Several years ago I was in a gathering addressed by one of the great men of the Church. As he spoke he mentioned that earlier in the day he had been in the temple. He paused, then with moist eyes continued. “It’s really something to be in the temple.” Time has since dimmed my memory of the rest of his message, but I will never forget the spirit I felt when this man, speaking from the depths of his heart, said, “It’s really something to be in the temple.”
How can we teach our children so that they will feel there is nothing more important than being in the temple? There’s probably not any one discussion that can be given that will definitely put a temple desire into a child’s soul. Instead, those parents who have been sealed in the temple are given opportunities as their children grow to expose them in a thousand and more ways to the beauties of the temple. I think it is in this approach that temple marriage will become an everlasting and an uncompromising goal.
In striving to understand how to teach this goal I recently talked about it with each of my older children. I asked our fifteen-year-old son. “Where are you going to get married?”
He replied, “In the temple.”
“I’ve just never thought of getting married anywhere else.”
Again I asked. “Why?”
“Well, that’s where you go so you can be married forever.”
“But,” I asked. “what if you meet a girl who doesn’t feel that the temple is that important?” “Then I’d talk her into it.”
“But what if she won’t be talked into it? Then what would you do?”
There was a long pause. Then he replied. “Dad, I wouldn’t marry her.”
I knew he was sincere. I continued by asking, “Which of your friends do you think will get married in the temple?”
“The ones whose parents were married in the temple.”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“Well, Dad, you learn about these things from your parents.”
“Did you learn about the temple from your mother and me?”
“Yes. I did.”
I continued. “Tell me when it was that we taught you that you should be married in the temple.”
“There’s no particular time. It’s just the way that you and Mom treat each other that makes me want to get married in the temple. Once in awhile when I look in your room I see you and Mom kneeling in prayer and it makes me feel good.”
I pushed him a little by saying, “But haven’t I said something? Wasn’t there one time you can recall when either your mother or I said something that really stands out in your mind?”
He said. “Yes, once in home evening you told Kathryn about how much you looked forward to her getting married in the temple. But,” he continued with great emphasis, “it is not so much what you say, it’s how things are. I just want to have the kind of home and family that we have. I know it all starts with the temple. That way you know that you are a family not only in this life but forever.”
I asked, “Do you think then that every friend of yours whose parents were married in the temple will feel as you do? And that those whose parents weren’t married there will feel the opposite?”
He paused briefly as he considered this question. Then he said, “I guess most of them will. But some whose parents were married in the temple might not want to. Some parents lecture about the temple and things like that and then don’t treat each other with respect and don’t live like they should. I think the kids just say, ‘Big deal! They were married in the temple, but they sure don’t act like it means anything special to them.’ I think, Dad, that some kids think their parents are hypocritical about things like that. I don’t believe they are going to want to follow their parents.”
I changed the subject and asked, “What part do Church teachers play in making young people want to get married in the temple?”
His answer was, “Well, if the kids really like their teachers, then what they say means a lot. But,” he added, “I don’t think most kids get a desire to be married in the temple from their teachers. That comes from their parents. But when you believe in going to the temple and things like that then your teachers help by talking about it.”
I pursued this further by asking, “Do you think some kids come to Church or seminary classes without having a desire to get married in the temple and get it there?”
He responded, “Sure they do. But,” he added, “that’s almost asking too much—kids do what their parents do.”
Later I talked to my seventeen-year-old daughter and asked her some of these same questions. She said, “Whenever I pick up the newspaper and look at the brides I always look to see if they are getting married in the temple. I probably shouldn’t judge, but I can’t help it. I look at their faces and then I read the article. If they’re not getting married in the temple it makes me want to cry.”
“Why do you feel that way?”
“Well, it seems like marriage and love should be forever. When I see that they’re not getting married in the temple, I think that they don’t have as much of a chance.” I asked her if I had ever done or said anything that had caused her to want to someday be married in the temple. She answered, “I can’t think of any one time. It’s mainly when we’ve driven past a temple or when we’ve looked at the temple pictures. Whenever we’ve done things like that I’ve had the feeling that that’s where I want to be married.
