Preparing for an Eternal Family

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in my Church Ward about preparing for an eternal family. I feel prompted to share sections of this talk, after all, the blog is called Dreaming of the Temple, inspired by the exploration of my spiritual, as well as temporal, experience. If this post appears as unfamiliar territory, a sense of context can be gained here.

Introduction

I felt completely unqualified to make any remarks on this topic whatsoever; I am not confident that I have fulfilled my own hopes for spiritual preparation before starting to grow our family, let alone those of the Church. I still feel uneducated in the full doctrine, history and organisation of the Church, there are elements of Scripture that are still unknown to me and, despite considerable dedication, at the time of the talk, Samuel and I had not yet been sealed in the Temple (an outline of what this entails can be found here).

Other than suggesting that Heavenly Father enjoys irony, why was this topic assigned to me?

There is a considerable part of me that is always cynical, perhaps not an attractive quality, especially not typically admired in religious circles, but personally I think a pinch of metaphorical salt is healthy (literally from a nutritional point of view, not so much). In this instance, the cynic in me was thinking, ‘Sure you want me to talk on this, I am the current first time mum in the Ward’. However, being asked to speak in Sacrament meetings is not to be taken lightly, so I set about giving the topic some serious thought.

The conclusion I came to was that our little family presented an example of the principle ‘endure to the end’, and thus, that the work does not stop after receiving the sealing ordinance. Being sealed is an exciting prospect and full of spiritual significance but it is not the culmination, or defining feature, of a relationship or marriage. It is an increase in commitment to each other, not an opportunity to relax, at the risk of taking this blessing for granted.

Spiritual and Temporal Growth

I have frequently struggled with feeling that, despite what I consider my best efforts, I do not live up to the ideals of the Church, a sensation now exaggerated by preparing for parenthood; seemingly growing increasingly idealistic, judgemental and competitive. For instance, there are some that don’t yet classify me as being a mother, and others who would tell me that I am already doing everything wrong. I know that this is not a unique experience, and it applies to religious experiences too.

One of my favourite talks from General Conference is by Elder Holland from October 2017 ‘Be Ye Therefore Perfect… Eventually‘. Yes as a couple we are preparing for an eternal family, but everybody’s spiritual and temporal journeys are different. For me, I had hoped to have a stronger grasp of the doctrinal points of the Church and Scriptures before having children, but I also know that what is more important is that I continue to study and learn and I look forward to the fact that my child and I will be able to grow in the Gospel together.

Make Your Home Like the Temple

Looking back, I am still not sure exactly what the obstacle was to our initial sealing attempt in June last year (the delay of our second in June this year was due to the delights of pregnancy complications). We both held active recommends and I had just completed the Temple Preparation Classes (Samuel served a mission, so had done this years before). When there were changes to the Bishopric, however, we were told the date we had chosen was not feasible.

This was upsetting, not only because of our desire to be sealed as a couple for eternity, but because the date we had chosen held personal significance. But through the emotions, I received a strong impression that not being sealed at that time was because there was about to be a considerable change in our circumstances. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we found our house and moved away. For me, the change in location, and being in a more local Ward, has greatly strengthened me spiritually, has aided my recovery from mental illness and resulted in both of us feeling more settled, resulting in us preparing (now commencing) to grow our family.

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Dreaming of the Temple: Part 2

If my last post was about Why (it wasn’t supposed to be it just came out that way) then this post is more along the lines of how. Not the mechanics of blogging (there are lots of good posts out there containing tips for new and future bloggers) but about the way I decided to go about my blog.

I settled on a name long before I decided to take the plunge and start sharing my thoughts and feelings on the internet. Dreaming of the Temple. For me it means a lot of things. I suppose it also represents the gradual evolution of the blog itself. My initial idea was to create a blog based around spirituality. More specifically my own encounters with missionaries and eventual conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (popularly known as Mormons – not the ones with multiple wives, before you ask).

In The Church of Jesus Christ, the Temple is a very real, physical place. It is considered sacred and the ordinances and ceremonies that take place inside the building are not discussed beyond its walls. Some feel very uncomfortable about this (we are quite often referred to as a cult) but in reality it is just a continuation from the doctrinal principles that can be found in any aspect of Church literature, should you be so inclined to read it. The ultimate ordinance is known as a sealing. In essence, it is the belief that whilst marriage is ‘until death us do part’, a sealing makes that marriage last for eternity. I like to think of it as putting a GPS tag on my husband, making it easier to find him after we die.

