Monday, March 7, 2022


In the middle of the pandemic the bishop sat comfortably at our dining room table and asked if Brian and I would teach a temple prep course. Temples were still largely closed, but their doors had opened just enough to allow in small groups to perform scheduled, living ordinances, and this particular course would be organized, the bishop said, to teach just one couple to that end.

We knew little about Jeff and Kim. Just that they were about our age with four kids about our kids' ages, and that they had been floating in and out of activity in the church for a long time. I knew Kim was an elementary school principal. Gentle, kind, reserved. And Jeff? Intimidating. I had heard he was a security guard for casinos and clubs on the strip, and though we'd never had a conversation, I had felt a quiet intensity from him that left me with no doubt he could snap me clean in two.

Sitting here now, after months of friendship, it's fun to compare what I knew then with what I know now. Yes, Kim is gentle and kind. She is also powerful and patient and strong and intuitive. She is smart and warm and all at once when you become lucky enough to be counted among her friends, she is eager to open up and talk about the real things in her heart, and to give sound advice for that which is in yours. And yes, Jeff is intense, in fact, more intense than I originally suspected... but he wears it well. He is the quickest of all to a smile, he's fun, passionate, disciplined, honest, and ready to tell one of a hundred true and unbelievable tales from his storied life. And (he might hate to admit this, but) once in a while during the soberest moments, when he feels safe enough to peel back the loud and visible folds of his personality, he reveals a heart vibrantly alive with softness, tenderness, and beauty.

But we didn't know any of that while Bishop Randall sat at our dining room table. And, frankly, the news that Kim and Jeff wanted to go through the temple at all was surprising to us while we operated under our limited knowledge. We knew Kim had been a member with various levels of activity most of her life, and Jeff had been a member for 8 years or so, but one thing or another had always kept them from fully committing and taking those final steps toward the temple.

“I don’t know what happened, exactly,” the bishop said, “but it doesn't matter. They want to go. And they want to go now. And your names keep coming to me as the ones to teach them." 

I was immediately excited. Brian was unexpectedly nervous. “So, did you ask them how they'd feel about us specifically?" he asked. "Because," he added with a nervous laugh, "I'm not so sure Jeff doesn't hate me."

Turns out Brian was a little intimidated by Jeff, too. Which, if you know Brian, is saying something.

After a little laugh, Bishop Randall shrugged his shoulders and admitted he didn't know how Jeff felt about Brian, but that he felt pretty sure that, overall, this was the right move.

So we talked through logistics and decided that meeting in our homes would be preferable to meeting in the church house, given the pandemic, and the bishop got so excited about the whole thing that he decided he and his wife would join us, too.

And the class was formed.

The Lessons

Brian's nervousness followed him through the week, and I learned on our way to the Randall's home for our first lesson that he had been fasting all that day. For clarity to his mind, words to his tongue, gentle confirmations of truth to the Bahsams' hearts... it's one of a hundred reasons why I love him. His deep trust in a power greater than his own, and his faith in a God who allows him, an imperfect (but amazing) human, to access that power, is inspiring.

And the power came.
During that first lesson, the power came.
Softly at first as we gradually opened the doors to ourselves.
Softly at first as we placed our individual natures in the center of our circle and carefully gathered the bits placed there from others.
The power came.
New friendships. Moving pieces of us, creating, organizing, building, developing, establishing...
God's power came.
Creating connection with curiosity, love, compassion, empathy, excitement.
God's power came.
It was the beginning of that kind of friendship.

For two hours we talked of life and of the plan of salvation. The Spirit burned in me and crafted my thoughts and my words into messages that sunk deep into soft hearts. And, judging from the power and wisdom coming from the other three teachers, they were feeling it, too. Excitement radiated like electricity from the Bashams as they began to understand things in ways they'd never understood before. I got to see what it actually looks like the moment the Spirit carries truth into a heart. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of.

The Spirit is a master crafter. He is powerful and poignant, whispering to both teachers and students so that every willing participant comes out a winner.

The next lesson was equally amazing.

As was the lesson after that, and the lesson after that. 
Every lesson more connection. 
Every lesson that power, 
thick and present enough to take up a space of its own, teaching of truth, teaching of truth, teaching of truth.

Brian and I found ourselves looking forward to each lesson with more excitement than anything else on our calendar until the last lesson was taught and the temple appointment was set.

"Do you feel ready?" the bishop asked.
"I've been waiting forty-one years for this," Kim replied.

That sentence will be wrapped in my heart forever.

The Temple 

If you would have taken an aerial view an hour and a half before our temple appointment time, you would have seen six people in three households independently doing the same things. Gathering temple clothes, dressing in church clothes, settling children. And somewhere just under an hour before the appointment, we all stepped into our own cars to begin the drive north. 

Brian and I were together, and early in the drive I pulled out my wallet to get my temple recommend. I carry my recommend everywhere because that small, signed piece of paper is a symbol of Who I Am. A reminder that I live my life for God, and that I will continually work to align my will to his. When I see it in my wallet as I pull a credit card out to pay for materialistic things, I see three signatures on that small rectangle and I'm reminded that I want to stand worthy of those three signatures that recommend me and vouch for me to enter into the house of the Lord. One from the bishopric, one from the stake presidency, and most importantly, one from me.

I glanced at the expiration date while we moved closer to the temple that morning and realized with a lurch in my stomach that it had expired.
It had expired months before.
Many months.
I couldn't breathe as I realized what that meant.

I could not enter.

It was another, albeit avoidable, casualty of Covid.

Covid, which blurred the passage of time into an unrecognizable ball of moments, strung and tangled back on itself like a long, neglected necklace. Somehow time stood still while the months passed out from underneath me and carried with them the legitimacy of my temple recommend.

