For the temple is a house of God, a place of love and beauty

LDS Dallas Temple /Savannah Hawkins 2015

Have you ever had an experience that was absolutely perfect? I can now say that I have. 
On May 9th, I went to the Dallas, Texas Temple with my immediate family to receive my Endowment. While I will not go into specifics about my experience in the temple because of the sacred nature of it, I do want to encourage all those who are curious about LDS temples to go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ website to learn more.
The short story is that we Latter-day Saints go to temples to increase our faith, feel the spirit of the Lord more, make sacred covenants (or promises) with Heavenly Father, and to do the same for our ancestors who do not have physical bodies to receive their own ordinances in the flesh. We do this so that we will one day see them again.
I personally believe that families can be together forever, and that there is no end after this life. It just makes sense that we would have families there, when families are such a high part of life here on earth.
What I am here to tell you today, is how I made the decision and how that turned out for me.
For some time I had been feeling a little stuck in where I was at spiritually. I felt stagnant and like there wasn’t anything I could do to continue to grow my faith in Jesus Christ. I had been going to all my meetings, reading in The Book of Mormon daily, and praying regularly. I also had asked for numerous Priesthood Blessings, and I searched my own Patriarchal Blessing to find the peace and the direction I felt I needed.
The temple had popped into my mind occasionally during this time, but I pushed it aside because I didn’t think I was ready. Not because I felt unworthy, but because I didn’t know if I was ready to understand the things I would be taught in the temple. I felt like it would have been too fast for me, especially since I was not going to serve a mission (all LDS missionaries are endowed), or close to being married in the temple, where we are sealed for time AND all eternity (pretty cool, huh?).
My fear of it coming too fast stemmed from having made many different steps quickly.
In my early years, I completed an award program called “Faith in God” in what we call “Primary” (3-11 year olds), as most children in primary do, but I finished mine when I was fairly young to achieve it. (My service project that was part of the award was my favorite part, but that is a story for another post.)
When I was in the Young Women’s program (12-18 years), I earned my “Personal Progress” award and received a beautiful medallion to remind me that I am a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. Most girls in the program took nearly all 6 years to complete the “Personal Progress” program, which (at the time) there were 7 ten-hour service project requirements (there are 8 now). I finished mine in 2.5 years.
I also received my Patriarchal Blessing when I was 14, when most of the youth my age didn’t even think about getting theirs until around age 17.
I did all of those things early. Even though I don’t have many regrets about them-other than making Personal Progress a checklist at times-I for sure didn’t want to go to the temple early if it wasn’t right.
Then all of my fear concerning timing went away.
In November of this last year (2014), I was invited to think about becoming a temple worker if I were to receive my endowment soon. I kind of brushed it off and didn’t think much of it, but it did occur to me that it wouldn’t be strange if I were endowed. I was living correctly and definitely worthy to enter into the Lord’s house. Another comforting thought, was that most of my friends were already endowed, thanks to the missions that they had served. With the temple in the back of my mind, I moved on with life and nearly forgot about it until March or so. 
Because I was feeling stuck, I decided to pray and ask Heavenly Father to know what I needed to do better and what steps I needed to take in order to become more like Christ in my daily life. I desperately wanted to feel the spirit more and to feel my Heavenly Father’s love for me in an even greater way. I fasted (abstaining from food) that Sunday in hopes of being prepared to receive an answer. And I did! Even though the lessons taught had almost nothing to do with the temple in their entirety, I could connect almost every principle to the temple. It was then that I decided I needed to do some serious praying. 
After meditating on the idea and praying about it, I decided it would be good to meet with my bishop (church leader of a ward) to talk about what I needed to do to prepare. He advised me to read a book by President Boyd K. Packer entitled “The Holy Temple,” and to attend the temple preparation class in our ward that was starting that next week or so. I immediately bought the book and started taking the class. (Here, I will admit that I did not read the entire book before entering the temple, but the parts I did read spoke volumes to me.)
The temple prep class was wonderful. I think it really didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, but it was wonderful to have a Sunday School class that focused on the temple only. I do feel that it spiritually prepared me.
I met with my bishop again in April to receive the first half of my temple recommend (you need to have one interview with your local leadership (the bishop) and one with your stake leadership), who gave me incredible advice: Focus on the spirit the first time through, and always continue to go back. I then met with my stake president the next week, who told me nearly the same thing. The conversation I had with him was really sweet and confirmed to me that this was the right decision for me to make. 
Then it was time for me to go home to Texas and prepare the rest of the way.
Because I have experience being a human being, I know that Satan tries his hardest to get to a person right before and right after a spiritual experience. And boy, was I about to go through one of the biggest spiritual experiences of my entire life. It really felt like everything hit me in the two weeks I was home before going to the temple. I had so many doubts about whether or not I was ready, or if I was good enough, or if it was going to be too weird for me. Luckily, prayers helped to calm most of those fears. Encouragement from close friends and family members quieted the others. 
 

Me, my brother (Andrew), my dad, and my mom. 2015
The day of started out hectic, but once we (My parents, Andrew, and myself. Josh had to work, unfortunately) arrived at the temple grounds, a peace and a calming feeling came over me.
I don’t really know what I expected would happen when I was in the temple. I don’t even really remember what specific things made me have doubts. While there were things I didn’t fully understand, I felt the spirit so strongly that it felt like home. I didn’t have any big life revelations or any epiphanies, but I did feel that my Heavenly Father and His Son were proud of me and the decision I made. The temple felt like home that day. And it still does the times I go back to it.
The biggest difference came after we left the temple and it is still influencing my life each and every day: I feel the spirit more often and more consistently. It is so wonderful to have this blessing that I can’t even begin to describe the power that I feel, or the love that I can never forget.

I know that families can be together forever. There is no doubt in my mind about how perfect the Plan of Salvation is. Because I am sealed to my family, it really is a forever family. Nothing-not even death itself- can tear us apart. And now I know the rest of the story. I would invite you to think about the temple. If you don’t know much about it, look at the link I shared above. I know that you can have the same blessings that I have received and that you can have your own confirmation of the truth of these things. If you are LDS and not endowed, pray about it earnestly. You may find it is the exact thing you need to help you move forward and to progress.

Joshua, Me, Andrew, Gabby, Momma, Daddy / Andrew & Gabby’s Sealing / LDS Dallas Temple May / 2015

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