Every Wednesday, for the past 3 years, I have been attending the temple.
I have felt an urge to be there, almost as if I had a personal calling from the Lord that I needed to go each and every Wednesday morning and serve in the temple. I have completed hundreds of ordinances and that thought alone brings me so much joy. But being in the temple hasn’t exactly been easy.
Sadly, I have been offended, or my feelings have been hurt, in the Costa Rica temple more times than I can count.
This rarely happened to me in the USA. I did notice that each temple in the USA ran a little bit differently than the other temples, but the feeling that I got inside each temple was still the same. The peaceful feeling that I was wanted and encouraged to be there.
So when negative issues started to occur in the Costa Rica temple, I had to take a HUGE step back and assess why I was feeling negatively towards this temple?
Intentionally taking time to self reflect about my situation allowed me the opportunity to not only learn about myself, but also about the power of clear communication, about patience, about respect/tolerance, and mostly the responsibility we each have to love by choice, not just when we “feel like” loving someone.
The first 18 months that I served weekly as a patron in the Costa Rica temple were brutal. I felt disconnected, alone, ignored, bossed around and almost always afraid/confused. And I felt all of those emotions BECAUSE. . . I wasn’t seeking what the Lord would have me do in the temple.
In a nutshell, I let others choose for me what was best for me in the Costa Rica temple. I have them far too much control, nor did I seek to find truth for myself.
From the first month that I started to consistently attend the temple, it was recommended to me that I use my time in the temple to learn Spanish. Since I have moved to Costa Rica I am CONSTANTLY being told by EVERYONE that I NEED to learn Spanish. Funny thing is, not ONCE have I been told that by the Holy Ghost.
Unfortunately I listened and obeyed the advice of all “these people” because I wanted to belong and feel included somewhere while living in Costa Rica.
At church, the kid’s private school, and with other ex-patriates (including extended family who have lived as ex-patriates) it was painfully obvious that I wasn’t fitting in. I couldn’t hold a conversation to save my life. But in the temple, enough people spoke to me or motioned their hands to communicate with me that I felt like I could belong, so I decided to sacrifice my comfort and “learn Spanish.”
Sadly, but thankfully, as the weeks past, the sweet feeling I once felt in the temple began to fade. Going to the temple became more about meeting a challenge to go once a week, then it was to come closer to the Lord. I was starting to get sick physically, spiritually and emotionally. I was a mess.
By the first year anniversary of us moving to Costa Rica my feelings in the temple were going from not good to painfully difficult. Thankfully a trip to visit Utah became a major focus for me and off I went, planning all that we could do in the 6 weeks we would be there.
The kids had camps scheduled, trips to see friends we met in Costa Rica, several family reunions and sleep overs at family/friend’s houses. The one thing that I wanted, neededmost, was to visit the temple in Utah. But not just one temple, as many temples as I could visit in one day.
I planned this trip with my oldest two children who were both over twelve. They each invited a friend to come along too. Now, I did have a little hiccup in my plans because I ended up having a partial hysterectomy while we were visiting Utah. But I let our trip to visit 3 temples in one day motivate me to get off the pain meds as soon as possible so I could drive us to the new Provo City Center, the Provo (MTC) and the Timpanogos Temples.
Thankfully I made my goal. It truly was a miracle. And what I got from that trip was that I NEEDED to set myself right when I got back to Costa Rica. I realized that unless I faced what was happening inside of me, while attending the Costa Rica temple, I would eventually stop attending temples all together.
It wasn’t easy meeting with a member of the Temple Presidency (thankfully one who spoke English and was from the USA, so I felt he could understand my situation a bit better). I had Paul come with me and after I explained what had been happening to me in the temple (pretty much the pressure I was feeling to not learn in the temple in my native language) the Counselor in the Temple Presidency dropped his jaw.
He looked at me with perplexity and simply said,”Sister Whitchurch, the Temple is NOT a language institute. It is the house of the Lord and all participants should learn from the Lord in THEIR own native language.”
A feeling of permission rushed over me. I FINALLY had proof that what was happening with the temple workers was wrong. But now the task to undo what had been happening for over 18 months still lay ahead of me. If I chose to not face this task, I would not be any better off than if I had never gone to speak with a member of the Temple Presidency.
“I” had the sole responsibility to act or nothing would change for the better.
So I faced my fears of no longer ” feeling accepted” and went to the temple the very next Wednesday to act on what I now know was right. As I walked into the Sister’s dressing area, I immediately asked for a set of headphones, so I could listen in the temple in English. The temple workers looked back and forth at one another but obeyed my request. Their eyes felt as if they were judging if I had gone mad or “given up?” I hated the feeling I felt from their reactions to my request.
I scooted myself into a changing area and tried to ignore their reactions. The session was awkward and I felt a bit like a quitter. Wasn’t I progressing in Spanish after ALL the many sessions/ordinances I had done in Spanish? What if what the people said would come true, that I NEED to know Spanish to survive in Costa Rica?
