I continued my ongoing temple tour on Sunday afternoon. I have now visited 10 LDS temples in eight states in a month and a half. My NBA sports writer journey has taken me from the West Coast to the East Coast, from Philadelphia to Florida and from Minnesota to Memphis.
Without turning this blog into a confessional, I’ve struggled on physical, emotional and spiritual levels over the years, including while traveling. To that point, one reason I decided to do the Bon Jody Temple Tour was to keep myself spiritually grounded while bouncing around the country for my job writing about the Utah Jazz.
Visiting these temples has given me spiritual strength and peace. It’s added more of a meaningful purpose to my travels (although having a job to provide for my family is worthy cause by itself). It’s been one neat experience after another.
That was no different this time around, but Sunday could’ve been even better.
The Jazz played the Grizzlies in an early 5 p.m. game, so they didn’t have their usual morning shootaround workout that I usually go to to gather material for my stories. My original plan was to take advantage of a Sunday on the road by attending church and visiting the temple before heading to the arena by 3 p.m.
My plans changed when I slept in too late to attend church services. I went to a late movie — Star Wars: Rogue One — on Saturday night and then wasted time in my hotel room before finally falling asleep at about 2:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. on my body’s clock). I’d been sick and hadn’t had great sleep the night before, so it felt good to get some sleep. Still, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t gone to bed earlier so I could wake up and make the 40-minute drive to church.
That feeling of disappointment really sank in when I arrived at the small, marble-covered temple in Bartlett, Tennessee, a wooded Memphis suburb with an impressive collection of small Christian churches.
I parked at the LDS meetinghouse next to the temple and, while seeing churchgoers leave after the Sunday services, suddenly wished I’d made a better effort. It’s a bad habit of mine to have lofty ideas and great plans only to fail or come up short on the follow through.
As I entered the church on this chilly afternoon, my body and heart were warmed. As I saw a few members of this congregation chat in the hall after meetings were over and heard some cute girls and their mother sing to a friend in a wheelchair, it made me think. I felt a bit sad. I’d missed out on attending church and worshipping at Christmastime with a group of people with different accents but similar beliefs.
More than anything, the decision reminds me that I’ve got much work to do. I made a habit out of coming up with excuses for missing out on church for years. Work and travel were easy excuses to hide behind. I know better. I want to be a person who finds ways to make things happen not one who makes excuses for things not happening.
Dallin H. Oaks, an LDS Church apostle, once spoke of the importance of church attendance. He shared a humorous anecdote that hit close to home.
“Some years ago,” Oaks said, “I enjoyed a newspaper cartoon that showed a clergyman in conversation with a hippie-dressed couple astride a motorcycle. ‘We are church goers,’ one was saying to the clergyman. ‘We’ve been going for years … we just haven’t got there yet.'”
Oaks continued about people who either don’t attend church, those who attend sporadically and others who go regularly but “refrain from commitments and from seeking the personal spiritual rebirth that comes from yielding our hearts to God.”
“Paul taught that the Lord gave prophets and apostles for ‘the perfecting of the saints, … the work of the ministry, … (and) the edifying of the body of Christ’ (Eph. 4:12). Persons who are not fully participating in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also seeking a personal spiritual conversion are missing out on experiences that are essential under the divinely established great plan of happiness.”
Was missing one Sunday’s worth of meetings really that big of a deal? Probably not, but I did miss out. While I’m happy with myself that I’m going to the temple — to visit and to do ordinance work — I know I can do better.
(By the way, go back and look at the first photo. Notice where the sunbeam is pointing? Right at the Baby Jesus. I didn’t see that until I put the photo in this blog. Coincidence or not, it’s kind of neat.)
Bon Jody Temple Tour 2016-17
Temples visited: Portland; Newport Beach, California; Manhattan; Philadelphia; Raleigh, North Carolina; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; St. Paul, Minnesota; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee.
Next up: Oakland
Upcoming blogs: Fort Lauderdale, St. Paul and Los Angeles
Check out some of my other Bon Jody Temple Tour blogs: