Our family really enjoyed seeing the cultural celebration of the Philadelphia Temple last night. It was our first time attending such an event, so we really didn't know what to expect.
Our family accidently ended up sitting on the backside of the stage so it was difficult for me to get pictures of all of the amazing things represented in the program, which included William Penn who founded Pennsylvania as a place to worship God, the founding of the United States, the making of the Flag, George Washington at Valley Forge, Benjamin Franklin's innovations, the Restoration of the Priesthood and much more. But we were able to partake of the spirit and see our young friends perform and share testimony, and that's what matters most.
On the way to the arena at Temple University, our GPS took us through some of the hardest neighborhoods I've seen in quite a while. This is not news to us who have been attending the open houses for the temple or watching it being built. The temple is located right downtown in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Philly. The neighborhoods where the temple is located are very destitute in a lot of ways.
I share this one photo I snapped as we drove in, but really it is one of the nicer buildings, absolutely does not represent what we really saw. I just share it for a point of reference. It struck me as we passed through and saw children playing in vacant lots that passed for "parks". It humbled me. It impressed upon me. All I could think was, "And the Lord put a temple here!" He put a temple here, because He loves ALL of his children. All nationalities, all colors, all creeds, all ages, all circumstances, all economic classes. He is actively calling each one of us to come follow Him.
The evening was amazing. We loved hearing and seeing the youth from our stake bearing such powerful testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel and of the importance of temples.
Some moments I really liked included hearing the story of young William Penn who prayed to God when he saw his father imprisoned. Not understanding why just men were punished and then feeling light fill the room and vowing to serve God all his days echoed to experiences shared by George Washington and Joseph Smith who also turned to God in prayer for answers.
I loved seeing George Washington crossing the Delaware river and praying with his soldiers. During that sequence I watched a group of boys posing as soldiers freezing at Valley Forge. I saw a boy in a wheelchair being brought over to join with his fellow young men around the campfire. That also touched my heart. There is room for everyone is Christ's church.
I also loved the sequence where the founding fathers signed the Constitution. They seemed so vulnerable, but also so clearly willing to do what the Lord wanted them to do and to put their trust in Him.
Some of the more delightful and entertaining sequences were Ben Franklin's kite episode and the type-writer sequence. (Hopefully they will post it online so you can see it!)
But my favorite moment had to be the end of the program as the youth circled the replica of the temple which they helped "build", with hands raised, singing "The Spirit of God". It was so powerful. I moved up a few rows higher to get a better picture and when I turned around I noticed that there was a "couple" standing in front of the temple getting married. The whole scene was moving, positive, joyful, strong.
As we drove home we talked about some of the scenes we saw together. We talked of the temple where there is so much order and how things tend to be in a home where there are mothers and fathers who are actively looking out for families, actively teaching them day in and day out, actively forgiving one another and trying to improve together. We obseved that the Lord has a pattern that He clearly lays out for us in temples, and if we will do our best to follow it, our families will be happier and stronger. In fact, his pattern is the very reason families exist at all. And if we turn our backs on it, if we stop trying to do the right things in our families, over time, families fail and societies crumble. If we follow it, regardless of our class or economic status, our families can be happy, strong, and grow to be incredible as generations pass.
As hard as it is at our house these days, as stressful as it tends to be trying to keep our family moving in the right direction during what is a very difficult time for us, I can see that I must keep trying no matter how easy it might seem to give up. As tired as I am of telling the children to clean up after themselves, as tired as I am of trying to teach them to be kind to one another...somewhere I must find the strength to try again, one more day, and the day after that one. And I know the strength I seek to strengthen my family can be accessed as I worship in the temple.
So those are just some thoughts I had last night. It was a privilege to watch these amazing youth express their love of the gospel and their joy for life last night. Now, I need to get ready for the dedication later today. Have a blessed Sabbath!