For 5,000 couples last year, married but not yet sealed, the temple was … the best day of their lives
The Best Day of Their Lives03079_000_022
“I’ve never seen my mom and dad so happy as the day we went into the temple as a family. All of us knelt around the altar holding hands and we thought, ‘Gee, this is it—we’re a family forever!’”
“The day we were sealed in the temple was the day I really fell in love with my husband.”
“The day we went to the temple to be sealed for all time and eternity was truly the most glorious day of our lives, one that we will cherish and hold dear forever.”
“From the moment we entered that holy building to be sealed together, the feelings of peace and serenity were overpowering. Never before had we felt so united with each other and with our Heavenly Father.”
“On June 1, 1975, our dream came true. I took my wife to the temple and married her for all eternity. Then our children were brought to us and they were sealed to us for all eternity too. That day was the most special day of my life and I am so glad that I changed so I could become worthy to take my family to the temple and never lose them if I am worthy.”
In 1975 the dreams of more than five thousand Saints came true: with their wife or husband, to whom they were already married for time, they were sealed in the temple for all time and eternity. Some of that number were members who had never really been active. Some were married to former nonmembers. Some were restrained for years because of a bad habit.
How did they travel from the point of their nonmembership or inactivity or bad habit to the joy that is found in the temple? Careful analysis could be made of their situations—why they were inactive in the first place, what kept them bound for years to unhappy habits. But that analysis might overlook the struggle for light, the yearning for the Spirit’s warmth. Those elements are best found in the experiences of those who struggled; and those stories best tell themselves.
“A few years ago,” says one member from Houston, Texas, “I thought there was nothing more important than shooting pool, drinking and smoking with the boys, and staying away from home. Now I can’t see how I ever did some of those things. When we moved here to Texas things stayed pretty much the same. I didn’t attend church and didn’t care much about religion. Then my wife went to our new bishop and asked him to help. Of course, he passed on the plea to my elders quorum president, who prayed about it and decided that he should assign himself to be our home teacher. Then a strange thing happened. When he came to our house on his first visit, for some reason I let him in—and I had never let a home teacher in before. He talked to me as a friend and someone who cared about me. He asked me if I liked sports; well, that was great because I loved sports. He told me that they were playing basketball and asked me to join the fellows on the team. I was happy to cooperate. Meeting those good men on the team made me feel as though the friends I had in the bars weren’t really friends at all.”
But this brother still wasn’t attending Church. Every month the home teachers would invite him to come, and “every month I would make up some excuse. I was afraid to make the change. But the president never made me feel bad or ashamed at my excuses; I was always happy and content when he was in our house. Then my father passed away. I realized that I had gone almost my entire life disappointing him, and vowed I would never let him and my mother down again. That next Sunday I went to church in Houston for the first time. The people accepted me like I had never been inactive at all.” From there it was only a matter of continuing on his new path to reach the temple with his wife and children: “On June 1, 1975, our dream came true. …”
A sister in California explains how she and her husband were able to change their lives so they could go to the temple. “We married very young, partly in defiance of our parents. It was a very unhappy situation. As time went by things got worse, and the only reason we didn’t get a divorce was that we couldn’t afford it. We had a little son, but we weren’t a family. We were just three people living under the same roof. We were all so at odds at home that we couldn’t bear the thought of going to church, because we would have had to put up a good front to the other members of our ward and we didn’t want to make even that much effort. If someone had asked me if I wanted to be sealed to my husband in the temple I would have thought they were crazy. A marriage for time was bad enough. I couldn’t fathom such misery for eternity.”
Then they went to Utah to visit relatives, and while there they went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City. “We were spellbound by everything at Temple Square. We spent three solid days there. The more we stayed the more we realized that we were living for just now, not for eternity, and that was a big reason why we were always unhappy—neither of us ever thought of the other; instead we were always selfish and inconsiderate. And we wanted to change our lives. We kept looking at that temple and wishing we could go in.”
Their resolve to change was firm. When they left Temple Square that third day they both threw away their cigarettes. And as soon as they arrived home, they called their bishop to ask what they needed to do to qualify for temple recommends. “He told us to start attending our meetings and said we would work the rest out later. Less than a year later we were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple. The day we were sealed in the temple was the day I really fell in love with my husband.”
