More than 160 Southern Virginia University students gathered at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday this month to board one of three busses chartered for a three-hour drive to the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The trip was the university’s fifth annual temple service day, on which no classes or other campus activities are scheduled. Unlike many temple trips, some students came dressed in jeans and work clothes, ready to perform service on the temple grounds. Other participants dressed in their Sunday best were going to serve within the temple walls.
Jed Harr, a junior from Saint George, Utah, chose to work on the grounds. Even outside, he felt the peace and calming spirit that only the temple can offer. For Harr, providing any kind of service at the temple constitutes working for the Lord.
“I love temples,” said Harr. “They show a small fraction of our Heavenly Father’s love for us and in turn our love for him.”
He and 50 others weeded and planted flowerbeds or hung some of the thousands of Christmas lights which soon will glitter from the trees.
Harr enjoys working with his hands and seeing what his hard work can accomplish. The temple service day also allowed him time to forget everything and focus on his own goals. Although he wished for more time at the temple, he was grateful for the opportunity this trip offered him.
“I think that anytime someone can go to the temple, he or she can and will benefit from the time spent there,” Harr said. “I look forward to the next time I get to go to the temple.”
While some students worked on the temple grounds, another 90 students served inside. Jessi Gibbons, a junior from Buena Vista, Va., participated in baptisms for the dead. For her, the temple service was the break she needed from the daily routine of the semester.
“I have looked forward to the temple trip all semester just because I knew it was one day where I could go and my friends were going to be there,” Gibbons said. “It’s a place where we can feel the spirit. I definitely wanted to take advantage of this day.”
Gibbons loves the temple and loves participating in proxy baptisms because of the spirit she feels there and the responsibility she feels towards temple work.
The day at the temple also gave students time to walk around the grounds and visitors’ center, to be alone and ponder. Some students chose to watch “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration” and learn about his life and the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Students could sign up the week before the trip at the university mail center. A $10 deposit, which was returned as the students loaded onto the buses in the morning, was required to reserve a spot. The university provided a free sack lunch for each student. The coaches were paid for by the Buena Vista Virginia Stake. Students were free to focus on service, and did not have to worry about food or transportation.
Whether working on the grounds or working inside, there was an encompassing spirit of love. Work was accomplished, and hearts were touched. The students took just one day from whatever else they might have been doing, but the impact of their work will last immeasurably longer.
“I think that the temple is the most important place on earth,” Gibbons said. “I know that temple service is important because there is a work that we have to do here so that others can be exalted in the next life.”