When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher lent me a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. While the book is critically acclaimed and while I remember enjoying it at the time, years later there is only one thing from the book I remember. In one scene the protagonist is talking to an old man about visiting Mecca. The old man says that all Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. However, the man said, he will most likely never go to Mecca. Why? The one thing he wants to do, the one thing he looks forward to, is this pilgrimage. If he does make the pilgrimage, this one thing he has been looking forward to would have been completed and he would have nothing else to look forward to.
This scene came to mind while reading part of President Boyd K. Packer’s The Holy Temple. The first chapter of the book describes why we should come to the temple and he often repeats the phrase: “Come to the temple.” He then goes on to discuss how the temple is a place of learning, how we are educated in the temple when we go, especially for own own endowments.
My mind immediately went to the old man in The Alchemist who wanted to see Mecca but decided to have that as something to look forward to. I thought of how much I really want to go to the temple, to receive my endowments. But I kept going back to how President Packer stresses the education aspect of the temple, how special going to the temple is, and how wonderful your first time there is. And I thought: Could I ever go? Would I ever be able to fully realize how special the temple is? What if I miss something? What if I don’t get much out of it the first time? What if I miss something?
So many What ifs passed by me that I thought it’s probably best to postpone my temple attendance until I can fully understand everything. But can I? Can I ever know enough so that I can enter the temple and learn everything the first time? Or is it one of those line upon line, precept upon precept type things? Is it one of those things where I go now, learn a little now and when I return next time I will learn and take away even more from the experience?
That would easily prevent boredom. And it’s a how we learn. We don’t read the scriptures in one go and put them on the shelf. We’re asked to go through them often because no matter how familiar we are with them, we will always keep on learning from them.
Is it the same with the temple?
If it is, I don’t think I’d have to worry about not getting everything the first time. Maybe then all I’ll need to worry about is letting go of preconceived notions and just think “This is where I am supposed to be. Relax.”
I hope so. I want my first temple experience to be positive. I want it to be a holy experience for me. I also don’t want to blow it. I don’t want to ruin it.
And honestly, now that I’ve worked it out in this post, I am starting to echo the words of President Packer, “Come to the Temple!”