Mormon temples are for peace, pondering, worship

My original plan was to run to the store before heading to the temple. As is often the case, however, I left the house behind schedule. While in the car, I had a quiet idea come to change the order of things — to attend the temple first and run errands later.

I don’t pretend to always get inspiration right, but this time, I think I did.

I decided to do initiatory ordinance work. It’s something I love to do. I find a great power and peace in performing these ordinances, and I feel bathed in God’s love when I do.

On this day, I needed that kind of healing experience. The little voice in my head that chants, “Not enough, not enough” had been rather loud and persistent, and I was feeling emotionally weary.

As I sat on the bench waiting for my turn, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation going on between a temple worker and a patron. The patron caught my attention. She had such a light in her countenance. She radiated a strong, humble spirit. Something about her and their conversation triggered memories of a time when I felt had made a complete fool of myself.

The voice in my head got louder. And I couldn’t help it; I started to cry.

The woman I had noticed was invited to take her turn helping with the ordinances. I tried to compose myself before they called my name.

I confess that I had a hard time concentrating and enjoying my experience that day. After completing my service, I returned to my locker to change back into my street clothes. But as I shut the door, all I could do was slump down on the little seat in the dressing stall and sob. I poured my heart out silently to Heavenly Father. I was confused. This isn’t supposed to happen in the temple, I thought. I come here to feel peace, not pain.

I don’t know how long I sat there, but I finally I closed my prayer, got dressed, and started to leave the dressing room.

And wouldn’t you know it? The woman I had seen before was just leaving as well. She should have been long gone, given the fact that she had been several minutes ahead of me in line, and also given the amount of time I had lingered in my dressing stall.

My heart started pounding. For reasons too complex to explain here, an unspoken prayer I’d had was that perhaps I’d have the chance to talk to this woman, but I hardly dare hope that she’d still be there.

There’s no way to adequately capture the conversation that ensued, but I can tell you this. She was an angel for me that day. I opened up to her — a stranger until that moment — in ways that, in my weaker moments, used to leave me battling that voice and feeling foolish all over again. (I said too much. I kept her too long. I blubbered like a baby.)

But she was kind and gracious. I felt that God had put her in my path. I felt that He was letting me know He knew of my pain, and that He wanted me to know of His love. He was inviting me to put the past behind me, to challenge the pesky voice in my head, and to listen more for His voice.

When self-doubt threatens to “destroy my peace and afflict my soul,” I try to remember moments like this when I know God has been aware of me and has reached out to me in spite of — and maybe because of — my weakness. I am grateful to know that we worship a God of perfect love and gentle patience, who has an intimate awareness of our lives.

I’m also grateful for people who are willing and ready to be instruments in His hands as this dear sister was. This experience is a reminder to me that we never know when a simple gesture of kindness may be an answer to someone’s prayer or a salve for someone’s soul.