I have observed that one of the times when a person is generally completely teachable is when he is preparing to enter the temple for the first time.
This time of preparation is when those who give counsel and guidance can draw spiritually close to a person or a couple and share in their growth. As a bishop in a Brigham Young University stake and now as its president, I have witnessed some truly significant growth as the young men and women in my stake have prepared to enter the temple. Helping them prepare for this first visit has been one of the great blessings of my church service.
In a formal, ecclesiastical sense, preparation for the temple begins with an interview with the bishop. The primary purpose of this interview is to determine a person’s worthiness to enter the temple. One of the spiritual blessings a person gains from temple attendance is knowing he has fulfilled the requirements to enter the temple.
Most people who have come to me as a bishop or stake president for temple interviews have been worthy. When some have not been worthy, it has been because they have never really taken the time to find out what was expected of them. When they learn, you can see a complete change in their lives.
The second purpose of the interview is to provide an opportunity to teach the meaning of worthiness and to help start the process of repentance when that is necessary.
However, proper preparation for the temple should not begin with a visit with one’s bishop; it should begin in the family. As parents set the example of honoring and respecting their covenants and attending the temple regularly, even small children will come to learn of the importance of the temple.
One of the spiritual highlights in the lives of many children is the opportunity to go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. Children remember for a long time the feeling of the Spirit in the house of the Lord.
As young children grow into teenagers, the goal of temple marriage should be discussed both in the home and in church. The best way to promote this goal is to teach, by precept and example, the beauty of an eternal relationship. Young men and women should be able to see the blessings of the temple at work in their own homes.
It is the blessing and the responsibility of the father not only to help his children become worthy to enter the temple, but also to teach them about the temple in ways that will properly prepare them to go there themselves. Thus, every father and every bishop should help those in their care to become ready for the temple—not only worthy, but ready.
As a bishop at BYU, I often had the opportunity to help others prepare for the temple. I started by spending about 15 minutes with each person who came for a recommend, just chatting about what they would find in the temple. These conversations were so mutually and spiritually rewarding that they soon stretched into two-hour sessions.
I did not tell these young people anything that a father and mother could not or should not tell their children about the temple. I hope that I reinforced what some fathers and mothers had been teaching all along.
These are some of the basic principles I tried to cover:
First, go with an open mind and an open heart. Be prepared to learn from those who have been called to work in the temple. Be teachable.
Concentrate on feeling the spirit that exists within the temple. There is a feeling of timelessness and peace found there that exists nowhere else. Some couples are so concerned about remembering every word and action that they miss the Spirit. Familiarity with the temple ceremonies will come with time and experience, but the spirit of the work can be felt the very first time.
Then, within the appropriate bounds set by our General Authorities, I would explain the mechanics of a temple session.
You will be asked to make covenants with the Lord and with your wife or husband. These covenants are solemn promises and should not be entered into lightly or thoughtlessly. When asked to make a covenant, think about what you are doing. Honoring these covenants brings great blessings, and the blessings can begin as soon as you make the covenants.
The temple is a serene and beautiful place. It is designed to inspire and uplift those who attend. Spend time absorbing its special atmosphere.
The only real way to prepare for the temple is to prepare your spiritual self. You should go to the temple in a spiritual frame of mind and be ready to learn spiritually. That kind of preparation should continue throughout life, not just the first time you go to the temple.
Achieving this spirituality comes with studying the scriptures, praying diligently, serving your fellowmen, fulfilling your Church callings, and applying gospel principles in your life.
It takes a lifetime to learn the lessons that are taught in the house of the Lord. Each time a person goes he can learn something new about the gospel that he has not fully understood before. When we are in the temple our ability to understand and learn depends in large part on the quality of our spirituality. What we take home from the temple depends a great deal on what we take into it.
Preparation for marriage and preparation for the temple are in many ways the same. In each case we are preparing to make covenants with someone we love and who loves us, and we need to be prepared and worthy to make those covenants.
Working with individuals and couples and explaining to them the importance and joy of going to the temple brings satisfying results. These brothers and sisters leave the temple filled with its spirit and eager to return and learn more about what the Lord requires of them.