Landmark for Eternity
- Karen attributes her love for the temple to the example her parents set.
- Karen finds peace from her high-pressure job by attending and working in the temple.
- The Spirit helps Karen accomplish all that she needs to do.
"When I found myself alone in a large, daunting city, I knew exactly where I could go for comfort."
Walking to work every morning, Karen Zelnick passes some of the most well-known sites in the world-the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Central Park, Broadway. But the landmark that's most important to her is the Manhattan New York Temple.
Karen works as an event planner in one of the most event-full places in the world. The demands and pace of her work are intense. The temple is the place where she goes to find peace in a high-pressure world. It is the place where she finds spiritual growth and comfort through serving as an ordinance worker.
“When you go to a place each week that teaches you basically how to return to your eternal home, it's hard not to feel secure, even though you're far away from your family. I always feel at home in the temple because that is where I feel closest to my Heavenly Father.”
Karen began seeking peace in the temple when she moved to New York as a 20-year-old graduate from Brigham Young University.
It was a big move for someone with no job in hand. But the employment she had found just after graduation seemed to offer little opportunity for service or growth. She had already served an internship in New York, and when she prayerfully sought direction as to where to find a career using her education, “I felt very strongly that Manhattan was where I needed to be.”
Still, being completely on her own in one of the world's busiest cities was not easy.
- View a photo gallery of Karen as she goes about her daily life in New York City.
“I wasn't afraid, because I knew this was where the Lord wanted me to be-but it was intimidating,” she says. “It was very lonely at times.”
Karen wipes away tears as she remembers the February evening when her father left after driving her from home in Ohio to New York City. They bought cheesecake from a shop in Grand Central Station and then sat to eat and visit in the empty area that is filled with flower stalls during the day. “He gave me his usual fatherly advice. Then he told me that if I were ever lonely or homesick or in need of comfort, I could come back here, remember this moment, and know I had a father who loves me and everything would be OK.” They said their good-bye at the bottom of the exit ramp; Karen watched her father walk out of the station to 42nd Street, and then she turned to go to her subway train. But the lesson was a lasting one. “I will always be grateful for the love of my dad because his love makes it easier to comprehend the love my Heavenly Father has for me.”
Sometimes Karen still walks to Grand Central to remember. She also loves to walk to other favorite places in the city-Central Park, or the pier on the Hudson River at 71st Street. She enjoys the vibrancy of New York-the theater, street performers, concerts.
But from her first weeks in the city, she has gone often to the temple for spiritual strength. “I loved going to the temple. If I was looking for peace or comfort, I could be guaranteed it was there.” At first she performed baptisms for the dead. Then she received her own endowment, and now she serves in the temple Saturday mornings as an ordinance worker.
Shortly after moving to New York, Karen approached her bishop and told him she needed a calling. She wanted to be active and occupied in service.
“When I moved to the city, the gospel was a grounding force. It was something that I knew, and it was very comforting and familiar.”
The Church also helped provide an “instant social network. It provides a chance to become involved and to meet new people and to feel like you have meaning and a purpose where you are.”
She loves visiting with friends, just talking or socializing. She likes baking for them. She enjoys drawing and painting; someday she would like to write and illustrate a children's book. And she enjoys gospel study. Amid the daily pressures, she keeps her eyes on eternal goals.
The temple is important in moving toward those goals. It helps her prepare for marriage by “making sure my life is in order,” she says. “The temple helps you prepare to raise a family because the temple is focused on the family.” She learned the importance of the temple by seeing her parents' love of going there. They often took their children to the temple when traveling, to do baptisms for the dead. “That emphasis on the temple has lasted in my life, and when I found myself alone in a large, daunting city, I knew exactly where I could go for comfort.”
She has learned this lesson: “If I put the Lord's work first, He will help me take care of mine.” His help, she says, is always better than any idea she could come up with on her own. The influence of the Holy Ghost helps with her daily responsibilities on the job. “There's no way I could remember to do everything without the Spirit. I don't know how anyone does anything without the Spirit.”
Coming to New York to live on her own “has taught me a lot about myself,” Karen says. Among other lessons, it has taught her to be humble about accomplishments. “It has reaffirmed that I am capable and that I can do a lot. But it has also taught me the reason I can do a lot is that the Lord helps me. The closer I draw to him, the more capable I find myself.”
That lesson helps her approach temple service, and life, in the spirit of forgetting self. The question she asks instead is this: “What would Thou have me do? What can I do for Thee?”