Journal entry originally written many years ago (like 5 or 6?) before I was endowed...obviously:
As I rounded down the stairs to the baptistry on Friday, my hopes of beating the 5 pm rush were dashed. An entrance way CRAMMED with young men and young women greeted me. Oh great. I listened carefully to the plans their leaders were making, and decided to be a bit brash. “Could I just squeeze in front of your group? I’m here by myself.” They gladly moved aside to let me brush past. Whew! My plans for the evening hadn’t been crushed after all! I could get in and out of the temple quickly, but with NO intention to rush the Lord’s work, and then be off to the gym, home to shower, and still on time to the ward opening social I’d been looking forward to all week.
I walked past even more people whom, I assumed, were with the load of youngsters in the hall, and asked for my loaner-whites. I proceeded to the dressing room and, quick as a flash, I changed, came back out with lesson manual in tow, and had already been confirmed before the huge group even entered the waiting area. Rock on. Then I joined the double-bench cue for baptisms. This could be my demise…but I still had "faith". I opened my teaching manual and began to read the lesson I’m supposed to give on Sunday. We wound our way around until I was finally on the front row…about 12 people from being baptized.
“Ok, we’ll take four more girls, and then, I have to warn the rest of you…then we’re going to start the ward that has an appointment.” DRAT! Foiled again! What in the world could He have wanted me to come to the temple TODAY for!? He knew very well that I didn’t have this much time! I sat there, stewing in my own feigned Spirit-seeking righteousness… There was no way I could sit there that long and finish everything I had to do today. What a frustrating day.
But, I had just devised a plan! A plan that surely had to work…I would forego baptisms today, graciously redress myself and then ask the head temple worker, ever-so sweetly, “How would one go about making an appointment for just one? You see, I’m not upset or anything, it’s just that I would like to be better prepared for my next visit to the House of the Lord.” Seriously. I was going to do it! After all, I’m a nice girl, and I’m sure, after the rage of the audacity and unfairness of being bumped to the back of a VERY long line subsided, I really might have said this sentence to the very same person! (Right…) As the muscles in my legs tightened to stand me up…SHE entered the room.
I quickly resituated myself on the pew so I could nonchalantly STARE at her from the corner of my eye. Marty is her name. With a short brown tuft of unkempt hair on her head, she half-limped, half-shuffled in slightly quietly, holding tightly to the beautiful young girl who was leading her. I tried to refocus on my lesson again, so as not to appear rude for staring while the two girls went to change. Back out they came and were taken to the confirmation line. A few people had noticed Marty by now, and since most of them were under 17, they had no qualms about staring. She stood as reverently as possible, occasionally overtaken by the urge to giggle a bit. As she waited for her turn, she bent over and stared at her friend’s folded arms from about 2 inches away. Then, with all the muscle control she could muster, she very carefully, with lip-biting accuracy, tied her arms into a knot that almost resembled her friend’s. Pop! Her arms burst out from her body and flailed neatly to her sides. Giggling ensued again. The temple worker guiding the confirmation line caught Marty’s eye and gently pressed one finger against his own pursed lips. She watched carefully, and then repeated precisely what he had done. This was obviously familiar to her, because she accompanied her version with a lovely, but unsubtle, “SSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!” right back at him, and then turned to tell everyone in the room the same. In her round of shh-ing, she spun around to the wall, where a beautiful large painting of Alma baptizing hundreds at the Waters of Mormon hangs. Her admonition for everyone died off as she carefully approached the painting, eyes wide, mouth hanging open as only a Down ’s syndrome mouth does. One centimeter away from the canvas she glided back and forth until she’d reached her tippy toes trying to see it… “BOO-TIFUL,” she said in amazement. I sucked back a tear. At that point, she had everyone in the room’s FULL attention. Her friend then took her arm and guided her in to do confirmations, and then into the dressing room.