Without turning this into a debate on the reality of life after death and the various different attitudes and perspectives surrounding the subject of religion, the crux of this initial blog idea was to map my journey to the Temple. I have been a member since the 21st of April 2016, but my conversion was certainly not complete when I got baptised. I had faith that that was were God wanted me to be, and that it was the Church I was meant to join, but a number of the doctrines were very far from what I had been brought up believing. Therefore, in this instance Dreaming of the Temple is very literal; I wanted to get there, but sometimes it seemed almost impossible.

In addition to being a literal place, the Temple itself is highly symbolic. Almost every aspect of the building, its interior and the artwork displayed, represents something more than its physical self. The Temple is not just a place to feel spiritually close to God, it is also a place to feel close to family. The Church of Jesus Christ places great emphasis on the importance of family and the majority of the ordinances performed inside the Temple concern living or deceased relatives. My husband and I have a great many hopes for our own family, so whilst this was initially about me dreaming of going to the Temple, it is also about the dreams that the Temple represents.

Shortly after baptism all Church members receive a patriarchal blessing. This is a blessing from a senior member of the Stake that is intended to provide guidance throughout your life. In my blessing it was advised that I endeavour to make my home like the Temple. As I started to think more seriously about actually creating a blog, not just scribbling notes on scraps of paper, I realised that whilst my spiritual struggles might have been a primary motivation for me, they probably weren’t that worthwhile. After about a year of indecision, my husband and I graduated from university and bought our first house. This was an exciting prospect and as we both grew up in the countryside we were glad to move out of the city. As ever, there were a number of small interior projects to undertake to fully make the property feel like our home. We discovered many characteristics of the house that had been covered over and concealed. Amongst these were several fireplaces, original woodwork and historic wallpaper. I thought these might have the potential for some blog material.

But that material would be about converting a house into a home. What making your home like the Temple really means is emulating the atmosphere of the Temple; as a peaceful place of rest, somewhere to find solace, filled with love, joy and happiness. When you go to the Temple, even if its just stepping into the grounds, the peace becomes almost tangible, and you are able to stop caring about all the concerns or worries that you had before. You are there with one purpose and all the deadlines, commitments and to-do lists have no part in it. Prayer is very similar to meditation; it is reflective, focused and has been found to relieve stress. In the ideal, the home should be the same. The door should close and work should be left outside or, if you work at home, left at a specific place of work. One of the principles of mindfulness is having specific rooms for specific purposes.

So Dreaming of the Temple is both literal, symbolic and is about striving for tranquillity within the home and within the self. For me that is one of the biggest challenges in looking to fulfil my patriarchal blessing. I have enjoyed our DIY projects; decorating, gardening and furnishing our home over the last few months has been a really fun marital project. I would always hope that any visitor would feel welcomed, happy and be able to sense the love in our home. But I am not a calm person. I have always had anxiety, my biggest flaw is a quick temper, and since developing depression my emotions have surged and dipped more than ever. It was this that led me to become truly serious about starting a blog. I have had various experiences with counselling, some good and some bad, and I know that I am very self aware. I am a very open person and frequently talk about my mental health and other life experiences, but it can still be difficult to talk to friends and family. There are always feelings that you are burdening others, that you might be judged, or that they don’t completely understand how you feel or what you are/have been going through. I was after a space to explore why I felt the way I felt, to be able to dissect some of the more traumatic experiences in my life and to spend time appreciating what I have. The primary aspect of my blog now is mental health.

I am still not up to speed, or particularly confident about blogging. It’s something that I have been contemplating for a number of years and its concept has changed several times. It is very daunting and in the words of Winnie the Pooh:

‘you find sometimes that a Thing that felt quite Thingish inside you
is quite different when its out in the open and has other people looking at it’
( A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner, 1928)

But I hope that all the different things that I am personally exploring; my mental health, my efforts to become a calmer, more tranquil person, the physical changes to our home, the preparation to have a family, will be encompassed by the blog name, Dreaming of the Temple.