Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Privileges and Obligations

I haven't been to the temple in a very long time--or at least what seems to me like a very long time.  It has been a combination of things: time, distance, gas money, childcare, weather.  There seems to always be something getting in the way.  There are two temples within about a three-hour one-way drive of where we live, but in this climate, this time of year, that's a difficult drive to make (and having to arrange childcare for a minimum of 9 hours, or find a sitter in an unfamiliar city and take kids on those dicey roads is no small task).

I found myself wishing out loud (so to speak) on Facebook the other day that there were a temple in a city about an hour and a half from us, where I have family that could watch the kids and the drive would be more doable. A loved one of mine responded that he thought the experience loses something when its convenient--that the sacrifice makes it more meaningful.  Sacrifice makes most things more meaningful, but a temple experience--or a church service--doesn't have to be any less meaningful or special because we get to experience it more often, with less logistical challenges.  That is up to us.

When we lived in California, we were just over an hour from the temple, and the reality of a young family, work schedules, activities and gas/babysitting money meant that we rarely got to the temple more than quarterly.  But at no point was I anything less than elated to be getting to go to the temple.  I didn't realize this at the time, but that attitude rubbed off on my children.  I have noticed the excitement and glee in their faces whenever the temple comes up, and my four-year-old has told me several times that she is excited to go to the temple when she "gets big".  Though they have never been in the temple, my children see it as a desirable place that makes one happy--because that is the reality they saw in us as we attended the temple.  I didn't consciously teach that to them, but I'm glad they saw it.  But then I asked myself a question: am I succeeding in demonstrating that behavior and attitude about the other important parts of our life?  Are they seeing a mother who is excited about and attentive to General Conference?  How many mornings do I seem stressed and resentful of getting everyone out the door to church, rather than grateful for the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament and worship with devoted members of the faith that I cherish?

I thought of a moment many years ago when I stopped in the middle of my train of thought and laughed at myself.  A newly ordained Apostle was coming to our Stake Conference to reorganize our Stake Presidency, and I was so excited and ready to be at my very most attentive.  I had my notebook and pen ready, and I was certain that my 8-month-old would magically be a perfect baby and let me get through the meeting hearing every word. I was getting ready to go sit in the chapel and thinking to myself, "How often do we get to hear from an Apostle?"  At that moment, I caught myself, and laughed out loud.  The answer to that question was simple:  at the bare minimum, I get to hear from all the Apostles and the Prophet of the Lord every six months.  Did I pay as much attention to General Conference as I was prepared to that evening at Stake Conference?  Did I make an effort to watch First Presidency firesides?

In these things, I was often guilty of letting myself fall prey to just what my loved one was talking about: I was letting sacred things become routine simply because I had the opportunity to participate in them regularly.  I had let them become obligations rather than remembering that they are some of the most precious opportunities in this life.

And, in fact, they are obligations because of the covenants we have made:  we have an obligation to get to the temple as much as our circumstances will possibly allow, because there is work to be done and blessings to bestow; we are obligated to attend our Sunday meetings to partake of the Sacrament and to serve others in our callings; we are obligated to attend Conferences and listen to our leaders and strive to do as they have instructed.  Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that the very covenants that obligate us to these actions are themselves precious, sacred privileges of the most Divine nature.  Yes, it is difficult to get everyone fed, bathed and dressed and coiffed neatly and get scriptures and manuals and get out the door on time on Sunday morning.  But what an unspeakable privilege to be able to, once a week, wipe my slate clean and start fresh.  To have a few moments of nearly total quiet to contemplate who I am, who I ought to be and how to get there, and be offered again an opportunity to get closer to that ideal through the ordinances made possible by the Lord's Atonement; to have time set aside specifically to study and and discuss the doctrines of salvation with those who are committed to understanding and progressing in them.

Though that is all part of our weekly routine, it is hardly an ordinary thing.  Too often we trifle with sacred things not by mocking them, exposing them to the world, or profaning them with vile hypocrisy, but by simply failing to give our full attention and heart to them.

I made sacrifices to ensure that I got to the temple for my own Endowment; I made sacrifices to ensure that my family had the best possible start by getting married in the right place and by the right authority.  As difficult as some of those sacrifices were for me, they were worth making.  But am I building on them the way that I should be, by communicating to my children, to my spouse, and to any others who may fall under my stewardship, that the Sacrament is worth our devoted attention and we should be grateful to have the opportunity to be at Church each week to receive it?  Am I engaging fully and happily in creating a holy atmosphere in our home, or do I slack off or even grumble when it comes time to prepare for Family Home Evening or do our daily family scripture study?  I want my children to feel the joy of scripture study, the wonder of learning of the Savior and his doctrines.  I want them to know what a marvelous privilege our sacred obligations are.  I don't want the things of the world to be our routine.  I want to meet the challenge of building our routine around the things of eternity, while not letting those things seem common or ordinary. 

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