Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Temples and Churches: Easter at Notre Dame



This past Easter I had the awesome opportunity to go to Easter services at Notre Dame. The one in Paris, France. I know right, be jealous, it was really cool. What an experience! It’s one of those things that’s not even on a bucket list because who’d’ve thought right? I’ve been blessed with some really great experiences and I’m super grateful to those wonderful people in my life who enable me to have these experiences.
 
If you ever read my blog (shout out to all two of you: thanks Grandma and mom!) then perhaps you’ll remember that I went to Easter services at a Lutheran cathedral a few years ago. I also went to a Russian Orthodox temple on Easter one year on my mission. And next year plans are in the works to go to the Vatican…

Each of these experiences has caused me to think a lot about why I do what I do in relation to how I worship God. I see other people and how they worship, sometimes in ways similar to mine, and sometimes in ways much different.

I realize that Notre Dame on Easter is probably not the best example of a common Catholic mass, considering the vast majority of people present, myself included, were tourists visiting Notre Dame on Easter as a tourist-y thing to do rather than because we all just happened to be in Paris on Easter Sunday and Notre Dame happened to be the closest church in which we could fulfill our overwhelming desires to worship Jesus Christ and remember His atonement and resurrection. Please know, I do not make light of those present who had pure intentions. I imagine that for a lot of people, attending Easter mass in Notre Dame is special, an event more meaningful than simply a bucket list item waiting to be checked off.

I do wonder, however, if perhaps the priests or the cardinal are saddened by how much of a tourist attraction Easter mass in Notre Dame has become. As I stood in line waiting to get in, many people were crowding the front, cutting lines, and once the doors opened there was a surge to the gate with complete disregard for anyone or any sort of semblance of a line or respect for those who had been waiting the longest. As the previous mass ended, the priests and cardinal exited the building in apparent ceremony to walk with their staffs and incense around to a back door. They had to almost push through the throngs of people waiting outside and I wonder if that, in a way, undermines or lessens the sacredness of the event. Perhaps seeing that many people makes the clergy happy, perhaps they like it or at the very least they don’t care. But I wonder because to me, the whole thing felt like much more of a 5am black Friday BestBuy opening or a concert than a worship service in which everyone was coming together to show their love and gratitude to the Savior for His great atoning sacrifice.

As I stood outside Notre Dame waiting to get in, and after we got in and I stood there observing all the other people present, some with cameras despite the signs that asked for no cameras, I thought about the temples we have in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and about how the Lord does not allow just anyone to waltz in to the temple whenever. People sometimes get hung up on the fact that not everyone is allowed to go in to a Mormon temple. Unrelated to what I wish to discuss today, I think that mentality is funny because I feel a lot of people only care because they’re “not allowed” rather than because they have some genuine desire to know how Mormons worship. How many of those people have ever gone to a Mormon church? Those are open to whomever. And a lot easier to find. No, I think most people only care because they think they’re not allowed.

Anyways, seeing the throngs of people at Notre Dame, I thought a lot about the temple and why it is that the Lord regulates who enters His holy temples. The temple is not a tourist attraction. It is not open to the public nor is it even open to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That being said, all who truly desire to attend the temple are welcome. The Lord is no respecter of persons and calls all, yea, “every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

If you want to enter the temple, you must be prepared. The temple is “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119). The temple is open to anyone who lives according to the standards the Lord has set. Want to go to the temple? Great. Follow the Lord’s prescribed steps and go. Nothing would make the Lord happier than to have all His children make and keep temple covenants; He simply wants us to be adequately prepared when we enter His house.

The temple is not a place for cameras, bucket-lists, idle curiosity, or social media. You don’t attend the temple simply to “go see.” Everything in the temple is deeply symbolic and requires repeated visits and a lifetime of learning. If you simply went to check it out, nothing would make sense and it would be a waste. The temple is not a place for “light speeches” and “light-mindedness” and God will not be mocked (Doctrine and Covenants 88:121).

