Monday, June 24, 2013

The Majesty of the Temple

Sometimes in the evening while I'm working at my desk, I stop to look out the window at the temple as the sun goes down on another day and I realize again how grateful I am for this little moment in time when we are living in the shadow of the London Temple. I reflect on that often, though the days pass so quickly I often loose track of how fast the time is passing. After having lived here nearly a year and a half, it feels so much like home now that Utah seems a long way away and my thoughts of returning there next year are slightly anxiety-ridden.

The London Temple from our windows in the evening

What a privilege it is to see the temple fill our living room, kitchen and bedroom window views! I never get tired of gazing at it's stately presence. Many of the most important and sweet moments of my life have occurred in temples. It's where I have made solemn covenants with God for myself, with Don, and with my family.

As a child, I watched the Los Angeles Temple rise from the ground.  For many years, I longed for the day when I would be old enough and prepared to enter it's doors. It was always a treat to take the 20 minute drive from Westchester with my family and walk around the beautiful grounds of the temple on a balmy, sunny Southern California day. Eventually, it's the temple Don and I choose for our wedding day -  the day we were sealed for time and all eternity.

Now there are so many temples that are deeply significant to us. Blessed by the magnificent privilege of adoption, our family has knelt across the altar from one another as children have been sealed to us in two different temples. Jenn was sealed to us in the Provo Temple; Amy and Emily were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. In recent years, both Don and I have worked in the Jordan River Temple and the Draper Temple. What a privilege! We also attend many different temples as we travel and always enjoy the feeling of "coming home" in temples we've never visited before.

Salt Lake City - August 1987

Because of the peace and blessings found in our temple covenants, Don and I made a commitment during the first year we were married that we would try to attend the temple at least once every month. Though we have missed a month here and there, it has always been one of our greatest priorities and one of the greatest blessings to our marriage. Many years ago, we had a bishop who, in a Sunday School class, made a promise that I have never forgotten. Bishop Ricks essentially said, "The best thing you can do for your marriage is to attend the temple more often. It has the power to bless your lives and your marriage." Having tested that promise, I am absolutely certain that it's true!!  The temple blesses individuals, marriages and families - past, present and future.

Throughout history, the Lord has commanded his people to build temples. Temples are literally the House of the Lord on earth. They are holy places of worship where the Lord may visit. Temple work, and the Priesthood power through which we receive authority to perform temple ordinances, sets us apart from the rest of the current religions of the world. In the temple, we make covenants that prepare us to live in God's presence after this life.

These are a few of the things our prophet, President Monson, has said about temples in the last couple of years:
  • The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.
  • 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. 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.
  • The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation.
  • In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace, we will be renewed and fortified.

Looking back as we celebrate our 46th anniversary this month, it is now very easy to see how the decision Don and I made so many years ago has affected our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. We aren't perfect, and I'm sorry to report that neither are our children and grandchildren yet, but who could have known that such a simple choice could reap such blessed consequences. The blessing of the temple are available to all who will qualify, and it's never too late to gain those blessings.               ~Pat~

London Temple by Suzanne Parry

London Temple by Suzanne Parry

Temple Grounds by Eva Fulop

Temple Grounds by Eva Fulop

Temple Grounds by Eva Fulop

Temple Grounds - by me!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

These Three Things...

While I was having a conversation with my dear friend, Eva, last week, she mentioned that the things we were talking about would make a good blog post -- so this one's for you, Eva. Thank you for your friendship and love. You are a great example to me!

I've been doing some reflecting lately. Don and I both agree that we've learned a lot during the past (almost) two years while we've been serving missions. Even though I still have a lot of rough edges that could be smoothed, I've been shaped and sanded as I've served. Lately, I've come to realize that there are three important qualities that bring great joy into the lives of those who possess them. I want to have them! I've been working on them. Through the example of wonderful young people around me, I've seen the blessings that come to someone who acquires one or all of these attributes. They are worth every effort to obtain.

The first quality is unconditional love. It's a quality that I've learned more about than ever before from Edward, the young man in his mid-20's who lives next door to us in The Lodge. He works as a gardener on the temple grounds. Edward is a person without guile and without judgment. He just loves everybody. If you happen to find Edward around the temple somewhere and he isn't down on the ground with his hands in the dirt, you will probably find him giving someone a hug. Well, not just a hug, but a big, genuine bear hug! Edward doesn't care whether you're young or old, where you come from, what you've done with your life, or where you are going. If he knows you, he will just love and accept you the way that you are -- and he'll tell you what a good person you are. We all need to hear that once in awhile, don't we? When Edward is around, we hear it often. Edward makes me think of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves us more than anyone else could and accepts us no matter what. If I was in His presence and felt the kind of love and acceptance Edward gives, I would know I was in a safe place.  It has been said that love is the only force that can erase differences between people. Since meeting Edward, I understand that more than ever before. We tend to get so caught up in our expectations of each other. The world needs more Edwards. I'd like to be one.

