True Effort and Exact Obedience

Photo from LDS.org. Used with permission.
by Belinda Lenhard
A few months ago, I was asked if I would share my thoughts about the temple during the lesson in Relief Society. I immediately asked the teacher, “Have you somehow heard about the experience I've been having at the temple, or did you just feel prompted to call me?” I had been praying in my heart that I'd have a chance to share my experience with others.

She expressed her concern about who to ask because we're all at different places with our temple attendance, and she was worried about approaching someone that might not be at a place where they felt comfortable sharing. So she got down on her knees and was given inspiration on who to ask, and I felt so grateful that she had the faith to receive an answer and that the Lord provided me the opportunity to bear witness of the blessings I've felt from attending the temple.

Over the last year I've felt a desire to be more prepared. In the beginning I was focused on temporal preparedness EVEN though deep down I felt spiritual preparedness should be the top priority. Well, after a while, beyond just acknowledging this, I finally began to believe that spiritual preparedness isn't just as important--IT'S MORE important. 

In President Henry B. Eyring's talk "Spiritual Preparedness," which I highly recommend, he discusses how many of us, when considering how to prepare for life’s calamities, stock up on whatever we think we might need for future use. And then he says:
 But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently. What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which EVERYTHING for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation.

So with this realization, I began to shift my focus. I absolutely still believed it was important to follow the council of the prophets to prepare temporally, but at some point resources run out and then what? I finally began to see and gain an understanding that if I'm spiritually prepared, the faith I have will qualify me to witness miracles. I can watch the Lord make up the difference where I fall short, and that's where I wanted to be, first and foremost.

President Eyring said, “Decisions now to exercise faith and be steady in obedience will in time produce great faith and assurance. That is the spiritual preparedness we all will need. And it will qualify us in the moments of crisis to receive the Lord’s promise that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

So about five months ago I started to make some changes. I made a decision to go to the gym every day. I'd get up at 4:30 a.m. and be there by 5 or 5:30. And it’s funny, because I see so many crazy people from the ward doing the same thing!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that exercising physically motivated me spiritually as well. I started taking scripture study more seriously, I tried listening to more general conference talks, I tried to have real conversations with my Heavenly Father. There’s complete balance in my life when I’m actively doing both.

Photo from LDS.org. Used with permission.
One morning it dawned on me, "I'm getting up this early to work out, so why can't I go to the temple that opens as early as 4:30 on some days?" So the next day I woke up at 4:30 and was out the door by 5:15 to do initiatories and be back by 7:30 in time to get my kids off to school.

The next week came, still exercising daily, and I decided I could go to the temple again. I could do this and I needed to! This same scenario kept happening, and I started inviting any friends that wanted to come, and six months later I’ve been blessed to keep this habit up.

I’ve been hesitant sometimes to mention this experience to others, because my intention in sharing is not to lift myself above others, to get praise, or to seem self-righteous. But I've wanted to share it in the hopes that those around me would realize when you truly are on a path to come closer to the Lord, he will show you ways you hadn't noticed before to help you achieve those spiritual goals.

Looking around at the gym, I can't help but think how much good we could do if everyone who has a temple recommend could take one day out of their week to go to the temple. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “What activity could have a greater impact and provide more joy and profound happiness than worshiping in the temple?” I know it's hard to give up even one day when you're committed to exercising, but I also know from personal experience the Lord has blessed my life tremendously from devoting time to this spiritual exercise.
I realized I was the one preventing myself from going to the temple, and I had missed out on help the Lord could have provided me through many trials.
Photo from LDS.org. Used with permission.
Honestly, this wasn't really an intentional goal…at first. But I believe that because I was trying to be more spiritually-minded, the Lord inspired me with this practical idea, and I'm so grateful for that.

For a long time, I was complacent on my attitude about temple attendance. I’ve even had the mental block that going weekly was something you do when your hair turns gray or you're retired and you don't have kids at home. And my life would get busy; it became a hassle to shuffle kids, and just seemed too hard, so I wouldn't prioritize it as much. And really I haven’t ever taken the counsel to go often to the temple that seriously. But I realized I was the one preventing myself from following this counsel instead of making excuses because of my busy life. I really missed out on extra help the Lord could have provided me through so many trials.

President Thomas S. Monson said, “As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. The temple provides purpose for our lives. It brings peace to our souls.”

He said every trial. Not just some. This counsel from the prophet is real. I’ve witnessed it myself. And I’ve received numerous blessings from going to the temple.

In the past I had a challenge that I couldn’t find a solution to. And in my restricted mortal mind, there wasn’t one. But after committing to go to the temple weekly, I experienced a change of heart. I began to see that challenge with new eyes, new hope, and new determination to understand how to work through it with the Lord’s help. In my spiritual mind I not only knew but believed the Savior’s atonement could heal me, and it was enough. I wouldn’t have had that perspective if I hadn’t been going to the temple.

President Monson said, "As we enter through the doors of the temple, we leave behind us the distractions and confusion of the world. Inside this sacred sanctuary, we find beauty and order. There is rest for our souls and a respite from the cares of our lives." I love that quote because it gives us permission and encourages us to check those things at the door. And ironically, when we release those worries and focus on ordinance work, we're often blessed with the guidance we need for our trials.

