Beauty for Ashes

Provo City Center Temple

I love historical buildings. I love the musty smells and the creaking floor boards. I like to imagine the human stories and events of the past the hardware and walls may have witnessed. Who touched and turned the doorknobs? What sounds reverberated off the high ceilings? Was there singing? Laughter? Crying? Old buildings have stories and I love stories.

When I heard the old Provo City Tabernacle burned down, I was disappointed. I had never been inside the building, but numerous times I had seen the striking exterior. It was a historical icon and I hated to think of losing a building of such magnificence along with its stories. Regarding this event, in October of 2013, Sister Linda S. Reeves recalls the following:

Almost three years ago a devastating fire gutted the interior of the beloved, historic tabernacle in Provo, Utah. Its loss was deemed a great tragedy by both the community and Church members. Many wondered, “Why did the Lord let this happen? Surely He could have prevented the fire or stopped its destruction.”

Ten months later, during the October 2011 general conference, there was an audible gasp when President Thomas S. Monson announced that the nearly destroyed tabernacle was to become a holy temple—a house of the Lord! Suddenly we could see what the Lord had always known! He didn’t cause the fire, but He allowed the fire to strip away the interior. He saw the tabernacle as a magnificent temple—a permanent home for making sacred, eternal covenants.

My dear sisters, the Lord allows us to be tried and tested, sometimes to our maximum capacity. We have seen the lives of loved ones—and maybe our own—figuratively burned to the ground and have wondered why a loving and caring Heavenly Father would allow such things to happen. But He does not leave us in the ashes; He stands with open arms, eagerly inviting us to come to Him. He is building our lives into magnificent temples where His Spirit can dwell eternally (October 2013 General Conference. “Claim the Blessings of Your Covenants”).

As my husband and I went through the open house tour for the new Provo City Center Temple, we appreciated that such care was taken to replicate many unique architectural details of the original building. Exquisitely carved railings and wood trim adorned the stairwells. Light filtered through colorful stained glass windows. Detail after detail in each room resonated of times past while at the same time presenting new flourishes and designs.

We felt a reverent awe as we walked hand in hand through each divinely-purposed room. It was our first time together in a temple building since my husband was asked to give up his temple recommend. I was prepared for some emotional triggers, but there were none. Instead, I reveled in the symbolic nature of our experience. We were standing in a holy edifice which portrayed the beauty of its purpose; an edifice that, from blackened rubble, was renewed to something even more glorious and beautiful.

During the early days of betrayal trauma, I felt like my marriage had been totally destroyed. The fragments of memories that were left all seemed to be tarnished by the sooty blackness of deceit, addiction, and broken covenants.

I’ve spent 18 months sifting through the rubble of my marriage. I have found things worth keeping. I have found the foundation to rebuild. And like the magnificent Provo City Center Temple, I hope to work with my husband to create something even more glorious and beautiful than we had before.

I thought we had a great marriage before D-Day when our marriage was gutted, but the Lord knew differently. I have changed. My husband has changed. As Sister Reeves said of our Heavenly Father, “He is building our lives into magnificent temples where His Spirit can dwell eternally.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would “comfort all that mourn” and “give unto them beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:2-3).  I’m still brushing off some of my soot, but I can see the possibility of a beautiful life rising before me in the future.




Celestial Bodies

A beauty of the late 1800’s: Lillian Russell

I’ve often wondered if I was born during the wrong time period. My values and interests are more in line with earlier days. Even my body type seems to fit better in a time far from the present. Had I lived in the latter part of the 1800’s when voluptuous women were adored, I might have gotten a few whistles or admiring glances. As fate would have it, my idea of the perfect body was developed while the famous model, Twiggy, was at the tale-end of her career. Twiggy, as her professional name implies, was super skinny. My classmates and I wanted to look just like this model that society considered to be a real beauty. We cut our hair, wore short shift-style dresses, and tried to look skinny. Even at my lowest weight, I had curves.

I didn’t fit into skinny.


Twiggy Models Her Own Line

I don’t fault Twiggy for my warped vision of the perfect body type. There are many factors that contributed to my unappreciative view of my own healthy, strong, and youthful body. Discovering my husband was addicted to viewing pornography and lust added a whole lot more to my already failing sense of worth when it came to my personal appearance. I’ve had to grapple with this issue in order to find healing from my betrayal trauma. I’m nearing my 60th birthday so the hope of having a body that can compete with online painted and photoshopped ladies isn’t realistic. I’m working on making my body more healthy and strong, but I can’t change my body to look like the young models and celebrities on social media. I can, however, change the way my mind thinks about my body.

I’ve learned to recognize the inner dialogue that goes through my head as I look in the mirror. I go through a progression of thoughts until I finally come around to what I call the “celestial body” talk. I am of the LDS faith, so I believe that there are three kingdoms of glory that we can attain in the next life. These degrees of glory are often compared to the celestial bodies we find in the skies: the sun, the moon, and the stars. So, the phrase “celestial body” has multiple meanings to me. My  personal celestial body talk helps me focus on the truer sense of beauty.

Telestial Beauty: At the telestial level, my beauty is only about my appearance or what I see in the mirror. I often use the mantra,

“I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent”

as I consider the imperfections and flaws of my aging body while also acknowledging that I have some excellent features that have not changed so much: fingernails, eyes, lips, etc. Telestial beauty is dictated by the values of society that are ever changing. Without expensive surgeries and extensive cosmetic assistance, very few, if any, women are able to touch the impossible-to-reach and narrow view of beauty defined by today’s world.

Terrestrial Beauty: Terrestrial beauty takes on a more worthy perspective. This is where I see and appreciate the functionality of my body. My body works for me, is healthy, can take care of others and myself, and is therefore beautiful. My body enables me to perform the tasks I need to do while I’m alive on this earth. My body allows me to experience the gifts of movement and creativity. The miracle that my body is full of life makes it a thing of beauty.

Celestial Beauty: When I can see myself as God sees me, I have reached the understanding of beauty at the celestial level. It is difficult to have negative feelings about my body when I see myself as a spiritual being with a kind and loving Father in Heaven in whose image I am created. When I look in the mirror and know that my heart is soft and yearning for spiritual growth, I feel my inner beauty shine through.

Because of my age, it is an impossibility that I will ever find the physical beauty that is now valued by the world, so I am no longer seeking that type of beauty. Instead, I focus on what is possible: to live a righteous life so I will someday see the face of my Savior. He will see that I’ve done the best with what I have been given. I will feel his love and I will feel beautiful.



Source of Quote: “I may not be totally perfect but parts of me are excellent” is from the Brilliant Thought Series, No. 1, by Ashleigh Brilliant.

Photo Credit Lillian Russell:  Medical Daily. “History Of Body Image In America: How The ‘Ideal’ Female And Male Body Has Changed Over Time.”

Photo Credit Twiggy: Huffington Post. “Twiggy, 64, Models Leather Collection For M&S Proving She Hasn’t Lost Her Edge.”

Disclaimer: My experiences and opinions are mine alone and do not represent any public expressions of policy by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.