Last month I signed up clean the temple, it was the first time I had ever been a part of the temple cleaning crew. I did not expect that it would become one of my most valued and cherished spiritual experiences. In a way that only spending several hours in the temple can, perhaps for the first time in my life I was blessed with a glimpse of eternity.
We were asked to come at 8:30 dressed in plain pants and shirt (no jeans). We put on white slippers and a white jumpsuit and all 30 of us from our ward were escorted into a room for training. A sister stood up after a short video, she was in charge of coordinating all of the temple cleaning every night. With her, standing to the side, were about a dozen BYUI students who had volunteered to supervise one night a week on a cleaning shift.The BYUI students were pretty evenly mixed group of men and women.
After our instructions we were split into mixed-gender groups, one group started in the baptistry and the other in the sealing rooms and we worked to meet in the middle. As my group walked upstairs to the sealing rooms we were split into smaller groups and assigned to a student coordinator; please note, not once were we ever assigned a task by gender. A few of us were asked to dust the wood in every sealing room. As we completed one task we were split off further and re-assigned to another coordinator. The male students passed us off to the females and regularly asked their female supervisor what to do next.
I have never, in all of my 34 years of serving in all three female auxiliary presidencies and teaching positions . . . have I ever had an experience among fellow mormons where every single body was equal and needed and viewed as having the same capacity for work in any position available.
There was one moment near the end of the night, after the last person had left the Celestial Room (seriously people, don’t go to the last session of the night and then take an eternity leaving the celestial room) when all 15 of us volunteers plus about 10 coordinators rushed onto the floor with vacuums as soon as the patrons had left. I was on one side of the temple vacuuming when someone from my ward (a BYUI religion professor with a lot of Gospel knowledge and wisdom and church leadership experience) tapped my shoulder to ask me where he should go next to vacuum.
After our work was done the Sister in charge of cleaning the temple asked us to gather in the terrestrial room and watch as the drapes were brought down over the veil of the temple; she then brought us to other areas to watch and just think quietly as the lights were turned off on that floor. As we were shuffling from room to room at first the men tried to stand back and let all of the women through first, but it was so crowded and awkward that way that the next time people were just shuffling through the door by who reached it first.
It was the first time in my 35 years in all of my Gospel service that I truly felt equal. Oh I have felt equally valued before; but this is the first time I felt equal in that I had the same purpose, need, and role as every other volunteer that night. I had the same capacity and abilities and all that mattered was my willingness to show up and work.
I truly hope I was granted a glimpse of eternity that night. We know so little about what eternity will be like. I hope there will be work to do, and I hope that work is done by those willing and able. Full Stop.