This past weekend I had the special opportunity to attend a temple sealing. My sister’s recently adopted son was sealed to her family in the Logan, Utah temple. I’ve been to a handful of temple weddings, but this was the first time I’ve seen a child sealed to family after the fact. What a beautiful ceremony and moving experience.
Upon returning to work, I found myself in front of my seminary classes completely unable to describe this experience with any degree of power. I told them about the beauty of the temple and the feeling within. We talked about the symbolism of the sealing room with its altar and mirrors. I explained how special it was to be in the temple with each of my faithful siblings and my parents. I described the beauty of their little boy as he sat upon the altar, all dressed in white and radiant with light and innocence, and the simple power of the ceremony that binds on earth and in heaven. But none of it seemed to do the experience any justice.
It wasn’t that the students were dismissive. They recognized and appreciated that this was clearly a sacred experience for me. But my description didn’t make it a spiritual experience for them. The best I could do was implore the students to live worthy to have the same kind of opportunities for themselves if they haven't already.
It's often tempting to try, but spiritual experiences cannot be so simply "passed on" to others. I think this might be in part what Moroni meant when he said, “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). By their very definition, spiritual experiences are the product of faith and righteous action. To be sure they are a gift, but they are a gift given to those who act in faith. Those who demand spiritual confirmation before faithful living will be consistently disappointed. I'm confident this is not an arbitrary decision by God, rather these powerful spiritual experiences are literally impossible without first enduring the struggle of faith and obedience.
For example, the spirit we felt as a complete family gathered in that sealing room was not randomly given. It was the culmination of people “paying the price” necessary to come to know God, from the daily faith and obedience required to receive temple recommends to the faith of our ancestors who built the very temples we gather in. Think of it: every prayer, every tithe, every act of love and service, every temptation denied and every prompting followed, all leading to a moment where we can meet in that sacred place and be enveloped by the Spirit of God.
"The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:11) and the Spirit of God is brought into our lives, our families, and our communities as we merit individually and as we help each other to live worthily. I believe these experiences are available to all who seek. But they are not only available, they are essential! When we were leaving the temple, I had the distinct thought, “I needed that.” It was one of those spiritual boosts that I knew I would draw on for years to come. These experiences bolster our testimony and give us strength and power to endure challenges and opposition. Elder Neil L. Andersen recently taught this comforting principle:
"As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight."
I wonder what experiences await when we can pass further trials of our faith? As Paul wrote, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
Joseph Smith later said, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest.” (quoted in Teachings: Joseph Smith)
I know that we cannot simply transfer our experiences and testimonies to our children, our neighbors, our classes or our friends. But as we share and testify and encourage, we can help all who seek to have experiences of their own. Meanwhile, as we strive to live worthy and foster opportunities to receive the Spirit in our own lives, we will be blessed with the often subtle and sometimes overwhelming spiritual assurance that he is there.