It doesn’t take a tragedy in the family or a trip to Temple Square to change people’s lives. Many are changed in quiet, gradual ways as they feel others’ love or as they struggle with repentance.
In 1972 a Montana couple and their six children were sealed in the temple. “I’ve never seen my mom and dad so happy as the day we went into the temple as a family,” one daughter tells. That day of joy was the culmination of more than twenty years of effort. The wife explains: “I grew up in a strong LDS family but married a nonmember, thinking I could convert him. He joined the Church in 1953, but I learned before too long that he had done it just to get me off his back. He even picked up smoking and drinking after baptism, and he had never done either of those before. I guess I nagged him a lot in those years. I would self-righteously take the children to church and then come home and quarrel with him because he hadn’t gone too.”
What finally made the change? “I prayed so hard those years that I never took time to listen to the Lord’s answer. And when I heard it I ignored it. But finally I was so desperate that I felt I had no other choice than to do it His way: ‘You have to love him in,’ the Spirit would whisper to me. ‘Let him go at his own pace.’ So finally I did it and before too long we were at the temple.”
At the same time, the Lord was reaching out to this man in other ways. His colleagues at work had begun to ridicule Joseph Smith, and he felt he had to know if the things they were saying were true. If they were, he would leave the Church. “I started to read the Book of Mormon. I had never really tried to understand it before. It was a marvelous experience. And I learned both how to defend the Church to the men at work and that it was defensible. I got so I really thirsted to know the truth. I went back to Church. And all the while I was amazed at the quiet support my wife was giving me. Instead of nagging, instead of saying, ‘I told you so,’ like she once would have done when I started to go back, she simply took my hand and said she wanted to help me do whatever would make me happiest.”
Study and Church attendance—even a thoughtful testimony borne on a fast Sunday—were followed by a review of the missionary discussions, giving up drinking, and having a bitter war with the cigarette. “I thought it would be easy for me to quit smoking, even though I had smoked for seven years—because I generally have good will power. But I tried and tried to quit and I couldn’t. Every time I made up my mind to quit for sure, something would happen, and all of a sudden I would find myself with a cigarette in my hand and smoke coming out of my mouth. I had heard stories about the Lord taking the desire away from people when they sought him in prayer, but that didn’t work for me. Maybe I didn’t have strong enough faith, or maybe he wanted me to grow more from the struggle. I just knew that I couldn’t quit. Finally I went to the Lord in prayer and committed myself to him that I would never smoke again, no matter what. It wasn’t easy—in fact, even now when I smell tobacco I have an urge to smoke again—but from that moment to this I have never broken my commitment.
“I don’t think all these things would have happened if we hadn’t made a plan. Our home teachers taught us that the best thing we could do was to set specific goals for what we would have to do in our lives before we could go to the temple, and then of course to reach our goals by the designated time. First, we decided we would have to go to all our meetings. That was a hard one for me because I worked nights, and priesthood meeting started about an hour after my bedtime. But I went anyway. Second, I had to start living the Word of Wisdom; third, we had to pay tithing, and so on. Those goals really made the difference. They gave us a deadline for us to accomplish each step and a final date for when we wanted to be at the temple. That was the only approach that would have worked for us.”
A couple in England was invited to attend a special seminar for those who had never been to the temple. “Each week we heard testimonies of many people who had been blessed by keeping the commandments of the Lord, of people who had had to change their lives to go to the temple. That really helped us. And we were given a different project each week concerning the gospel that we were to work in and to achieve during that week.” When the seminar ended they felt prepared to go to the temple and had the necessary interviews. “On November 9, 1973, we were able to receive our endowments and were sealed with our children, Jon and Jamey, for time and eternity. That was truly the most glorious day of our lives.”