I felt like one of the 5 foolish virgins. There, dressed in my best, holding my lamp, responding to the call, eager to enter, out of oil.

I thought of Kim. 

She had asked me to be her escort through the temple, to be the person to stand by her side through the ceremony to guide and direct. I would let her down. Deep down I knew she would be fine... she had her invitation, her lamp, her oil... but still. The thought of her disappointment in addition to my own was heavy.

My brain processed through the situation as the van carried us along and I realized two vital truths: 1) It would take a series of miracles to get me through those doors, and 2) I believe in a God of miracles. So I said a sincere and pleading prayer to the heavens and dialed the bishop, and the series of miraculous events began. Every needed person was in just the right place at just the right time and I had a new recommend shortly after we parked on the temple grounds.

That day I learned that sacred places can be anywhere... inside a dusty mini-van where an interview takes place, in a Lowes parking lot where signatures are penned, inside the hearts of friends who sacrifice a sliver of their day, inside a moment of deep gratitude, inside the celestial room of the temple itself. Sacred is where God is.

And because of the sacred, the sacrifice, the miracles, I entered with Kim and witnessed externally the powerful experiences she was having internally as she made sacred covenants with God and received her own endowment of priesthood power. I watched her face, soft and curious and filled with light, I watched her eyes, brimming with emotion and warmth. And I felt the sweet joy of renewing my own covenants. My heart, like a dry sponge, thirstily soaked in the peace and the power that flow so freely within the walls of that holy place.

The Sealing

One month later, Kim and Jeff returned to the temple with their children. We believe that families can be together forever, and that the power through which this happens exists only within the temples where men known as sealers, who are endowed with very specific priesthood power, seal families together "for time and for all eternity" through a sacred ceremony.

They invited us to be there.

And as we sat in the quiet sealing room, an elaborate chandelier in the center of the small, intimate room cast its brilliant light into every corner. The atmosphere was peaceful, bright, warm, and it resembled how my own heart felt in that moment... like Christ himself had hung a chandelier from the center of it and had turned it on to fill me with His light. Kim and Jeff were sealed together first, before the children came in, and then they sat on a comfortable couch at the head of the room to wait for the children. And within that relatively short amount of time between Kim and Jeff's sealing and the sealing of their children to them, there were two stand-alone moments, so small that a camera could have captured them both, that were particularly beautiful to me.

The first one was when the children came in and Kim and Jeff locked eyes with them. There, in that sacred room, a family all dressed in white, ready and excited to be sealed together forever. The sacredness and beauty of what. that. meant. hit our hearts with such a force that I had to physically take in extra breath to make space for it. Death loses its sting with a promise like that. Taking my own soaring emotions as a baseline, I couldn't help but try to imagine what this moment could possibly feel like to Kim and to Jeff. Coming in to the temple as a family, and leaving the temple as an eternal family. What could could be compared to that? Looking around I saw that every eye was wet.

The second moment came shortly afterwards when all four children had taken their seats. There they were as a family, sitting together in a row at the head of the room, listening to the sealer share instructions and advice and wisdom. Nothing happened in this moment to make it particularly significant. The beauty of it was simply the moment itself. I studied the details and tried to burn them into my mind so I could take them home. Here's what my mind remembers.

Sweet Avalynn, at thirteen, sat in a chair on one end of the row. Her elegant white dress almost touched the floor, and her smile was soft and peaceful. Reverent, elegant, soft, peaceful, calm, quiet... this was Avalynn. Her hand was linked gently with her older sister, Addison. To look at the sisters, you might assume that Avalynn is the eldest because she is taller of the two, but you would be wrong. Despite Addison's tiny frame, her fourteen-year-old body was so filled with light that it was she who seemed to sit tallest of all the family. Her smile was as bright as the chandelier itself and her eyes held nothing but the purest excitement. I couldn't help but be pulled into her inviting light and to share her smile. Bright, excite, light, invite... this was Addison. Kim sat next with her right arm outstretched to hold onto Addison's knee, and her left out to hold Jeff. Her back was straight despite the softness of the couch, and there was something about the fierceness in her eyes and the tenseness with which she held those closest to her that suggested that if she had had the capacity to stretch herself to encircle every member of her family, she would have. As a mother, I could feel her anticipation and it was inspiring. Fierce, earnest, piercing, straight, sure... this was Kim. Jeff, on the other hand, sat back into the soft couch with his legs crossed. He held his wife's hand on his knee with his right, and his son, Nolan's, knee with his left. At first glance, his posture gave the impression that he was comfortable, but a closer inspection of his face with rapidly blinking eyes and bowed head revealed a piece of the swirling emotions within him. I'd wager he'd be uncomfortable at simply hearing the phrase 'swirling emotions', yet there he sat, bravely shouldering them. Brave, humble, strong, honest, tender... this was Jeff. Nolan was next, sitting on the edge of his seat, straight backed and, though just ten-years-old, as still as any adult. Stoic, straight-faced, respectful, mature... this was Nolan. His hand was wrapped around his brother's arm, and sixteen-year-old Quentin held onto it. Quentin was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, which brought his face close to Nolan's and I could see the similarities in their facial features. Quentin bounced his ankles excitedly. Nervously? Probably a bit of both. At sixteen, he was working hard to hide his emotions behind walls of protection, which made it all the more sweet when they finally broke free. Quentin, I could tell from his tears later on, understood. Understanding, anticipating, protecting, leading... this was Quentin. A giant gold-framed mirror rose up the wall behind them to the tall ceiling and then circled back around to envelop the family. Reflected to my eye from its surface was the sealer, and I could see in his face that it was a special moment for him, too, to see the Bashams sitting there, linked together physically, listening to him talk about the ceremony which would link them, spiritually, throughout the eternities.

It was truly a day to celebrate. In fact, it will be celebrated forever.

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