PonderIt

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Temple Learning

A few times in a zone conference, my mission president made a comment that referenced the temple but demurred at requests for elaboration. A few friends and I would fantasize, as possibly only missionaries really can, about getting him alone in the Celestial Room to pepper him with our deep gospel questions.

When we and he returned home, he used to invite us over to his home once a month for informal firesides. After a few of these firesides, my friend and I cornered our president and his wife about doing a temple session together. They agreed.

It took several scheduling attempts to actually pull it off, but finally the day arrived in the Jordan River Temple. It was a new temple for me. I was filled with a sense of anticipation I don’t remember having felt about the temple either before or since. Finally, I would learn the deep mysteries!

As the session flowed past, my mind was super alert. Dozens of questions raced through my mind. “Oh, hold on to that one. That is a good one. You’ll definitely want to ask that one in the Celestial Room.” As the questions raced through my mind, so did an amazing number of insights, both new and remembered.

When we finally gathered in the Celestial Room, my friend asked the first question. President’s face was thoughtful for a moment before the reply, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.” A follow-up question with greater detail and a possible answer was met with, “That’s possible, but I don’t know. Good question though.”

Meanwhile, the dozen questions I was sure I would want to ask had fled my mind. I asked the one question I could remember. “I don’t know.”

I was both disappointed and also filled with that sense of “duh.” In hindsight, I am not surprised at all by his answers. He was not one to speculate wildly about the gospel in our presence. How much less likely he was to do so in the confines of the temple we should have predicted. The respect he had for the polymorphic teaching power of symbols I’m beginning to understand.

The great surprise, though in hindsight again it should have been obvious, was the amount of revelation I received in the temple that day as my mind was engaged and alert and looking for answers. It turns out that most of my best experiences in the temple have come at similar times--times when I expected to be able to talk in the Celestial Room to knowledgeable people I admired. In each case the learning came before the talking and the talking was usually not very enlightening.

Now if I could only capture that sense of urgency in temple learning without the external motivation. Perhaps I could apply that skill in the rest of my life and achieve that dialogic revelation I’ve heard so much about.

2 Comments:

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  • This one was a tough one for me. It didn't take me too long to get kind of board with it, because I wasn't into blind speculation. I simply accepted it as it is.

    Then I started to read the history and development of the Temple and the ordinances almost exploded to me. New eyes. There are a lot of really great "safe sources" for these things as well.

    By Anonymous J. Stapley, at 12/08/2005 7:32 PM  

  • I suppose that has a lot to do with why Nibley claimed to get so much out of the temple throughout his life. He was always looking at it in a larger context.

    I have Matthew Brown's two books on the temple on the shelf but I haven't taken the time to read them yet. I also plan to go through the resources on Ben Spackman's temple page. I'm sure there is plenty of interesting material in the BYU library if I took the time to search it out. Someday I will, though it is more important to me right now to get home to my family each day.

    In the meantime, I will enjoy the small glimpses I get from insights others post on their blogs. I sure appreciate the free flow of ideas.

    By Blogger Bradley, at 12/08/2005 9:32 PM  

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