Showing posts with label Philadelphia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philadelphia. Show all posts

Philadelphia Temple Open House


At the stake center next to the Philadelphia temple. Seeing this painting, as well as the dressing room painting, was the highlight of the open house for me. It makes me wish I could paint so I could be a part of the change I love to see.

Not to mention that this lovely woman was our tour guide. I loved her tour. The way she addressed the protestors, presenting the temple with grace and poise. I wish I knew her name.

 (Update: of course Black Mormon Twitter was able to tell me her name is Josephine.)

Thank God for the Bedrock!

When the Philadelphia Temple was announced, I was 18 years old. It was long enough ago that I don't recall what my reaction was, other than amazement that 4 other temples had also been announced. The thought of having 5 new temples seemed so ambitious. At the time I was happily nestled into the comforts of BYU, and I never gave it a second thought that Philadelphia would be my home temple someday.

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.

A Family's Redemption

The new site for the Philadelphia temple has been announced. The old site was on Market Street somewhere, but the new site is on Vine Street, closer to the Philadelphia Art Museum. The Church's official press release is over on the Newsroom Blog.

The following is a Google satellite image of the new site:

I mean, just look at this. Compared to the beauty of even the most urban of temples, this parking lot is absolutely destitute. An empty, dirty place that who knows how many people pass through, or pass by, without taking a second look. And having been to the City of Brotherly Love dozens of times and probably having passed by this very spot, I'd say I've been guilty of the same thing. It's almost hard to imagine that a nasty old parking lot, a place for cars and telephone wires to pass through, could ever become holy ground. But that's exactly what will happen at this spot by the time the temple is built.

Which makes me wonder how many times I made that mistake while looking at my own life, because of my past.

I had a parking lot life once--one where people would come and go as they pleased, usually throw some trash on the ground, then leave again. "I mean sure, there's tons you can do with a vacant lot," I'd think to myself "but just look at you--why would anyone want a life like yours?" The way people teased and taunted me all throughout my childhood, plus the hand I was dealt through my family's choices and circumstances, left me feeling the way this picture looks.

I remember praying often for God to take me away from all of that--to help me fly far away, to know something better. Something more. I wasn't even sure what I wanted--I didn't have the words to ask for it--but surely whatever it was would be better than where I was and what I had. I asked and asked, but never really dared to hope that my prayers would be answered, or that my life would change.

But Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were at work in my life from the first prayer I ever said, guiding me towards people that would show me better ways of living. By the time the true message of the gospel came into my life, He had already been gutting out the filth, cleaning up the messes I and others had made, and He healed wounds I thought would be like nasty oil slicks on the asphalt of my conscience for the rest of my life. Jesus Christ, the carpenter that He is, knows all too well that every life is a living house. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that :
"God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building up a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself."

Which is the miracle of that parking lot picture--because there will come a day when it will be healed and made into a beautiful mansion of eternity, like this one:

Image courtesy of

Or this one:

Image courtesy of

Seeing what my Father in Heaven has done makes this new opportunity in Philadelphia all the more exciting. I'm already hoping to take my parents to the open house so they can see how incredibly beautiful the temples are on the inside. By doing so, it's my hope they'll understand why I go so often. I hope they'll feel the same peace and joy that comes into my life every time I go because Heavenly Father is there. I hope they'll see for themselves that by living the way I do, His Spirit dwells with me and builds me into a sacred and holy temple. I want them to know that Heavenly Father is eager to build them up too, to bring a peace, protection, and a surety into their lives that they've never experienced before because it doesn't exist in any other place.

If they could catch the smallest glimpse of just one of these things, they'd understand why I want them to consider what the Church offers, to share in these experiences with me. These ordinances we do are all about family--sealing us together so we can live together with God for time and all eternity. And if the price of that blessing for all of us means I have to step away from them, to work for us in ways they cannot see, and endure in hope that they'll understand some day, that's what I'll do. I've come to appreciate that eternal life for me would hardly be eternal happiness if my family wasn't there with me. But they cannot have those blessings of eternity if they choose not to give their lives over to God, and He won't force them into such a choice. He'll offer His gift to them, but they have to receive Him in order to have His joy.

Our Savior Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. None come unto the Father except they accept the mercies of His Son, and give away all their sins to know Him. I testify that Heavenly Father lives, He loves us with a greater love than we could ever imagine. He desires to have us back to live with Him, so He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, which allows us to repent of our mistakes and to be forgiven. Through His forgiveness, we can return to our Heavenly Father with great rejoicing and a fullness of new heart. I look forward to that day, and I trust that if I will be obedient, this journey will end joyfully somehow. I believe this with all of my heart, with the certainty of saints, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, my beloved Savior and Redeemer.

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