God’s Hotel: How Is Your Stay?
I was boarding a plane this weekend and I couldn’t help but notice two distinct couples standing in front of me.
One was an elderly couple whose wrinkled faces were painted with wisdom and experience. The clothes on their backs draped like pillowcases, not because they were too big, but because their bodies no longer held great statures like they once did. They spoke tenderly, almost in whispers, and it was obvious that they had spent years in care and love for one another.
Further ahead of them, I watched as a young beautiful couple prodded and poked one another, clearly enjoying their flirting and not seeming to notice a thing in the world. It could have been their honeymoon departure for all I knew. Smiles and laughter soon led to kisses on the forehead, and, if I wasn’t delirious—because we left on an early morning flight—a few on the lips as well. Their journey was only beginning.
As I watched these two couples, I was reminded of a powerful lesson: Earth is God’s hotel, and I am simply a guest here.
Though we like to believe that this planet is ours for the taking and that we control and manipulate it, we are actually given very little time to do what we please. God checks us in, and God checks us out. The young lovers had been checked in for only a few years, while the elderly couple were nearing the end of their stay.
All of which prompted me to wonder, how is my stay in God’s hotel? Am I making the most of my eight-star experience?
The speaker overhead drew me away from my thoughts as the gate attendant called for my group to board. Thoughts of God’s hotel were temporarily put to rest as I found my seat on the flight to Dallas. The first stop on our trip was the sealing of Paul and Kimberlie Wells in the Dallas LDS Temple. I met Paul in Richardson while serving my two-year mission in Texas, and boy am I glad that I did. He has had a profound effect on my life—enough so that I set aside educational responsibilities for a weekend to be there as he went through the Temple and was soon after sealed to his wife and daughter for time and all eternity.
Paul was the ultimate “pastor of pastors” for more than twenty years. His high position in that church organization took him to New York much of the time. Upon returning from one of those trips, he was confused to discover that his wife and daughter were going to be baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He spent his entire life devoted to the gospel and traveled all over the country to teach others. You can imagine the pain that he must have felt to return home to the news that his family had decided to leave his church for another.
However, being the respectable man that he is, he acknowledged his wife and daughter’s wishes and attended their baptisms the following day. For several months he would not allow Mormon missionaries to teach him the truths that his wife and daughter had found to be so valuable. I was one of those missionaries. When he finally agreed to let me and Elder Williams teach him, he told us that he recognized a difference in his wife, Kimberlie, and daughter, Cheryse. He explained that he saw a new light in them that he had never seen before—that was the initial reason that he agreed to listen to a lesson.
As we sat down and began to discuss the history and pattern of God’s church and its establishment on earth, it became obvious that Paul was more familiar with the scriptures than the back of his own hand. He not only knew them, but he loved them and lived by them. Paul graciously listened to our points, adding tidbits from the scriptures and asking questions along the way.
When we started talking about Joseph Smith, a young boy who helped to restore God’s church on the earth, it was clear that we had his attention. His ears were perked like a German Shepherd’s at the jingle of his leash, signaling a walk. It was the first time he had ever heard about what happened in the year 1820 in a small town of New York.
As his questions subsided, the room became quiet—the only sounds left were our words as we related the miraculous event to our newfound friend.
We shared how God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. Then—before I could utter another word—Paul stopped me. He raised his hand until it was pointed directly at me. What he said surprised me and my companion:
“Stop. Stop right there. I felt the Spirit as you were sharing that story with me. I know how to recognize the Spirit, and when you told me about Joseph Smith, the power of the Holy Spirit filled this entire room.” He proceeded to testify to us about how he knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Several weeks later, on the very day before I left the mission to return home to Utah, I stood in water with Brother Wells and baptized him. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and I was touched when he rose from the water and put his hands in the air as though he had scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. He could not have been happier.
His story resurfaced in my mind this weekend as we watched their beautiful family make sacred covenants together in the Temple. Tears were shed, immense support was shown, and the Spirit was abundant. Again, I felt inspired when he told us, “I thought nothing could reach beyond what I had felt in the past. But I was wrong. I have never been involved in an experience as powerful as that in my life.”
This morning as I stepped onto the plane for our flight home, I almost laughed when I again noticed two couples—one that was nearing the end of their stay, and one that was only beginning; I continue to be taught daily by our Father in Heaven. I’m glad that He could remind me that I am only His guest. To answer my question, I am thoroughly enjoying God’s hotel. I have the best wife in the world to appreciate it with me.
So, how is your stay?