A lanky boy sits down next to me on the bus. His clothing smells of cheap alcohol and bad cigarettes. His ears are pierced with a gage for too big for any sense of proportion. As the bus begins to move he gets up and travels to the front of the bus bringing back with him a garbage can. “I Think I’m going to be sick…” he says as he begins to wretch inside the can. It’s going to be a long ride I think to myself.
Reading her sign breaks my heat. “Wallet stolen on Amtrak. Stranded in Salt Lake. Need to get to Chicago to get medical care for my heart condition. Any help would be appreciated.” I ask her if people have stopped to help her. “Mostly it’s the foreigners and those from out of town that even notice. The guys that live here just walk past me in their temple clothing.” I ask if she’d been to the Bishop’s storehouse or Welfare Square. “Oh I am not a Mormon so they aren’t interested in helping me..They told me they can’t buy me a ticket….They don’t deal in Amtrak…My church back home would have bought me a ticket straight away they gave to the needy no matter their background…Mormons only care about their own” She begins to speak of a kind family from Idaho that took pity on her over thanksgiving and took her home with them for the holidays—downplaying the fact that this family was almost certainly Mormon. I point out to her that there are good Christians both in and out of the church. She tells me she is a lawyer and willing to work….I chuckle and think to myself, come back to me in ten years. I give her a dollar—No more change in my wallet—and she says God bless. As I walk away, I think about all of the flaws and inconsistencies in her story, wonder if I’d been duped and then remember King Benjamin’s Sermon—We’re not supposed to question those that are in need. I turn back and ask her name. Linda Ford, like the car, she says. As I enter the temple I put her name on the prayer roll.
Later I sit in quiet solace in the Celestial Room of the temple, listening to Two ninety-year-old women discussing the equipment they had brought with them to help them breathe. I’m merely twenty-two and I wonder how what keeps them coming after so many years. What deep truth do they find each time they enter? When death is that close, stepping through the veil must be a more profound experience. They seem peaceful. Perhaps they are imagining the day when their bodies will be renewed. No more pumps to help them breath or aids to let them walk. They will trade their crutches for plowshares but hopefully not trade away their hard fought wisdom. Youth is wasted on the young.
Kneeling at a sealing altar, I listen to the beautiful promised blessings linking families together in harmony. I do the proxy work for the deceased sister who sits across the alter gripping my hand. It all feels so heavenly. As I look at my image reflecting on the many mirrors, I think about infinity and realize how dreadful it would be to spend it alone. My mind returns to Linda Ford as I imagine a message engraved on her grave—“Died of a broken heart.” Even though I only spoke to her briefly, could my heaven truly be heaven without her presence? For a brief moment I contemplate Satan’s plan. It truly would be nice if everyone could be guaranteed salvation. Then I imagine the boy from the bus sitting next to me right there. Could he feel the joy or would he be bored and frustrated in the House of the Lord. How would he look dressed in all white? I look at the beautiful white tapestry and the fine marble. However exquisite this place is, it is yet incomplete. I can come to visit but not to reside. There is work to be done and hearts to mend. I can not rest until that boy and Linda Ford and everyone else that cries out in weary agony is given a chance to embrace such solace.