Another quality that brings great blessings is respect. I've learned a lot about respect from Jason. Jason is a young man (also in his mid-20's) who just left here a few weeks ago to serve a mission. I think I've mentioned him before. He met a couple of our Visitor Centre sister missionaries one evening about a year and a half ago when he opened his front door. In despair, he had been praying for God to help him, but he was too drunk to listen to what the sisters had to say. They made an appointment to come back a couple of days later. They began to teach him. Though he looked pretty rough with spiked hair, tattoos, and too many earrings to count, the sisters were wise enough to treat him with respect and look on the inside instead of judging his exterior. It was a long road (with zig-zags) from where he was then to where he is now. We saw it with our own eyes. It was exciting to watch! He often came to talk to Sister Casasola and Sister Burrows at the Visitors' Centre and to be taught there. They treated Jason with respect when it would have been easy to do otherwise. They patiently helped him learn that there is more to life than just living in the moment and there is a better, happier way to live. One of the most touching moments of my mission was watching Jason and Sam (another recent convert preparing to go on a mission) come to the Visitors' Centre just before Sister Casasola and Sister Burrows left to return home. It had been several months since Jason was baptized by then. Together, Jason and Sam gave a missionary lesson about the gospel of Jesus Christ to the two sisters who had taught them. Both young men are now serving in different parts of the world. Both young men have new respect for themselves because two young sister missionaries respected them enough to see their potential. There's a powerful message there for all of us.

The third quality I admire is obedience. Nowhere have I seen the blessings of being obedient more than in the life of Sister Cardona. Sister Cardona has not always had an easy life. When she was only a few years old, her mother died and her grieving father left her in the care of others. She was mostly raised by her grandparents, but as a teenager, when she decided to join the Church, it became evident to her that continuing to live with her grandparents was not going to be an option. A young family with three children took her in and made her a part of their large, extended family. One of the things she learned from their example was that obedience to the will of God blesses our lives. She might have had lots of reasons to feel sorry for herself or complain, but instead, Sister Cardona has learned to rely on God and find her strength in Him. She has been one of several sister missionaries we've known who practices exact obedience to God's commandments. She has also been exactly obedient to the mission rules. We have seen the power that decision has brought into her life. She doesn't have to make a new decision every morning about what time to get out of bed. If the missionary handbook says 6:30, then she's up at 6:30. If she is asked to do something, she does it 100%.

One of the things we have observed on our mission is that those missionaries -- Visitors' Centre sisters, senior couples, and elders -- who obey true principles, follow mission rules, and accept the counsel of Church leaders and their mission president are happier, more optimistic, better adjusted, and more successful   than those who don't.

Obedience is the great law of missionary work.  It is also the great law of life.  No wonder it is called the first law of heaven.  Everything is based upon obedience to law, and proper obedience comes from love, faith, and trust in God.  For this transfer period, we've had our missionaries memorize the following scripture:

         There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the 
         foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are 
         predicated -- and when we obtain any blessing from God, 
         it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.    
                                                                      (D&C 130:20-21)

Blessings come to us from obeying the laws upon which they are based.  President Ezra Taft Benson said it best:  "When obedience ceases to become an irritant and becomes a quest, you will be endowed from power from on high."  That's not just true for missionaries, it's true for all of us. When we learn to embrace God's commandments as communication from a loving Father rather than thorns in our own selfish path, great blessings come.

Well, there you have it. Three qualities that I have watched bring great power and blessings into the lives of those who choose to live them. I am working on developing them because I can see their importance. What are the qualities you admire most?                    ~Pat~

Monday, June 10, 2013

Our New Edition

Thanks to our friends Mike and Pam Hannan, we are thrilled to have a rare 1841 first European edition of the Book of Mormon on display at the London Temple Visitors' Centre.  Through a special arrangement  with the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, they hand-delivered the book to us on their recent visit.  The book was printed in Liverpool by John Tompkins at the request of Apostles Brigham Young and John Taylor, who were serving in the area.

