Moving from good to great (or, “How I console myself about being middle-aged”)

An appointment in Salt Lake City yesterday allowed me time to check on my most favorite building in the world—the Salt Lake Temple. As you can see, it’s in the middle of what I’ve labeled as a long, slow surgery. One year in, and three more to go, the Salt Lake Temple’s foundation is being fortified to make it strong enough to withstand a massive earthquake.

(And I keep thinking, “Once it’s completed and rededicated, everyone brace yourselves—that 8.0 is finally going to hit Salt Lake City.)

Walking around it filled with me nostalgia and a little sadness. As a child I lived just a few blocks away, and visiting the grounds was a monthly occurrence. Even as I grew older and moved around the country, returning to SLC always meant at least driving around Temple Square, just to check on my temple (my husband and I were married there) and to make sure “home” was still secure. For as often as we’ve moved, Temple Square has always remained my “home” base. All other life radiates out from it, for me.

Yesterday, though, there was no “life” there. The temple has been gutted to make room for major and essential renovations. Yesterday I saw only a shell of stone being worked on, the operation occurring in and around and below it. Its soul and light are temporarily gone, like a spirit leaving a body during a delicate surgery, hovering above the “doctors” and observing until it’s safe to go back in. While it’s hard to see the temple in this fragile state, it’s also encouraging.

I admit I’d love to climb that scaffolding and see what’s happening inside!

The 5.7 earthquake last March knocked down part of the Angel Moroni statue and a few finials on the top of the temple, demonstrating even greater the need to strengthen it. (Renovation had begun in earnest just a couple of months earlier.) Age has taken its toll on the Salt Lake Temple, and while its “body” been very good in the past, it’s now time to make it greater.

The message wasn’t lost on me. I was in Salt Lake City seeing a specialist because my own body has been crumbling a little on the edges. Solidly in middle age, I hadn’t realized how my own systems have been slowing down and requiring some major overhauls to strengthen my foundations for the coming years.

As I’ve heard many other people say, I’ve recently taken inventory of where I am physically and mentally, and have discovered that while things were good in the past, they’re not so much anymore. The little tremblings from this past COVID-19 year has revealed that I’m not as sturdy as I assumed I was. Not only is it time to strengthen my body and mind, but to also move beyond “good” to “great.” I feel pressing on me, as I’ve heard many of you say as well, that “something” is coming in the future, that the ease we’ve been experiencing is coming to an end, that as for Joseph in Egypt, the years of plenty are coming to a close, and years of . . . “something” are around the corner.

I want to be ready for that, shored up and better than ever, just like the Salt Lake Temple. I’ve heard people complain about some of the changes occurring to ready it for refurbishing. Pioneer-era frescoes are being photographed then likely sacrificed as walls are removed, and many other traditions that have been there since the late 1800s are being set aside to accommodate three times as many patrons when the temple reopens in 2024.

Likewise I’m finding, as are many of you, that I need to remove some ideas and practices that have been part of me, set them aside to make room for that which is greater.

In some ways, it’s as if it’s gone back in time again.

I think we forget that in this sea of life we don’t drift to a certain harbor and then stay there for the next several decades, moored at dock, content to be where we are. That’s when the barnacles and rot begin to set in. Instead, we’re to learn what we can at that destination, then take on new supplies and set sail again, and again, and again.

When we see a familiar, solid landmark like the Salt Lake Temple being reworked from top to bottom, I think people balk at such a drastic surgery because they fear they, too, need a similar restructuring. I know I haven’t been thrilled to see what’s needed to make me become better, but as time goes on, I’m becoming more intrigued by the possibilities of what I can do in the future.

I took heart when I came across a few groups of moms/grandmas with little boys looking through the large acrylic windows down on the sights below. With the enthusiasm only little boys can express, they said to me, “Lady! Look at the trucks! And there’s tractors! They’re making the temple! Watch! It’s so awesome!”

I chatted and laughed with them as jack hammers suddenly started up, or massive drills pulled up and shed loads of soil, and we guessed which truck would back up next out of the narrow entrances and exits where, years ago as a child, I used to walk around the beautiful gardens with my mom and dad.

Some flower beds remain, eager for spring and visitors. I felt they wanted their picture taken, to prove they’re still growing strong.

My parents are now gone, and most of the gardens are gone as well, as is the light that used to be in the temple, but only temporarily. The light and spirit of the temple will return, as will everything else, I have no doubt.

In the meantime, something good is now making way for something greater.

The little boys’ joy in watching the construction was contagious, and I thought of my own internal and external construction I need to be about, to get me ready for the next stretch, whatever that may be.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but I realize that in the end, it’s going to be, in their words, “so awesome!”  

Striving for something great is another way to Build Zion. Let’s not wait for a better time, because this is it.

