I love to see the temple, especially the Mesa Arizona Temple. I remember going there as a young girl with my family on Sunday afternoons and walking around the beautiful temple grounds. I always wondered what it would be like to walk through those doors and go inside. For the majority of my life, I have lived within 10 miles of the Mesa temple, yet it has taken me over 40 years to go there with my own family.
I was blessed to be raised in a Latter-day Saint home with a loving family. We held family home evening, family prayer, and scripture study, and we attended church together. But in my late teens and early 20s, I wavered in my Church activity. During this time I married a wonderful young man who was not LDS. He made me want to be a better person.
When our first child, Bill, was born, I felt the importance of taking him to church and of teaching him about Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, just as my parents had taught me. My husband, Don, was patient and understanding. He had been raised in a different church and was happy and content there, but he agreed to let me take our son to my church. This was a sacrifice for Don, and I have always been grateful to him for it.
A few years later I gave birth to our second son, Robert. Sadly, he was stillborn, and we were heartbroken. I knew Heavenly Father would bless our family through this difficult trial. I didn’t know how or when; I just knew He would. Because of Robert’s death, I was more determined than ever to help my family become an eternal family.
After Robert, we had a beautiful baby girl and then twin boys. Every Sunday I took the children to church. I knew I couldn’t expect them to grow up and go on missions or marry in the temple if I didn’t do my part. Don was supportive, and on occasion he came to sacrament meeting—the “main event,” as he called it—but that was all. He felt no need to change churches. I loved him and knew I had to respect his agency. But sometimes it was hard.
A hymn we sing in church says:
Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n.
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
(“Know This, That Every Soul Is Free,” Hymns, no. 240)
This became my theme song over the years. I also remembered the counsel my bishop gave me when Don and I were first married. He said I shouldn’t whine, complain, or nag Don about not being a member. I didn’t always follow this counsel, but I tried. So instead of trying to change Don, I decided to work on myself. I had faith that our family would be blessed if I worked on improving myself instead of those around me. I decided to work harder at following the commandments and being more Christlike in my life.
One Sunday afternoon I came home from church feeling frustrated and discouraged. The twins were babies at that time, and when they were fussy and needed to be taken out of sacrament meeting, my other two small children would follow me out. We made quite an exodus as the five of us would get up to leave the chapel. I spent a lot of time out in the foyer thinking, “What am I doing here? I come to church, and I end up sitting in the foyer—what’s the point?” I came home that Sunday, went upstairs to my room, and closed the door. I just didn’t feel I could do it anymore. Church was too hard. I felt alone and out of place, and I didn’t feel like I was progressing. I decided at that point that I would go inactive. I would quit my Church calling, stop being a visiting teacher, and no longer allow home teachers to visit. I wouldn’t answer the phone or the door. I was through. I’m sure my husband thought I was upstairs taking a nap, but I was upstairs quitting the Church. It was just too hard.
For two full hours I was through with the Church, and then it dawned on me. I loved the gospel too much to ever leave the Church. In all my life Jesus Christ had never left my side. How could I walk away from Him? My testimony was too strong.
I thought of all the family home evenings we had when I was growing up. I’m sure my parents wondered if we were getting anything out of them, but I knew I had. All the family prayers and scripture study sessions—they made a difference. These experiences were the budding of my testimony. Sister Perry taught my Primary class when I was eight years old. She loved the New Testament stories about Jesus, and because of her I also learned to love the stories of Jesus. My testimony grew. Sister Bingham got up early every morning for four years, even when she became a widow, to teach my seminary class. She loved the Book of Mormon, and because of her, I too learned to love the Book of Mormon. My testimony grew even more. Young Women, girls’ camps, youth conferences, general conferences, Relief Society, home teachers, visiting teachers, bishops, counselors, Church leaders, and so much more—all had an influence on strengthening my testimony over the years. Now at a point in my life when I was filled with such despair, these were the experiences from which I drew my strength.
The next Sunday I was back at church with all four children. Ward members had offered to help me in the past, but I had always refused. Now I started to let them help me. I also found that I could hear the talks in the foyer if I turned up the volume on the intercom. About this time Don made more of an effort to go to the “main meeting” with me to help with the children. Eventually our children grew, and church became easier. By then we had established a routine. Patterns had been set; good habits had been formed.
Our oldest son, Bill, served a Spanish-speaking mission in McAllen, Texas. After his missionary service, Don and I had the opportunity to meet some of the families Bill had helped baptize. We didn’t understand a word when we met them, but we felt the Spirit.
My husband’s heart was touched. Ward missionaries, seeing this, invited him over to a member’s home for scripture study. Every Sunday for several weeks we studied the scriptures with the ward missionaries, the full-time missionaries, and other ward members. We all felt the influence of the Spirit.
On March 12, 2003, surrounded by family members and friends, my husband was baptized by our son Bill. The image of my son in the baptismal font with his father, both dressed in white, is something I will always cherish. There are no words to express the joy I felt. My children bore their testimonies to their father and expressed their love for him. It was the most beautiful baptism I have ever attended.
On March 12, 2004, our family had the opportunity to go to the Mesa Arizona Temple and finally walk through those doors. As we did so, I was overwhelmed with the realization of how greatly the Lord had blessed our family. Before our sealing Don and I spent a short time alone in the celestial room. Walking hand in hand, we stepped into the room and felt as if we had stepped into heaven. The feelings of serenity, joy, and peace were overwhelming. I thought to myself, “The celestial kingdom is where I want to spend eternity with my family.” As we walked through the temple halls to the sealing room, I realized that many of the people I loved most on earth were in the temple with us: my parents, all my brothers and sisters, all of our children, and close family members and friends. Don and I were sealed for time and all eternity, and then our children were sealed to us. That same day we were able to see our oldest son, Bill, married and sealed to his sweetheart, Katy.
March 12 is a very special day for us in many ways. It is the birthday of our dear Robert, who was stillborn. My saddest day has become my most joyful day.
Our journey to the temple was long and challenging at times. I experienced grief, frustration, hopelessness, and despair, and there were times when I felt like giving up. But in our journey to the temple we were never alone. We always had the Savior’s influence with us.