I had the opportunity to volunteer to help clean the Mount Timpanogos Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week, and it was a completely different experience than the one I was hoping for.
My friends and family members who had previously done this told me how special it was for them to be able to polish, dust, vacuum and scrub various parts of the temple in order to keep it spotless and beautiful for those serving there.
I must admit after I signed up, I had visions of me sitting in a pretty, peaceful room polishing crystals from one of the many stunning chandeliers and feeling the peace of the temple. I knew there was a good chance I could also be scrubbing toilets or mopping marbled floors, but I tried to mentally prepare myself to accept any task assigned to me while secretly pleading I’d get my wish.
Hours before I was set to leave, I was fighting feelings of frustration and annoyance. I was tired, my kids were driving me nuts, and all I wanted to do was stay home and sleep.
“You are going to have a wonderful time there,” my husband told me as I grumped to him, trying to fight my negative feelings. “Pray for a spiritual experience,” he said and kissed my forehead as I headed out the door.
After a little orientation and changing into white scrubs, I was put into a little group of three volunteers and we were told to follow a woman to our assigned cleaning area.
We began walking down the quiet halls, winding this way and that, until we finally arrived in a large laundry room.
“OK,” I thought, as I resigned myself to the task ahead. “This isn’t what I thought, but OK.”
I was just getting used to the idea of possibly folding or hanging up freshly washed clothes when our leader opened yet another door — behind the laundry room.
“We’ll be in here,” she said.
In … the furnace room?
“We will start by dusting the pipes.” She handed us each a duster and in the case of my friend, a tall mop with a fuzzy cloth attached to the end. “Reach as high as you can go, and be careful around the gas lines and the fires in back of the machines.”
I stood there completely and totally flabbergasted. I honestly thought she would turn around any second and say, “I’m just teasing,” but she didn’t.
“After you’re done, one of you can vacuum.” She smiled and turned away. I began to laugh and shake my head. “Well Heavenly Father,” I murmured, “this isn’t exactly the spiritual experience I was hoping for.”
The hum of dryers whirred in my ears as I navigated around the cold room. Every so often, a flame would ignite or turn off when a load was starting or finishing.
As I worked, I kept thinking about how completely opposite this experience was from the one I thought I’d have. But as I ran a vacuum over the tiled floors, I felt a warm sense of pride that I could do this tiny thing for the Lord. And I wondered what Heavenly Father was trying to teach me. Several thoughts came to mind:
1. Life is not always what we hope it will be.
I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted this evening to look like, where I would be. But even though I was in basically the exact opposite place of where I was thinking, it was somewhere I was needed. I could complain like I did earlier, or change my mindset and choose to be happy and get to work.
2. Heavenly Father is aware of us all.
Even in the most remote places of our lives, whether physical, spiritual, mental or emotional, he is there. I was a little surprised to recognize that even in that furnace room, I could still feel the warmth of the Spirit. It was still part of his house. The Holy Ghost is capable of filling even the darkest corners of our lives.
3. Is there anything in my life I am overlooking or choosing not to focus on?
I had no idea that literally every room, every closet, every area in the temple is cleaned and taken care of. Are there parts of my life that have been ignored, or left to collect dust? What have I overlooked? The little things make the biggest difference. I love the feeling of a clean and well-taken-care-of home. I breathe in a sigh of gratitude and peace every time I look around at my efforts in keeping an orderly home. If I can clean out those worries and doubts in my mind, and dust off my faith, I will also have peace of conscience. More than excitement, happiness or elation, it’s peace I seek.
4. We all have to start somewhere.8 comments on this story
This thought came from my husband when I shared with him my experiences that evening. We cannot expect to immediately have all the beautiful blessings our Heavenly Father has promised us. It takes work, effort, endurance, patience and persistence. We have to have faith that he will give us all he has promised one day, no matter how things look at present.
There’s a lyric in “The Greatest Show” (from "The Greatest Showman" soundtrack, an album on repeat over here in the Herbert household) that says:
It’s everything you ever want
It’s everything you ever need
And it’s here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be
This is how I feel about being inside the House of the Lord. Whether learning in an instruction room or cleaning pipes in the furnace room, it's where I want to be.