The world cancels you; Zion forgives you

Zion allows for mistakes, for changes of hearts, for new understanding.
Zion promotes growth.

The world, however, doesn’t tolerate your past, or your “old” heart, or your immature understanding.
The world promotes “cancel culture.”

Zion believes in forgiveness and second chances, and third chances, and fiftieth chances.
The world wants to banish you. One strike and you’re out. Erased even, if possible.

The problem with this harsh judgment is that not even the world can live up to its unrealistic judgments. So it changes the standards, again and again, to meet their behaviors, but not to accommodate those who suddenly find themselves judged by yet a new standard which didn’t exist a decade ago, or even a week ago.

I don’t think they’ve recently consulted Matthew 7:2.

For with what ajudgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what bmeasure ye mete, it shall be cmeasured to you again.

Zion’s standard never changes: a people living with one heart, one mind, sharing all they have, caring for each other, and–most importantly–forgiving each other when they fail.

That’s Christ’s way. He suffered for all of us to give us second chances. And third chances. And even a thousand chances. As long as we keep trying, He keeps forgiving us.

Christ will never cancel us.

Let’s build Zion so He can live among us and teach us how to be more like Him. #BuildZion

Leave the world and find your purpose; Ask Him

“Leaving the world” means setting aside all of that which distracts us from focusing on God. For some that sounds dreary and dull (what, just reading scriptures and singing hymns?). They believe the world is exciting and vibrant.

But consider that maybe we have that reversed.

Focusing on the world is exhausting. The world is hounding you with so many unnecessary expectations and demands.

You may find yourself:

  • fixated with fashion or physical appearance;
  • preoccupied with the look of a house and yard;
  • needing to be seen as “successful,” especially on social media, in your business and personal life;
  • driven to possess the next best thing either in technology, or vehicles, or housing, or vacations;
  • consumed with a desire to be popular and recognized as part of the “right” group.

That’s exhausting. And it’s dreary and dull, trying to keep up with the world’s changing trends.

Keeping the world “happy” is as tedious as reasoning with a toddler having a tantrum. What they want changes frequently, and they’re never satisfied for long.

Now think about what your life would be like without that pressure to impress the world.

Really think about it: no demands, no expectations, no guilt or shame for not being “good enough yet,” and no fretting about what someone will think—

Doesn’t that make you feel like it’s the first day of summer vacation when you’re in high school? Remember that feeling? No more assignments, no more demands, no more busy work to earn a label of “success” or “failure.” (I realize that as a high school teacher I’m condemning myself here a little, but teachers probably rejoice at the end of the school year more than students do.)

Instead, you feel that release, that sudden joy and lightness of realizing you get to do what you feel you should.  Explore, work, play, sleep—you can just enjoy the world.

That’s what God wants for us. Focusing on Him is summer vacation, while being obsessed with the world is the third week of a gray, cold February with no holidays in sight.

Ask Him what “summer vacation” and focusing on Him looks like for you. It will be different for everyone. For me, this month, it’s focusing on my family, writing new books, studying ideas I’ve always wanted to, and preparing for the future. Next month may be different. And I eagerly look forward to it.

Building Zion is all about finding your purpose and leaving the world behind. You won’t miss the world, and what’s more, the world will not miss you. (Because it doesn’t care about you and it never has.)

There’s always another option, such as building Zion.

You don’t have to align with one political group or another.
There is always another option.

We can leave it all.
We can choose to separate ourselves from the world.
It’s time to Build Zion.

For over forty years, every since I was a child and my father told me about Enoch and Zion, that it “fled” but would return–and that we could help build it here on earth again–I’ve been slightly obsessed with the idea. So much so that I wrote a nine-volume book series about it. (And am now working on a prequel series–I just can’t leave it alone.)

I think it’s finally time to leave the world and actively look for ways to build Zion, and I’m open to your suggestions and ideas on how to do so.
First, I believe we need to pull ourselves out of these current conflicts, especially here in America:

  • Choose not be sucked in by any political party’s contention (and it is a choice to step away).
  • Stay objective and out of all fights. (Peace is gone, and we can’t “force” it back with violence.)
  • Turn off the news and unfollow all those who incite anger and who choose to be willfully ignorant, on all sides.
  • Choose instead to feel compassion for everyone, in every situation. (It’s much easier to do that when you’re not watching them say and behave in ungodly ways.)
  • Cultivate a charitable heart, so that we can be “one” with others. Pray to God to soften your heart towards everyone. (He will. He’s done it for me many, many times, because I’m a slow learner.)

18 And the Lord called his people aZion, because they were of bone heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness;

Moses 7:18

Tell me how you cultivate peace in your heart in these times. Let’s figure out how to start building Zion now.