So many studies have come out on the importance of rest and how a lack of it affects our physical bodies. In the same way, we should place equal importance on time spent in the temple where we can allow our souls to rest and be illuminated within.
Another blessing I’ve received from the temple is consistent patience with my children.
In all of this I’ve realized that following the Lord is something that has to be worked for. The quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that says “Salvation is not a cheap experience” seems applicable. He was referring to the fact that missionary work is supposed to be exactly that. WORK!  He said it was never easy for the Savior, so why should it be for us? And in the same way I won’t gain the relationship with my Heavenly Father that I want unless I put forth true effort and exact obedience. And that obedience is not only to the commandments of the Lord but to the subtle promptings of the Spirit as well.

This is another blessing that came from the temple, but it was felt much stronger after I committed to go consistently. I began to distinctly hear the still, small voice and have the willpower to follow those promptings. One day the Spirit prompted me to change something that in the past I didn’t really think was important. At first, I ignored the prompting, trying to convince myself it really wasn’t that big of a deal. But as the day went, on I couldn’t deny the feeling I was having to adjust my perspective and listen to the Spirit. Although nothing drastic happened from following that prompting, what did happen was that my ability to hear and quickly obey the Spirit was strengthened, and I’m so grateful for that.

I also experienced a knowledge that angelic help is all around us and even more so in the temple. When we serve God, it says in D&C 84:88 that “angels [will be] round about you, to bear you up.” Our ancestors are not only waiting on the other side of the veil for our help with their ordinance work, but I also believe they are waiting for us to call upon them, through the Lord, for our support here on earth.

One morning I woke up at 4:30 and got all ready to go to the temple. But I could not find my wallet anywhere! I prayed and prayed because I really wanted to go that day, but it wasn’t happening--because I realized my wallet was at a store in another city! Thankfully, it was safely returned, so I planned to go to the temple a couple days later. The night before I went, I made time to sit down and find family names from FamilySearch to take with me, which I’d been meaning to do for a long time. I got the printout and took it to the temple office the next morning to get the cards printed.

However, that silly computer was not working right. While the sweet lady was trying to resolve the problem, I was silently pleading for the Lord to send angelic help. I really wanted to take care of all the people whose names I'd brought, but only a few would print out.  So after some time had passed, I felt like there must be a reason it was not working. I finally decided to go down to the baptistry and prepare to do ordinances for the few names I had.

While I was getting dressed, the same lady came into the locker room excitedly looking for me and handed me an envelope.  The computer had began to work again! There were, I believe 12 more names I got to do baptisms for that day, and I felt so grateful that the Lord’s angels were there helping for me. A little later that day I had a distinct feeling there was a reason I couldn’t find my wallet days before. I feel those women were waiting for me to find them and do their ordinance specifically. And I was grateful I could be part of that tender mercy to perform their work. Because of doing work for my ancestors, I’ve also felt a very literal shield of protection around me and my family.

Another blessing I’ve received from the temple is directed towards my children: I’ve felt consistent patience, gratitude, and strength to not be as reactive to them, and that’s something I’ve struggled with daily. In the past I would read scriptures and pray but not see much change, and that was extremely frustrating. And then I realized the temple was the missing link for me! However, over the last couple of months I’ve noticed in order to maintain that strength, I have to be actively studying the gospel AND attending the temple. It can’t just be one or the other if I want to have the most control over my weaknesses.

Photo from LDS.org Used with permission.
This blessing alone has kept me coming to the temple, because parenting is the most difficult thing for me right now, and I need to be recharged on a regular basis. If you recall, in the beginning of my story, I shared a quote about spiritual preparedness. Elder Eyring said, “It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.”

Going to the temple a few times a year wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be, because those tender feelings of the Spirit are quickly dulled by distractions of the world. I needed to go regularly to feel his presence strong in my life. And what an amazing blessing we have to be close to not only one but three temples less than 30 minutes away!

Elder Scott also gives great counsel about temple attendance:
When a temple is conveniently nearby, small things may interrupt your plans to go to the temple. Set specific goals, considering your circumstances, of when you can and will participate in temple ordinances. Then do not allow anything to interfere with that plan. This pattern will guarantee that those who live in the shadow of a temple will be as blessed as are those who plan far ahead and make a long trip to the temple.
I’m impressed by the story shared by Sister Anne Pingree of two Nigerian Relief Society sisters who had walked an 18-mile round trip “just to obtain a temple recommend they knew they would never have the privilege of using.”

We have been reminded by our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson:
Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.
As a member of the Church who is trying to live the gospel, I've come to realize how crucial it is to regularly include attendance in our lives. For a long time, I had so many false beliefs and excuses, one being that because we weren’t expected to be there like on Sundays it was optional. The Lord has given us free agency to choose, but how many times did I choose not to go because I was too busy or because I thought that with young kids it was too hard to get there? I viewed it as an unachievable challenge instead of a sacrifice that brings blessings.

Temptations, contention, and so much sin is all around us, and we need that living power that comes with attending the Lord's house as if it were a lifeline--because it truly is. Our families need it. Our marriages need it. Our spirits need it. And our ancestors need it. And although I've known this for so long, I've finally come to believe how much the Savior knows what we're going through and is waiting for us to reach out to him.

I’m no better than anyone else. But I do know that when I try to follow the prophets’ counsel from the Lord I feel the most joy. I feel complete when my life is in balance physically and spiritually, and I know by attending the temple we can receive blessings we don’t even know we need.

I’m so thankful for having a knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel. I know prophets are real and living in our day. In this last general conference, I was so impressed to see our prophet President Monson, whose body was nearly failing him, still bear such a powerful witness of the Savior.

I have so much gratitude for the atonement and the great sacrifice Christ made to make it possible for us to have this gift. I’m so grateful for prayer and learning we can really have conversations with our Father in Heaven if we open our hearts and sincerely desire to hear His voice in our lives. And I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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