“Once when I was little we looked at some pictures of all the temples and I can remember thinking that someday I wanted to be married in one of those beautiful buildings.” Then her eyes sort of sparkled and she said, “There was a time in a home evening when you looked at me and said, ‘Kathryn, do you want me to tell you about your future?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ and you said, ‘Children, everybody be real quiet because I am going to tell Kathryn about her future.’ You said something like this:
“‘Kathryn, as you get older you’ll meet a fellow and you’ll come home and say to me, “Dad, I met a boy and I really like him.” I’ll quickly say, “I don’t like him.” Because, Kathryn, you’re my sweetheart. But then I’ll meet him and I’ll say, “I like him too.” Then one day you’ll come home and say, “Dad, I don’t just like him, I love him. I want to marry him.”
“‘Very early in the morning on the appointed day I’ll come to your room and touch your shoulder and whisper, “Kathryn, it’s time to get up. We’ve got to be there on time.” We’ll drive through the morning air and park as close as we can to the temple. Once inside we’ll dress in white and go to a room where people get married forever. I’ll look at you and think you’re the loveliest daughter in the world. But you won’t be looking at me. You’ll be looking at him. The room will be peaceful and beautiful. In some rooms there is a mirror on one wall and a mirror on the opposite wall. You reflect back and forth from mirror to mirror and seem to go off into eternity. In the room will be your loved ones who are able to go to the temple with you.
“‘A man of God will be there and he will talk to you about marriage. Then he’ll ask you and your chosen mate to kneel one on each side of the altar. As you kneel you’ll hold hands across the altar. He will perform your wedding ceremony through the priesthood of God. And when he’s finished, Kathryn, you’ll be married forever. Just like your mom and I are married forever.
“‘Won’t it be glorious when you go to the temple to get married? Kids, won’t it be something when each one of you grows up and finds somebody you love with all your heart? And then you’ll go to a temple of our God—to be married not for just this life, but forever, just like your mom and I. Children, the temple is the place to get married. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. In this church we can be families forever.’”
Having finished relating this experience Kathryn continued: “I’ll always remember that night. I think the other kids will too. But, Dad, it wasn’t anything you ever really said that makes me want to marry in the temple. It’s just that we sort of grew up with it.”
But what if your children didn’t grow up with it? What then? What if you were converted to the Church when your children were beyond the early and most impressionable years? Or what if you saw no need for a temple marriage until your children were in their teens? Or what of you who are divorced or who are married to one who has not as yet felt the desire to go to the temple? How can you teach your children about those blessings that came late to you or that have not yet come at all?
To those in such circumstances the Lord will give extra help if they desire it. Those of you who gain temple desire and worthiness after your civil marriage and who then take your family to be sealed in the temple are indeed blessed. Such an experience of a family being sealed together will leave an impression on your children that will, with proper preparation and follow-up, infuse in them a desire to someday return to the temple to be married.
If you are a divorcee or one who is married to a nonbeliever, you can, in a sincere way, tell your children of the ache in your heart at not having the joy of a temple marriage. This doesn’t mean you should belittle the nonbelieving spouse. Such talk will almost certainly lead children to be skeptical of marriage of any kind, and particularly of one that is supposed to last forever. Instead you might say something such as: “Ben, you’ll soon be old enough to date. As you know, I love your father. But, son, my heart has hurt over the years because your father and I have not been to the temple. As you date, and as you make decisions about the future, be certain to seek out a mate who loves the temple. Don’t go through life without being an eternal family.”
Such heart-felt counsel, coupled with a righteous life and daily prayers about your children, will do much to cause your children to be able to say with emotion and joy, “I want to be married in the temple.”
Apart from our role as parents, we as teachers in the Church have great desires to be able to convey things such as the beauties of going on missions, the thrill of paying tithing, and the joy of being morally clean. And among these is being able to teach with effectiveness the great blessing of being married in the Lord’s house and building one’s family foundation upon the rock of Christ.
I have the privilege of attempting to teach young college students these things. Some of them come from homes where they have been exposed all their lives to the blessings that come because of eternal marriage. Others just recently joined the Church. Still others come from broken or troubled homes. All of them are mostly idealistic and they sit waiting to be fed the spiritual truth of the restored gospel.
