Have you ever considered what could be built with 100 million dollars? By my rough estimates, it could build:
- 75 shelters for women and children in crisis
- 150 soup kitchens in the United States
- 500 orphanages/schools in Third World countries
- 2,000 tiny homes for displaced/homeless people
- 14,000 wells in Africa to provide clean drinking water
Recently, that amount of money funded only ONE structure located in Provo, Utah. It’s the newest LDS temple; the second in that city. According to Mormon doctrine, the ordinances performed in the temple are crucial to entering God’s presence and living as families for eternity. Therefore, announcements heralding the building of another temple are accompanied by great joy and gratitude in LDS communities. This is because they believe more families will be “sealed” together and more work for the dead can be accomplished. Each new temple means more church members can work toward their own salvation by acting as proxy for those who died without the blessings afforded members of the “one true church.”
This doctrine has been brought to the forefront of my life again with the resurrecting of the Provo Tabernacle from ashes into the remodeling of a new temple. The last few months, my Facebook newsfeed has exploded with posts about the completion of this years-long process, the public (and private) Open House events, calls for my neighbors to volunteer during this event, and the Cultural Celebration by the youth which will take place tonight after weeks of practice. I’ve seen dozens of posts that include pictures of families taken with this new temple in the background and sporting hashtags such as: #familiesareforever, #eternalfamilies, #ilovemyfamily. Those who’ve volunteered to serve at the Open House are posting their testimonies of “saving ordinances” and the spiritual experiences they’ve had while helping with this historical event. Not so long ago, such posts would have warmed my soul. Now they pierce my heart as I ache over the blindness of people I dearly love.
There is no worship inside the walls of the temple. There is no talk of the life and atonement of Jesus Christ. People perform the work they came to do, and then return to their normal routines. I don’t criticize those who work in the temple. They have a sincere desire to serve God and think this is a way to do that. I should know. I was one of those people for many, many years.
For argument’s sake, let’s take the position that LDS temples are the only place where the saving ordinances are available that allow us to live with God in the eternities. Then wouldn’t it make sense to build smaller temples in areas of the world where it’s a hardship at best, and impossibility at worst, for members to receive those ordinances? Some people scrimp and save for many years to finance a single trip to the temple to receive their endowments. Wouldn’t it be a wiser use of funds to build 100 “bare bones” temples to service the faithful, though impoverished, members of the church living outside the United States than to build one temple in a city that already has one? In fact, within a one hour distance from Provo there are a half-dozen temples that members may attend. Resurrecting a burned-out shell of a building for sentimental reasons when it could’ve been razed and built from scratch for half the cost seems such a waste of money. With the completion of the Provo City Center temple, Utah will have 17 operating temples with a total of 150 worldwide, 15 more under construction and another eight announced.
Recently, the ward bulletin was left at my door as is the tradition for the first Sunday of every month. The following quote was touted as an “apostolic blessing and promise” by Elder Dale G. Renlund: “Prepare as many names for the temple as ordinances you perform in the temple and teach others to do the same. If you do this, blessings will flow to your family. You’ll find not only protection from the temptations and ills of this world but also power to change, power to repent, power to bind your family together and heal what needs healing.”
Had I not tried that approach to healing for decades? Had I not attended the temple with the hope of acquiring the necessary power to change my life and bind my family together? Did I not sacrifice time and energy to saving the souls of the dead and in so doing exhibit an increase of faith while strengthening my family as promised? Did I not endure 35 years of pushing through PTSD triggers of temple attendance to do as the prophet commanded in order to receive protection from the evils of the world and gain power to overcome my weaknesses? And yet, in spite of my best efforts, I was alienated by family members, my marriage dissolved, and the pain of the past continued to haunt me.
So as my family and friends wave their white hankies during the dedication services scheduled for tomorrow, I will pray for their eyes and ears to be opened to the truth of who God is, and to the power of His saving grace. May they recognize that the “power to change” comes through Christ, not temple attendance. And only HE can “heal what needs healing.”