Mary was up and ready to go right away this morning, and specifically all ready to swim.
I did some laps and then soaked my travel muscles in the hot tub while she played.
Then she came to soak her feet in the hot tub next to me, sharing that swimming is more fun with five siblings than by herself.
We got cleaned up for a walk, then, and headed through City Creek toward temple square.
She was delighted with everything.
We worked so hard for so long to get language into Mary that this was the first time she was actually understanding the history we were trying to share with her.
In our faith tradition, we understand that the fullness of the gospel and the priesthood of God was lost after the Apostles were martyred during New Testament times. We are indebted to and grateful for those who gave their lives since then protecting and passing down the scriptures so that we can have what is the Bible today. But the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood needed to be restored again.
In the 1800’s, the boy Joseph Smith was growing up in the time of “the Great Awakening” in American history, and he was looking for that fullness. He read in James about asking God for wisdom when you need help knowing what to do. So he went off in the woods alone to pray about which church was true, because they were all competing and clamoring for people to join them. He didn’t know which one to join.
We believe that in response to that sincere prayer with a young boy’s faith, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visited him and began, through a series of other visitations, what we call “the restoration” of that fullness – even the priesthood of God.
Part of that restoration included passing down what we now call “the Book of Mormon”. We study it in addition to the Bible, not instead of as many say. It is a record of a family who left Jerusalem at the time of Isaiah, when prophets were warning of the destruction to come. The family made it all the way to the Americas, and the book is about what happens to that family as a consequence of the choices they made – and what promises are still in store for those who keep their covenants.
But also, because the priesthood was restored, then so were temples.
Temples are a place of learning and worship and peace, in addition to the meetinghouses where we go to church on Sundays.
When the early saints built the first restoration temple in Ohio, they had to leave it behind because of persecution.
They were driven to Nauvoo, just outside Missouri when the governor issued an extermination order against all “mormons”.
“Mormon”, by the way, is the name of one of the prophets in the Book of Mormon, and he was named after a river where early believers were baptized. That’s where that comes from. And it’s “the Book of Mormon” because he gathered the family records, condensed them, and then helped his son hide them to be kept safe until the records were later found by Joseph Smith during the restoration.
But the whole book isn’t about him.
It’s about Heavenly Father, and covenants, and the plan of salvation made possible because of Jesus Christ.
That’s why the subtitle of the book is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” – another, as in besides the Bible, which we also study.
Anyway, when Joseph Smith was killed, the saints had to leave the Nauvoo temple behind as well, barely completing construction before having to flee for their lives.
They ran west for safety and freedom of worship, settling in Salt Lake.
So building the temple here, and that we got to keep it, and that it is still here, is pretty special to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS” or “Mormons”).
This is the temple built in Salt Lake City by the early pioneers.
Mary was so excited to be here and to touch it!
It is also special to Mary because part of our faith practice includes being sealed together in temples, like an eternal adoption.
Think Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18:
And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This means Nathan and I didn’t just have a wedding ceremony to be together “until death do us part”.
We were sealed in the temple by priesthood authority with the capacity and authority to do so, and now we will still be married even after we die – for time and all eternity.
The same thing happened for the children when they were adopted. When we finished their civil adoptions in court, we drove all the way to Oklahoma City for their sealing. For us, that makes their adoption eternal.
And today, Mary understood for the first time how the temple was built – one stone at a time.
And that here was a plan and a design before the temple could be built, just like with us before we were born on Earth.
And how hard the men and women had to work to build the temple, just like we work hard at being a family.
And see up close what Moroni looks like, and the words at the top of the temple.
We even got to examine a dollhouse type model of the temple, and explore all the different things we do in temples.
We even had some very grown up conversations about church history, like black men waiting for the priesthood, and about women already being within the veil.
I got sushi.
She was homesick and chose something a little more sophisticated.
We had a big day! Nathan and I do try to regularly spend time with each of the children individually, but an extended adventure like this is obviously pretty special! Our time together this trip is very important, and so very special, and has already been so very good.
And we did finally find her some more children to play with before meetings start later this afternoon!