I just came back from a visit to the temple. For us it’s not a trivial thing to go there — think 9-10 hours one way — and it tends to require certain sacrifices to get there. But the rewards are worth more than any sacrifice I have made so far.
I reread the Kirtland temple dedication prayer on both days we were there (see D&C 109). What especially touched me — again — was the message of verses 22 and 23 (read them here). It sort of looked quite natural that one should be endowed before going on a full-time mission — it was evident for me after I had received my endowment. It should be noted for the benefit of the conspiracy theorists, that nothing is taught or said in the temple that is not available to everyone in the Scriptures. There are other people, who could explicate that better than I can, so that much for that for now (okay, read Mosiah 18:8-10 for starters). What was new was the simplicity and a much stronger sense of the Sacred within.
Well, I wonder if I have really gone “forth from [His] house armed with [His] power”, but at least I have tried to be worthy of having His name upon me. However, try as I might, I find myself always falling short. He promises Himself, that if we come to Him, He will show us our weakness (see Ether 12:27). I have found also that if I try by myself, I not only accomplish less, I feel often stressed and anxious; whereas if I lean on Him I can do more — and I can have joy in what little I’m able to do.
The Savior says in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I have tried to go it alone more than once — apparently I’m not a very fast learner — and I would like to believe that the lesson is gradually sinking in. If you know what a yoke is, and what it’s used for, you’ll know how unintuitive it is for natural man to ease his burden by being yoked. It’s as logical as it is to find my life by losing it; if I’m always looking out for “what’s in it for me?” I will miss the greatest reward imaginable.
The irony is, that for every step I take, He carries me further than I can even see — but often not the way I thought I was supposed to be taking. As a teenager in the 1970s I spent some time around the Amish heartland in Lancaster County, PA. A family I stayed with had a simple note posted on their fridge door: “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.” This is kind of like that. The harder I try without Him, the harder it gets. If I don’t take Him with me, I usually take the wrong direction.
(As an aside it should be said, that the people I met that year somehow gave me an idea that you can be religious without being a freak. No, they weren’t Amish or LDS or anything exotic, but that’s not the point. That was a time in my life when I felt very disappointed in all organized religion — at least as far as I knew it — but their example showed me a different kind of side to religion and religious people by being un-hypocritical. They tried to do what they believed was right without looking down their noses at others, whose standards were different.)
Anyhow, what I wanted to say could have been said just by saying that the standard answer you usually get to the question asked in the title of this post is, although true, not the whole story at all. Helping our deceased relatives is only a part of the answer. I figure the more often I visit the temple the more the power referred to in D&C 109:22-23 I have with me.
Virtue is said to be its own reward. As far as I have seen and experienced, that is true. And the same could be said of charity and a lot of other things we’re supposed to develop. Our Savior will carry us, if we but let Him.