Because they are so sacred, temple ordinances are only discussed within the walls of the temple itself. Therefore, teachers or friends are sometimes unsure about what they can tell you if you are preparing to receive your temple ordinances.
As you prepare, you will need to approach the temple experience in faith, recognizing that you will not understand every ordinance or all that the temple has to teach the first time you attend. Your first visit to the temple is only a beautiful beginning to a lifetime of continuous spiritual education and enlightenment.
Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve, [1921–1952], wrote that among the work done in temples are “baptisms, ordinations to the priesthood, marriages, and sealings for time and eternity for the living and the dead, the endowment for the living and the dead, gospel instruction, [and] councils for the work of the ministry.”
A temple, he said, is “a place of priesthood instruction, of peace, of covenants, of blessings, and of revelation. … All faithful members of the Church are invited and urged to make use of the temple and to enjoy its privileges.” (Unified [International] Magazines, June 1968.)
Following baptism, we are endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. But a temple endowment is more than this. It is a series of covenants we make with the Father to live a life of chastity and virtue, to sacrifice our selfish desires in his service to our fellowmen to build up his kingdom; and he, in turn, promises us protection and blessings in this life and greater blessings and glory in eternity.
President Brigham Young said: “Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, page 416.)
Through this ordinance, worthy Saints can be endowed with power from on high to withstand the evils of the world. In it they are given instruction about the creation of the earth. They learn about the transgression of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. They are taught of the plan of redemption, the apostasy and restoration of the gospel. Both the method of instruction and the content given them in the temple are distinctive and deserve a lifetime of regular temple worship and study.
“The temple ceremonies are designed by a wise Heavenly Father who has revealed them to us in these last days as a guide and protection throughout our lives that you and I might not [lose the opportunity for] exaltation in the Celestial kingdom where God and Christ dwell.” (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973, page 141.)
Just as baptism is an ordinance essential to our salvation, the endowment is essential to our exaltation. Moreover, it is an individual ordinance that must be performed before we receive the sealing ordinance of eternal marriage.
Participating in the ordinances of the gospel is based upon our worthiness. This is particularly true of the temple ordinances. “Lacking worthiness and adequate preparation of mind and heart to receive the blessings of the endowment, it is better that we do not enter the house of the Lord where the light of truth burns so brightly, for light can condemn as well as bless.” (John K. Edmunds, Through Temple Doors, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978, p. 77.)
The standards of worthiness that have been set for admission to the temple include these:
Being morally clean
Sustaining the Prophet as the only one on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys
Living according to the standards of the Church
Having no unresolved sins
Being an active member in good standing
Paying a full tithe
Having a righteous relationship within the family
Sustaining local and general Church leaders
Keeping the Word of Wisdom
Having no apostate affiliations
We are asked if we live according to these standards in a temple recommend interview with the bishop or branch president and then with a member of the stake or mission presidency. Those who can satisfy their priesthood leaders of their worthiness, receive a temple recommend which they must present at the entrance to the temple. Their signature on their recommend is their personal pledge of worthiness to enter the temple.
Your bishop or branch president can answer any questions you might have regarding other rules and regulations of temple attendance. These would include:
Young people receive their endowment just prior to serving a mission or being married.
A man must hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
A mature single woman will be permitted to receive her endowment prior to being married in the temple or when her bishop feels that she is spiritually prepared.
An individual married to a nonmember or to an unendowed spouse is permitted to seek a temple recommend if his or her spouse approves.
A convert to the Church waits a year before being eligible to enter the temple.
Except in circumstances where special permission is granted, couples who have been married outside the temple must also wait a year before they can be endowed or have their marriage sealed.
If you are in a hurry the first time you visit the temple, something will seem missing. You only go once for your own endowment, so it is worth taking the time to make every aspect of the experience pleasant and memorable. You should get there early, not just to make sure your recommend and clothing are in order, but also to get into a quiet, contemplative spirit so that the Holy Spirit can help you appreciate what you are about to experience. It is also helpful to know that when you attend the temple for the first time a temple worker will constantly be with you to help you.
Throughout history, men have commonly used symbols to represent truths they learn. Many of the keys to understanding the temple endowment depend on an awareness of symbols. Symbols are such a simple means of expression, though years of temple worship are necessary to realize just how much those used in the temple can teach. Without discussing the ceremony specifically, we can review the nature of the symbolism used there. For example, in the book The Holy Temple, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve writes:
“When we do ordinance work in the temple we wear white clothing. This clothing is symbolic of purity and worthiness and cleanliness. …
“Members who have received their temple ordinances thereafter wear the special garment or underclothing. …
“The garment represents sacred covenants. It contributes to modesty and becomes a shield and a protection to the wearer.”
“The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. The house of the Lord, bathed in light, standing out in darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness.
“That light is symbolic too of another kind of light—spiritual light. … How much spiritual light we may absorb as part of the learning process depends on our receptivity.” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980, pages 42, 44, 71, 75.)
This brief introduction to the language of eternal symbols is merely a beginning of the symbols the Lord and his servants have used to discuss the mysteries of the kingdom and the nature of eternity. The truths symbolized in the temple ordinances will unfold as you ponder in the temple and seek to understand, by the power of the Spirit, the eternal nature of what you have been taught.
It should be emphasized that striving to understand the symbols used in the temple is only the starting place for meaningful temple worship. The sacred promises we make must be kept and lived in all aspects of our daily lives.
It is a privilege to be allowed to enter the house of the Lord. Understanding the necessity of receiving the endowment gives meaning and purpose to our mortal lives. After receiving your own endowment, you can return to the temple again and again in behalf of righteous people who have died without receiving the eternal ordinances of baptism, confirmation, endowment, and sealing. Tasting the sweet joy of acting in behalf of another is part of what it means to rise to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13.) Or as Elder Boyd K. Packer asked in April 1987 General Conference, “Is it not Christlike for us to perform in the temples ordinances for and in behalf of those who cannot do them for themselves?”
Attending the temple for our own endowment and then spending a lifetime of spiritual learning by attending in behalf of others is an important part of our mission here on earth and the mission of the Church: To perfect the Saints, to proclaim the gospel, and to redeem the dead.
Your own attitude toward the temple can be a powerful teaching tool in preparing your children for the day when they will have the opportunity to attend the temple. As children become aware of their parents’ attitude of deep appreciation for the blessing of the temple endowment, they will look forward to this blessing in their own lives.
You can let your children know the importance of the temple in a number of ways. You can place photographs and pictures of temples on the walls of your home. You can devote family home evenings to understanding, in general terms, the temple ordinances. In family prayers and father’s blessings, you may feel inspired to mention the importance of the temple. Discussing temple standards gives you the opportunity of sharing the principles of orderliness, modesty in dress, and the eternal family with even very young preschoolers, but especially with children preparing for baptism.
Growing up in such an environment, your children will gain great respect for the temple, particularly if they also see you regularly attending the temple and finding spiritual strength there.
After discreet and prayerful discussion of these matters in a home evening or personal study session with your son or daughter who is preparing for the endowment, it will be appropriate that all future discussions of this holy subject be held in the temple together. We mention them in the accompanying article so that you can comfortably, yet respectfully, acquaint your children with the kind of thing to expect in the temple for the first time.
Helping your children understand the blessings of the endowment and of attending the temple regularly, can bring a depth of spirituality to your relationship. Like Enoch’s father, you will be teaching them “in the ways of God.” (Moses 6:21.)