When the temple helps

This is a guest post by Daniel Ortner, who blogs at symphony of dissent.

Feminist Mormon Housewives has been running a series entitled When the Temple Hurts, in which members of the Church who had negative or conflicted experiences with the temple have shared their experiences. It seems to me that this has been a useful project in creating a space for individuals to share their feelings and their doubts. I have had several close friends struggle with elements of the temple, and so I know that the feeling of disappointment and disillusionment that some experience is very real. I hope not to diminish from those very real lived experiences in any way.

However, reading the series has made it apparent to me that a place is also needed for individuals to share their positive thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding the temple. I hope that those reading this post will contribute to future posts by sharing those stories and experiences. For those who have been comforted in a time of crisis or received personal revelation in a moment of need, I hope that your stories will inspire and help others. For those who struggled with the temple at first, I hope you will share stories of how you eventually came to find peace and meaning in the ordinances of the temple and that your words will be a balm in Gilead for those in pain.

Of course, different individuals have a different understanding of what they are allowed to speak of regarding temple ordinances. Additionally, many temple experiences are so sacred that they perhaps cannot be appropriately shared outside of the temple or in a public setting. Please use your discretion and follow the promptings of the spirit in deciding what is appropriate to share.

I firmly believe in the promise of Joseph Smith’s Kirtland Temple Dedication: “That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house; And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” I feel very strongly that collecting these stories will help strengthen faith and testimonies and helping others feel the power and holiness of the Lord’s House.


When the Temple Helps: Daniel’s Conversion

This story is part of a new series, When the Temple Helps. Please feel free to share your stories and testimonies of the temple in order to uplift and inspire others.

I thought it would be appropriate to begin this series by sharing my own story and the powerful role the temple has played in my conversion and continued testimony.

For me, since the time of my conversion to the Church and the Gospel a little over six years ago, the temple has been at the center of my testimony. The temple arouses in me the most powerful feelings of reverence and awe for my Father in Heaven. It has been a place of refuge for me in times of trial and a place where I go to receive revelation and guidance from a loving father.

I began investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the start of my Junior year of College. At the time, one of my closest friends in college who had long been inactive in the Church decided to return to activity. Following her example, I began to read about the church and attended sacrament meeting with her. I was especially gripped by what I read about eternal families and the potential to sealed together forever. I began to meet with the missionaries, and began to read about the Church. At first, my progress was slow and I asked the missionaries a series of difficult questions. Yet, I felt something special and continued to learn about the Church.

A few weeks into my investigation, I was talking to a good friend online who had very negative remarks about the church and especially about temples. She had seen a friend married and that friend’s family excluded from the sealing because they were not members. She could not understand why non-members were excluded and strongly criticized the Church as breaking up families. As she did so, I felt a very strong and clear prompting that I needed to go and check out the nearby Boston Temple. It was around 8pm, and I got into my car and drove to the temple grounds with my friend who was a member.

At the temple grounds, I got out of the car and felt stronger than I ever had in my life the presence of God. For several years leading up to this event, I had considered myself an atheist and had lost faith God. Yet, in that instant I knew God existed. I knew that he loved me and cared for me.

I decided to get back into my car and to drive to a couple of nearby churches/cathedrals to see if I felt the same powerful presence there. At a nearby Protestant Church nothing at all, while at a nearby Catholic Church I actually had a negative reaction and felt the spirit draining from me.

I then drove back to the Temple and stood outside again. As I did so, I again felt the overwhelming presence of God. In that instance, I saw myself through His eyes. I saw myself as his child. I saw the incredible potential that he saw in me. In that instant, I felt transformed and changed. I got on my knees, near one of the painted glass windows of the temple and poured out my heart to God.

Since that night, my life has never been the same. I have faced trials and obstacles. I have had moments of doubt and uncertainty. Yet, the indelible testimony that was impressed on my soul has neither faded nor diminished. I know that Heavenly Father truly saw my stubborn heart and knew that I needed a powerful conversion experience. He also knew that I needed the temple as an anchor to my testimony. I am so grateful for my conversion experience outside of the Boston Temple and do bear witness that the temple is truly a house of God.

28 thoughts on “When the temple helps

  1. Daniel, very nice story. My wedding to my wife at the Denver temple was one of the greatest days of my life. Every time we go back I feel a special connection with her that is divine in nature. I love the temple’s constant reminder that we are just temporary travelers on this earth and that good things will happen to us through the eternities.

