Groundbreaking Service listed Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as presiding. However when the broadcast began, Elder David A. Bednar was the apostle present. Conducting was Elder Kent F. Richards, the Executive Director of the Temple Department. The opening hymn was "High on the Mountain Top," and the prayer was provided by President H. David Christensen of the Caldwell Idaho Stake.

Elder J. Craig Rowe was the opening speaker. He is Chairman of the Groundbreaking Committee.

Being a history person I greatly enjoyed his comments. He spoke about the history of the Meridian region, and the history of the Church in that area. He told of how the earliest settlers in Meridian came in the early 1860s, and settled in the Five Mile Creek area. Eventually they established a dairy, and this became the area's major contribution for many years.

Meridian was incorporated in 1903, and expanded its agriculture to include various fruit orchards and aviaries. The first members of the Church in Meridian came in the 1920s and 1930s from eastern Idaho. Many of them were descendants of settlers sent to Idaho by Brigham Young.

April 29th, 1932 was the first organized meeting of the Latter-day Saints in Meridian. The 40 members were not well received by the community, and as such held their first meeting in the town undertaker's parlor.

As the meeting expanded, they moved to Parker's Dance Hall at the corner of Parker and Broadway Streets. Elder Rowe told of how the Saints would often prepare for Sunday services by sweeping up the cigarette butts and cleaning up beer bottles from the dances held on Saturday nights.

In June of 1934, the Meridian Branch was organized. The Meridian Ward was dedicated in 1941.

Elder Blake R. Alder, the Area Seventy to the Idaho Area, spoke second. He began his talk by quoting Doctrine and Covenants 65: 1-3, emphasizing the phrase "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." He then makes mention of the finishing of the Kirtland Temple and Elijah's appearance to bestow the keys of sealing. He makes repeated mention of the Spirit of Elijah throughout his talk.

He mentions how the Saints first learned of the commandment to build temples in 1832, and how this inspired them to build the Kirtland Temple. He also tells in some detail the story of John Tanner, who in my opinion was one of the most important converts of the early Church. The Church produced a film called "Treasures in Heaven: The John Tanner Story" which is available to view on their website here.

Elder Alder told the story of how John Tanner came to the Church's rescue by paying the $2000 mortgage on the Kirtland Temple lot the day before it was to be foreclosed. He then transitioned into the fact that two of John Tanner's descendants are recent converts, and were in attendance at the dedication. Elder Alder told of how after one of these converts discovered the amazing story of his ancestor, he didn't hesitate in being baptized.

John Tanner's story, together with his descendants who have joined the Church, are wonderful examples of how the Spirit of Elijah works on the earth today. Because of John Tanner's sacrifices, his testimony reaches beyond the grave to continue building the kingdom of God.

Elder Alder closes by praying for the Spirit of Elijah to increase among the Saints in Idaho.

Elder Kent F. Richards spoke next, followed by his wife Marsha, who was invited by Elder Bednar to share her testimony.

Elder Richards focused his remarks on some very worthy goals for those who wish to prepare themselves to enter the Meridian Temple. He told the story of Joshua of how he erected stones as witnesses to the covenant his people made to obey the Lord. He compared temple recommends to these stones, and encouraged everyone to prepare and qualify to receive one.

He taught that temple work is for all ages, especially for the younger generation. He challenged families to work together to find and redeem their own dead. He said this was one of the greatest preparations we could undertake to show our gratitude for the new temple.

Elder Richards presented a very worthy challenge, that the Meridian Temple become the first in the Church to become fully self sufficient on family names, as opposed to those that are submitted from Saints around the world for others to do. He commented that the Boise temple is nearly self sufficient in terms of patrons bringing their own names to the temple. He also invited families to counsel together in how they can achieve these goals together.

Marsha Richards bore her testimony, and spoke of how conversion was like a personal groundbreaking in our lives. She compared it to the transformation outlined in Alma 36, specifically how Alma's mind "caught hold" of Jesus Christ. She mentioned how frequently the word "Joy" occurs after that in the chapter.

