PrisonTemple – About Page
After spending several months in the Cabarrus County Jail on felony charges my son Lindon accepted the plea agreement that was offered and is now incarcerated for a 44 month prison sentence in a North Carolina state prison.
As much as we had hoped and prayed he would avoid prison, that wasn’t in the plan. Since the very first day Lindon was in jail we recognized Heaven’s overarching presence in everything that happened. It became blatantly apparent that the course we were on had been intricately planned and was being carried out with undeniable accuracy. It was either that or we were some of the luckiest people on earth, because the daily serendipities were staggering in frequency and constancy; they were wonderful and never ending.
Praise be to God for His love and goodness. We most certainly recognized His overwhelming love for us, and our gratitude was overflowing.
I often thought to myself, “How can this be? How can a ‘soul so rebellious and proud as mine’ be so profoundly blessed? How could one who is serving time in jail be so blessed and watched over by God and Angels?” It became clear there was a mightier purpose to this path than simply paying a debt to society. God was molding something, creating something, making something; of us, and of everyone who would brush up against this wondrous plan.
In searching for solace I often turned to the inspired words of the Apostles and Prophets. In a tremendously inspired speech called “Lessons from Liberty Jail” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church) spoke of how Joseph Smith suffered tremendous hardships while serving time in the Liberty Jail, Liberty Missouri.
Elder Holland described the jail:
“The jail, one of the few and certainly one of the more forbidding of such structures in that region, was considered escape proof, and it probably was. It had two stories. The top or main floor was accessible to the outside world only by a single small, heavy door. In the middle of that floor was a trapdoor through which prisoners were then lowered into the lower floor or dungeon. The outside walls of the prison were of rough-hewn limestone two feet thick, with inside walls of 12-inch oak logs. These two walls were separated by a 12-inch space filled with loose rock. Combined, these walls made a formidable, virtually impenetrable barrier four feet thick.
In the dungeon the floor-to-ceiling height was barely six feet, and inasmuch as some of the men, including the Prophet Joseph, were over six feet tall, this meant that when standing they were constantly in a stooped position, and when lying it was mostly upon the rough, bare stones of the prison floor covered here and there by a bit of loose, dirty straw or an occasional dirty straw mat.
The food given to the prisoners was coarse and sometimes contaminated, so filthy that one of them said they “could not eat it until [they] were driven to it by hunger.” On as many as four occasions they had poison administered to them in their food, making them so violently ill that for days they alternated between vomiting and a kind of delirium, not really caring whether they lived or died. In the Prophet Joseph’s letters, he spoke of the jail being a hell, surrounded with demons . . . where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.
“We have . . . not blankets sufficient to keep us warm,” he said, “and when we have a fire, we are obliged to have almost a constant smoke.” “Our souls have been bowed down” and “my nerve trembles from long confinement.” “Pen, or tongue, or angels,” Joseph wrote, could not adequately describe “the malice of hell” that he suffered there. And all of this occurred during what, by some accounts, was considered then the coldest winter on record in the state of Missouri.1
I have never felt jail or prison could be anything but an ugly horrific place void of any spirit or light. But now my son was there, and it was all I could do to have hope against hope I was wrong. Somehow the Light of Heaven had to get through, and glory be to God on high, it did. Miraculously, that jail, as dark and ugly as jails can be, with the vilest of vile, peace and comfort of the Holy Ghost poured out on Lindon, and upon me. An unwavering peace distilled upon our souls as the dews from heaven, and many others can and do bear witness they felt the same unfathomable comfort. Truly heaven was not only aware of us, but was actively calming and soothing our weary hearts. We were at peace.
I marvel at the tender mercies and charitable compassion that we received from all over. My heart was overwhelmed at times at the goodness of others. I humbly wept frequently because of the undeserved kindness I was shown. Our heartfelt eternal gratitude goes out to all those who empathetically offered love and support. Our indebtedness to you is forever etched on our hearts; thank you.
O the lessons, heaven had planned to teach us all many deep and unforeseen lessons, which brings us to the focus of this blog. Elder Holland said of Liberty Jail, “Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking.”