  2. I have a story to share! When I was 19, I was engaged to a guy who was four years older than I was. My parents were very opposed to the match, and I found myself drowning in anxiety. I prayed fervently every day for confirmation than marrying this man was the right thing for me to do. I would tell myself that I had gotten a positive response, but then the next day I would feel nothing and had to go through the process all over again. I talked to my fiance about my feelings of deep apprehension, but that conversation did nothing to help me. He said feelings of doubt come from Satan, and said that my anxiety was sent from the Devil who was trying to break us up. He said if I felt worse after speaking with my mother, then she was probably in league with Satan in some way. Well, what is a 19-year-old girl to do? I started groaning in my sleep and had nightmares. At last my roommate who was preparing to go on her mission suggested that I go to the temple with her to do some baptisms.

    It was there, when I was sitting by the font in my white jumpsuit, that I got my answer. I felt as though light from Heaven shone down upon my head. I had had spiritual experiences before, but never anything that was so clear: “If you still feel like this in the Temple, then don’t get married.” I felt all kinds of relief, like a heavy burden was not just metaphorically but also literally taken off my shoulders.

    That was in 2003. After I ended that relationship I was able to see with more clarity how dysfunctional the relationship really was. I met someone new in 2005 and felt none of my previous anxiety. We were married in the Houston, Texas Temple that year, and nine years later we are still married and have three children. The Temple is truly a place of learning, for there is where I learned to really listen to and trust the Spirit of the Lord.

  3. Thank you for this Daniel. I follow your blog and loved reading your conversion story. When I was teaching young women about marriage, I shared your story on how the temple strengthened your testimony of the gospel teachings on the family. As I was reading this entry, I anticipated hearing that story again because I loved it so much. (hint!) Your thoughts added to my conviction of why we are being encouraged to get the youth to the temple. As a mom and YW leader, it has been thrilling to attend temple trips as the youth brought names they had prepared themselves. The spirit of Elijah softens hearts and it’s been wonderful to see.

  4. Steve,

    You may be, or not. But that is likely because different people have different experiences based on different needs. I do not expect to have all of the same experiences as Daniel does, as we are different people with different backgrounds, previous experiences, and current needs. What he needs to experience and what I need to experience may be different. So I have absolutely no problem with him having a different experience than what you would want him to have in your paradigm.

  5. Years ago while in Europe I visited Notre Dame and the crypt chapel in the Tower of London where crusaders made their vows. I sensed a muted spirit of holiness which I believed emanated from the holy dedication of those who worshiped God in those settings. Then I attended a fast meeting in the Hyde Park chapel with strangers of many nationalities. The same spirit was present, but bright and vivid. I do not always experience such things and I believe that any place where the faithful have worshiped God according to the best they know will have a holy aura. There is difference between the Kirtland Temple, which has a somewhat faded aura to me, and a ‘working temple’ whether in Manhattan or Provo, where the Spirit is clear and palpable. Yes, this is subjective, but very real to me.

  6. I have subsequently had very positive spiritual experiences in other churches. For instance, I attended choral concerns in St. Paul’s cathedral in London and felt the spirit powerfully. I don’t want my experience to be taken as an assertion that other churches completely lack the spirit. I think that in this moment, the contrast was especially stark because Heavenly Father wanted me to clearly feel the difference as an object lesson to help me gain my testimony.

  7. Daniel, I love your conversion story, more each time you share it, and share more details of it.

  8. Thank you for sharing such a personal conversion story. I would just like to point out that your story has nothing to do with what you have experienced inside the temple, which is what the fMh series is based on.

  9. The temple can hurt when I reflect on how far I’ve fallen short of the ideals depicted and preached there.

    Oddly, it stops hurting as soon as I actually walk into the temple.

    A nice model of the grace of Christ.

  10. Thank you for your story, Daniel.

    Even more than the particulars of Daniel’s story, the italicized introduction was a balm to my soul. Thank you to whoever wrote it! I have begun to feel discouraged — exhausted even — by the partisan bickering between “conservative” and “liberal” Mormons. But you didn’t do that here. In acknowledging the FMH series, “When the Temple Hurts,” you called it a “useful project,” and you went on to say that you did not wish to diminish the experiences of the contributors. I took you at your word. It was a positive way to introduce a series of counterpoints to the “Temple Hurts” posts without disparaging the FMH contributors who have indeed found pain in the temple.