We are honored to have this historic edition of the Book of Mormon on permanent loan at our Visitors' Centre. I love showing the book to people who come into the Centre. It's interesting to me to consider the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England and the strength and the vision of the early apostles as they worked to provide copies of the Book of Mormon for those who were interested.

This "new edition" to our Visitors' Centre complements two of our other exhibits -- the Book of Mormon display, and our new exhibit on The History of the Church in the British Isles -- and gives our missionaries new opportunities to explain the book and witness of its truths and importance.

There are lots of good things happening around here lately. One experience I had a couple of weeks ago caught me by surprise. I received a call from a BBC reporter who wanted an LDS response to the Book of Mormon Musical playing in downtown London.  She also wanted to discuss Mormon beliefs in a half-hour interview at the Visitors' Centre. I was concerned whether I was the right person to handle such an interview - and a little scared - so I contacted Rowland Elvidge, Director of Public Affairs for the UK. He said to go ahead with the interview but suggested we also invite Annabelle Grifffiths, public affairs representative from nearby Maidstone Stake, to participate.  It was good advice and gave me more confidence.  Despite the risks, it turned out to be a great experience.  You can listen to the interviews that aired on two consecutive Sunday mornings by downloading the links below to Windows Media Player.

BBC Broadcast #1: 

BBC Broadcast #2:

It's a blessing for Pat and I to be able to participate in this great work here in southern England.           ~Don~

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This...

Here I am taking photos of the temple grounds again this spring. It just doesn't get much more beautiful than this! There is something so majestic about walking the grounds at the London Temple, no matter what time of year it is, but our weather right now is fabulous. It's in the mid-60's and there isn't a drop of rain in the forecast for the next TEN days (can it really be true??). We're appreciating every minute of sun -- from sunrise just before 5 a.m. to sunset just after 9 p.m.

We also have three beautiful new sister missionaries on the temple grounds. Sisters Stewart, Walmsley and Watt arrived last Wednesday. We are so glad to have them here! They are fresh from two weeks of training at the Provo MTC and have already infused us with their love for the gospel  and enthusiasm for missionary work!

Sister Cardona (France) and Sister Stewart (Arizona)

Sister Walmsley (New Zealand) and Sister Maughan (England)

Sister Watt (Utah) and Sister Berati (Albania)

Meanwhile, last weekend Don and I celebrated our 46th anniversary with a trip into London. I had a doctors appointment on Harley Street, so we took advantage of the day and did some walking and exploring.

Don on Harley Street - a typical London residential street
that now houses hundreds of doctors offices near clinics and hospitals.

We happened to walk past the home of Lionel Logue - King George VI 's speech therapist
(the story recently told in The Kings Speech).

We walked through Kensington Gardens on the way to see Kensington Palace.

We also visited St. Paul's Cathedral at last - something we've been wanting to do since we got here. I must say, of all the cathedrals I've even been in, I think it's my favorite. Sir Christopher Wren created a timeless masterpiece of architecture and art. 

St. Paul's Cathedral in London

Since visitors are not allowed to take photos inside, if you would like to see it, check out the National Geographic documentary link below:

We also celebrated our anniversary by taking in a Chamber Orchestra concert at St. Martin in the Fields on Saturday night. Handel and Vivaldi by Candlelight - incredible.

Inside St. Martin in the Fields

St. Martin in the Fields at Trafalgar Square

On Sunday, we had a wonderful fireside by President Arnold Jones and his wife, June. He is a past president of the Preston, England Temple.  They brought such a gentle spirit to our Visitors' Centre and taught us about the experiences they've had in their lives that have proved the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

President and Sister Jones (on the left) with Elder and Sister Horsley
who knew the Jones when they served their missions in England before they were married.

Monday (yesterday) we joined all our sister missionaries and the senior couples for a PDay hike through Balcombe and the surrounding area. What a day! The wildflowers were in bloom, the weather was perfect and we had a great time exploring the countryside together. 

And we're off.

Southern England has miles and miles of public footpaths
over hill and dale, through fields and forests.


Sisters Cardona and Maughan climbing one of several gates we encountered.

We saw several cottages along the way.

A bridge over a creek.

Walking through a field of buttercups

The sheep have already been shorn.

We love tree tunnels!

'Nuf said :)

Sister Watt

The barley is already waist-high.

Walking back to the car along a narrow, winding road. Good thing
British drivers are so darn courteous.

It's Tuesday now and we are all back at work in the Visitors' Centre. We had our weekly training meeting this morning and the Centre has been busy today. We're looking forward to another good week.

The missionary staff at the London Temple Visitors' Centre
June 2013