This last weekend in General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott gave an incredibly good talk about the temple and the importance of temple attendance. I will break down more of this talk in a future post to glean more from the great insight he gave us.
One of his “interesting suggestions” for gaining more benefit from temple attendance was this — “Remove your watch when you enter a house of the Lord.” I immediately took notice of this counsel, as you might have also. I have not heard the General Authorities recommend this before. I did find it “interesting” because it is something that I have already practiced since the first time I went to the temple. It didn’t feel right for me to wear that piece of apparel into the sacred space.
But how could something as trivial as wearing a watch affect what we gain from the temple? While it is unlikely we can easily know why Elder Scott counseled us so, let me offer some personal reasons why I don’t wear my watch when I enter the temple, and why it might be a good idea for you too.
1. It’s a distraction
This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I do not wear my watch into the temple. It doesn’t fit in that sacred place. Watches are usually big, dark, and bulky, and don’t belong in the environment around us. They are completely at odds with the symbolism we are immersed in. When I see others wearing watches, it is a distraction to me, because it immediately draws my attention and focus away from where it should be, on the ordinance work, and learning the deeper meanings of the kingdom.
2. The temple is a timeless place
We go to the temple to get away from the world and it’s preoccupations. We should not be worried about the passage of time, which can so quickly take us back mentally to the world from which we have left. We should give time to consider our place in the universe, the progress of our lives, and improving the quality of our character. Which leads us to reason #3.
3. A watch reminds us of the world
A watch reminds us what is on the outside of the temple when we should be paying heed to what is on the inside, and what is being taught to us. A glance at a watch could easily remind us of the cares of a job, needs of a business, responsibilities, commitments, worldly struggles, whereas we are to not concern ourselves with those things while at the temple. The temple should be a refuge from the storms in our lives, a place of peace, somewhere we go to get answers to our problems, not to be reminded of them. A wristwatch can mix the profane with the sacred, which is an impossibility to begin with.
4. Time does not exist for God
At least not in the conventional sense. D&C 130:7 notes that the “past, present, and future . . . are continually before the Lord.” It also teaches that those who inherit the earth and the presence of God will likewise experience time in this continual fashion. This is incomprehensible to us, being so inseparably connected to the passage of time in mortality. But time is a very different concept to God. Somehow he is transcendent to the passage of time. Since we are striving to become like our Heavenly Parents, a watch does not fit within the pedagogical model of the temple. A watch belongs in a different world.
5. Going without strict time commitments
Another of Elder Scott’s interesting suggestions was “Leave sufficient time to be unhurried within the temple walls. Rotate activities so that you can participate in all of the ordinances of the temple.” We should try to stay in the temple to ponder and pray instead of being rushed to meet another demands outside the temple walls. There is so much work to be done in the temple, and Latter-day Saints “who live in the shadow of a temple” are those who can carry it out.
6. It is not temple clothing
We don’t wear other non-temple paraphernalia while in the temple for many of these same reasons. Eyeglasses are a requisite item in order to gain as much from the temple experience as we can. Wedding rings also fit within the symbolism of what we are in the temple. But watches are unnecessary and extracurricular, in my opinion.
7. There are other clocks
We can check the time if we really need to know it. There are small clocks positioned in various parts of the temple. Or, you could just ask one of the temple workers. I don’t believe there is a clock in the Celestial Room, perhaps for these same reasons.
8. It could interrupt a service
Many watches have alarms, “Indigo” lights, and other things that could interrupt a service. Again, our full focus should be on what we are doing, and trying to be in tune with the Spirit so that the mysteries of God can be unfolded before us. What we experience in the temple can’t be fully understood in a lifetime of attendance. We shouldn’t shortchange the time we have to gain as much as we can from what the Lord has to offer.
9. We all dress the same
Allan K. Burgess once wrote:
. . . dressing alike symbolizes that all of us are equal in the sight of God. The rich and the poor, the educated and the unlearned, the boss and the worker, the General Authority and the new Church member all sit side by side in the temple and are of equal importance to the Lord. ((Allan K. Burgess, Teens, Temple Marriage, and Eternity, Deseret Book Company, 1988, 91.))
Hugh Nibley also once said:
Does sameness depress you? The heavenly hosts, so we are told, all wear the same simple white garment—how monotonous! We all dress alike in the temple. Are you depressed to be there? No, the difference is in the person himself. It shines through as the individual spirit. The Father and the Son glowed exactly alike. Why doesn’t one wear black and the other wear green or something like that? No. It is the outward sameness that allows inward sameness, the spirit, to shine through. Such monotony is put to shame by the multibillion-dollar fashion industry of our times. The difference is that in heaven it is the individual spirit that shines through. What do we see in the temple, when we are all dressed alike? We must go out to the parking lot to assert our individuality in Mercedes, Cadillacs, and so forth. And which is the more depressing picture? The gaudy display of vanity fair is an attempt to cover up the spiritual and intellectual barrenness of the present world we live in. ((Hugh Nibley, Don E. Norton, Approaching Zion, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co. & FARMS, 1989, 443-444.))
Watches can set us apart from one another, which is not what the temple teaches us. We should not let vanity fair into the temple.
10. Elder Scott has suggested for us to do so
Some will say that this is insufficient reason, in and of itself. But I don’t believe so. I don’t think to pray over every item of counsel that leaves the lips of the Lord’s anointed servants in order to believe in it and do it. If it makes sense, I do it, and I know I will be blessed. I think this is a really good suggestion from Elder Scott, and when it comes from an Apostle of Jesus Christ I believe it is even more important that we pay attention to it. It almost felt like Elder Scott was pleading with us to do so when he said it.
What other reasons can you think of that we might want to remove our watches when we enter the House of the Lord? What else can be a distraction from our sacred worship there? Anything else that we might want to be aware of as we enter the sacred space?