20902_000_011The temple is a place of renewal and an oasis of truth for all worthy members, regardless of their marital status.
One evening I raced to the Provo Utah Temple, congratulating myself that I had finished my work at Brigham Young University, made all three green lights between my office and the temple, and arrived in time for the eight o’clock session.
It had been another feverishly paced day. I had not had a moment to spare between attending meetings, teaching, and conducting therapy sessions. Yet things had gone like clockwork, and I made it to the temple just before closing time. Upon entering, even as hurried as I was, I instantly felt that enveloping reassurance of being home, being safe, being right where I wanted and needed to be.
After quickly changing into my temple dress, I ran up the escalator steps, thinking about how grateful I was for the uninterrupted pace of the day. Then I saw the sign. It read, “Stand. Do not walk.”
The message was a whiplash experience for my frenetically charged mind and body. Since temple ordinances are so urgent and important, shouldn’t I be running to get to the endowment session to participate in this saving work? Wasn’t I supposed to be using every moment of every day effectively and efficiently to do my part in these latter days? And didn’t that mean going faster and farther each day?
Despite my internal protest, the sign remained: “Stand. Do not walk.” Then another powerful and congruent message came to my mind: “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16).
Eternal truths are not always taught when or where I think they will be in the temple. I had raced there to participate in a session and was looking forward to a communing experience in the celestial room, where I could offer my focused pleadings to the Lord. Yet this night a truth about how to receive answers to the many concerns weighing me down was offered through a sign on the escalator.
While the sealing of a husband and wife for time and eternity is one of the most precious ordinances afforded in the temple, there is much there awaiting all of us, single or married. Happily, there is no sign on the Lord’s house that reads, “Only for marrieds. Singles need not enter.” There is no sign that says, “Within these walls only husbands and wives will be shown their true identities, be given clear ideas on what they should be doing with their lives, be comforted to a depth beyond that offered by even the loving efforts of family and friends.” In these sacred edifices devoted to saving ordinances, there is no sign that says, “Singles should not bring to the temple their worries, wonderings, or desires for increased wisdom, love, and light.” And nowhere inside these “monuments to our belief in the eternal aspect of the human soul” 1 is there a sign indicating, “Life-changing and relationship-changing ideas will be offered only to spouses.”
Rather, I experience signs that invite all those who are willing to qualify and covenant to come lay their burdens down and be tutored in everything from managing our customized trials and temptations to unlocking the meanings layered in the temple symbols. For me, as a single, never-married woman, there seems to be a spiritual sign entreating me to partake of glimpses into eternal, mind-expanding, soul-expanding ideas as I present myself open, willing, and worthy to learn.
In fact, throughout my temple experiences it is as though there are signs in the temple which say, “Welcome, everyone with a pure heart,” “Come into my house, all who are seeking spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical renewal,” and “Each person who is hungering and thirsting for increased knowledge and power can find it within these walls.”
For me, temple ordinances are laden with reminders of the high and equal esteem, love, and vision the Lord has for His daughters and His sons. What stronger evidence could there be that gender equality is an eternal principle than that offered through the temple ordinances, blessings, and promises? One Spirit-saturated temple session can calm any fears to the contrary and imbue the seeker with a confidence born of eternal light.
As I bring my questions to this, the Lord’s house, my questions are answered but not always in the same way. Sometimes an answer comes while I’m concentrating on the session, when a spoken word or a phrase from the ceremony will illuminate my problem. Other times I receive impressions later in the celestial room, when comforting and instructive thoughts come into my mind.
And at still other times, my earnest questioning will be responded to several days, even weeks later when the “trickle-down effect” occurs—when earlier gentle nudgings and presentiments linger, becoming increasingly irresistible over time.
All around me in the temple are messages that signal there are many blessings for me as a single woman—blessings that are for me right now. I don’t have to wait; I just have to be worthy and seek the blessings right now. It is a blessing to know there is always a sacred oasis to which I can run to receive respite from the relentless demands of my world. It is a blessing to know that when I feel overwhelmed, the temple is a place of succor.
In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the first temple in these latter days, some of the blessings poured out upon worthy temple goers were pronounced: “That thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them” (D&C 109:22). These blessings are predicated not upon our marital status but rather upon the status of our hearts and minds and our earnest and urgent desires to partake.
We have to wait for many things in this life. Some of us wait for marriage. Others wait for children. Some wait for spouses to see the same light they have seen. Others wait for their children to turn their hearts back to them. But none of us has to wait to partake of the power, perspective, and protection that is ours through worthy temple worship.
The Lord entreats us to come to His house. All the signs of hope and guidance are there. We just need to read them and heed them. They say, “Come unto me,” “Learn of me,” and “Take my yoke upon you, … for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).
Wendy L. Watson is a professor of marriage and family therapy at Brigham Young University.