During the October, 2011 Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson surprised the worldwide membership of the church when he announced that a temple would be built in Star Valley, WY.
My shouts of joy may have been heard from as far away as College Station, TX where I lived at the time. Though I was not raised in Star Valley, my parents moved there soon after I married and my family quickly adopted it as home. My wife and I never could have imagined at that time that one day, our family would also call Star Valley home and that we would experience the construction and dedication of a temple in our midst.
In connection with these events, I was blessed with several opportunities to serve as an usher during the Star Valley Temple open house. For my part, I simply had to express a desire to serve. Exactly where and when would be determined by those with the responsibility to organize the assignments.
My first assignment was a short appointment to help in the baptistery during a VIP tour.
On another evening, I was assigned to provide parking assistance during what was the most stormy weather of the week. For three hours, I stood outside in some harsh weather. At times it was snowing hard, then turned to rain and back to snow again. The wind was blowing strong in the freezing temperatures and families were running to the temple as cover from the storm. I loved everything about this assignment!
Every other assignment I received during the open house was to serve as an usher...in the bathroom!
Initially, I didn't care where I served, I was just thrilled to be there. My first "bathroom" assignment was to serve as an usher in the women’s dressing room during a special open house session that was held immediately following the General Women’s Session of General Conference. I was grateful to serve the amazing sisters in our temple district that evening and looked forward with great anticipation to see my wife, my daughters, and several of my sisters, sisters-in-law, and their respective daughters as I introduced them to the bridal room in the temple. That was an evening I will never forget.
The next two times I reported to the temple to fulfill an ushering assignment, the coordinator would say, “Brother England, we are so glad you are here. Today we would like you to serve as an usher in the bathroom.” I was still thrilled to be serving in the temple, but after having done the same assignment a few times it definitely seemed more like work than worship. On the second of these days, at the conclusion of my assignment, I desired to take in the feeling of the temple and chose to exit by completing the remaining portion of the tour. In doing so, I wondered, “What would it be like to usher elsewhere in the temple? What would it be like to see the spirit on the faces of those attending?” Upon entering the Celestial Room, I was greeted by an usher, my niece, who was a senior in high school, beaming with excitement. I felt immediate gratitude that it was me in the bathroom so that she could have those experiences.
On my final ushering assignment, I reported to the temple and was preparing myself for what was now becoming a familiar phrase. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when the coordinator informed me that this time, I was needed as an usher in the sealing room!
While walking the halls of the temple enroute to fulfill this assignment I began reflecting on the day my wife and I were sealed several years before and the blessing it would be for me to serve in this way. Lost in my thoughts, I was approached by another coordinator in a desperate plea. I was needed to stand, at attention, by myself, for four hours, in the boys bathroom. I accepted the new assignment with at least part of a smile.
After getting into position and staring at the white tile on the wall in front of me, all alone, I found myself thinking, "of all the beautiful places to be ushering at the temple, why is it that the Lord keeps seeing fit to assign me to the bathroom?" For a brief moment, my heart felt disappointment.
Fifteen minutes had passed. As of yet, not a single person had come through. It was quiet. I then looked at the clock. Apparently, it was only five minutes that had passed. I thought, "this might be a long night." Knowing I had 4 hours ahead of me, it became very clear that I had two choices. I could either endure or search and pray for ways to have a positive attitude and find joy in my service.
My answer didn’t immediately come, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was not in the temple that day for me, a loved one, or for any other vicarious work, I was there 100% for the Lord. And, since I was there for the Lord, then it didn't matter if I were ushering in the Celestial Room or in the bathroom, or in the mechanical room. I was at the Lord’s disposal and I was happy to be there.
Then, something amazing happened...
Once I changed my attitude, the revelation began to flow.
I began reflecting on the inscription displayed outside each of the Lord’s temples. “Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord." I wondered, what does it mean to be the "House of the Lord?" Later, during the meetings in which Elder David A. Bednar would dedicate the Star Valley temple, he taught these words from our Savior, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) In quoting this verse, Elder Bednar taught that the Savior was making a direct reference to the fact that He needed a house, clean and pure, dedicated unto Him, that He could receive as His house.
Standing there in the bathroom, I began to realize that the temple, as it then was, would not be the Lord's house until it was dedicated and the Lord received it. Until then, the temple is our offering to Him. It is our gift to Him and that if the temple was going to be a gift to our God, then we needed to build and prepare His house to as near perfection as we could.
Star Valley is a small community and several local members of the church had an opportunity to help aid in the construction of the temple in a number of ways. My youngest brother was asked to complete some trim work around the large doorway leading to the instruction room. I was surprised to learn that in the spirit of perfection in construction, the door trim was to be installed using construction adhesive rather than nails so as to avoid having to putty and patch nail holes. After spending most of the day putting the trim on one door into place, he felt satisfied that it met the standards required of a temple of the Lord. Upon arriving the next day, he was informed by the inspectors that the trim work would need to be pulled from the wall and done again as it was 1/32” off on one side. I remembered my brother exclaiming, "My measure tape doesn't even go down to 1/32 of an inch!"
Visitors began coming, but did so in waves with brief moments in between where the bathroom was emptied. As I reflected on my brother’s experience, I decided that if the Lord wanted me to serve in the bathroom, then in the last few remaining days before dedication, my gift of perfection to the Lord would be to use the time I had available within my little sphere, to inspect it to perfection. So, I started on one end of the bathroom and each time it emptied I systematically inspected each 1" tile on the floor. There are thousands of these tiles. Over the course of my assignment, I found 3 places where the grout needed to be fixed.
Moments after completing my inspection, I couldn’t help but smile when a sister volunteer came into the bathroom with a trash bag in hand. Curious, she asked, “what has put that smile on your face?” I explained my observations regarding the tile on the floor and to my surprise, she responded that her husband had responsibilities related to the final inspection on the temple and that she would see that it was reported. I was overcome with humility and gratitude knowing that the gift of my best perfection was received.
This experience has taught me that we show love for our Savior by providing our best perfection in building his kingdom. Some of us may be called upon to serve in the “bathroom” as it were, perhaps even many times, but just like a near-perfect offering in the temple, we can help perfect the Lord's kingdom here on earth by accepting each assignment to serve in faith and with a spirit of love for our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “I have been quoted as saying, ‘Do the best you can.’ But I want to emphasize that it be the very best. We are too prone to be satisfied with mediocre performance. We are capable of doing so much better” (“Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, 10 Jan. 2004, 21)
This experience has also taught me that we show love for our Savior by providing our best perfection in the manner in which we live our lives and treat others. Each of us will face trials or challenges that will be unique for our own growth and development. I believe it important to remember that we are not perfect. Each of us sin and we are in need of a Savior. But, I also believe it important to look to the temple as an example, and that similar to our building temples to our best perfection, and then through dedication, the Lord receives it, we too might build our life to our best perfection by doing our very best and dedicating ourselves to Him. And then, through the power of the Atonement, we may be made perfect and received by Him.
Jeff England lives in Star Valley, Wyo. and is the CFO for a local telecommunications company. He is a former Aggie and bishop having served in the College Station, TX area. He and his wife, Cindy, have five wonderful children.