I have come to learn that Lindon’s journey is inseparably connected to mine. The intricately detailed interwoven threads of the tapestry of his life are so cross-woven with mine, at times it’s almost impossible to clearly differentiate whose is whose.
Often, I would write Lindon these words, “We’re in this together.” It’s hard to explain why, but I mostly said that because he had become such a valiant and steadfast example to me, and not so much because I was trying to bring him comfort in offering my unending support. I felt I needed him more than he needed me. He had become my benchmark. He was my hero.
And that’s just it, Lindon was not in prison alone, I was there with him. And so was everyone who humbly submitted to heaven’s lesson plan. God was molding something, creating something, making something; of us.
Elder Holland taught:
Most of us, most of the time, speak of the facility at Liberty as a “jail” or a “prison”—and certainly it was that. But Elder Brigham H. Roberts, in recording the history of the Church, spoke of the facility as a temple, or, more accurately, a “prison-temple.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell used the same phrasing in some of his writings. Certainly it lacked the purity, the beauty, the comfort, and the cleanliness of our true temples, our dedicated temples. The speech and behavior of the guards and criminals who came there was anything but templelike. In fact, the restricting brutality and injustice of this experience at Liberty would make it seem the very antithesis of the liberating, merciful spirit of our temples and the ordinances that are performed in them. So in what sense could Liberty Jail be called a “temple”—or at least a kind of temple—in the development of Joseph Smith personally and in his role as a prophet? And what does such a title tell us about God’s love and teachings, including where and when that love and those teachings are made manifest?
We soon realized Lindon’s dedicated cell was much more than an incarceration, but it had become a holy and sacred temple, where he was being schooled by the master teacher Himself. And right along with Lindon, I was experiencing equal effects and blessings. This experience had become a PrisonTemple for us.
Elder Holland continues:
As we think on these things, does it strike us that spiritual experience, revelatory experience, sacred experience can come to every one of us in all the many and varied stages and circumstances of our lives if we want it, if we hold on and pray on, and if we keep our faith strong through our difficulties? We love and cherish our dedicated temples and the essential, exalting ordinances that are performed there. We thank heaven and the presiding Brethren that more and more of them are being built, giving more and more of us greater access to them. They are truly the holiest, most sacred structures in the kingdom of God, to which we all ought to go as worthily and as often as possible.
But tonight’s message is that when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
We bear witness that Elder Holland’s words are true. We have experienced them first hand. We have received the brightest of light in the darkest of times, and know without a doubt that prison can be a glorious temple. This blog is the story, the testimony, and sharing of the profound lessons we have learned in our PrisonTemple.
Know Ye Not
As we were preparing this blog, one day I set out to organize all the many letters Lindon had written. I put them in chronological order and began to read through them. They were inspiring, uplifting and didn’t tell a story of doom and gloom, but rather a story of how God was shaping a man into His wonderful creation.
I read through the letters I had written Lindon, as I did I recognized that many, if not most, of the letters were not about the Lindon’s actual prison confinement, but another prison entirely.
The spirit reminded me all of the many lessons we have learned since the beginning of these circumstances have been in regards to putting off the natural man and learning to access the Atonement in our lives.
Some of our favorite verses in the scriptures teach these lessons. Mosiah 3:19 speaks of putting off the natural man and becoming a saint through the Atonement, and Ether 12:27 speaks of humbly submitting ourselves to the Savior and that through the Atonement we can overcome our weaknesses.
As I pondered what we would be writing about in this blog, one thing became terribly clear to me: we each have a PrisonTemple. The nature of our bodies is to be carnal, sensual, and devilish (Alma 42:10) and therefore an enemy to God.
For many of us, if not most of us, our bodies have become a prison of sorts. We are imprisoned by addictions, habits, sicknesses, or weaknesses. We may be comfortable within our imprisonment, but still nevertheless imprisoned.
But in 1 Corinthians 3:16 we are reminded, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
We can be temples.
Throughout this past year the lessons we have learned have been profound. Some have come with simple sweetness and abundant clarity, while others have only come from deeply harrowing struggles and painful conditions where faith was stretched to its limits.
We desire to share with you what we have learned, how we have grown, and how we have come to know our PrisonTemple.