The temple is a place where the saints of God go frequently to help in His work for the salvation of His children.1 In the temple we learn more about our divine heritage as sons and daughters of God, and we make additional sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father to assist us in our quest for eternal life. A covenant is a promise between you and God; baptism is a covenant, and in the temple we make more covenants, covenants of obedience, chastity, etc., and covenants to our spouse when we are married in the temple.2 These covenants are essential for salvation and exaltation.3 Breaking any promise is a strike against one’s character, but breaking a promise with God is most serious. Only those who are prepared and willing to live up to their covenants should go to the temple.4

Inscribed on each temple are the words:
Holiness to the Lord
The House of the Lord
Therefore, what goes on inside the temple is very serious yet very wonderful. Those who are properly prepared and attend the temple with the right attitude and proper motive receive an added measure of strength from the Lord to better deal with the daily stresses and trials of life. When I go to the temple, I love that I can leave all of my troubles and worldly cares at the door and enjoy a peace and serenity available only in a place where God’s Spirit can dwell unhindered by the noise of the world. When I leave the temple, my troubles and cares still exist but I feel more optimistic and better prepared to deal with everything. I love going to the temple.

Since temples are not secret places but sacred places, those who do not desire to make temple-related covenants with God may still tour the inside of newly-completed temples before they are dedicated by a prophet to the Lord. These events are called “open houses” and occur each time a temple is built or renovated. Of course these open houses are few and far between as temples themselves are few and far between, but if you ever get an opportunity to attend a temple open house, you should definitely go. The Kansas City temple open house just ended but a current list of open houses can be found here.

Once again, the temple is the house of God, it is not a place to go take pictures to be posted to facebook. (The outside of the temple and the grounds are; visit as often as you want and take all the pictures you want.) Nor is the temple the best place to go to find out about the Mormon Church.5 If you wish to know about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what we believe, and how we worship, visit a church building, and/or find a member of the Church. It is in church buildings where we worship on Sunday, partake of the sacrament, go to Sunday school, and hold other activities throughout the week. Go to a Mormon church, wear jeans, still please don’t take pictures, at least during worship service, but if it’s a Mormon meeting you want, go to a church building; the temple isn’t where any of that takes place anyways. Want to go to a Mormon service on Easter? The church is the place for that too; temples aren’t even open on Sundays.

And if you want a “big” Mormon meeting, one that only happens twice a year, sometimes even on Easter, one that you have to travel to, and one at which the living prophet and apostles are present, go to General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The first weekend in April and the first weekend in October each year, the Church holds General Conference—the biggest meeting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. General Conference takes place in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, which seats 21,000 in the audience and all the prominent leaders of the Church are present. The event even comes complete with protesters, some of which dress up as Satan; it’s a party.

My little brother and his wife on their wedding day.
I conclude with the simple yet beautiful words of the children’s hymn, “I Love To See the Temple” by Janice Kapp Perry:

1. I love to see the temple.
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.

2. I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth:
A fam’ly is forever.

The temple truly is the house of God. I am grateful that my Father in Heaven loves me enough and cares about me enough to give me temples and allow me to make sacred covenants with Him within the walls of His holy houses. I know the covenants I have made and will make with the Lord in the temple will enable me to return to live with Him and with my family forever and that knowledge brings me great happiness. The temple is truly a place of love and beauty. Come and see for yourself.

Jeremy

Notes
  1. See Moses 1:39
  2. For more on what happens inside the temple, see "Inside the Temple" on the LDS.org website.
  3. To read more about salvation and exaltation, read Elder Russell M. Nelson’s “Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign, May 2008.
  4. In addition to making our own covenants with the Lord, we attend the temple to make covenants vicariously for our ancestors who died without the opportunity to do so themselves. Of course, this in no way forces those who have deceased into the Mormon religion, but gives those who did not have a chance to learn about or make those saving covenants and ordinances a chance to accept if they so choose. If not, then the work we did here for them counts for nothing, but since God is just, all get an opportunity to accept His gospel, whether in this life or the next.
  5. Some temples have visitors’ centers which are open to the public and are wonderful places to find out about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For a list of visitors’ centers across the globe, see the Church’s visitor’s centers website.

See also