    This is the kind of dialogue I wish I could have with my more conservative brothers and sisters in the Church. Instead of pointing fingers and calling me out for being a dissident, I very much need to feel that my more orthodox friends are sincerely trying to understand my struggles and are sharing their own experiences in a spirit of love. Thank you again.

  11. I found it very interesting that the most spiritual experience related occurred outside of the temple. I could somewhat relate to that, I find the concept of the temple existing within the LDS framework to be more spiritually helpful than I do the actual sessions I participate in.

    Re Steve: While many don’t like to “disparage” other religions and go out of their to note some truth is (almost) everywhere, in the final analysis the LDS Church has the restored keys and no other organization does. I’ve been in many other (impressive cathedrals, chapels, churches, etc.) houses of worship. What I find is that on occasion there is a spirit of reverence/dedication/good works there, but what is lacking is a spirit of power and recognition. There is a qualitative difference. This is not to say the Spirit of power is automatically in every LDS building (not even close) but they are dedicated by keys and they are by definition building blocks that God uses in the work on the earth.

    RE Genevieve: Thanks for expressing your reaction so well. I am often in the same spot. I wish for dialogue but often have settle for just trying to justify why I don’t view the world in quite the same way as many of my fellow Saints.

  12. Sally

    I hope to post subsequent stories regarding my experience when I first went to the temple. I don’t want this series however to be limited only to experiences regarding the endowment or work inside the temple.

    For me, it is almost impossible to talk about my connection to the temple without starting with my conversion. I have had powerful subsequent experiences inside the temple as well, but my experiences really start with the experiences mentioned here.


    I am glad that the introduction struck the right tone. It is something I worked hard on. I think that the series on FMH has been very valuable in allowing members to express their stories. We should never undermine or call into question the personal experiences of others. I hope that sharing positive stories about the temple can be helpful to those that are either curious about the temple or perhaps even helpful to those that have had negative experiences

  13. Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing your conversion story, which gives us good context for what I anticipate is going to be a great series on the temple. Count me extremely eager to hear more from you on this vital subject.

    As a side note, I’ve had some very choice experiences at the temple. They really are places of holiness and peace. The veil is thin there.

  14. For me, the temple has been the focus of my religion as a Latter-day Saint. I joined the Church at the age of 17 and later married in the temple, but later left the Church because I was sure I knew better how things should be than the leadership of the Church. I was gone for 30 years, and participated in other churches and religious activities, including being active in the management of another religious activity for almost 20 years. Even though I was “religious”, I felt empty, and was desperate to find my way back to God. During this time, I visited the grounds of the Los Angeles Temple one Sunday. Just being on the grounds of the temple and feeling the Spirit there changed my life. My wife and I returned to the Church and have been active for the last two years. I attend the temple as often as I can, and it is a vital part of my life and religious experience.

  15. I am sometimes surprised by the variety of my interests and concerns that are clarified by a visit to a temple, things that might seem peripheral to the sacred message of the endowment and other ordinances. Most recently I attended the Manhattan temple which is an island of calm and silence in the midst of a frenetic, noisy city. Perhaps one of the ways a temple blesses us is the few hours spent away from a world dominated by electronic noise. I have often left the temple with a problem that I had not considered while in the temple suddenly resolved or with the impulse to do something I had not even contemplated previously. Not every visit has yielded insights and answers, but I have come to value every opportunity to attend.

  16. I love the idea for a series about how the temple helps!

    What will be the mechanism for creating such a series? I’d hate to have a handful of people merely comment here and be done with it…

  17. Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s a very moving testimony of the power of the temple and of personal revelation.

    I also applaud the sensitivity with which you wrote the intro to the series.

  18. I went through the temple the day before entering the MTC. I had no temple preparation, only a 30 minute meeting with my escort ( an RM who would eventually be my brother in law) about the practical and logistical aspects of the varioius ordinances. I had been a member approximately 14 months, a convert from a Protestant background. Participating in the temple was like coming home. The ceremonies, clothing, and sybolism seemed more familiar than not. The Plan of Salvation had always been my initial interest in the church, and the temple then, and still does, solidify my appreciation of God’s love for His children. Since that time in November of 1980, I have been privileged to attend the temple in many places under a variety of circumstances. Sometimes it’s just “work.” Sometimes it’s been in an effort to received answers. Still others it’s given me a feeling a connection to my kindred dead. Thanks for the effort to allow us to reflect on the positives that come from participating in temple work.

