Mike's parents were not members of the LDS Church. They felt hurt with bitterness because they could not attend his wedding in the temple. The depth of their feelings caused a continuing barrier to happy family relationships. This broke Mike's heart because he wanted so much to be close to his parents and to share with them his most cherished feelings.
Twenty years later, when Mike asked me to perform the temple wedding of his daughter, he asked if there was any way possible for someone to talk with his parents "in the temple." He so hoped that someone might soften their hurt and bitter feelings.
Arrangements were made, and immediately after the wedding ceremony, I went to the temple foyer to talk with Mike's parents. Though the area was crowded, we found a corner for a short "temple visit."
I sincerely expressed my concern for the hurt they felt because they could not attend their granddaughter's wedding and that I wished somehow they could share the inspirations of such a precious family ceremony. I tried to answer their questions and help them understand the value of the temple.
Then I told them a little story about my good pastor friend who had asked me to explain to him why he could not go into the temple.
The pastor asked, "Do you Mormons think you are better than I am? Do you assume the Lord loves you more than he loves me? Do you have some other excuse for refusing to let me in the temple or are you just bigoted?"
My response to the pastor was that he already knew the answer to his questions. He knew that in his own life there were sacred and personal experiences that he shared only with certain people — some with just his wife, some with his family, and some with only those who had the same faith and belief that he had.
Within the temple occurs a sacred and powerful worship service. For effectiveness, it is restricted to those who share the same faith and belief — somewhat as was the case with the temples of old.
The goal is to lift and inspire those who enter to more completely love the Lord and keep his commandments. Its purpose is to encourage strong, united families with honorable fathers, lovely mothers and delightful children.
To those without the benefit that comes from a common faith and understanding, the symbolism used in the temple ceremony could be empty and negative. If the temple doors were opened to curiosity-seekers and antagonists, the inspiration and blessings now found in the temple worship services would be restrained.
The pastor responded by wondering why he hadn't thought of those answers himself. It seemed so simple.
I suggested that the temple doors would be open to him if he believed as Mormons do and lived the standards required of those who enter the temple.
After telling this story, I congratulated Mike's parents for raising such a fine son, for Mike is a good husband, the father of a precious family and has an honorable reputation in the community.
His parents knew that the temple ceremony, along with his church, had made a strong impression for good on the life of their son.
Mike's parents expressed their thanks to me for the "words of understanding." That night at the reception, they again expressed appreciation.
Later, Mike came to me with tears in his eyes. He choked as he said, "That is the first time in 20 years that anyone has been able to talk with my parents to ease their pain and help them see the beauties of my precious faith."
This article is an excerpt from the book "Soft Answers to Hard Feelings," by Darl Andersen. Andersen, who died in 2000, had a longtime hobby of taking ministers to lunch with the goal of befriending them and build bridges of understanding. The Arizona Interfaith Movement presents a Darl Anderson Award in his honor during its annual Golden Rule Awards Banquet (its next banquet is April 15). His son, Elder Wilford W. Andersen, is a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.