I won’t be there unless I am fully worthy to be there

I like this story about being worthy to enter the temple. It communicates lessons about integrity, and about the  joy that comes from real spiritual growth.

One of the great blessings the gospel gives us is the lens through which we can see with proportion. Special perspective comes from the marvelous and overarching principles of the gospel.

For some reason, the last month or so, my mind has turned to a colleague of many years ago at the University of Utah. Dr. Reed Merrill was a distinguished educational psychologist. He had, for instance, done pioneering work in establishing the process of licensure associated with clinical psychology, as well as important work in educational psychology. However, he had been inactive in the Church and inattentive to spiritual things, though a good person. Then, in the early 1980s he was stirred spiritually by the Lord. I could see it when he came to visit me twice. He wrote two powerful letters regarding the comparative emptiness of his secular discipline with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These observations meant a lot because they came from a man of unquestioned intellect and integrity. Other catalytic things were happening, unbeknownst to me, including his daughter’s service on a mission, to say nothing of a wonderful wife.

Reed called me sometime before his daughter’s sealing, asking if I would perform her sealing. I said, “I would be delighted.” I think I had an intervening trip overseas, but asked, “Reed, will you be there?”

With his typical integrity, he said, “Neal, you know me well enough to know I won’t be there unless I am fully worthy to be there.” When the morning came for the sealing in the Salt Lake Temple, I waited with particular anticipation. Then Reed came down the corridor of the temple. We embraced, and he said, “Neal, I made it!” He had come home! Subsequently, he taught in his high priests group and in various classes. It was a spiritual renaissance in his life, a marvelous thing to see. How wonderful it is when anybody comes home!

Yesterday, when I reviewed my handwritten notes used ten years ago at Reed’s funeral, they included words of gratitude for what I called, even back then, “the intersections of our lives”—Reed’s and mine. The most important thing to be said about Reed Merrill when he departed from this life was that he exited “in spiritual crescendo.” Such things bring joy!

Neal A. Maxwell, “Brim with Joy,” BYU Devotional, January 23, 1996

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Being worthy to hold the priesthood

President Thomas S. Monson mentions worthiness multiple times in his October 2011 Priesthood Conference talk:

What a wonderful gift we have been given—to hold the priesthood, which is “inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” This precious gift, however, brings with it not only special blessings but also solemn responsibilities. We must conduct our lives so that we are ever worthy of the priesthood we bear. We live in a time when we are surrounded by much that is intended to entice us into paths which may lead to our destruction. To avoid such paths requires determination and courage.

Ours is the responsibility to be worthy of all the glorious blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for us. Wherever we go, our priesthood goes with us. Are we standing in holy places? Please, before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences. Each of us has had conferred upon him the Aaronic Priesthood. In the process, each received the power which holds the keys to the ministering of angels. Said President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“You cannot afford to do anything that would place a curtain between you and the ministering of angels in your behalf.

“You cannot be immoral in any sense. You cannot be dishonest. You cannot cheat or lie. You cannot take the name of God in vain or use filthy language and still have the right to the ministering of angels.”

Many of you brethren have served as missionaries throughout the world. Many of you young men will yet serve. Prepare yourselves now for that opportunity. Make certain you are worthy to serve.

With all my heart and soul, I pray that every man who holds the priesthood will honor that priesthood and be true to the trust which was conveyed when it was conferred. May each of us who holds the priesthood of God know what he believes. May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.

As we contemplate the great gift we have been given—“the rights of the priesthood … inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”—may our determination ever be to guard and defend it and to be worthy of its great promises.

Thomas S. Monson, “Dare to Stand Alone,” October 2011.