  19. I suggest that it’s best to ask people to write their own explanation of how the temple helps them, with the knowledge that they are writing it for an audience. You get very different tellings when someone is commenting than one would get if it was intended as a post. For example, your story is inspiring, but most of the stories of comfort here are mere sketches that hint at comfort, as is appropriate for a comment on a post. I would hate to have anyone other than the one who experienced each of these expand the tales to turn them into a post.

    So again, what would be the mechanism. I suggest that people who wish to submit a “How the Temple Helps” series submit it via the current guest blogger mechanism, with “How the Temple Helps” as the first part of their proposed title.

  20. I loved this post and I look forward to the progression of this series. I think Meg had some very good ideas as to the logistics of how to make a series like this really work.

    I would like to share just two thoughts about my Temple experiences here, though reducing my feelings to two thoughts and experiences really doesn’t do justice to the all encompassing power and reach of the Temple.

    When I served in a bishopric I conducted many Temple recommend interviews, but my favorite were with the youth, because it was as much a teaching opportunity as it was to determine worthiness. I always explained that the reason we needed to conduct such interviews is because the Temple is truly the link between heaven and earth, and just like we must make and keep covenants that prepare us to someday dwell with God, we must likewise make, and strive to keep our covenants in order to attend God’s house here on earth. I always concluded by testifying to the youth that since the Temple is the bridge between heaven and earth, nothing would give them a better taste of the joy we will someday experience in heaven, than the feelings of peace and love that are so obvious and powerful the moment we enter a Temple. I promised the youth that if they would pay attention to their hearts, that what they would feel in the Temple would be the spirit and love of God, and that they would know without a doubt that the Temple is unlike any other place on earth. I urged them to never forget those feelings from the Temple. As this process is repeated quarterly for youth baptisms, many youth reported back to me in subsequent interviews that my promises had indeed been fulfilled and they knew that the Temple is truly heaven on earth!

    I would also like to tell about the experience I had when my wife and I were fortunate enough to visit Kirtland just this past February. Before I tell about that experience let me just say that I try to make it a point every time I’m on a trip in a city that has a Temple, to attend that Temple. As a result I have had the great privilege of participating in ordinances in over twenty different temples throughout the US, and as I mentioned earlier, I feel the peace and love of God in a unique and special way each time. There is just something about the Temple that feels different than even the most powerful spiritual experiences I’ve ever had outside a Temple!

    But as a commenter mentioned above, Kirtland is no longer a working temple or a dedicated building. The reason for this is that the building is owned by the Community of Christ church (formerly RLDS).

    However we should be grateful to the Community of Christ church for restoring the building to its original state and caring for it much the way we do our dedicated Temples. The tours they provide through the building are available to all, very similar to the open houses we do prior to a new Temple being dedicated.

    My experience at the Kirtland temple may actually be my favorite Temple experience ever other than when I was sealed to my wife in the SLC Temple. While the Kirtland building appears very modest and even ordinary looking when compared to the simple yet elegant beauty of our Temples, I was overwhelmed as I stood there by the undeniable witness that this was the VERY PLACE where all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to this dispensation, including the sealing power, were restored to Joseph Smith. My wife and I wept together as the spirit bore witness to our souls that our eternal sealing and our covenant family was the direct result of what took place in that building!

    I truly love our latter-day Temples and bear witness that they are of divine origin.

  21. I’ve been in the Kirtland temple as well, and I can appreciate and attest to Jess W’s experience. It will always be a special temple, and I honestly yearn for the opportunity to arise where the Church will purchase it.

  22. People feel the Spirit in gothic cathedrals, because it presents a mysterious and transcendent God. But I also feel the spirit when the primary children sing “I am a child of God” which presents an intimate God. It is a different kind of Spirit, but it comes from the same Being, just different dimensions of that Being.

    The temple presents a God who is both transcendent and intimate. It has the gothic mysteriousness of ancient rituals and soaring architecture, same as Catholic Cathedrals, but it is about being created by a loving God, falling, and then going on a journey to finally return to the embrace of an embodied Lord.

  23. In my close to 20 years of temple attendance, the thing that stands out in my mind how I can feel and discern the spirit more clearly. Just as it is physically blocks out distractions of the world, it is easier to block out distractions of the mind and to our spirits to more clearly feel the Holy Ghost. I often think of three “P’s” when I think of the temple. For me, it is a place of Power, Peace, and Perspective.

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