A sister in Arizona tells how their family was finally able to go to the temple: “Probably the biggest reason I went inactive completely was that I wasn’t obeying the Word of Wisdom and felt absolutely guilty anytime I was around members who were in good standing. Then my husband was transferred to another state, and the home teachers located us. Their names were Brother Fakatou and Brother Marcek. One thing that struck me about them was that they made no fuss about my not following the Word of Wisdom but instead discussed other aspects of gospel living with us. As they continued their visits their concern and kindness became apparent, and our memories were stirred up of a time when everything was much better. Brother Marcek would come pick up our two girls and take them to see the rabbits he was raising. Sister Fakatou would call me up on the telephone and we would talk like old friends. In fact, the whole ward seemed to care about us, even though we never went to church. Those home teachers and our new friends in the ward were the whole reason we were able to start obeying the Word of Wisdom and the other commandments of the Lord and go to the temple. We saw how happy they were, doing what’s right—and knew we could do the same. The day we were sealed was the greatest day of our lives.”
Such testimonies as these are numberless, and the circumstances they describe are as varied as the people involved. But there is one feeling held in common by all those who have had the experience of preparing together for the temple. “It wasn’t nearly as difficult as we thought it would be,” says one couple from Canada. “We thought we’d never be able to make it—but that was before we had really looked at ourselves to see what changes we had to make.” Many seem to think that a person has to be perfect to go to the temple. But those who prepare themselves in earnest for these blessings learn that a person can never hope to be perfect without the temple. The endowment and sealing are given to those Saints who meet certain requirements to help them progress and improve even further.
The list of requirements is not long, but it sometimes appears quite formidable to those who have not really looked at it in terms of what they must do to qualify. To go to the temple a member must be morally clean, sustain and support his leaders, be a full tithe payer, be honest with his fellowman, keep the Word of Wisdom, keep the Sabbath Day holy, attend his meetings, and strive to follow the rules and doctrines of the Church.
A couple who desires to go to the temple with their family to be sealed should, perhaps with their home teachers or priesthood leaders, measure themselves against the above qualifications. Usually they will find that they already qualify in most areas. Then they can decide upon a step-by-step plan that outlines exactly how and when they will prepare themselves in the other categories. Most find it not as difficult as they thought it would be—the difficulty lies only in getting committed and started.
The rewards of bringing the sealing ordinance into our lives are great. One daughter said, “Before my dad took us all to the temple he was domineering and loud, and he easily lost his temper. Now he is quiet, gentle, and loving. As I was growing up sometimes I just hated him. I would tell my mom that he was just this strange man in the house. But now his spirit is so sweet; he does so much to live the commandments that I can hardly believe he’s the same man. It’s wonderful. And I know it’s all because he changed himself, with the Lord’s help, so he could take us to the temple to be sealed as a family.”
“After he had resolved the things that were keeping him inactive and out of the temple, my grandfather had a lot of regret for the years he missed. Whenever a baby was blessed after that he would sit and quietly cry, because he hadn’t even gone to church when his children were blessed, let alone exercise the priesthood he held to perform the ordinance himself. But he was also much mellowed; he became very humble and very much at peace with himself.”
“I used to hate myself for the bad habits I had. I knew I was holding myself and my husband back spiritually. Then, one by one, I overcame them as we prepared for the temple. I feel like I’m a new person now. And now I know that my life is acceptable to our Heavenly Father. It’s the most marvelous feeling I have ever had.”
The final blessing of the sealing is one that we never see in this life. On a recent fast Sunday, a sister named Sharon told of her little son, Paul. Paul had drowned in an irrigation ditch near their home, and Sharon told of how she and her husband, Max, had felt a sinking hopelessness almost to the point of despair. They had been childless for years; Paul had come only after several miscarriages and much prayer. From the beginning his spirit spoke love and intelligence and a strong obedient personality to them. Paul’s presence in their family had been much sought; his death levied a hard toll.
Three weeks after the tragedy, Sharon stood before her ward telling how she had responded to this test. Her eyes were dry, but those close to her knew that her heart wept.
“Brothers and sisters, I want to thank you all for the help and support you have given us in these past few weeks. It has been very difficult—” she paused and looked down at the pulpit. When she began again her voice caught and she had to struggle to speak clearly. “But I want you to know that I know more than ever before that our Father in heaven loves me. It’s very special to us to know that little Paul has already attained the goal that Max and I have been working for all our lives. I’m just comforted to know that we have been sealed as a family by the holy priesthood. If we hadn’t been, all this would have been impossible to bear. But instead I know that if we’re worthy we’ll be together again.”