The Salt Lake Temple closed its doors on Monday for a four-year period of reconstruction and renewal. That’s a relatively small portion of its 127-year history; still, it comes with no small sacrifice from the community — local patrons must travel elsewhere to worship, volunteer workers must find other service opportunities to fill their time and visitors to Temple Square from near and far will confront fencing and dirt rather than an immaculate pioneer edifice.
Yet, those involved understand how their shared sacrifice makes for a stronger structure. What if the country applied the same principle this new year?
The U.S. already has a legacy of collective sacrifice on which to build. If you’re familiar with someone who lived through World War II, you have likely heard their stories of food rations, war bonds and rubber drives. You would have heard the innovative ways American families made do with less. Just peek inside a wartime cookbook: a festive upside-down Spam pie with a side of lime Jell-O olive relish, anyone?
And you would also be familiar with the patriotism and sense of duty that rewarded each person who gave what they could for something greater than themselves.
In the 80 years since, the rate at which life has improved would be unfathomable to the elders of that day, which makes this next question a riddle for the ages: Why does this era of plenty ask so little of its people?
Americans are richer, healthier and more educated than at any time in the nation’s history. They have greater access to information than the thousands of years of human history combined. The fabled Library of Alexandria once held as many as 700,000 books. The Brigham Young University library — only one among hundreds of such libraries in just this country — offers 4.7 million books. One would think Americans ought to be able to give in proportion to what they have gained.
Yet, one senses a missing layer of humility and gratitude that only sacrifice can elicit.
This year, what would happen if Americans collectively gave up just 1% of their day — no more than 15 minutes — in pursuit of improving humanity? Could they cut out one episode of a Netflix show to care for a neighbor? Could they eliminate a nighttime scroll through Instagram to text a grandparent?
This year, what would happen if Americans collectively gave up just 1% of their day — no more than 15 minutes — in pursuit of improving humanity?
What about material goods? Americans reportedly waste a pound of food per person per day. What would happen if they donated the money that would otherwise drop in the trash can? Could they part with excess income to support a homeless shelter, a family on hard times or a community fundraiser?
The pioneers who built the Salt Lake Temple sacrificed 40 years of their lives to haul granite, chisel stone, cut wood and truss rafters. Their work stands today as a testament to their shared sacrifice.
This new year is as good a time as any to renew and reconstruct the trajectory of your life. Sure, it requires sacrifice, but what other principle can build something so secure it stands with dignity 127 years later?