It seems I was sidetracked from this story, so now we return to LadyMo’s Fake Temple Trip with the J family.
I didn’t know the J family very well before this trip. I really only saw them at church and one or two times for a game night. Ha, fun fact: the first night I went to a game night at the J family’s house, there were about seven of us. I remember texting Elder P (now just P) that I was both looking forward to and terrified about my first super Mormon night. I was nervous, okay?
Anyway, back to the temple trip. Natalie encouraged me to ask Marie if I could tag along so that I could, you know, just work on being near one without freaking out. I thought it might be nice to just sit outside somewhere and read, or walk around and “take it all in.” I had no idea what to expect or how to prepare. I just love that feeling.
I met Adam and Marie at their house around 6:00 a.m., we dropped some sleepy children off at a babysitter’s (was it the G family?) house and hit the road. Normally, road trips longer than an hour tend to knock me out, so I was gearing up for a four-hour nap. Instead, we talked the whole time. It was awesome! Mostly, it was Adam and I talking about sociology, and Marie taught me a lot about what I could expect at the temple. We talked about baptisms for the dead, the visitor’s center, why Winter Quarters is important to our church history, and mostly that I should focus on how I feel while I’m there. We talked about what I would do my first time going to the temple for real. I’m glad for this conversation. At that point in my story, I needed simple directives like “don’t be angsty, try to feel the spirit.” I was nervous, so small words and short sentences were helpful.
As we approached the temple, I remember becoming more and more nervous. A lot of thoughts were racing through my mind at an unbelievably rapid speed: what do I do? What do I expect? How do I do this? Why can’t my dad ever go in this building? What if I’m not ready? How do I know if I feel the spirit? What does it look like? What if I see something that scares me (what, like a ghost??)? What if I’m never ready to go in? What if I cry? Why do I have to do this before my patriarchal blessing? How will I know if I received a blessing from being here? BLASGGHH!
I was a mess.
But then I saw the temple sitting quietly on a hill. It was small, and white, and peaceful. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it took my breath away. The first time I saw the temple, I didn’t think all of those weird racing thoughts. Actually, I wasn’t thinking anything except, “whoa.”
Marie and Adam parked and said we could meet in front of the temple a few hours later. I knew I could go in the waiting room and as far as the recommend desk if I wanted to, but I wasn’t ready yet.
I walked down the hill to the Visitor’s Center. I met a few sister missionaries and they offered to give me a tour. A few other women were in the tour group. Most were from Nebraska or Iowa, and one woman, get this, was from Rhode Island. She lived in the town next door to where I grew up and greeted me with a very thick and very familiar accent. I didn’t realize how much I missed hearing it. During the tour, this woman said some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I wish I could remember anything she said, but at the moment, it escapes me. But the ridiculousness of her comments is important to the story.
At the end of the tour, after about 45 minutes of silly togetherness, she turned to me and said, in a moment of complete clarity, “LadyMo, you have a sweet and spicy spirit about you. I don’t know why, but I feel like I need to tell you this: whatever is going in your life, you need to love that person for who they are today. Remember the Atonement is for all of us. Forget who they were before and love them for who they are today. Okay?”
I stood there, in the middle of the Visitor’s Center, stunned and amazed. For a few weeks, I had been struggling with things. Her words were the exact answer to something I had been praying about for a while and something that caused a lot of confusion for me. For 45 minutes, her words were jambled and silly. For five minutes, she spoke with such clarity and such intimate insight into my life. The juxtaposition is almost poetic.
I stood there, in the middle of the Visitor’s Center, and cried. I hugged this woman and sobbed and thanked her. The sisters were amazed and shared with me a way cool scripture (DC 46: 11-14). Sister Jensen taught me that sometimes answers to our prayers are given to us through the words of others. It was an incredible experience.
After the Visitor’s Center, I walked back to the temple, floating on a spiritual high, with the intention of just sitting in the waiting room. I wanted to see if I was capable of “feeling the spirit.” I wanted to know if God was ready for me to be there. I wanted to know if I was ready. I wanted a sign, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to look for or what to listen for.
So I just sat. And waited.
After about 20 minutes, I was feeling a mix of antsy-pants and bravery, so I moved to sit at the recommend desk. I must have thought that proximity would help the spirit slap me in the face. Don’t ask. Anyway, as I sat there, I started to pay attention to the people walking into the temple. I felt like I knew these people; they had a familiar peacefulness to them. And then, after a few people walked in and smiled and waved at me, I realized that it wasn’t just a peaceful familiarity – it was an actual familiarity. I knew every person in the temple. Lawrence 1st Ward, the ward where I was baptized, had their temple trip that day. I felt overwhelmed with love and support and as if I was in the middle of a big group hug. After watching a long line of L1W, I wondered if the C family was there too. I looked up and Jessica C was practically running down the staircase. She gave me the biggest hug and seeing her there was such an amazing comfort. I felt like I was wanted there. I felt like I was ready to be there. I felt like this was the answer to my prayer. It was like my decision to be baptized. When I had a lot of questions, Heavenly Father sent me 30 missionaries to let me know He loved me. He did the same thing at the temple. When I was still unsure about how I felt about being at the temple, He sent me 30 people I knew and loved to let me know it was safe to be there. Incase anyone needs to know how to get my attention, here you go.
I was in a place that I thought would give me grief, and I was feeling peaceful and overjoyed (is it possible to feel both at the same time?). I felt like I needed to be there again. I was excited knowing that I’d be back in two weeks “for real.” I couldn’t wait to tell Adam and Marie what happened that day – that every question I had was answered. I remember that the answer to my prayers was bundled up in a cute little package of “it’s going to be okay. You’re allowed to relax.”
My first temple trip, my trial run, was a success. I received answers to prayers, I got to know two wicked awesome people, and felt comfortable letting myself be open to learning.
And I was so happy.
With so much love,