The Choir sang "Arise, O Glorious Zion."

Elder David A. Bednar concluded the meeting by explaining that Elder Perry was called away for personal matters and could not be there. He mentioned that he knew Elder Perry, who is from Boise area, was looking forward to being there. Elder Bednar lamented that Elder Perry couldn't be there, and it was very sweet.

Elder Bednar's remarks were more brief than I expected, but spoke to the most significant challenge this new temple will present to the Saints in Idaho. He spoke about preserving the enthusiasm and gratitude we feel for the Meridian Temple long after the novelty has faded.

He mentioned how many of us will document this temple's construction as the experience of a lifetime. He spoke of the jubilation that occurred in the hearts of many when the temple was announced. He humored that some would likely make scrapbooks to document the temple's construction all throughout the process. He even foresaw that many Saints would eagerly look forward to worshiping in the newly completed temple, and would do so with great enthusiasm.

But what he foresaw for many, and I'm sure the experience with temple attendance in other newly built temples would attest, is that novelty eventually wears off. Because the temple is so close, so convenient to access, many will forget the joy and eagerness they once felt. The gratitude for the Lord's blessing will fade, and the temple becomes just another thing to do.

Elder Bednar challenged us all to maintain our gratitude, and said the way we are worshiping in this temple long after it is completed is the true measure of our gratitude for it.

"Please. Please," he repeated, "Let your gratitude continue."

He mentioned how temples are paid for by Saints all over the world, and how the tithing from Saints in Africa was being used to build this temple. He told of his visits to Kinshasa and Gabon, how the Saints there commonly only eat once a day. He challenged us to live up to their sacrifices in our own ways, specifically in how we worship in this new temple provided by their tithing funds.

Elder Bednar also taught that temples are not built according to the number of stakes, members, or any other metrics of an area. He said new temples are announced and constructed based on the hearts of the people in that region. He affirmed to us that the temple was being built because of the goodness of our hearts, and we need to preserve this goodness deep into the future.

He closed with his testimony, and I love the way he phrased it because of a conversation I recently had with an atheist who said my beliefs were not based in fact.

"The Tomb is empty. It is not a fable. It is not a story. It is a fact."

He then provided the dedicatory prayer for the temple site. Of the many things he promised, I remember most vividly that he prayed that the temple's construction would be unhindered, even accelerated--that the temple's construction might even be finished ahead of schedule.

The closing hymn was "Now Let Us Rejoice," with the congregation joining in on the last verse.

The prayer was provided by Lori Henneman of the Meridian Idaho Paramount Stake.

The Groundbreaking followed, and the broadcast concluded.

"If We're United, We all Things Can Do": Building the Meridian Temple

Tomorrow my husband and I will attend the site dedication for the Meridian, Idaho temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The proceedings will be broadcast to stake centers in southeastern Idaho and eastern Oregon, and I'm excited to participate.

Saying goodbye to the Philadelphia temple was hard, because we won't be there anymore to see so much of the construction we supported with our faith. As the delays continued and the complications set back progress again and again, many of our prayers were directed to the temple's success. Moving away felt like leaving a great work unfinished.

The Meridian Temple was announced in the April 2011 General Conference
Image courtesy of mormonnewsroom.org

It wasn't until after we moved to Boise and my husband began his new job that I discovered that Meridian also had a temple announced. And because of the nature of my husband's work, I've become privy to several details about the project reinforcing that our work hasn't ended. We are simply focusing our faith and devotion to a different temple now.

The Opposition has Already Begun

The Meridian Temple is experiencing similar opposition to its construction by local residents as the Phoenix Arizona Temple did in its planning phases. Not everyone who lives in Idaho is LDS, and the rural part of Meridian where the temple is to be constructed is no exception.

