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How to find healing in the temple

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There are some amazing and profound lessons to be learned at the temple. It's a place of healing, inspiration and for growth where the deepest meanings of these lessons unfold privately for each one of us.

Psychologist Wendy Ulrich counsels people on how to find both healing and holiness at the temple and has written a book on this topic. Here are her answers to our questions.

Q. We don't always think about the temple as a place of healing, but why do you believe we should do so?

A. The temple is a profound tutorial in personal change. It shows us how our human experience with loss, failure, betrayal and sin can be redeemed by God and turned to our benefit. I believe that is one of its primary purposes. Looking at the temple from this vantage point means that this book is not just about understanding the temple better, but also a book about understanding ourselves better.

Q. Where did the idea of the temple as a place of healing come from?

A. If you ask any six-year-old what to do if you cut your finger they can tell you to wash it, put some sort of antiseptic ointment on it, and bandage it up. Those are the steps we take physically to stop the bleeding and start the healing. In a very real sense we are engaged on this earth in a battle - a battle for the souls of men and women - and in that battle we all take quite a beating at times. We come to the temple for respite from that battle, and we arrive stained by the blood and sins of war. In this way we are all like the man on that long road to Jericho where we get beaten up by the thieves and robbers of this world who strip us of our raiment and leave us half dead. Christ is the Samaritan who comes to where we are, not shying away from our brokenness. Like the Samaritan, he has compassion on us. He dresses our wounds, pouring in oil and wine. He carries us to the healing inn of the church and the temple, and he pays the full price for our healing care. When we go through that kind of an experience we are fundamentally changed. We are not the people we were before. We see life as a precious gift and we feel deeply indebted. We get a new perspective, a new birth, and new understanding of our relationship to God. But of course that is only the beginning of this amazing journey of the soul that the temple teaches us about.

Q. So what is the rest of the journey about?

A. I see the theme of healing continue through many of the temple rooms and ordinances, such as the baptistry. But the Lord is not just trying to help us become whole. He is also trying to help us become holy. In many ways the temple is a dress rehearsal for our personal encounter with God. So he shows us what he has shown the prophets in all dispensations who have encountered Him - a glorious vision of the creation of the world and its history from the fall of Adam and Eve to the victory of Christ over Satan to the establishment of Zion in the latter days. More important to us, however, is he shows us our personal potential to become masterful creators in His image. We learn about our personal battles with self-deception, shame, and falling from innocence. We consider how we can personally overcome Satan's influence, learn to discern the voice of God and his messengers, and acquire a powerful faith that can work miracles and bless the world. We even get to imagine becoming so fully and purely ourselves that we learn to see God because we are like him. We learn the script for engendering spiritual life in others as he does.

Q. Why do you think the temple relies so heavily on symbols that are sometimes hard for us to understand?

When our children were young my husband and I used to hide Easter eggs for them to find on Easter morning. My husband really got into this, and sometimes we didn't find all his handiwork for years. Of course, we didn't hide the Easter eggs to keep them away from our kids. We wanted them to find those eggs. But we hoped the process of searching enriched the experience of finding. That searching process helps us learn to slow down, to look more carefully and persistently and creatively for every little hint of the hand of God at work in our lives. Ultimately God wants to be found, and the temple tutors us in that process. But it does so in a way that can be highly personal and individualized as we each have the privilege of learning from the spirit how each temple symbol and story applies to us. Not even the prophet steps in to tell us what the temple means - we get to go up to the mountain of the Lord's house and find God for ourselves.

Q. What is it about the predictability of the temple ceremony that helps teach us so much?

A. It is ironic that through temple ordinances that don't vary an iota from one time to the next, we learn about creativity and new life. Again and again the temple teaches us about what has to die so that something new and unexpected can be born. It teaches us about taking huge creative risks, about recovering when we fall so we can keep going, about beauty and variety, about the learning that comes through struggle and loss, and about a particular type of joy we cannot get to in any other way. It is not by accident that when God speaks to a prophet he shows him the work of creation, and the pattern of light and dark, descent and ascent, that is part of creating and ordering new life. Nor is it by accident that when God calls to us through temple ordinances he shows us the same thing. This isn't just because God wants to make sure we've read Genesis. He is trying to tutor us in how to bring new life and new light out of old redundancies and outworn patterns we get stuck in. We may not think of ourselves as creative, we may assume even that what God wants is for us to become more and more robotic, consistent, and alike. But I firmly believe God is trying to teach us how to put down the familiar scripts that we have lived by, the ones patterned after the traditions of past generations or driven by our fears, and to find the courage to set off on a journey through the wilderness where we will find aspects of God we could not fathom in our pre-mortal experience, and a new and unexpected version of ourselves. In the temple he teaches us to both connect more deeply than ever to our spiritual roots, and to grow things we've never seen or been before.

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