Returning to the Temple --
I had a really good interview with my stake president a couple of nights ago. I re-iterated all my concerns, as well as the fact that despite all that I feel called to stay in the church for whatever reason. It's too much a part of my outlook on life to do anything different. For some reason I have been planted in the LDS church, and I feel like the right thing to do is to work out my salvation within that context rather than elsewhere. I mentioned my evolving understanding of what "worthiness" means, and how I used to think it was mostly up to me to be worthy, but now I appreciated that as long as I was doing my best I was worthy, because the atonement makes up the difference. Instead of 99% being on my shoulders, I can rely on Christ for that 99% through the miracle of grace. He told me he wished he could bottle that and give it to most of the members he meets with, who are crushing themselves under the weight of perfectionism. He felt I was ready to return to the temple and signed my recommend.
I went to the temple for the first time in about a year last night and had a good experience. Nothing really earth-shaking in the presentation of the endowment. I realized that I put the temple in a different context now. Before I went because I was supposed to, because it was ward temple night, because we are supposed to go once a month in order to more fully use the temple, etc.. It was time to cut the grass, throw on a white shirt, race out the door to the temple, race home, and get ready for the next day. I no longer subscribe to that approach. I should go from now on when the spirit dictates and not cram other activities around it.
I am very "different" in the temple, since I have a beard and haven't had a real haircut since September. I think I will progress to the ponytail stage next month, and it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction I get to that.
As I entered the Celestial Room I realized how much I missed that sense of peace that can be found there. Our temple is right next to a busy road, so you can almost always hear faint traffic noise outside. I guess that serves as a reminder of the intrusion of the world outside and the inevitability of having to make our "re-entry". For me I appreciated that the temple is truly a holy place, and temple worship is something I need to hold onto and not let slip out of my grasp again.
I guess another major difference I realized is that I don't see the temple as the only "holy" place. I am looking forward to visiting the National Cathedral with Wife of Bath sometime, and I realized also that there are probably other "holy places" in the city where I live that I have overlooked. For me, though, the temple still has a great deal of meaning.
As I sat in the Celestial Room I thought of a scripture, and went got a bible and looked it up: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%203:14-19;&version=31;
I guess that's what the temple means to me now, rather than being a "good conduct" award as I viewed it before.
All the other concerns I had before are still out there. The church oversimplifies its history to the point of being deceptive, maintains an almost cult-like reverence of its leadership, and focuses way too much on works and conformity to the point where it chews some people's self respect to pieces, when it could serve as a poignant reminder of the love of God, who gave his son as a sacrifice for sin and to exemplify what it means to lead a moral and meaningful life. Somehow those concerns seem secondary to me now, with the most important thing being working out what God has called me to do despite all those things and to live the Kingdom of God in whatever faith community I'm supposed to do that in.