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“If I may but touch…”

Salt Lake Temple
Photo: Joel McDonald

by Joel McDonald

May 18, 2022

It was a cloudy day in April of 2017. I had just arrived in Salt Lake City after spending a week in Denver and Colorado Springs, where I served as a full-time missionary just over ten years earlier. It was mid-morning, and my hotel room wasn’t ready. I dropped off my luggage and walked the few blocks to Temple Square. For the first time, I was going to stand in the shadow of the Salt Lake Temple. Until this day, I had only seen it in person from a distance while being shuttled between the airport and the Missionary Training Center in Provo. And now, after a short walk from the hotel, the grandeur of this fabled and venerated temple stood before me.

This was not the first temple I visited during this trip. The Monday prior, I had made my way to the Denver Temple. Even though I had resigned from the Church almost a decade before, I was wrestling at this time with my spirituality and belief in the Church. When a conference brought me back to Colorado, I felt I needed to try to stand in the places I had stood as a missionary, to stand in holy places.

Photo: Joel McDonald

So, I stopped at the Denver Temple on the way to Colorado Springs. The temple was closed, and the grounds were empty and peaceful. The only sound rising over the dim of nature was the bubbling water from the temple’s fountain. I feel a little ridiculous admitting it, but I was there to make the same sort of bargain that I had tried to make on my mission, that deal that so many missionaries make with God when they “struggle” with “same-sex attraction.” I hoped that if I stood in that holy place and if I but touched the outer wall of the temple in faith, God would figuratively open the heavens, and I would receive some sort of spiritual confirmation about what I should believe, how I should live, or maybe even have this struggle taken from me.


Surely, if there was any place where I could expect to receive such a confirmation, it would be at the temple. If none came at the Denver Temple, then maybe the temple in the very heart of the Church? Standing before the Salt Lake Temple, and with the same bargain on my mind, I walked toward the temple’s wall, silently prayed, outstretched my hand, and touched the temple’s granite exterior.

Again. Nothing.

In Matthew 9:20-22, we read the story of the woman who was in need of healing. She had faith that if she could just but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. So she did and, recognizing her faith, Jesus healed the woman. Her story didn’t come to mind at the time of my temple visits, but it comes to mind now. Similarly, I had reached out to the Lord, believing that if I may but touch the exterior of His house, I too might have been healed. But the healing did not come. But I know now that I didn’t need it. I was not sick. I was not broken. There was nothing to be healed.

Over a decade earlier, as a missionary, I had prayerfully found peace with who I was. I couldn’t verbalize it at the time and didn’t know what living authentically would fully mean as far as my relationship with the Church, but I had found a measure of peace that told me that I was going to be okay. That who I was, who I am, is okay. While I have at times questioned this, I also feel that I have opened the door wide enough for the Lord to redirect me if that be His will. Hearing none, I have moved forward.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I met up with others from the Affirmation Washington D.C. Chapter to tour the Washington D.C. Temple. The temple had been closed for a five-year renovation. The Church was hosting an open house for all to come and see the interior of the temple before it would be rededicated next month. Once dedicated, only “worthy” members of the Church would be able to enter its doors and venture beyond the reception area. For me, living authentically means not being worthy in the eyes of the Church. Entering this temple is likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Washington D.C. Temple
Photo: Joel McDonald

As we approached the Washington D.C. Temple, I didn’t have the same bargain on my mind that I had five years ago. I wasn’t there to bargain with God. I didn’t feel the need to. Today, I can appreciate the temple for being a grand, beautiful building and a physical representation of the faith of those who made its construction and upkeep possible, but it is no longer my holy space.

This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.

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