The hope is that you only go through the temple once – for yourself. After that, it is for others in proxy service. So that one time – the first time – should be wonderful. For many it is the culmination of a lifetime of spiritual development. It can be a joyful, glorious event. However…
I have learned over the years that for many, the first time isn’t so great, and it is a sad, irretrievable opportunity. Some find it weird, some find it confusing, some never really grasp the whole thing and it haunts them for years. And, sadly, some never go back.
The difference between those who regard it as a wonderful, defining gift, and those who walk away with their heads reeling usually boils down to one thing: Preparation.
Those who are in charge of that preparation are, in order, 1) the person planning to receive his/her endowment, 2) their parents and family, 3) their church leaders. However, not everyone has parents who can do the job, or church leaders who will do the job. Much of the responsibility is up to us. Rightfully.
But preparing ourselves, or helping someone prepare for the temple can be tricky business. Not everything that goes on in the temple should be discussed outside of the temple. Some things are okay to talk about, other things are not, and the difference varies wildly depending on who you are asking. (I’m sure some of you are even freaking out that I am even talking about this.)
Because of the real and warranted fear of disclosing too much, I fear that often we retreat too far, and discuss too little, leaving the new temple-goer with an inadequate base of knowledge to make the most of the experience.
Today’s youth have a couple of things working for them in this regard: First, temple attendance seems to be much more a part of the regular lives of this generation that in my generation. They have initial exposure to the temple itself, ordinances, signs, symbolism and recommends. Second, they have access to much more information from reliable sources about how to prepare. Last, they have a much better Temple Prep course, if it is being utilized.
They also have some disadvantages: First, the younger missionary age means that more young men and women are receiving their endowment much younger than before – accelerated by the earlier mission ages. There is so much going on pre-mission, that sometimes this preparation gets minimized in the shuffle. Second, they have access to much more information for unreliable sources about the temple and the ordinances therein through the internet.
Two things concern me:
- If curiosity of what goes on with the walls of the temple is not satisfied by what is provided through the proper channels, many youth will turn to the internet for more information – and believe me, it is there from all sorts of evil sources.
- I have a very difficult time with the idea of someone being expected to make a covenant with God, on-the-spot, with no forewarning or knowledge of what eternal commitment that is being asked. Surprise!
- Often, when someone enters the temple without adequate preparation – both spiritual, and intellectual – they can emerge confused, or put off, and this can turn a great experience into an experience that can test the persons faith for years to come.
I encourage those of you who are preparing to enter the temple to make sacred covenants to do your due diligence before you enter the temple. Study, prepare, attend classes if offered. You have one shot at this for yourself – make it wonderful.
If you have a child that is getting close to receiving their endowment, take their preparation seriously. Spend time discussing and teaching. I have a fond memory of having a long, one-on-one temple preparation class with one of my sons in my truck, as we drove to California.
Now some of you are probably sweating about what I will divulge. Don’t worry – you’re safe with me. What I am going to do is to provide material and links that come directly from the Church that will help in temple preparation. All of it is available on LDS.org, if you know where to look. (You don’t need to buy a book – there is plenty of info for free.)
- Endowed From On High (The Temple Preparation Teachers Manual) This is the manual that should be used at your ward or stake level for a temple preparation class. It is really good, and well worth your time. I was glad to see it was a significant step up from the old manual.
- For a greater understanding of covenants, and the covenants you will be making in the temple, I would point you to Lesson 4 of that same manual. AND…
- A great article that talks about ALL the covenants we make in our lifetimes. “Understanding Our Covenants with God.” This is a winner.
- A Conference talk by Elder M. Russell Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings.”
- A short manual, “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple” is a really nice overview.
- For more information of the holy garment and temple clothing, there is a video that the Church released last year to help inform, and still hold sacred our temple clothing. To those of us in the previous generation, this is a HUGE thing – but the times and technology demand that we own the discussion, rather than the adversary. Here is the video:
If you have received your endowment, take a moment and think back to that event. Were you ready? Was it all it could/should have been? Now, spend the time helping your child, or those in your stewardship to prepare to receive their endowment, and you can help to ensure that they don’t emerge in a glass-eyed fog, but rather full of enlightenment and the Spirit.
(Photo of Gilbert Temple courtesy of Dave Anderson. To see more of his fantastic stuff, go HERE.)