In this teaching experience I feel the Spirit of the Lord most strongly when I am teaching the joy of being married to the right person in the right place at the right time. It thrills me to be able to say as the prophets have declared that the celestial kingdom is nothing more than the extension of the perfect home. I feel the Lord bear witness as I discuss the fact that often at a family home evening I look at each family member and catch a vision that this is heaven. Students respond eagerly as we discuss bringing spirits from heaven to live in a home where each child is born under the covenant. When I speak of these things I notice that a light comes into the eyes of almost all my students.
As children grow older they can be taught more specifically about the endowment. I recall once speaking about the temple garment. I related an experience I had while I was in the army in Korea, where dressing facilities were not very private. In those circumstances I tried to be discreet, but at times some of my friends noticed that I wore temple garments. They would smile and say, “What are those?” I would merely explain, “They are part of my religion and someday I’ll tell you more about them.” One night in the barracks one of my friends said, “You’ve said you would tell us about your underwear. What is the story?” It was a small barracks and housed about fourteen men whom I had come to love over the months we were together. None of them was a member of the Church. I said, “This seems like a good time to tell all of you my feelings about life and my religion.” Everyone in the barracks waited quietly. “You know how much letters from my wife and pictures of our little boy mean to me. I miss them more than I can say. That has something to do with why I wear these sacred garments.
“When I met my wife prior to our marriage, I fell deeply in love with her. She agreed to become my wife.” I paused from the narrative and asked, “Have any of you men ever seen a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Most of them said that they had seen a temple in one place or another. Each declared that he felt that those buildings were beautiful. I said, “Yes, they are beautiful from the outside and they are even more beautiful inside.”
I continued, “To go into a temple is quite an experience because, you see, it is the house of the Lord. Only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can enter. My sweetheart and I went to the Salt Lake Temple some years ago. It was there that we were married. There are certain things that happen inside a temple. These things aren’t secret things, but they are sacred. They are things about which we are not to speak outside of the temple. But I can say this much—while I was in the temple I promised our Heavenly Father that I would keep his commandments in every way. He, in return, promised me in that holy house that if I would keep his commandments my family, my wife, my children, and I would never—even after death—be separated, but we would be a family forever.
“Because I went to the temple I was thereafter privileged to wear these garments. They are sacred and holy and they are a constant reminder to me of the promises I made in the temple and of the promises the Lord made to me.
“So you see, my friends, as long as I wear these garments I have a constant reminder of things of an eternal nature. They help me to remember always that if I keep the covenants that I made in the Lord’s holy house I will be with my family forever. While here in Korea I miss my wife and little boy more than words can tell. I never want to be separated from them again. If you can imagine being in the great eternal world that follows this one and not being with your family, then you know that would be one of the most heartbreaking things that could ever happen. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes it possible for a man and woman to be married in the Lord’s temple so that they will not be separated after this life. They will be together forever. I know that what I have told you is true and I want you to know it is true. And that’s the answer to your question about why I wear this underwear.”
I knew that as I spoke the Lord’s Spirit was in that barracks in Korea. Those men knew that I had spoken the truth. Silence filled the room. There wasn’t anything else said and we all went to sleep.
Later, when new men came to live in our barracks some would ask about the underwear. I didn’t have to answer again, for in response to such a question one or the other of my own friends who had been there on that night would say, “If you knew why he wore the underwear, you wouldn’t smile. Those are sacred. They’re part of his religion.”
As children get older, we can tell them about the temple endowments by telling them these kinds of stories and by using some of the things that are printed in books, such as The House of the Lord, by Elder James E. Talmage. But it seems our younger children are better able to understand that Mommy and Daddy went to the temple to be married. And from such knowledge they will feel strongly that the temple is where they are going to go. At the appropriate time they can come to understand the endowment.
As time goes by, teach your children about the temple. Look at pictures of the holy temple rooms. Drive past the temple and say, “That’s where we were married.” Visit the temple grounds. Ask questions such as “Which temple do you want to be married in?”
Our children can come to feel as the man who said with the emotion of the Spirit, “It’s really something to be in the temple.” The first step is for us as parents to feel as he did. May the Lord bless us as we take a thousand opportunities to teach these things freely to our children. We can do so on camping trips, on family vacations, on those family nights when there comes a time for just a few—or perhaps many—words about things of an eternal nature. Slowly and surely we can take from our own heart the feelings we have about the temple and graft them into the hearts of our children.