Sunday, September 27, 2020

Virtual Temple Trip?

Your reaction when you hear the words "virtual temple trip" might be similar to mine when I first heard them: Huh? What? And how? Longtime readers of this blog know I (like, it seems, a disproportionately large number of Foreign Service people) am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church). And like many people both inside and outside the Church, I was very excited for the Washington, DC temple to open briefly to the public after years of renovation. Of course, that eventually became another disappointment provided courtesy of COVID-19.

For those who may not know, here's a little background on our temples. They are different from our regular Church buildings that we (used to, pre-pandemic) attend every Sunday and do most of our activities. There are certain extra special ordinances (like sealing a marriage) that can only be done in the temple, and only card-carrying (literally) members of the Church can go inside the temple itself. You need to pass two interviews with local leaders confirming you're a member in good standing to get your "card" (what we call a temple recommend) or have it renewed. Each temple has a Visitor's Center and grounds that are open to the public, but everyone needs a recommend to go inside the temple.

That is, except when there's a temple open house. When a temple is newly built or extensively renovated, they usually have an open house where anybody can come and see the inside of our most sacred space. After the open house, the temple is rededicated and then closed only to members again. I still remember how cool it was to take M to the Philadelphia temple open house and show him what the inside looked like since he could only accompany me to the outside of the DC temple.

Anyway, the pandemic forced the Church to postpone the planned DC temple open house for this fall and I hope they will still be able to do a full open house later because it would be a shame for everyone in the DC area who has waited for this opportunity to miss it. In the meantime, my Relief Society (local women's Church organization) announced we would do a two-week virtual temple trip. We launched the trip with a Zoom meeting sharing our experiences with the temple, received daily invitations to revisit specific temple-related talks, videos, and Scriptures, and agreed to meet again to discuss it at the end.

Did every single word of the materials sent during this virtual temple trip resonate with me? No. (See the part of President Nelson's talk where it says I get to preside through the Priesthood in our home if M dies, except I already have more Priesthood since he's not a member, and that's kind of an old-school way of looking at presiding in my opinion.) But most of the rest of that talk did touch my heart. And certain portions of the temple trip gave me new spiritual insights.

If you'd like to take your own virtual temple trip, here are my favorite resources from these two weeks I just had to share:

  • Convenience Versus Covenants: This talk was something I needed to hear.
  • Finding Healing After the Death of a Child: I don't even have kids, but this one is a real tear-jerker. I love the strength and wisdom of this mother.
  • The Miracle of Hope: This was my favorite! Okay, I'm cheating a bit because this came from a separate Church email, but I really loved it and had to share.
  • Consecrate Thy Performance: This was my favorite that actually came from the virtual temple trip.
  • Sacred Temple Clothing: I love to pull out this video whenever someone asks me about my "magic underwear" or something else inappropriate. (And yes, that has even happened to me at work.)
  • An Especially Noble Calling: This is a celebration of womanhood and women's roles as discplies of Christ, and I'm here for it.
  • #HearHim: I just love this invitation from President Nelson to hear the Savior and reflect on how we hear Him.

A Christian friend of mine who is not a member of my faith recently shared online that many people in the United States and around the world are really struggling with religious observance right now. It goes beyond needing to stay at home during the pandemic, but many people feel lonely, isolated, hopeless, and disconnected from community and spirituality. I hope at least one of these virtual temple trip resources are a blessing to at least one reader, and I look forward to the day I can go to the temple in person again (hopefully in Seoul)! (And if you really are dying to see what the inside of the DC temple looks like, you can see the renderings online here.)

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