The Beauty of Gospel Symbiosis

During the months preceding my call to work in the temple, I was looking for something. I didn’t know what it was, but the Lord did. I had thoughts such as “I just don’t feel the Spirit like I used to,” “I’m not really progressing right now,” and “Are my prayers even working?” I knew that I could be praying better, reading my scriptures more thoroughly, and paying closer attention in church, but I wasn’t doing those things on my own and I really needed help overcoming my own spiritual inertia. When I got a call from the temple president’s office, I was amazed at how attentively the Lord had heard my prayers and offered to me exactly what I needed.

Serving as a temple worker has been such a blessing and every shift I work is healing and inspiring to me. However, I know that my service in the temple isn’t about me. The blessings I receive are not the primary purpose of my service, but they are a natural byproduct of it because the temple is a perfect example of what I like to call gospel symbiosis. I remember learning about this principle in science classes as a child. My teacher told us that “symbiosis” is another way of describing a win-win situation. When I was in third grade, we learned about the remora, which is a little fish that nibbles small parasites off of big sharks and other sea creatures. The fish benefit from having something to eat, and the sharks benefit from having their parasites removed. The fish will even clean out the shark teeth, which I imagine takes a lot of courage.

The gospel is all about symbiosis. Every act of service we do also serves us, and every act of personal devotion we do benefits those around us indirectly. The temple is a pinnacle of the win-win nature of being a member of the church. For example, every week at the temple it is a blessing for me to perform ordinances and welcome people to the house of the Lord, it is a blessing for temple patrons to worship in the temple, and it is a blessing for those who have passed on to have their ordinances performed by proxy.

I had an experience in the temple a few weeks ago that provides a sweet snapshot of a regular day as a temple worker. While I was assisting one sister, she told me, “My friend is here with me, this is only her second time in the temple so she’s not quite used to it yet.” A few minutes later, I met her friend. She was a much younger sister and was nervous both because she was new in the temple and because we were navigating a slight language barrier, which she managed beautifully. It was a pleasure to do temple work with these women, and after they were finished I heard the two friends talking nearby. The older sister bore a simple and heartfelt testimony about how good it feels to do something selfless and how the blessings of temple service have given her hope in the face of all her health problems. As I sat there in the soft white light of that peaceful setting, surrounded by the still, small whispers of sisters reverently doing the Lord’s work, I felt my heart grow three sizes in admiration for the pure and loving friendship of these two women, who were so different in age and cultural background but so alike in their willingness to serve. I don’t know what the story of their friendship is, but I do know that the church community fosters unlikely friendships just like theirs — friendships that transcend cultural, generational, and other barriers. I felt such a strong sisterhood there because in the temple we feel keenly that we are part of God’s eternal family and the Spirit reminds us that families belong together.

This simple experience showed me the power of gospel symbiosis, which is so potent within the walls of the temple where we can connect with each other and with God on a spiritual level. These two sisters were clearly so blessed by their friendship with each other, I was grateful to witness it, we were all benefiting from the Spirit of the temple, and the people whose names they brought in received a gift that had the power to change the course of their eternal lives.

I used to think that I went to the temple just for self-care, but it is so much more than that. The temple is a magical place that combines self-care and community care seamlessly and we can take that example into every part of our lives. The symbiotic model of the temple can show us how to go to church more interested in contributing love and friendship to our community than what’s in it for us. It can help us approach our church callings and community service opportunities with an increased sense of gratitude.

On of my favorite scriptures is a gospel paradox spoken by the Savior and recorded in Matthew 16:25: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” When you lose yourself in any kind of service, including temple service, you will find the life God has in store for you. I will add my witness to these words. I promise that the temple can instruct you in the ways of gospel symbiosis and that the Lord will help you find ways to serve through your private devotion and will ensure that you will be personally blessed as you turn outward. May we ever follow the divine patterns which are set in the temple, for these patterns are the way of Christ.

*Christ Calling Peter and Andrew, by James T. Harwood