Pattern, purpose, power, and potential. These four p’s have guided the way Elliott Smith approaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Smith describes himself on this week’s All In podcast as “just a normal dude,” but his love for the gospel and his enthusiasm is contagious—and aren't we all just "normal people"?. On this week’s episode, he discusses with host Morgan Jones Pearson four principles, all of which begin with the letter “p,” that have allowed him to develop a deep love for the temple—and they have the potential to help grow your love for these holy places too
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Elliott, I wondered for you, why do you think a love for and an understanding of the temple is important for members of the Church? Or why has that been important for you?
Elliott Smith: It’s not something that came overnight to me ... because I wasn't very prepared when I went through the temple. It took me a while, but not a long while, because I had the chance to go to the temple every week when I was in the MTC before I left on my mission. And that's where I started to, I think, enjoy going to the temple. The first few times I went [to the temple] before I went on my mission, I didn't really enjoy it. To be honest, I went because I knew that I needed help preparing and getting more used to the temple. But I think being surrounded by other people that are in the same phase of life—to me, [a] relatively newly endowed missionary, it was fun, right? It was going with my buddies in my MTC district. And that's when I gained a love for the temple. And then once something is taken away, I think we learn to love it more.
I served my mission in Japan, and [I] was in Okinawa, Japan, for two years. [There’s] no temple there, right? And so I didn't get a chance to even be near a temple. When I came back to Salt Lake City and was surrounded by temples, I thought, What a blessing, [and] that I need to take advantage of this opportunity. But even starting going back to the temple, I didn't feel like I understood everything, right? There's so much to digest in all of the temple ordinances. But ... the ultimate goal is to obey and do what we do in life and in the Church out of love ... for our Heavenly Father, and love for people around us. But, you know, I'm not that selfless of a guy. [I’m] still working on a lot of things in my life. And so I thought, “Alright, I've been commanded to do this. I don't really love it. But I'm going to do it to establish the pattern.”
And I kind of call this thing my four “p” approach to life and the gospel. If we [first] establish the pattern with anything in the Church—and in this case ... going to the temple—[then]we start to learn more about the purpose. That's the second key. And as we learn more about the purpose of the temple, then we can start to realize the power of the temple. So start with a pattern, learn more about the purpose, and then we feel the power, which helps us realize our greater potential, right?
So, the pattern, the purpose, the power, and [the] potential. That's kind of what happened to me. I think that’s why the temple is so important in our lives, and [by] gaining a love for [the temple] we learn about all of those things. We learn about patterns in the gospel, and I won't get into any specifics, but there [are] a lot of patterns that we see and we can learn about, and as we embrace those patterns, and if we try to implement those patterns in other aspects of our life, we see a greater purpose in the things that we do. And then as we see that purpose, we understand more the power that the things we learned in the temple can have in other aspects of our life.
One of the greatest things that I get out of what I've learned in the temple is how much Satan tries to interfere and get in between me and my Heavenly Father. But Heavenly Father is always there to help save us and send people to us in our times of need when Satan's trying to distract us or just plain get in the way of us learning more about the gospel. And so when I kind of realized that purpose of what I've learned in the temple, that [was] powerful, because then [I could] take [what I learned] and ... apply that in my daily life and try to do things that will keep space between me and Satan and narrow the gap between my Heavenly Father and me.
And then we can realize our full potential, our eternal potential. And then that just changes the outlook—putting on a new lens or a new pair of glasses where we see a little bit more clearly because Satan is all about looking at things on a proximate level. And [I’m] kind of paraphrasing from an Elder Maxwell talk that he gave many years ago. I know you're a big [Elder] Maxwell fan, too. You probably know the talk I'm referring to. … But Satan wants us to focus on the proximate things. The Savior and our Heavenly Father want us to focus on ultimate things. He talks in that talk about proximate and ultimate joy and Satan is the master of temporary things. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior are the master of [eternally] lasting things. And I think as we go to the temple, even if we don't like it, even if it we had an awkward first experience and it's not enjoyable, if we just go, [it can help to] remove all expectations from ourselves. Certainly, we shouldn't ever put expectations on other people that we're talking to about the temple, or if we're in an ecclesiastical position where we are helping someone learn about the temple or go through temple prep, we should never place expectations based on our experience. If someone goes to the temple and has amazing experiences every time, we shouldn't [say], "Oh, whenever I go, I have this amazing experience. You're [going to] have the same thing," and they're like, "Oh, I better have that moment or I'm not doing something right or I'm not worthy." It's like, "No, you're worthy, you're good to be there, right? You're just fine." Like, take the pressure off of ourselves. And certainly don't put any pressure on anybody else to have a certain type of experience. It's a very personal, intimate thing between that person and whatever level they're on. And everybody feels the Spirit in such a different way. Who are we to judge and prescribe how someone should have spiritual experiences? It's not our place.