While the majority of the residents in the area either support or are neutral to the temple's construction, those who want to keep the area rural are the most adamant critics. They already view the housing developments along Linder Road as an intrusion, and the temple has become a part of this bitter conflict. And even though the Church will do everything in its power to alleviate concerns that create these feelings of animosity and intrusion, it's easy to understand why this may not be possible.

The concern vocalized  most often is a one of traffic. The two lane road cannot handle the increase in traffic the temple will allegedly create. In good faith, the Church is paying to widen the road significantly as part of the project. It will become a five lane road--two lanes in each direction, with a center turn lane. For the Church to pay for this is not required by law. They are doing it to assist with the urban planning of the area as it continues to grow.

However, Ada County will require landowners to give up the portions of their property necessary to build the roadway. If the property is not given willingly, the county will use eminent domain and take it by force. This is standard practice and not unique to this situation, but will only increase the bad feelings of those who are most adamantly against the temple.

Even when the Church tries to be amenable to these vocal citizens, it isn't possible to resolve all of their concerns. Sometimes meeting their existing concerns will only create new concerns as time goes on. And when that happens, history has shown us that their opposition will likely manifest itself again and again, in whatever way is possible as the construction continues.

While the Ada County Commissioners have already approved the project, we should never assume that this means there will be no more roadblocks to the Meridian temple's construction. The Philadelphia Temple is a sterling example of what opposition can do to slow down, and even halt the temple's progression.

We are All Temple Builders

In the Church's history not so long ago, it was the responsibility of members--not professional contractors--to build our temples. Latter-days Saints would make significant sacrifices of money, possessions, labor and expertise, and time to create the beautiful structures central to our worship. Because this is no longer the case, it is easy to feel like we no longer have a part to play in the temple's construction. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Each of us living in this area has a responsibility to build the Meridian Temple. We may not do it with mortar and stone, but we will do it with our devotion. In every way that we live our faith and remain true to our temple covenants, we show the Lord that we want this temple in our community. As I've pondered what it means for us to build temples in our day, these were the thoughts that came to my mind:

  • Pay our tithes and offerings
  • Serve in our callings, especially as home and visiting teachers
  • Be an example of the believers in our communities at all times
  • Support recent converts and returning members in their goals to enter the temple
  • Work together with full-time missionaries to find families who would be blessed by entering the temple
  • Attend our existing temple in Boise as faithfully and as often as possible
  • Share our testimonies of the Church and the temple with our friends and neighbors
  • Help our children commit to always be worthy of a temple recommend
  • Build up our homes as holy places that lead us to the temple
  • Participate in meetings and councils where issues regarding the temple are discussed
  • Show Christ-like patience, respect, and love towards those who may oppose the temple. If there is criticism to the work of God, let us win others over "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." (D&C 121: 41)
  • Record our thoughts and experiences preparing for the temple in our journals for posterity
  • Seek out the names of our family members and prepare them to receive temple ordinances
  • Sustain our stake/ward priesthood and auxiliary leaders as they provide us with guidance and instructions on how to prepare ourselves for the temple
  • Keep the commandments, and where necessary, repent
  • Develop consistent habits of scripture study and personal prayer. 
  • Pray continually that obstacles to the temple's completion will be removed. Pray for the health, strength, and safety of the construction crews and their families.
  • Study the teachings about the temple in the scriptures.

I know that as I do my part to build the Meridian Temple, the spirit of the temple will enter into my life. It will make me a better disciple of Jesus Christ. I will be ready to meet him when he returns again to the earth at his coming. I will increase in my love for all of God's children. I will have greater peace in my marriage and my home. The problems and anxieties of life may not fade away, but my capacity to confront them with wisdom and faith will increase.

I leave my testimony with you that God our Father lives, that Jesus Christ has saved the world from death and sin. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. Temples provide us with the opportunity to be with our families forever. There is no greater blessing on earth or in heaven than living with God and our families for all eternity. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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