As I've said before, I am an unabashed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are a temple-building and temple-going people. Temples are unique and wonderful places not used for general worship services, but are instead used for sacred ordinances, such as marriages that can last for eternity. In a booklet called "The Holy Temple", Boyd K. Packer stated:
"The temple is a great school. It is a house of learning. In the temples the atmosphere is maintained so that it is ideal for instruction on matters that are deeply spiritual."
One of the things that occur in the temple is called the "endowment". It has been said that the endowment ceremony "consist[s] of symbolic acts and covenants designed to prepare participants to officiate in priesthood ordinances, and to give them the knowledge they need to pass by angels guarding the way to heaven."
For me, it is my privilege to be able to serve in the Los Angeles Temple, where I am what is called a "veil worker". Once a month, I make the hour drive to the temple to help facilitate people receiving their own endowment. One of the marvelous blessings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is that these endowments not only can be received by living people (and all are invited to do so!), but they can also be received by our ancestors who have passed on to the next world. In the holy temples, this is done by living people, who receive the endowment on behalf of those who have already passed on. They act as proxy for those who are dead in much the same way that the Savior Jesus Christ Himself is a proxy for all those who receive a remission of their sins -- as he took upon Himself the sins of the world.
Typically, members of the church research their ancestors then go to the temple to perform sacred ordinances (such as baptism and eternal marriages) on their behalf so as to make it possible for them to receive these things in the afterlife. It is considered one of the most godlike and loving things to be able to provide these saving ordinances to our deceased ancestors.
Serving in the temple is to me, therefore, a most special experience. Sometimes a day of service goes by without any notable event -- just a simple day of service in the temple, helping people do their thing. This last Friday, however, I had an experience that was most profound to me, and I decided to record it here.
In one of the most sacred portions of the endowment ceremony, there is a two-way "conversation" between one who works in the temple and one who is receiving the endowment, either for themselves or for one who is dead. During one of these conversations, as I was speaking with a woman who was receiving the endowment for somebody who had passed on, I felt a tremendous feeling wash over me, a feeling of warmth and a tightness in my chest. I get these feelings when I am particularly moved emotionally.
This intense feeling caught me by surprise, as there was nothing unusual (in the context of where I was at the time) about what was occurring. Nevertheless, as I continued the conversation, I could hear the voice of the woman with whom I was speaking crack. She faltered in her speech, and I could tell that she too was feeling something special. As we concluded the endowment, I had the chance to look this good woman (whom I didn't know) in the eye, and we nodded our understanding to each other about what had just happened.
You see, the temple is the place where the separation between this world and the next is the thinnest. These holy temples are dedicated houses of the Lord, where, should they decide to do so, God the Father and Jesus Christ would walk and talk with those who are on Earth. We also understand that this is the place where the spirits of those who have passed can mingle with the living and confirm their acceptance of the holy ordinances performed on their behalf.
I believe this is what happened. I believe that the woman, who is dead and whose name I don't even know, for whom the woman I faced in the flesh received the endowment, was there at that time, and was telling us that she was grateful. I felt distinctly that feeling of gratitude, as if she had been waiting a very long time, and was finally free of her burden.
What a special moment it was! This experience was a simple yet beautiful confirming one for me, helping me to understand the divine mercy of God, who makes all things possible to His children, even those have passed on. This good woman, dead for over a hundred years, had finally received the knowledge and understanding that she so desperately sought, and it was my privilege to take part in providing that to her.
This Gospel is true. These temples are marvelous places. Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of His children, as the scripture in Alma 11 says, "... both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous ...", indeed, both the living and the dead. Boyd K. Packer also said:
"It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience...
"The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred."
They are, indeed, and I am grateful for them.