The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
At my first Quaker Meeting, I felt a bit awkward, as I feel with anything new. John had explained a bit about Quaker silent worship to me. Just sit and meditate. Every once in awhile someone will feel prompted to speak. Like in Testimony Meeting. I wasn’t quite prepared for the simplicity of the room where we would sit and worship. Like a Relief Society room with no flowered curtains, no pulpit or table, no pictures on the walls. Just chairs in a circle in a large plain room, about half of them occupied with a wide variety of people. Many were older, almost all wore pants, nearly everyone wore sandals on their feet (certainly a far cry from the fanciness of my Orange County ward).
As I seated myself and settled into silence, I tried to quiet my mind and think godly thoughts. As I did so, with insistence the temple ceremony came to mind. I found myself walking through each step of the washing and anointing. I smiled as I imagined my self looking into the eyes of the temple workers who were administering the ordinances. I moved on through the endowment and soon found myself seated in the celestial room. Warmth and light filled my chest as I reflected on the many hours that I’d spent praying and basking in the Spirit within that special space.
When I was endowed, about a month before my marriage, I was wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the temple. John and I attended at least half a dozen times before our actual marriage ceremony. Then we arranged to stay in a temple apartment for the last part of our honeymoon–so we could go through several sessions per day. Then, throughout that first year of our marriage we attended nearly every week. We would arise at 4:30 each Saturday morning so we could make the 40 mile drive to LA without traffic and we could watch the sunrise from a sealing room in the temple, and we could share a cup of custard and a slice of blueberry pie for breakfast after a session or two.
So why was I reliving all of this in my mind at the Quaker Meeting? I didn’t know at the time and I learned not to fight it. Nearly every time I attended silent worship, I had the same experience. I came to expect it, even though my attendance was spotty, the temple experience was predictable. And like the warm-fuzzy feelings that I’d had in the temple, I would leave Meeting with a giddiness, an ebullience that rather frightened me. I mean, I liked the feelings, but I was scared to question too deeply why it felt so good. I also kept myself rather aloof from the Quaker community. I was friendly with the Quakers that I met, but I was not at all interested in investing in a new faith community. I was too absorbed with grappling with Mormonism and navigating my marriage (by this time, John had been an atheist for many years, and I had long given up hope of changing his mind about spiritual matters).
I now believe I understand why the temple figured so importantly in my early silent worship. Up to that point in my life, if I sought direct communion with God, I sought him in the temple (or before I was endowed, I would spend time meditating in the garden just outside the temple). Even on a subconscious level I needed the temple ritual (even virtually) to bring me close to the divine.
Now I can slip much more easily into prayer as I sit in worship with Friends. On occasion I still return to the temple in my mind, but that is becoming more rare. Recently I read these words from George Fox (the founder of The Society of Friends) about the temple:
The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people’s hearts . . . his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them.
[Note: the second picture above is a sneaky photo that John took during our Quaker Meeting]