I sat there torn between my cunning plan and my almost untamable desire to stay and see if Marty would be baptized too. I sat, transfixed to the spot on my pew, left foot tingling with an unmistakable need for a blood rush. If I stay, I’ll watch her like a hawk through the glass partition, and she’s not on display! That wouldn’t be nice…but I wanted this feeling to continue. Just then, the door between the girl’s dressing room and the font cracked open.
Anything that even resembled a whisper in the waiting area vanished instantly. Everyone was watching Marty and her friend—who caught my attention because she took no notice of the nearly 50 people staring at her…she was simply there for Marty. They took their place in line and found a seat. Marty sat so carefully, crossing her legs like the rest of the girls in the room, having watched each of them for at least 30 seconds each. After she’d surveyed the room’s inhabitants properly, she began looking around at what looked to me (and everyone else) like thin air. She turned her head slowly from side to side…most definitely looking at certain somethings I couldn’t see.
It was her friend’s turn first. At the sight of her friend entering the water, Marty was OVERJOYED! She resisted a humungous urge to clap and settled for a toothy grin from ear to ear and rocking back and forth on her chair. Everyone else within sight’s smile broke out as well…including mine. This infectious joy was nothing compared to what was next. Her friend was done now…and Marty knew: it was her turn to enter the water.
She carefully placed her feet where they needed to be for her to stand, and with her friend’s help, she gained enough control to walk to it on her own. The room waited with baited breath as she started down those slippery stairs. Every priesthood holder in the font room was on his feet ready for anything. Focusing with utmost caution, she climbed down into the font. She was greeted by two baptizers who carefully shook her nervous hands. Continually glancing to her friend for looks of reassurance, she found her place standing in front of the screen with the names. She was ready.
The prayer was given, and although I couldn’t hear it, I could tell “amen” had been said. She tightened every finger on the first baptizer’s arms as he slowly began immersing her. The second baptizer mercifully plugged her nose and under she went, bringing the witnesses to their feet. Up she came, water spilling off her head, gasping for air and wiping frantically at her face. She blinked a bit, and then realized she’d done it. Her triumphant giggles were so loud, even we could hear them through the thick glass partition. Tears slid past smiles on every face in the room. She clapped and clapped, bouncing up and down on her heels, a new-found sense of balance in the water that helped to support her body. Ready for the second go-round, she calmed back down, grabbed the baptizer’s hands and stuck her nose out to the side for the other baptizer to hold onto. Down and up she went, each time grinning from ear to ear, wiping the water away, and then carefully repositioning herself for dunking and nose-holding.
With tears streaming down my face, I realized why I was supposed to be in the temple that day. No, I didn’t do baptisms myself (I couldn’t compose myself enough to even try)…but I learned a deep and meaningful lesson from Marty. Just like all those with disabilities, I believe Marty is special in many ways. I don’t believe Marty will be held accountable the same way we will. She is obviously a special enough child of our Heavenly Father that He saw fit to bless her with a mind and a body that Satan could not attack in any way. Marty has it made…yet, she understands the importance of the Lord’s work. Her challenges lie in physical obstacles that keep her from going to the temple...obstacles far more valid than those I sometimes catch myself trying to claim as another month slips by. Yet, she knows how many of her brothers and sisters are on the other side waiting for us to get the urge to go to the temple. She is a supreme example of selflessness to me.
I waited nervously trying to compose myself in the dressing room. All thoughts of my self-consuming, stupid plan had vanished. I just couldn’t let myself walk away without thanking them. Unusual as it seemed, I stopped them coming out of the shower area (both were clad in large fluffy white robes). I couldn’t even speak. Her friend simply smiled at me as I mouthed the words, “thank you” to her and Marty. “Marty, I think she needs a hug, is that ok?” “WHY?” “Because…she knows you’re special.”
I could have filled the font with my tear ducts for the next hour. I’m so grateful the Lord brought me to the temple today. I’m even more grateful that Marty and her friend were willing to come to the temple to teach me.