on a literal odyssey
In 1846, as the threat of mob violence intensified, the Mormon Saints of Nauvoo, Illinois worked with incredible diligence and speed in order to finish the Nauvoo Temple and receive the blessings that were promised to them by a Prophet. Once they had completed the work, and thousands had received their temple ordinances, the Saints left Nauvoo and began the long trek across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
Of this experience, Sarah Pea Rich (an early Mormon leader and pioneer) wrote:
“If it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark.”
I pondered over that quote from Sister Sarah Pea Rich for years. To be honest, I never really understood how the “faith” and “knowledge” given in the temple helped the Mormon pioneers make the journey to the Salt Lake Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I regularly attend the temple and enjoy the time that I spend there. But apart from the peace and satisfaction I receive in knowing that I’m doing a service…I’ve never really felt overwhelmed by my quiet temple experiences.
But after a conversation with one of my closest friends, I realized (once more) that people notice lack far more than they notice abundance. I have always been a Mormon and have constantly and consistently had the influence of the temple in my life. My friend, however, has not.
My dear friend was baptized in the Church a couple of years ago after a long and sincere investigation. As her friend, I had the great honor of attending
both her endowment and her marriage ceremonies in the Temple. The more I have come to know her the more I have found her to be one of the greatest examples courage and strength that I have ever known. Her tenacity and faith, even in the face of the most extreme trials, is a constant beacon of hope for me and reminds me of the faith exemplified by the early pioneers.
Constantly corresponding, her and I frequently write to one another deep political and spiritual discussions. One day, while discussing some of the things she was going through, she wrote to me some very profound statements which reminded me of what Sarah Pea Rich had said.
My friend wrote:
“I know it sounds cheesy but the gospel and my experiences and the temple this year have taught me to love people I never thought I could love and to care on a level I never knew possible it’s an extremely powerful and emotional experience.
“…It has never been like a whoa moment, but it has given me SO much strength.
“…And it gives me the power to make it through the hard things. I have seen the blessings I have been given when you put my name on the prayer list. The power that I can do that for someone else like my mom, my uncle, my brother-in-law, my husband, and my friends brings me so much peace.
“Really just a huge amount of strength, It gives me the strength to live up to the covenants I have made. It gives me…power to know I am helping people.
“It gives me strength to make it through finals week, peace of mind when I am on the verge of a break down. It has also taught me more about love than I would have ever known.
“And it just [makes] me clam…the temple is one place I can go to help me…to be able to sleep in peace that night, to make it through the week.”
After reading what she had written, I immediately realized that I had been overlooking the abundance in my life. I realized that the temple (throughout my life and the lives of my family) has truly been a light in the dark for us. Not only had it been guiding and helping my dear friend build a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, but it had also been quietly building and strengthening my personal relationship with Christ.
Recently, a friend of mine extended a challenge to me to visit the temple this week. I extend the same challenge to you. In these troubled times, the temple is truly a light in the dark.