I’ve had this theory for a few years now that going to the temple is like eating vegetables.
But before I delve into my simile, let me tell you a little about temples.
As Mormons, we go to our temples to worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But our temples are different than our churches that we go to every Sunday. They are more sacred, more rare, and you have to uphold higher standards to get in. For example, while anybody can go to our churches, only those that don’t smoke or drink and pay tithing and go to church can go to our temples. We sit in beautiful rooms and learn about Heavenly Father’s plan and make sacred covenants. Temples are also where we are married and where we believe that families are bonded together forever for eternity. We are encouraged to go to the temple as often as we can. For some that may be once a week, one a month, or once a year, and for others that may mean once in a lifetime. The temple is of paramount importance in our religion. For more information on temples you can click here and here.
So how is eating vegetables like going to the temple? Here me out:
There are 3 categories of people.
1. People that don’t eat vegetables.
2. People that eat vegetables because they are good for you, but they do not like them.
3. People that eat vegetables because they actually like them.
Most of my life I would categorize myself as a Category 1 type person. I don’t remember many veggies as a kid or in college or as a newly married gal. Maybe some canned green beans or some iceberg lettuce here or there. I figured this was how most people lived until I met my mother-in-law. She served TWO veggies at every Sunday dinner. And even weirder yet, she actually liked them.
These regular Sunday dinners and the accompanying vegetables is where I started to morph into a Category 2 kind of person. I would take the obligatory asparagus or green beans or broccoli because my mother in law was feeding me dinner and I didn’t want to be rude. And at this point in my life I was a little more aware of my health. I knew vegetables were good for me so I powered through the unappealing taste anyway. I ate them even though I didn’t like them because I knew they were good for me.
But I remember the day, clearly, that I evolved to a Category 3 kind of person. It was at Sunday dinner again and we were sitting in the front dining room. I can even remember what seat I was in as I asked for seconds on the asparagus. I think my request startled myself. I actually wanted to eat more asparagus! Not because I felt obligated to or I knew that it was good for me, but because I actually thought asparagus tasted yummy and I wanted to eat more.
The duty bound veggies turned into a positive choice. Several years have passed since my seconds on asparagus, and now I find myself actually choosing vegetables at restaurants or in my home often.
Just like the 3 vegetable categories, there are 3 kinds of Mormons.
1. There are Mormons that don’t go to the temple.
2. Mormons that go to the temple because it is good for them, but they don’t really like it.
3. Mormons that go to the temple because they actually like it.
I was a Category 1 Mormon particularly in my first marriage. I was angry at God at that time in my life and I rationalized, “Why would I go to the temple when my husband couldn’t go with me?” (The was not living the high standards I talked about earlier.) I did not go often, if at all. I think I even missed my sister’s wedding because I chose not to have a temple recommend.
Luckily, that bad attitude was short-lived. I got my temple recommend back and I went back to the temple. Since then, I’ve spent most of my years as a Category 2 person. I went the obligatory once a month because it was the right thing to do. Just like vegetables, I knew it was good for me, but I didn’t always like being there. You have to get dressed up and sit for a sit for a couple of hours and besides the real possibility of a laughing attack in a very quiet place (I may or may not have snorted in the Celestial room once), there was my germ, claustrophobia, sleep and ADD issues. All which made it very difficult for me to enjoy my experience in the temple. But I kept going month after month out of duty.
And then just last week I may have switched to a Category 3 person.
I was sitting on the floor playing a rhyming game with Croft and Locke during Table Time and I began to think about my upcoming afternoon. Locke and Croft had school and I needed to go to Costco and Wal-Mart. I had the bank, post office and piano store on the to-do list as well. But as I thought about what I wanted to do, I decided to go to the temple.
I wasn’t meeting anyone there; no one knew I was going; it wasn’t a date night with my husband; I wasn’t praying about a particular issue; it wasn’t the end of the month; and it wasn’t Stake Temple week or Ward Temple Night. I just looked at my schedule and choose to fill my Thursday afternoon with the temple instead of errands.
What was interesting to me about my choice to go to the temple that afternoon was that I had just been the week before. So there was no duty attached. I didn’t have that “you haven’t gone yet this month” hanging over my head. I had gone that month- the very first week in fact- and now it was only the second week. There was no part of me that felt I “should” go or “had to go” or “needed” to go. I just wanted to go.
I had made the jump from a Category 2 person to a Category 3. Just like that day I chose seconds on the asparagus, that day I chose seconds on the temple.
So how did I make the shift from doing what is best out of duty and instead doing what is best out of love?
The answer lies back in the vegetables.
When my kids were babies and first learning to eat solids, I would hear that kids need to taste a new food 20 times before they would like it. So I fed Elle all kinds of veggies over and over and over again until her palate grew to love them. Even now with my kids, I have them try their vegetables over and over again hoping taste #42 will be the one. I say, “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.”
You have to taste the veggies over and over.
And you go to the temple over and over and over — even when you don’t want to or when there is something more fun to do or even when you are busy or even when you are worried you might have a laughing attack. You keep going and going and going.
And one day BAM! You shift. And you chose the temple over other activities and you want to be there.
I still have a long ways to go with both my vegetable eating and my temple worship. I am still learning to love both. But I see substantial progress and a change of heart because of persistence and repetition and obedience. And what is a duty can become a gift and a blessing.
Now I just need to apply my veggie analogy to exercise. Maybe one day I’ll love that too.