I was scared and confused. I even pulled the headphones from my ears a few times to listen to the Spanish and see if I still understood. That is when I realized that I had just memorized the information in English and had been playing it back to myself when I listened to it in Spanish. I didn’t UNDERSTAND what they were saying in Spanish at all! I realized that I had just hit the “play button” in my mind each week. No wonder I wasn’t feeling the Spirit as strongly, my recording was worn out and about to break. I felt like a failure but something inside of me encouraged me to dig deeper for the truth.
Each week got a bit easier to take the headphones and listen in English but boy was I tested. The temple workers were genuinely concerned for my welfare and even told me so.
I had one especially passionate Temple Missionary who took it upon herself to scold me that I wasn’t progressing by taking the headphones. It was like facing a lion in the lion’s den but I was starting to feel the Spirit of the Temple again, and my Patriarchal Blessing had prepared me for this moment, so I stood up to her and although it was terribly painful, I learned a great deal from this trial.
The greatest lesson this Sister taught me, through her persecution of the way I was now living my life (in the Temple and Homeschooling my children – she even went as far as to tell me that the answers I was receiving through prayer were wrong and that I needed to pray again!!! 😳🤨😠), was to STAND in HOLY PLACES!!!!
I KNEW that going to the temple and learning in English was right, I also KNEW that homeschooling ALL 4 of my children was right! So when she told me to “pray again” the shackles of bondage broke from me and I stood alone, unchained to another’s expectations. I felt free for the first time while living in Costa Rica. It was a naked, vulnerable feeling but nonetheless I felt free.
As I walked away from this Sister’s controlling influence, I literally walked into the arms of my Savior. I literally felt that He was so very proud of me. He had been the one to help me remember that NOT ONCE had “learning Spanish” been a reason or objective of moving to Costa Rica. NOT ONCE!
Instead, He gently reminded me of the several reasons we DID move to Costa Rica, and as long as I hold onto those, whenever someone judges me for my unsatisfactory level of Spanish, I will be able to testify to them of MY TRUTH, and then that truth will set me free!
So why was I scared to go to the temple yesterday? Well, long story short, Paul and I were called to be restricted temple workers so that when our Stake or home ward attends the temple, we can help the temple to serve our Stake anywhere in the temple. But they only way to know how to help in the temple is to be trained.
Paul has already received his training because he was a temple worker for 5 months before he was called to be a Bishop (November 2016 to April 2017). I’m the one who needs to train and that means I need to go alone. Without someone to translate why I was at the temple so early before a session began was difficult. The old, familiar looks of “what are you doing” came back and they startled me. I was even told by a temple missionary that the trainings didn’t really apply to what I would be “allowed” to do to help in the temple.
That old, familiar feeling of opposition set in deeper. Had I learned from my past experiences? Was I going to let opposition rob me of the sweet feeling I again felt in the temple, a feeling that I had to earn back?
I had a decision to make.
Thankfully I was given 3 Wednesdays to not think about the temple. I enjoyed family visiting, a trip away with my husband and then a Costa Rican holiday.
But when last Tuesday came, a feeling of panic shot through me. I decided to just ignore it and not let it bother me but then I noticed something,. . . the urge I had felt for 3 years to go to the temple was gone! What did that mean? Is my time to be at the temple over with? Had my “personal calling” to attend the temple weekly come to an end?
Maybe it had?!?
So I let the thought sink in that I had done enough ordinances and maybe just going to the temple with Paul would be best?
Then I woke up Wednesday morning and checked my email, something that I rarely do! In my email inbox I found a sweet testimony from my great-uncle Merrill Ridd of the power of living prophets and the great work we have to do in the temples of the Lord. He encouraged us to keep working on the “Elijah Mission” we are a part of in the Ridd family.
I immediately thought of the STACK of temple cards I had in my nightstand that I was actually still eager to complete. My great-uncle had been send to bless me through his testimony and to FIND a POWERFUL reason to keep going to the temple and face the lingering fears of awkwardness and humiliation I feel in the temple as I try to train myself to serve as a temple worker (hopefully not just in English but maybe one day in Spanish too?).
I feel blessed to have the ability now to look back and SEE 👀, with a Heavenly perspective, that THAT URGE to serve in the temple each Wednesday helped to get me through a painful trial/test that I NEEDED to experience and that I had also been given ALL the resources that I needed to help me learn what I needed to learn and to have the option of not giving up.
I have learned so much more how to be a stronger, happier, more self-reliant, spiritually maturing daughter of God. I am delightfully happy with the results of this great test and I am even more happy that I followed my Uncle’s advice to go to the temple yesterday because it was a beautiful experience!
Not only did the temple workers support me for being there (maybe the 3 Wednesdays away was a blessing for us all?) but a few women and men who respect me for who I am and adore me just the way that I am happened to also attend the temple that morning as well. What a joyful gift to receive!!! (No coincidences!)
The cherry on top of a splendid day was that I also got to help a special woman come that much closer to our Father in Heaven and her husband is also ready to be sealed to her! I’m super excited to find a time to go with Paul and complete some sealings with him. ☺️
Honestly, fighting these battles are worth the effort and hard work. I feel so grateful and owe it all to the Lord. ❤️
Thanks for listening,